Summer is great for kids. It is a time to be stress-free about subjects and take some well deserved time off and help around the house or other things that tend to be forgotten about in the hustle and bustle of the school year.
Yet the time has come, once again, for school to start and keeping organized is of the utmost importance to both parents and children alike as routines get changed and more pressure gets added back on. Here are some tips to help you stay organized and make it through another great school year with your head above water.
Tips to Stay Organized With Kids Going Back To School
1. Set up as much of a Routine as Possible
Have you ever had a scary mommy or daddy moment? For me, it happened three years ago. My youngest daughter was having a meltdown about doing her homework and I was burned out fighting with her to do it every single night. I pinned her down on the floor and started yelling before I realized what I was doing. I walked away.
Later that night, I came back to her and apologized. With no “but” added on because I am fully convinced that is not an apology and what I did was wrong, no matter what she was doing. I hugged her, told her I loved her, and we created a routine for after school that we have stuck to since.
She gets half and hour to do whatever she wants when she comes home. Snacks are typically waiting for them in the kitchen so she normally grabs a snack and watches her favorite television show on Netflix. Then we start school work and she sits there until all of the school work is done.
Getting into a routine would have eliminated the issue that she and I had, the issue that was causing both of us to be frustrated.
Now, both of my children are a bit older and we have planners that we all use. We include anything that has to be done during the week such as culinary competition practices, ice skating, horseback riding, dance practices, assignments for school, and anything else. On days that nothing is going on our routine stays the same.
I also try to get all practices or lessons to be right after school. This way they can have a snack on the way, go to practice, come home, get their thirty minutes of free time, and get started on homework while I get started on dinner. The routine only changes slightly.
2. To Do Lists
I talked about this in a previous article but mentioned this is something I keep up with all day long. If I have something come up, I write it down. If I remember I need to do something, I write it down. Otherwise remembering does not do me much good because I will quickly forget when another fleeting thought runs through my head.
For this reason, my planner is a bit bigger than my girls'. Within a week, I may have two or three other pages in my planner that are scribbled with notes and daily to do lists. Most of them have check marks because if I don't get them done on the day that I had hoped to, I get them done the next day and try not to go over three days without everything on the first day crossed off.
I like to break things up into smaller tasks as well, this way I feel I got more accomplished and am able to see exactly what needs to be done. For example, cleaning my room could have secondary items such as “make the bed” or “vaccuum”.
Also, I start with the thing I don't want to do first. I figure best to get it out of the way and make myself feel better about it.
Somebody else came up with a great idea to take a picture of your do to list. This way you can never lose it. (I don't have a problem with this because I carry my planner with me everywhere).
You've probably heard people telling you to declutter since before you thought you had clutter and with kids it seems to get worse and worse. I once heard a quote that said, “Nothing is worse than a kid who finds out your getting rid of stuff. I smuggle crayons out like a drug lord” and had to laugh, knowing all too well that feeling.
Seriously though, if you or your children are not getting use out of something and have not for over a year, get rid of it. My girls had LeapFrog video game systems when they were little. They are tweens now and were still upset when I gave the toys to their cousins who were four at the time I gave them away. Let's be honest- my girls were more interested in playing the Wii U and being on the computer talking to friends than they were learning their ABCs from Dora.
Likewise, us moms keep stuff in our closet because “one day” we will be able to wear them again. If it's been over a year and you are not currently losing weight, assume you won't. And if you are able to, say, six months from now then great! Perfect excuse to go shopping!
4. Have a Spot For Everything
I used to lose my keys like it was going out of style until one day my husband bought key hooks. He placed them over our bar that separates the dining room and kitchen. From then on out I put them on the hooks. At first it wasn't habit so I would still lose them just a little less often. Then I got to where if they were not on the hook, they were on the bar typically underneath something else. And now? Hook every time.
Not every household will have a clear label for everything and we all have a junk drawer somewhere; however, the easiest way to get organized is truly to have a place for everything and everything in its place.
