You can feel it in the air...the new school year is coming! With the start of school, families face new organization challenges. Early morning starts, streams of homework and handouts take over the kitchen table, shorter days yet the calendar filled to the brim with sports, activites and events. So how can you prepare your family and home for the busy days ahead? Here are some tips from the experts on how to keep it all together:
Ease the family into a school year schedule
The first day of school is no time for a drastic adjustment of household sleep schedules. Instead, ease children back into a school year routine gradually. During the last two weeks of summer, re-introduce a school year bedtime. Begin waking late sleepers earlier and earlier, closer to the hour they'll need to rise when school begins. Younger children, in particular, need to adapt to new meal routines before the school day demands it of them. Plan meals and snacks to accustom little ones to rituals of the school day before the school year begins.
Create Calendar Central
Each school year floats on a sea of schedules from school functions to lunch menus to music lessons. Nothing calms school year chaos like Calendar Central: a centralized site for all family calendars and schedules. You'll need a family event calendar to track after-school activities, school programs and volunteer work. Add specialized calendars and schedules, and you have it: a one-stop shop for family time management.
Form is less important than function. From a paper calendar with large squares lets you enter information easily to pre-printed white board calendars are easy to revise when necessary, choose a calendar format that works for your family. Color-coding entries by family member helps keep busy lives straight.
Post the family event calendar in a central place either using magnets to attach the calendar to the refrigerator, or tack it to a bulletin board.
Plan before you shop
An informed shopper is a savvy shopper, so prepare before you shop. Take an afternoon and assess each child's clothing needs. Empty drawers and closets of outgrown or worn-out clothing, and either store or donate the discards.
Develop a wardrobe needs list for each child. Check for possible hand-me-downs from older siblings as you make your list. If you discuss the needs list and the family budget with your children before you shop, you'll avoid in-the-store tantrums.
Similarly, ask the school for classroom supply lists before shopping for school supplies.
Take aim on morning madness
How are school mornings in your home? Crazed and chaotic, or calm and cheerful? Plan ahead to send your school children out the door in a happy frame of mind.
Each evening, think ahead to the following morning; where can you lighten the load? Set the breakfast table as you clear the dinner dishes, and make sure breakfast foods are easy to reach. Lay out children's clothing the night before. Scan backpacks for missing homework, projects or library books. Make sure musical instruments or sports bags are packed and ready to go.
Do "bathroom wars" break out daily? Multi-child households may need a bathroom schedule so that everyone gets equal time before the mirror.
What do you do about books and papers, lunch money and permission slips? Create a dedicated space for every family member.
Make a practice run
How will children get to school? The first day of school is no time to find out it takes ten minutes, not five, to walk to the nearest bus stop!
Before school begins, make a practice run to get children to the school on time. If they'll walk, help them learn the route they'll take and note the needed time. Car-pooling? Make sure the dry run accounts for early-morning traffic! Bus riders will need to be familiar with the location of the bus stop; print and post the bus schedule to prevent a missed bus.