The first week of school presents a special kind of chaos.
School routines quickly pounce on summer fun. No more sleeping in, way less sunshine and goodbye vacation. Start preparing at least a week ahead for your own sake and sanity.
Kids thrive on routine and need rules, so here are some ideas to get you on the right foot:
Adjust sleep patterns
Summer lets us slip into a slightly slacker schedule. However, late nights combined with early starts are a bad combination when it comes to back to school. One week before school begins, start getting your kids to sleep 15-20 minutes earlier each night. Good sleep routines are associated with higher performance at school.
Go label crazy
Storage containers, clothing, knapsacks: label everything that goes to school with your child’s name and your phone number.
Develop a drop zone
Create an area where kids place knapsacks, hang jackets, deposit shoes, hats, mitts, gloves and umbrellas. The key is it needs to be easy or you’ll end up doing it.
Set up a checklist with each child to list routine items, homework, medication and chores. Offer rewards or stickers for each week completed successfully.
Combat lunch fatigue
Create a list of five to 10 lunches with your child and rotate the menu. Or have picky eaters create a list of foods they love. Invest time teaching kids how to pack their own lunch.
If losing lunch containers is an issue, have your child count the number of containers in their lunch each day, write the number on a paper and put it in a plastic storage bag in their lunch. Reward them for returning with the correct number of containers.
Prepare outfits on Sunday
Get set for the week and practise volume outfitting. Gather five clear bins and label them Monday to Friday, or use the closet to hang outfits in order by day. Assemble a weeks worth of outfits.
Sync your calendars
Set repeating kids activities, field trips, doctors appointments, professional days, meet-the-teacher days and holidays into a digital calendar and share with family. Also have a centralized print calendar. Colour code online and offline activities using the same colour key.
Build a strong teacher bond
Go out of your way to set up a good relationship with your child’s teacher. Let them know who you are and that you have both your children and the teacher’s needs as a top priority.
Begin with breakfast
Set up breakfast the night before, insist kids are dressed before eating, and use a timer for slow eaters.
Prepare for homework
Set up a quiet area for homework, schedule it after school before any other activity and be available to answer questions.
School triggers a constant stream of paper. Keep organized by setting up and labeling three magazine holders: “upcoming events,” “homework completed” and “action required,” or use a three-tray inbox system.
Organize school work and artwork
Use a bankers box and create tabs from kindergarten to Grade 12 using hanging files. As each year goes by, you have a home for the “keepers.” Use an under-the-bed, covered bin labelled with the name of each sibling for large art.
No sweets or screen time close to bedtime.
Build in buffer time
Whatever you do, build in buffer time. It is the most proactive way of reducing stress.
Enlisting your kid’s help
Involve children whenever possible in school preparation to increase a successful transition.
Preserve the moment
Take a picture in the same spot at the start of each school year (e.g. front door, front of the school, in the car) and have your child hold a sign up with the grade and year for posterity.
Prepare for inevitable setbacks
Despite all your preparations, things will go sideways at some point. Don’t beat yourself up. Remember this saying: “Enjoy it because it’s happening.”
Marie Potter is a North Shore resident, mother of twins, trained professional organizer and serves on the board for Professional Organizers in Canada. mariepotter.ca