5. Set a Time Limit
If you are learning something new and not being hands on about it (instead you are reading) the specialists will tell you twenty minutes is the maximum you can go without losing some of the information you are learning.
With anything else, I normally set a time limit of an hour. I give myself that hour to write, create, clean, or do a task that needs done and then I give myself a ten minute break before I break into my next hour long segment. Knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel when doing something boring is important to staying foused.
If you have time while waiting on someone – keep working. Fifteen minutes while you wait for a friend who is picking you up spent cleaning, doing dishes, ect… is better than fifteen minutes spent fumbling through your phone because when you get home those undone tasks are still going to be there.
6. Keep Stuff Together
The night before I get my stuff together. I place my work bag in the dining room chair closest to the bar between the dining room and kithen, the keys are where they belong and if I am taking cold groceries to the school, I write a note to myself and stick it on top of my work bag “Don't forget groceries”. My clothes are laid out and when I wake up it is easy for me to get out the door knowing where everything is.
One time (before we got the key hook) I was three hours late to work because I had misplaced them. I don't struggle with that any more.
7. Go Somewhere that Helps You Stay Focused
I went to college after starting a family and going to the local coffee shop seemed to be my go-to when I really needed to study. I could walk in and the baristas typically knew what I wanted, I would find a quiet space and get to work. I think the atmosphere had a lot to do with it. People were working, individually or as a group, and it was fairly quiet. On the rare occassion I would go in there and spark up a conversation with someone but even those were typically in depth and intellectual- which I thoroughly enjoyed.
And that's the key- staying focused. If you catch yourself starting to do something else during your designated hour, find a way to cut that part out. Going somewhere that eliminates or reduces distraction is one way to do that. But just separating yourself from that situation is another.
For example, my kids may be watching a television show and I hear an interesting part so I look up from my school work. In order to not do this on days that I know I cannot afford the distraction, I put ear buds in and listen to “study music” on pandora radio. It drowns out the sound of the television.
8. Being on Time is Being Late
When you make an appointment, write it in your planner as if it was a half hour before when you need to be there. Tell your kids that you have to be there at that time. If it is one that is made for quite a bit later, say a month or two from now, there is a good chance you will forget and then believe it is a half hour before it actually is.
This is good for those of us who tend to be late or have a hard time getting their kids ready. It ensures that you will make it on time. For many places, especially doctors offices, this is crucial otherwise you may be out of money without getting to see the doctor. Even if you are fifteen minutes late from the half hour you gave yourself, you are still early.
9. Use Google
I just started at a new school district this year and they taught us how to use Google to our advantage in the classroom and with our fellow teachers. I did not know everything Google could do before then!
I share my lesson plans with my prinicipal by creating them in Google docs, he could be sitting in his office watching me create my lesson plans in real time and give me feedback.
This is good for families with older children. You can create a calendar that everyone can add things to as needed and even color coordinate them for which person in the family it is. Likewise, you can create data sheets, powerpoints and much, much more. I honestly don't know what I did before I learned about all the extras Google made available to me – as a person and as a teacher.
10. Let Others Know as Soon as There is an Event and Ask them to do the Same for you
This was a big one in my household when my husband and I got together. If I didn't let him know far in advance that something was going on, we didn't go. It was not that he didn't want us to go but he is the type that needs time to prepare himself for something outside of our normal routine. It took a while for me to understand this because I can go with the flow but I have learned that as soon as I make plans with someone I need to tell him. If the plans are a couple of weeks out, I will need to remind him.
It is being considerate of everyone involved to let others know what the game plan is instead of springing it on them the day before.
The Day to Day
Everyone struggles with organization sometimes and nobody is perfect but doing little things that can help us stay on task will keep the ship sailing smoothly as we transition from one season of our lives to another- such as from a summer of relaxation to kids going back to school and activites on top of the regular responsibilities. These are just a few of the ways to keep our sanity strong and our smiles wide!