Back-to-School Success: A Four-Week Strategy

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Moms of school age kids ... start your engines! It's back-to-school time!

Wow, that came fast! Just when it feels like we're settled into a more lax summer routine, BAM! It's here. And although I've complained a bit about juggling schedules, fighting siblings, and not being able to keep food stocked in the house, I know what's lurking around the corner ... and it's giving me the shivers. Earlier rise times, fall sports, new teachers, permission slips, school lunches, and nightly homework. But it comes every year, so why fight it? Like any project or deadline, planning ahead is key. Take one step each week, and you'll be ready to go when the first day of school arrives!


Week 4 –
Organize your dumping grounds.

You know these areas—the "I don't want to deal with my crap" spots like entryways, mudrooms, drawers, and counter tops. This is your first project because it takes time, and maybe a bit of creativity. Kids basically come home from school with four things: backpacks, coats, shoes, and paper. LOTS of paper. Designate a place for each, and insist they use them first thing when arriving home.

If you don't have a mudroom, you'll need to be resourceful. Here's our former half-bath where the toilet was replaced with lockers. I also added wire baskets from Home Goods, one for each child. These have been lifesavers. When the boys come home, they put all paperwork into their bins. Later, I sort through them and either act on it (permission slips, et cetera), save it in a "forever" file (art projects and such), or recycle it in an easily accessible bin under the sink.

Since we only have two lockers and three athletic boys, last year we converted this coat closet into more useful space by removing the doors, hanging hooks, and adding bins for sports equipment. Starting to see the trend here? A place for everything + Assigned spaces = No excuses for being messy!

Week 3 – Get in a routine.
Shorter nights are your cue that it's time for earlier bedtimes. Your kids are going to hate this part, but I promise the fight won't be as bad as it would be the mornings of those first two weeks of school. Depending on what time they are currently going to bed and what your target school night bedtime is, start moving them up bit by bit each night.

Also, consider taking away the handheld devices and/or turning off the TV earlier. I recently read about how the blue light from electronics is messing up a person's melatonin, affecting sleep patterns and quality. Instead, require kids do some reading (you know they haven't been doing enough anyway) or some basic yoga poses and deep breathing. As my own kids get older, I'm seeing the pressure from school pick up, and now's a great time to start teaching them tools to manage stress.


Week 2 –
Get it on a calendar.

Every year our schedule seems to get crazier. Last year no one seemed to know who was going where, and we may have forgotten a child here and there. (Don't judge!) So I bought this removable, dry-erase calendar from Amazon.com that is posted near the entryway. Each month, I write out the entire schedule, with each kid assigned his own color. It turns out this strategy has proven more helpful to our kids than to us. (We keep schedules on our phones, too, of course.) Children also like to know where they're going that day, and are comforted by having this information accessible. A bonus is coming home from work and finding your son already dressed and ready for soccer practice—Yay!


Week 1 –
Get by with a little help ... from your kids!

Now that you're feeling more prepared to tackle a new school year, this is your week to enjoy what's left of summer and do whatever else you think will make you feel better organized. And why should you be the only one responsible for a successful start to the school year? Get your kids to get involved in your efforts. They will learn organization skills, money management, and food preparation, and most of all will enjoy time with you.

Some ideas:

  • Meal planning – Have your kids write a list of their favorite meals and tell them you'll make one of their favorites each week. This helps alleviate the "You never make anything I like!" arguments. Talk about healthy lunches, breakfasts, and snacks and what they would like as options. No sense in packing things that will end up in the garbage.
  • Back-to-school shopping – Before agreeing to buy any new clothes or supplies, tell your kids they have to help you go through their drawers and closets. Purge clothes that don't fit and those they don't wear, and either sell them or pack them up for donation. Make a list of exactly what they do need, which will prevent you from spending your money on stuff they don't. I personally don't buy any clothes until it starts getting cooler. It's usually on sale by then, anyway.

If you have some tips to share about how you get your kids ready to face the new school year, please share them below in the "Comments" section! We'd love to hear your ideas!

Written by Jill Carroll, Marketing Manager at West Michigan Woman magazine, and mom to three energetic boys.


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