Today, I dropped my youngest off for his first day of middle school and watched him walk excitedly into the building. It hit me that I'm moving into a new phase in my life. As I usher my son along the path of being more independent, I can pull back a little from homework supervision and packing his lunch. For most parents, the new school year involves changes in routine that require we reorganize and readjust.
From what I've discovered, ensuring life runs smoothly is a good goal but most of us have made mistakes and forgotten an orthodontist appointment or to sign a permission slip for a class field trip.
Over the years, I've had lots of experts weigh in and I've decided today I'm going to share some of the best back to school organizing tips that I've collected:
* Calendar everything. Get the school calendar for the year with days off and early release. Incorporate that into your work calendar so you can plan ahead. Write down the date of the meet-the-teacher night and the schedule for tryouts for school sports teams. Do it now!
* Schedule vacations or time off. If you are entitled to days off at work, find out now when there are school holidays, awards ceremonies, field trips and put in your time off requests. If you wait until the last minute, other working parents may already have requested those days off.
* Stock up. At the beginning of the school year, buy extra report covers, poster boards, glue sticks and markers. It will save you from making a mad dash to Wal-Mart after a long day at work.
* Hold Sunday night planning sessions. As the week approaches, sit down as family and discuss plans for the week. Who has late night business meetings? Who has SAT prep class or soccer practice? A ten minute discussion on Sunday night can save unnecessary meal preparation, and schedule clashes.
* Provide back up lunch money. Has your child ever had to eat bread and butter at school because he forgot his lunchbox? Mine has and it made me feel like a horrible mother. A good mother (or parent) sticks money in the kids' backpacks or school lunch accounts at the beginning of the school year to ensure they have the option of buying lunch if needed.
* Clear the clutter as it arrives. I don't check my kids' backpacks every night. I never have, but I know I should. However, I do try to check them at least every few days purge school papers as often as possible. I use the advice organizer Diane Hatcher of TimesaversUSA.com shared with me: If something that comes home from school has meaning to you or your child, save it; Otherwise toss it.
* Remember not to forget. I got this tip from Simplify101.com and I love it because I'm kind of forgetful. Create a simple system by the door to help you remember your new routine or special items you need to take with you each day: gym shoes on gym day, violin on music day, and snacks on snack day. Hang a bin or basket by your door to corral the items you need to remember.
If you have any back-to-school tips that have worked for you, I'd love to hear them. Good luck all of you in the new school year!