The trick to the completion of a successful school year is maintenance. If you start the year by building good habits into yours and their day and weeks, maintenance will take care of itself.
- Decide on ONE family calendar, whether it’s an electronic calendar or a physical calendar that hangs on the wall in the mudroom. Get into the habit of writing every parent or kid commitment onto the calendar. If you can review the day’s schedule with family members each morning at breakfast or the night before during dinner, you’ll be set up for success.
- Empty backpacks every night. Go through miscellaneous paper daily. This will make things easier in the long term and you won’t miss important deadlines.
- Maintain a homework station for your kids. Use organizers to catch the stray school supplies and paper. Don’t expect your student to sit alone in the bedroom at their desk quietly. Most kids want to be in the kitchen or dining room where all the action is.
- Store school information and parent communication in a personal file for you. The kids don’t need access to that information. Better yet, go paperless and just log into the school’s website or portal for up to date information. If you get tons of school emails, set up an email folder and drag and drop the saved emails into the folder.
- Purge all school papers weekly or monthly. Take time to glance overall paper and toss as much as you can. Older students will have finals, so I’m not suggesting tossing their accumulated work until finals are over.
- Remove school-related keepsakes or special completed projects from your everyday system and homework station consistently. Get the keepsakes out of the way stored in bins or containers somewhere else. Label them by child’s name.
- Whether you’re a stay at home parent or you have a babysitter or nanny or grandparent helping you with daily comings and goings, you can create a system that is easy for everyone to participate in and will reduce everyone’s stress level. Write your system down and post it in a central location such as on the refrigerator or bulletin board. Include tasks that should be completed in the mornings and the evenings. Then, whoever is home with the kids at any given time will know his or her jobs, and the next person to take over will know the last round of tasks were completed. Some of these tasks may be appropriate for the kids to do themselves depending on their ages.
One example of a system might be the following:
- Make breakfast and put it out.
- Get kids up, dressed, to the table for breakfast.
- Clear breakfast dishes and clean off the table.
- Ask each child to think if there’s anything else in the house that’s not in their bag that they need to bring to school.
- Double-check the contents of backpacks quickly for homework assignments or sports/gym gear needed for the day.
- Take/send kids to school.
In the afternoon, it is especially important to start preparing for the next day as soon as kids are home from school. Sports or music lessons will try to compete with this time but keep in mind these organizational habits are important for their academic results. We all know how energy dwindles rapidly as the evening goes on so avoiding procrastination as much as possible which will prevent the late-night arguments before bed or as you are walking out the door in the morning.
- Supervise backpack clean out and go through paperwork.
- Supervise homework. Review assignments and upcoming tests together.
- Layout any lunch items that need to be prepared in the morning.
- Layout each child’s clothes for the morning in the designated spot. If something is missing, make sure to throw it in the laundry and get it done early.
- Make lunches for tomorrow at the same time as making dinner.
- At dinner or bedtime, discuss the events of the upcoming day and what to expect.
- Assemble backpacks and shoes by the door so they are ready to go in the morning.
In everything we’ve discussed above, the true overarching theme is preparation. If you and your kids think about tomorrow’s school day today, you will all encounter less stress trying to get out the door, and the kids will be better prepared for school. And the best part is that when you engage them in thinking ahead and preparing daily, you’ve cultivated an excellent habit they will have for life! You’re doing a great job, parents!