Now that the excitement of the first day back at school has died down, it’s time to get serious about how you’re actually going to survive the organisational mayhem that is the standard school term.
We’re not kidding. Months off school make it hard to remember the days when you’d have to plan for before-school, after-school and during-school activities, lunchboxes, homework, assignments and tests, parent-teacher interviews, birthday parties, play-dates, weekend sport and – somewhere in the midst of all of that – your own, non-kid-related responsibilities. But, believe us, they’re coming.
Fear not. With these five handy tips for superhuman school week organisation, you’ll be nailing your back to school routine like a pro.
1. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
Make like a boy scout and use your downtime to help your peak hours run a little smoother. Whether it’s meal planning and prepping on a Sunday afternoon for the week ahead – having enough food in the fridge for your work and school lunches will make your busy mornings infinitely easier – or getting on top of your laundry so that no one’s leaving the house in a spaghetti-stained shirt (it happens more often than you’d think), there are plenty of ways you can manage your time give your future-self a much-needed break.
It doesn’t have to take long, either, so don’t worry about wasting your weekends doing boring old housework. A load of laundry here and there or a fun baking or cooking session with the kids still counts!
While you’re at it, take a quick peek into your diary to see what’s on for the next few days. No more surprise excursions, free dress days, appointments or social gatherings – when you’re organised, you can basically see the future.
2. Pre-pack everything
Why put off ‘til tomorrow what you can do today? And by that, we mean those before-school ‘must do’s that can actually be done the night before. The lunchbox line-up is the first place to start – fill your Yumbox up with food (remember, those silicone seals keep everything fresher for a lot longer, and you don’t have to worry about spills or smells!) and even go the extra mile by chucking it into a cooler bag with any extra food your kids want to take along. Fill up water bottles and have them ready to go in the fridge, and even cut up some fruit for the next morning or school day if you’re feeling really prepared.
After dinner, consult the family planner (more on that in a moment) to see if your kids have any special activities on the following day. Make sure they each have a special bag for their activities – a swimming bag for swimming, a music bag for music and a sports bag for… you get the idea – that is fully-stocked with everything they’ll need. Put it with their school bag – which is already packed too, because you’re an organisational guru now – so that they don’t leave anything behind, and fall asleep easily knowing that tomorrow morning will be a breeze (until someone spills yoghurt on their last clean school uniform, but you can only control so much).
3. Write it down
Never underestimate the power of a chart. There is so much to remember every single day that, if you don’t have a clear list to check things off (at least mentally), things can easily fall to the wayside. A whiteboard in the kitchen or another busy area that outlines everyone’s responsibilities – drafted up with the help of your kids, so that they know the run-down too – will keep them top of mind, and give them an easy reference point if they need to see what they’ve taking to school that day.
But these visual cues don’t all have to be boring (no offence, charts). You can use posters and vision boards to motivate your kids or keep them on track to achieve their goals. Discuss the things you’d like to accomplish this term and work out how you’re going to get there – then write it down! Whether it’s achieving a specific grade at school, getting into a sporting team or a learning a new skill, having visual reminders around your home will make your kids way more likely to succeed. And, when they’re feeling unenthusiastic, have a few key motivational quotes around to inspire them!
4. A place for everything
You can’t be organised in a cluttered home, nothing creates more clutter than school supplies. Folders, stationery, loose sheets of paper and notebooks can quickly suffocate your home if you don’t have a specific place for them, so consider designating an area to be your ‘homework station’. Whether it’s a desk in a common area, a hidden set of drawers near your kitchen counter or simply a trolley that can be wheeled from room to room, having a homework station lets your kids get straight into it as soon as they dump their schoolbags on the ground (no more, “I’ll start as soon as I find a pencil!”).
5. Daily downloads
Your school routine doesn’t end once the homework is finished. Make time for regular family dinners (around the table, not the TV) and use the opportunity to catch-up on the days’ events – and your kids’ lives in general – while also discussing what’s on the agenda tomorrow. Take cues from your kids’ behaviour to Is your child excited for an excursion that was announced at school that day? Make a mental note to check their schoolbag for a note about it. Did someone have an art class or PE today? Make sure you get their school uniform in the wash straight after dinner. Consult the family planner for any upcoming events and make arrangements about drop-offs and pick-ups, and any other requirements, right there at the dinner table. If you’re going to run a tight ship, you need the whole crew onboard.