Thursday, August 25, 2011

Back to School Advice from a Professional, other than me Guest Blogger The Joyful Organizer

Bonnie Dewkett is The Joyful Organizer.  You can like her on Facebook, Twitter and check out her website for further advice and helpful tips.

            Going from summer break to a school routine isn't easy on anyone.  The summer months bring a lot of fun, beautiful weather, and a lackadaisical routine that is just not easy to break when school starts again.  However, this year you can make the necessary changes gradually, and avoid the stress that normally comes with the arrival of the yellow school bus.  By making the transition slowly, and with a positive attitude, the school year can get started off on the right foot!

            Back to school shopping can be fun, if you are not under stress to get it done.  Start by having your child go through their closet and determine what clothes are still in good condition and still fit.  Depending on their age, you may want to assist them with this task.  Remember, the weather in September is usually warm enough to wear shorts, skirts, and tee shirts.  So there is no need to run our and buy winter clothes.  However, if you want to start shopping early, start in July when the back to school sales start to appear in stores.  The back to school season hosts the second largest sales of the year (second to Christmas). 
            Second, take inventory of your child's school supplies from the year before.  If they have tons of pencils, crayons, etc, there is no need to buy more.  Save yourself time, money, and clutter by checking first.
            If your school does not supply a local store with the necessary supply list, call your child's teacher for it.  This will also allow you an opportunity to introduce yourself and become acquainted before the academic year begins.  If your school accepts donations, this may also be a good time to ask the teacher if there are any supplies they would like for their classroom for the coming year.  Keep in mind that some supplies, such as lunch boxes, are hard to find during other times of the year.  Consider purchasing two if your child is rough on these items. 
            Start buying your child's school supplies on your weekly trips to the grocery store, or super stores.  Involve your child in the process.  Have them calculate the amount they have spent on supplies, have them pick colors they enjoy, and have them pick a planner that will fit their academic needs and their personal style.  If your child feels invested with their supplies they will be more likely to take care of them, not lose them, and most importantly to use them effectively. 
            One of the most important supplies that you will buy your child is their planner/organizer.  It is very important that they like the planner they are using.  Keep in mind that some districts require students to use their school's planner, or a particular brand.  Make sure that your child understands how to use their planner, and they have a system for the following: writing down tests, quizzes, homework, reading, and long term projects.  Starting these good habits at the beginning of the year will ensure that they are followed throughout the school year.

One of the easiest, and most effective planners, to use is a teacher's planning book.  These have open weeks so you can put the dates in yourself, and you can quickly switch between weeks.  The pages are large, and therefore give you a great visual of the work your child has to do.  I recommend using different colored inks or highlighters for different subjects.  Or if you child is older, you can consider using different colors of highlighter for different academic significance.  For example, quizzes are highlighted in yellow, projects in green, tests in pink, and long term papers in blue. 

Morning Routine:
            The morning routine is one of the most stressful parts of the day for most families.  Start developing good routines and habits during the summer months, and they will naturally take effect during the school year.
            Develop a place in your home for your child's backpack.  This should be a place by the door, such as the entryway, or a hallway.  This is where they should keep their backpack at all times.  Your child can remove their homework, books, and other necessary supplies to complete their assigned schoolwork.   When they are done with these items, they should be returned to the backpack to be grabbed on the way out the door in the morning.
            Develop a place for permission slips and other items that need to be read, signed, or need attention.  This too can be in the entryway or hallway.  Purchase a small wall mounted file, or magazine rack.   Have one slot for incoming, where your child can put anything that needs your attention.  It is very important you check this slot daily, take any required action, and then place them in a second slot for outgoing items.  Your child must check this slot daily and take any applicable papers back to school.  Many teachers require students to have a designated folder for items of this nature. 
            Get your child into the habit of taking their lunch box out of the backpack every night and bringing to the kitchen for a refill.  Have them pick it up from the kitchen in the morning and place it back into their backpack. 
            If your kids sleep later in the summer months, start getting them back on a normal schedule slowly.  Get them up 10 minutes earlier each morning until you have comfortably reached your morning wake up time. 
If your kids have a hard time getting dressed in the morning, have them plan and lay out their clothes the night before.  Purchase an organizer that has the days of the week printed on it.   Have your child assist you in picking out the week's worth of clothing at the beginning of the week.  This ensures the clothing your child wants to wear is clean and avoids unnecessary loads of laundry mid-week.
            If your child is a little older and wishes for more independence, consider having a fashion show night at your house.  Set up holiday lights as runway light, play music and have your child try on lots of different outfits.  Take pictures and have them printed.  Mount them on a bulletin board near the closet.  This will help make quick outfits during the week, and it will help inspire creativity. 
            Even with clothes and outfits laid out of the week, your child can use their creativity.  Place boxes full of scarves, sunglasses, hair accessories, and jewelry close by.  Your child can chose from these in the morning, as long as they do not take too long to do it. 
            Some website even offer wardrobe planners where you can track the clothing you have, its color, and size.  This may help you track what you have and what will need to be replaced soon.  It will also give you an idea of what your child has too much of at any one time.  The trick with these lists, however is to keep them up-to-date. 
            If your child is small and or often loses clothes and accessories, now is the time to write their name in everything to give it a fighting chance of coming back home. 

Daily Maintenance:
It is important that you maintain your daily routines with consistency and an upbeat attitude.  Nothing makes a tough morning worse than complaining and being negative.
In the evenings, do your homework while they do theirs. While your kids are studying, sign their permission slips, pay bills, clean, etc.  This will help designate the time as serious and necessary.  Kids learn by example and if they see you working hard, they will follow suit. 
If your kids need help with their homework, it is helpful if you are in the area.  If your kids cannot do homework in their rooms or need your assistance, designate a place in the house where homework will always be done, such as the kitchen table.  In order avoid running for supplies, purchase your child a shower caddy and fill it with all necessary supplies, such as a ruler, calculator, pencils, glue sticks etc.  Check the supply level regularly and make sure it is clean and organized. 
            Maintain a family calendar with everyone's schedules, appointments, field trips, sporting events, etc.  A wipe off magnetic one works great and can be stored on the fridge in plain sight. 
            Instead of leaving all of the laundry for the weekend, consider doing loads every day during the week.  Putting the laundry in or switching it to the dryer are both small chores your children can do for you while you cook dinner.
            Consider maintaining a meal plan and calendar.  This will help you with grocery shopping, and more importantly, deciding what is for dinner after a long day. 
If meal preparation is a challenge for you, consider researching meal preparation businesses in your area.  These businesses allow you to prepare and freeze multiple portion meals for your family that are then stored in your freezer, and accessed when you need them. 

Having a stress free and successful school year starts with preparation.  Get started the right away this year.  Avoid the back to school rush and the stress of transitioning from summer frolicking to academic routines.  Just by changing a few habits you can make your academic year a successful, happy one! 

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