So, your kids are back to school. Now what? Well, if you are efficient, organized and have self-starting kids, then you can stop reading. If you are like me whose head is spinning as I quickly get buried with student handbooks, blank emergency forms, calendars, schedules, book orders, and reading logs (and it is ONLY the second week of school), then please, read on.
Last year I started kindergarten…as a parent. There was so much to learn, so much to remember, and so much that I forgot. Is it “A” day? What special does she have? Sneakers or library book? Is it “Spirit Day?” Do I send her to school with 30 braids for crazy hair day or dressed for red, white, and blue day? Well, at least I got opposite day right! If I were to write how many times I messed up, I would be writing a book instead of an article. So I decided to take action (and I really don’t have time to write a book).
Determined to have a year of success and be Mary Poppins, nearly perfect in every way, I got my act in gear. Not only am I starting the first grade as a parent, I also have a 3 year old and 4 year old, both in pre-school. Oh, and did I mention that I have a husband? Now, if I forgot to brush my teeth most mornings when they were babies, you can imagine what I will look like trying to keep track of the school years. Who forgot to put on underwear (not me this time)? Who put their toothbrush in the toilet? Who left their unfinished homework in the spilled coffee? As long as I don’t forget to meet them at the bus, then I guess I am doing ok. But, I digress.
In order to get it together, it will not be pretty, and as most mom’s may agree (and some husbands, too) we have little time primp, whether it’s the hair or the home. If you like a Town and Country house then you can stop reading this, again. But if you are still reading this you probably have a Lego rug (ouch) and graffiti walls. In that case, prepare a large space for your new role of “program manager.”
First, steal some of your kids school supplies (not really) but stock up on your own supply of things from their list like markers, crayons, tape, glue, scissors, paper, and pencils. Chances are that if they are using these supplies at school they will be using them for homework, too. Then, stock up on things for you, like paper clips, post its, folders, a stapler, a calculator, highlighters, an electric pencil sharpener is a MUST, and a fish.
Got your attention? I keep my “stress fish” nearby so when I get overwhelmed I “take 5” and watch him. I spend a lot of time with him, by the way.
So here’s what worked for me:
First, I chose the dining room for my work station which is large enough for all of the things I need to display. The kids can do their homework at the table with the added benefit of forcing us to clean up in time for dinner.
I got an over the door hanger for their backpacks at the dollar store. I should mention that I bought all of the supplies at the dollar store, except my fish.
On one table I set up the following:
- A marker bin, a crayon bin, a cup for pencils, a bin for all the other office supplies, a stack of paper, a stack of construction paper.
- One letter size, shallow bin for each child to put notes to parents, book orders, upcoming events, etc. For me, if I don’t see it, I forget about it.
- Next, 2 bins (labeled) per child. I use stackable drawers to save space. Make drawer one, priority, for homework and homework folder. Drawer two for finished work to be filed at a later time, in storage or in the circular file, whichever you prefer.
- One pocket folder per child (labeled) for filing report cards, awards, that big student handbook that I will inevitable need to read, and very important letters that should never be thrown away, specifically for children with special needs or 504’s as well as IEP’s, dated notes and letters to the school.
- A separate reading folder for reading logs and packets that are sent home to support the school’s reading program (i.e.: Fundations).
On the wall above I hung a master schedule:
- Write due dates, reminders, events, etc, color coded for each child.
- My own events and reminders are a different color, too. Can’t forget about me!
- For additional reminders, I post my child’s monthly calendar that they bring home next to the master schedule.
- I go one step further and make an extra copy of my child’s schedule and have them decorate and highlight the important days. I post it in their room so they can reference it when they are getting ready for school or doing homework. This takes A LOT of stress off of me if they can fend for themselves.
Finally, teach. The most important tool in this whole process is to teach them to pack and unpack their things and put them in the appropriate bin, drawer, folder, etc. When a child learns to think about thinking, planning, organizing, and doing, your house will run like a well oiled machine. Or maybe like a well oiled, rusty chain. Hey, no one’s perfect.
For more information on Mary Eileen Oakes, please visit www.thestorychair.blogspot.com