Back to School To-Do List & Organizing Tips
Mamas and papas: we are on the home stretch! It’s almost back to school time! I must say, everyone in our family will be singing hallelujah. We have had a fun summer, but are ready to shift back into our regular routines and the school schedule. My kids are bored and miss their friends and teachers, and I miss the quiet of my house at 7:15am once the school bus doors have closed and I can focus solely (or mostly) on work during work hours instead of juggling work and home and kids and puppy. Whew. High fives to all the work-from-home parents out there. The struggle is real.
So, we are almost there, but still have some work to do to get our kids and households organized to start the new school year off as smoothly as possible. As I am working on this at my house (school starts in our district on August 22nd), I thought I would share with you my list of to-do items and organizing recommendations. As always, use the ideas that seem like they would be helpful to you and your family, and disregard those that do not.
Back to School Supplies and Clothing
Go through your child(ren)’s clothes and donate items that no longer fit and cannot be passed down to a sibling. Make a list of any clothing that your child(ren) need and make a plan to purchase used or new.
Have your child's shoe size measured to see if she/he needs new sneakers for school (Nordstrom does this for free, as do many shoe stores at malls.). If the current pair still fits, simply wash them and maybe get a new pair of shoelaces, if needed. If a new pair is needed, plan to purchase.
Check to see if your child’s backpack, lunchbox, and water bottle are still in good shape. If they are, just wash them. If not, purchase new or used. For new items, I suggest you check out Wirecutter's excellent list of recommendations for The Best School Supplies for Back to School, including backpacks (a New York Times Company, Wirecutter recommendations are made through "vigorous reporting, interviewing, and testing by teams of veteran journalists, scientists, and researchers." Their independent reviews focus on finding the best product in a range of categories "for most people." Not an ad; I just find their recommendations quite helpful and reliable). Also check your lunch storage supplies. If a new lunch box or additional reusable lunch containers are needed, Wirecutter has recommendations as well.
If your kids get school lunch, check their account balances at school and deposit money, if needed.
Purchase required school supplies, if you haven’t already. Again, see Wirecutter's recommendations.
Of course, it is a privilege to be able to afford school supplies, whether used or new. While you are thinking about school supplies for your children, let’s also think about the many children whose parents cannot afford school supplies. If interested (and able) in donating funds for school supplies, check out this great Austin360 article, as well as this Statesman article, both with a list of a wide variety of Central Texas organizations to consider for school supply donations. If you are in need of free supplies for your children, these articles also list how to get supplies. If you live outside of Central Texas, check your local news source for suggestions for donation organizations and where to get supplies, if needed.
We will be donating to For the Children Inc., an Austin-based nonprofit organization that provides basic school supplies to children that qualify for the Federal Free and Reduced Price Lunch Program. Their goal is to reach all elementary school children over the 10 school districts in Central Texas. 100% of donated funds go towards school supply purchases. A one time gift of $25 will support 7 students, $50 will support 14 students, or $100 will support 28 students.
If needed, schedule kids' back to school haircut appointments.
Schedule any annual doctor or dentist appointments for your kids, if you haven’t already.
Do a full clean out and organization of your kids’ rooms, ideally with their assistance. See this previous blog post for some helpful tips on organizing your kids' rooms with their help.
Create or update the kids' daily routine/chore chart. Example here.
Create a paperwork clutter control system. We are all inundated on a daily basis with correspondence, bills, junk mail, and important documents. Of course, the paper pile only gets bigger when the kids go back to school what with kids' school forms, assignments, and completed work and art. I have a simple, inexpensive suggestion to control this paperwork clutter. Purchase a red and a green colored folder and adopt an In/Out system (as I use a lot of file folders, I typically just buy a large pack of colored file folders and use a red and green one for this purpose). The red folder is for urgent actions (kids' permission slips to sign, bills that must be paid that week, and so on) and the green folder is for non-urgent items to review or file. The system works like like this:
No more stacking. I repeat, no more stacking. Each day, process all mail immediately (or as soon as humanly possible). All junk mail goes into the recycling bin and then separate "real" mail into the two colored folders: action or review/file.
Each school day, when unpacking younger kids' backpacks, put their important forms, permission slips, and assignments into the red folder (assuming they do not need to be signed that day) and put non-urgent documents to review in the green folder, including art work. Tell your older kids about this system and ask them to process their documents daily into the two folders as well.
Then, choose a regular, recurring day each week (or bi-weekly, if needed) to process what is in each of the folders. The goal is to start each week with the folders as empty as possible (if you need to cheat on time a bit that week, just process the red folder, but try not to make this a habit as the green folder will quickly become overwhelming).
Keep the folders in a highly visible and accessible place in your house with the red one on top as a visual reminder.
Back to School Schedule
Firm up the plan for after-school activities and register, as needed.
Put all the dates for the new school year calendar in your family calendar.
If you don't have a family calendar, I highly encourage you to start one! This has made our lives so much easier. We publish a shared "Family" calendar to iCloud that syncs across all our devices. My husband or I can set events and appointments which appear instantly on our phones and computers in a special color for Family.
Sketch out the weekly schedule for pick-ups and drop offs, as needed, and share with appropriate family members (or add it to your new family calendar!).
The week before school starts (or at least 3-4 days before), I recommend setting the alarm and getting the family up at whatever hour you will need to get up once school starts so that everyone has a chance to get used to waking up that early again.
Finally, a recommendation to consider keeping the schedule light the first couple of weeks of school as everyone adjusts to their new routines and early wake ups.
Plan a fun, family activity to mark the end-of-summer. It might be cool to plan this activity as a family, if doable, or at least take some suggestions from the kids. Another more efficient option would be to offer the kids three pre-selected ideas to choose from.
Good luck and enjoy the back to school silence!
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(Please note, the above post is provided for informational purposes only; the information is accurate and true to the best of my knowledge, but there may be omissions, errors or mistakes, and no guarantees are made.)