The commercials and ads start in late July – back to school supplies, back to school clothes, a computer your child can’t succeed without, yet you’re still in the lazy days of summer mode.  No matter how you try to ignore it the start of school will arrive, and with it the return of homework, activities, and back to school night(s).  In order to keep the ensuing chaos at bay, adopt some good organizing practices to ensure a successful school year for both you and your children.

Establish Drop Zones – Backpacks, lunch boxes, keys, cell phones, permission slips, homework – they all need a place to land and live.  Set up a spot where each family member can drop their stuff near where they enter and leave the house.  You can use designated hooks or shelves.  Just be sure that whatever you choose is easy for your family to access — otherwise items will just land on the floor.  Show them how to use the system you create, so you don’t spend an already hectic morning looking for a misplaced book report or PE uniform.

Know The Rules – Lay the ground rules at the beginning of the year so everyone has a clear understanding of what is a priority and what is expected of them.  You can have a simple conversation with your kids, or if you really want to make an impact, create a contract.  It can address rules around homework, computer use, television, bedtimes, and social time.  You and your child each sign the contract and if there is a dispute during the year, refer back to the signed contract.  We created a Facebook contract when my daughter first got her account.  It opened up a dialog that I don’t think would have happened if we had just told her the behavior we expected with with this new privilege.

Create a Family Command Center – It cuts down on time and confusion as well as misplaced items when you have one place where your family shares information.  Common components of a Family Command Center include:

  • Shared Calendar – Whether you choose a large wall calendar, a dry erase calendar, or an electronic version; a shared calendar helps with planning.  Less conflicts result when all family members are aware of after school activities, weekend games, travel dates, evening meetings, social obligations, etc.
  • In/Out Box – Create an inbox for each member of your family so that their work and school papers do not overtake your kitchen table, counter, or other flat surfaces. You can use traditional office style stacking trays, magazine holders, or any container you find works in your space.  Show your kids how to use the “In/Out” system so they know where to put the field trip permission slip you need to sign and where you will return the signed document so it makes it back to school.
  • Communication Board – Busy families can sometimes spend days passing like ships in the night.  Creating a spot for phone messages, instructions for heating dinner, or chores that need to be done allows for communication to happen even when your paths don’t cross.

For more details on setting up your own Family Command Center, click here.

Set-up a Homework Space – A desk or study space that is conducive to concentration and focus is crucial for academic success. Whether it’s the kitchen table or a desk in your child’s room, factors to consider include lighting, noise levels, space to spread out, privacy, and availability of supplies.  Ensure your child has easy access to supplies such as paper, pens/pencils, markers, glue sticks, scissors, post-its, stapler, paper clips, and a computer (if needed).  Less getting up and down searching for the 3-hole punch leads to greater focus and better time management.  In addition, work with your child on a good organization system for the supplies they carry to and from school.  Color coded folders, a binder system, or accordion folders with multiple pockets are all good options and work differently depending on your child’s needs and personal style.

Make It a Team Effort – School is an important part of your child’s life, but so is family.  Assign age appropriate chores to teach your child accountability to the family and home as well as responsibility.  When everyone pitches in there’s less stress in the home and more time for more positive interaction as well as engaging activities.