While parents may not readily admit it, back-to-school time is bittersweet. On one hand, they don’t have to worry about child care while school is in session. On the other hand, they have to worry about transportation, lunch and snacks, homework, school projects, and time management once school resumes. If you dread your children going back to school because you are tired of being rushed and stressed during the school year, try some of our time-saving hacks to make the school year a little easier on everyone.
1. Get organized
While getting organized may require quite a bit of time spent up front, the time that you will save once you are organized will be well worth it. Different families struggle with different things during the school year: some can’t get their kids to school without forgetting something on a daily basis, some can’t remember to make lunch until the last minute, etc. Think about the school tasks that are most troublesome for you and your family and get organized before school starts.
- Organize a lunch station – If your kids like to take packed lunches to school, you should consider organizing a lunch station. The goal of a lunch station is to streamline packing lunches. Tuck sealable containers or plastic bags into the lunch station with bread, wraps, condiments, and snacks into the lunch station in your pantry or kitchen and keep individual containers of fruits, veggies, cheese, and deli meat in your refrigerator. Kids can grab what they want to eat from the pantry while you help make their sandwiches or make appropriate portion sizes. Remember, your lunch station needs to be tailored to your family, so think about your kids’ ages and abilities when getting organized. You may want to choose a bottom cupboard or drawer to make it accessible to younger children.
- Create a homework station – Fighting with your kids to complete their homework stresses out everyone and wastes time. By creating a homework station, you are giving kids the space they need to complete their work and showing them that homework is a priority. Stock the station with essential supplies like pencils, pens, paper, paperclips, staplers, markers, erasers, etc., but be sure that they are in separate containers that are easy for your kids to access. Make sure the homework station is well lit and comfortable. If you have multiple children, hang the homework schedule in a visible spot so the kids know when their homework time is.
- School clothes organizer – Depending on the amount of space you have in your kids’ rooms, you can make a clothes organizer using milk crates, stackable baskets, or cute boxes. Or, you can make clothing tags from old CDs and hang them on clothes rods to separate your kids’ clothing by days of the week. No matter how you do it, the goal is to help your kids plan for the week ahead by choosing their outfits for an entire week and getting them ready so they don’t have to give their clothes a second thought on school mornings.
- Know the schedule
If your kids are involved in extracurricular activities, you are on the PTO or have other meetings to attend, or you have to juggle transportation, you know that figuring out times and places can take valuable minutes from you each day. A DIY family schedule is one organization hack that you cannot afford to live without. Whether you choose to make yours magnetic, paper, or dry erase, be sure that the style you choose will not be too time-consuming once you have to start using it during the school year. Some people opt for dry-erase calendars because their schedules change frequently, while other people print out labels and put them on magnets because their appointments and kids’ practices are fairly routine. Either way, you need to make a schedule and hang it in a central location so that everyone knows what is coming up and where they need to be and when.
- Get help when you need it
Some families, especially with younger children, find that they simply cannot do everything themselves once school starts. If this describes your family, you should consider getting help when you need it. This may mean that you get an in-home sitter for your kids after school so that you don’t have to rush home from the office. Or, you may subscribe to a meal service so that you don’t have to worry about the family menu each night. Some families hire dog walkers or pet sitters because they don’t want to neglect their four-legged family members while they are settling into the back-to-school routine.
Preparing for the school year by getting organized ahead of time is one of the best things you can do to help your family transition from summer to fall more successfully. Take stock of your family’s needs and address them so that you can go into the school year more confident and less frazzled.