For most children in the U.S., school is about to start up again. It can be a tricky transition for the whole family, but here are some things to keep in mind to smooth the process.
1. Start going to bed and getting up earlier – not just the kids, but you too! Everyone will be less stressed after banking some good sleep.
2. Have a screen time and device plan in place. If you’re like most families I know, summer rules about screen time and use of electronic devices can get kind of lax. Now is the time to remind your kids about the school-year rules so you don’t argue about it later. Not sure what rules to set? Start with some basics such as no TV/video games on school nights (Sunday through Thursday), devices must be garaged on the first floor at night (the kitchen or entry area are good places), and no social media or texting in the morning (unless necessary to communicate homework or carpool plans).
3. Organize the entryway and homework areas. Getting these ready in advance – and having the kids help set them up – will help everyone remember that these things have a designated home in your house and don’t belong scattered all over the place. Don’t yet have designated homes for these things? Have the kids help to choose places to put their backpacks (This “buy-in” will help them maintain the organization.) and work with them to set up a homework station stocked with pencils, pens, erasers, highlighters, paper, a ruler, index cards, etc. Your homework station can even be stored in a box or bin so that it’s portable. (Something like this Really Useful Box would work well.)
4. Review school-day logistics with your children: what time they need to wake up, what time the bus or carpool picks up, where the bus stop is, what their after school activities are (and when they start), who picks them up and drops them off, what their lunch plans are (buy or bring), and anything else you can think of that will help your children remember how the school day works.
Now you're ready to get those kids off to school. Don't forget to take a first-day-of-school photo for your memory book!
(Click here to read last September's blog about how to organize those kinds of things.)
.August is right around the corner and, for parents of school-age kids, that means back-to-school time.
Get your family ready with this handy, printable checklist from Smead. If you prefer not to print it to cut down on paper clutter, just save the PDF file on your computer or phone. It's a pretty thorough list, so you won't forget any pesky little tasks.
The checklist breaks down the tasks by when they should be completed, so you can simply glance at the chart to see what you need to do this week or this month.
[NOTE: One thing I disagree with on the timeline is buying supplies 2 weeks before the start of school. Most parents know that stores begin featuring back-to-school supplies in July, so if you wait until mid-August, stocks will have been pretty depleted. Why not get that task out of the way as soon as possible?]
Using a checklist like this will make it easier to get ready for school while still holding onto the summer fun.
Way back in the fall (October 17th, to be exact), I wrote about how to set up a system to deal with all those pesky papers that come home from school.
The basic weekly system is this:
1. Immediately deal with any notifications (add to calendar, write a check, sign a form).
2. Recycle anything not worth saving (worksheets, scribbles, spelling tests, coloring pages).
3. Display this week’s artwork and accomplishments in your temporary display space (fridge, frame, bulletin board, clothesline strung across a window).
4. Stash last week’s displayed work in an art portfolio or other bin.*
*This is the time to weed out anything that, after one week’s display, can be recycled. Try to save only the best items, such as the unusually detailed drawing, the very clever essay, or the spelling/math test that was a true victory.
Now that you’ve been diligently checking the backpack every week and keeping up with all the papers, what do you do with the stash that has accumulated in the portfolio?
That’s what we’ll tackle today!
As soon as school is over for the year (Don’t delay or the time will get away from you!), make some space on a table or floor and dump out that stash.
Side note: It’s up to you whether you want your child involved in this sorting process or whether it will go more smoothly if you do it yourself. Just remember, you are really saving this stuff for you, not for your child. When kids are adults, they almost always say, “Why did you save all this stuff? I don’t even remember that!” It’s the rare adult child who wants any of it. You are saving these memories for you, so keep what is meaningful to you.
Ready...set...start sorting! Make one pile for recycling and one for the (possible) keepers. Try to go through it as quickly as possible. Right now, you are just eliminating the obvious non-keepers.
Shove that pile of non-keepers into the recycling bin immediately! Don’t look back!
Now for the hard part: finding the treasures.
During that first sorting process, you only identified the possible keepers, now you have to cull the collection even more, leaving only the true gems: the few pieces of art that show your child’s progress over the year, the story your child wrote about your family vacation, the test that was such a struggle but ended in triumph, the piece that completely sums up who your child is at this age.
In order to help you figure out exactly how much you can save and how much you’ll have to cut, you need a long-term storage solution.
I suggest either a pre-made school years scrapbook or a keepsake portfolio. The key is that it shouldn’t be too big (not a box, because you don’t want to end up with a dozen of those – one for every grade!). It should have pockets big enough to hold construction paper (even if you have to fold some) but not so big that you can avoid deciding what to keep and just shove everything in it. You also don’t need something with slots for every grade, Pre-K through 12, because after 5th grade the paper trail drops off considerably. Phew!
Click here for an example of a school years scrapbook.
Click here and here for examples of keepsake portfolios.
The scrapbook has the advantage of being something you can keep on a bookshelf and of having space for children to contribute thoughts about the past year (favorite subject, friends, school photos, etc.). Kids also enjoy looking through scrapbooks of their past school years.
The portfolio has the advantage of being able to hold larger (and more) papers and of being easier to fill because you just slip the papers in the large slot and don’t have pages to fill out.
Are you worried because your child is already in second grade and you don’t know what to do with the giant backlog of papers from past years that you have thrown into large bins to avoid sorting? Have no fear! Make a date with yourself (schedule it on your calendar) to go through the stuff, enjoy reminiscing about your child’s early years, populate your new school scrapbook or portfolio, and reclaim the space in those bins!
Happy Halloween, fellow parents of trick-or-treaters!
Although technically candy is consumable, the size of the haul your kids bring home on Halloween can put it into the category of clutter.
How do you deal with it all?
Well, you could just not deal with it and let the kids keep and eat as much as they want. My main problem with this strategy is that having so much candy in the house is way too tempting for my husband and me! (The kids won’t notice anything missing, right?)
OK, so assuming you’d like to tame the candy beast a bit, here are some strategies that work for me:
1. The Halloween Store
We've used this strategy since my oldest was very little. The day after Halloween, I set up the Halloween Store: a tray of items that my kids can buy from me using their candy as currency. Depending on the size of candy haul, items range in price from 1 piece of candy to 10. My kids love the Halloween Store!
I make sure the stuff isn’t totally clutter-y junk. Some ideas include: sugar-free gum or mints, fuzzy Christmas socks (so they can wear them before Christmas), hair accessories, pens/markers, notepads (this year: 11” post-its that I found on clearance), stickers, and small toys.
2. All-you-can-eat for One Week (or two weeks if you're a softie like me)
This way, you don’t have to police the kids’ eating habits (Relax, it’s only one week – just make sure they floss and brush.) and the candy doesn’t stick around for too long.
3. Get the leftover candy out of the house
My husband often brings it to his college students, but if you don't have that outlet, I suggest bringing it to a Halloween Candy Buy Back location. They take your leftover candy, you get either some cash or products, and they send the candy to our troops through Soldiers’ Angels.
Click Halloween Candy Buy Back to find a location near you or contact me and I'd be happy to collect your candy and bring it back for you.
The kids have been back in school for about a month and a half now and, especially if you have preschool or elementary-school-age children, the papers they bring home are starting to accumulate.
If you want to get a handle on this influx, you’ll have to be systematic and ruthless!
Your set-up should include two things:
Now you're ready to tackle the influx!
Check back here in June for ideas about how to process the portfolios at the end of the year.
If you’ve been good all year about weeding out the unnecessary stuff, this will be a quick, simple, and fun (yes, really) process.