Masks or no masks? Bus or no bus? Digital or paper? What’s the plan for school this year?!?
When faced with back-to-school confusion, what does a professional organizer do? Make a plan!
Taking control of the things that are within your control will help you and your family feel calmer and more confident about the start of school. Here are my top tips for a smooth transition.
Your Back to School Plan
1. Start going to bed and getting up earlier—not just the kids, but you too! It’s time to admit that vacation is coming to an end. Use the extra AM time to work your way into a good routine. You’ll all be less stressed after banking some good sleep.
2. Establish your school-year screen time and device rules now. Get the kids’ buy-in by explaining to them the need for rules, then asking for their input and having a conversation. Just remember that the parents have the final say! ...
It was a crisp fall day in 1989. Students were going in and out of the dorms like ants carrying trunks, suitcases, and tote bags. Befuddled parents were standing outside, trying to be helpful but mostly chatting with other parents and taking in the scene. This would be their beloved, newly-adult child’s home for the next year and they wanted to memorize it all.
State-of-the-art ‘80s dorm must haves were an answering machine, a boombox with a CD player, and a word processor (or, if you were lucky, a DOS-based computer or Macintosh SE). Throw in a wall tapestry and a Klimt poster and you’ve got a pretty fine room!
Now that my oldest daughter is heading off to college this fall, I figured I probably shouldn’t rely just on my own experience to help figure out what she needs. So I polled my mom friends with kids currently in college to find their best move-in tips. Now I get to share them with you!
Did you know that 80-95% of college students procrastinate? Maybe you’re rolling your eyes and saying, “Duh, who doesn’t know that college students procrastinate?” And maybe you were one of those students.
But when you’re trapped in a procrastination cycle, it can feel as if everyone around you has it all together and you’re the only one who has, once again, gotten yourself into trouble with the doom of an approaching deadline.
In her new book, How to Do It Now Because It's Not Going Away: An Expert Guide to Getting Stuff Done, Leslie Josel tackles the sticky problem of procrastination.
It’s August, so that means time to get ready to go back to school. Sorry, I mean remote learning. No, wait, hybrid. Or maybe a pod?
Wow! And I thought annual school-supply shopping was hard (Why are the supply lists so long?!). Now, we have to contend with shifting school start dates and 11th-hour plan changes.
This year, every decision we have to make around getting our children back to school seems fraught with frightening complications.
What’s a parent to do? Get organized!
Do you have an old Kindle e-reader (or two?) that you aren't using anymore?
A client of mine recently upgraded to the latest Kindle and wondered if there was a school that could use her older model. I did a little research and came across the Kindle Classroom Project www.kindleclassroomproject.org. San Francisco teacher Mark Isero provides each of his high-school students with a Kindle to instill in them a love of reading and encourage them to become avid readers.
Even though the Kindle Classroom Project is based out of California, it's pretty easy to ship Kindles because they fit well in a USPS small flat-rate Priority Mail box. Before shipping, just fill out the donation form on Mr. Isero's website and he'll get back to you with the address.
One small caveat: he doesn't take the very oldest model Kindles, so check the donation form to see if your model is listed.
Don't have a Kindle to donate but still want to support the Kindle Classroom Project? Donate money for books to be added to their Kindle library!
.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, 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!
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.