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Getting organized for a productive school year

The long, lazy, relaxing days of summer are winding down. Before you know it, school will be back in session. To keep some of that calm, relaxing carryover from summer, organization is key.

The Night Before
Planning ahead is a guaranteed way to make the off-to-school morning routine a smooth one. Unexpected events are known to occur (i.e., the alarm clock didn’t go off; the dog got loose and had to be retrieved before leaving the house); the more that can be done ahead of time, the less hectic and stressful your morning will be.

After your child has completed his homework, make sure he has put the assignment, as well as any books that need to go to school, back into his backpack. Designate a specific spot in which to keep the backpack (i.e., a cubby or hook near the door), and make sure it is returned there each evening. This avoids a frantic search in the morning.

The night before is also a good time to have your child check his schedule for the next day, and assemble any necessary items. Are sneakers needed for Gym? Does he have Library and need to return the book that was borrowed? Is he going straight to an extra-curricular activity that requires equipment? Have your child select her clothes the night before to avoid morning hysteria that her favorite shirt is dirty.

If your child brings her lunch to school, it should made the night before and refrigerated. I actually know one Mom who sets out five paper bags on Sunday night, fills each one with a napkin, a bag of chips, a juice box and an apple. Then she only needs to add the sandwich each evening. If your child purchases her lunch, make sure lunch money is assembled in the evening. You don’t want to spend your precious time in the morning running around trying to find exact change. Even better, if you can, pre-pay a week or month’s worth of lunches, so you don’t have to worry about it daily.

The Morning Routine
To make the morning routine as hassle-free as possible, consider posting a chart or schedule of necessary tasks on the refrigerator (i.e., dress, make bed, eat breakfast, brush hair and teeth, take lunch out of refrigerator, take backpack, etc.) to make sure nothing is overlooked. If you are a morning person, you may want to wake up earlier than your child to prepare his breakfast, and get yourself ready so you’re available if your child needs prodding.

The After School Routine
Establish a routine for tasks such as emptying the lunch box, handing over notes from school, homework, putting the backpack on its designated hook, etc. Decide when homework is to be done. Some kids like to get it out of the way and then have the rest of the afternoon/evening to play or hang-out, while others need some down-time after school before starting. Discuss this with your child before school starts, and agree on a plan.

Homework/Study Area
If you don’t already have a designated homework area, now is the perfect time to set it up. Minimally, there should be a desk or writing surface, comfortable chair, desk light or good overhead lighting, and age-appropriate school supplies. You may also want a dictionary and thesaurus, and possibly a computer. If you have a younger child who is still doing homework at the kitchen table, you may want to purchase a homework caddy (and fill it with pencils, erasers, crayons, markers, ruler and paper) that your child can carry back and forth between his room and the kitchen. One way to insure that homework gets back to school uncrushed is to purchase a heavy plastic 9×12 envelope with a snap close or Velcro fastener. Once homework is completed, it can be placed into the protective envelope, and the entire thing can be placed in the backpack.

Odds & Ends
Right now, while most stores have school supplies on sale, consider stocking up for the entire school year. Not only will you save some money, but you’ll avoid having to run out for a report cover the night before a project is due. Designate a specific area for school supplies, so they don’t get misplaced, and so your child knows exactly where to find them.

If you have more than one child, and frequently send notes to the teacher, you may want to customize your own personal note, fill-in-the-blank style, and make a stack of photocopies.

Purchase a large family calendar (paper or dry-erase) that can be posted prominently in your kitchen. Right now, mark all school holidays, half-days, and vacation times. Enter any extra-curricular events (Boy Scouts, soccer practice, soccer games, piano lessons, etc.) Due dates for long-term school projects should be added, along with interim reminders. As invitations and fliers for other activities, PTA meetings, and parties show up, add them to the master calendar. This will help all family members keep track of who needs to be where, when and will help with time management and carpooling.

Wishing you and your child an “A+ School Year”!