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It’s that time of year again- Back to School! And whether you are happy or sad (yes, I get that you may be sad to see your Littles off to school after such a great summer! And I also get you might be happy to send your Bigs back to school after a long summer!) it’s happening and there is nothing you can do about it. BUT, you can make it a lot easier on yourself, your kids and your family.
As the mom and stepmom of adult children, I remember all too well the back to school rush. Our kids are 24, 24, 22 and 20, and I’ve been parenting my kids forever, obviously, and my stepdaughters from the time they were 7 and 9. You haven’t experienced Good Times until you’ve had 4 teenage daughters sharing 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom…<yikes> But I did learn a few things along the way, and I thought this would be a great time to share them because no one needs more stress in their lives. You need LESS stress and these tips and advice are meant to make your life a little less hectic and much more chill.
Tackle Back to School Like a Boss
Yes, the supply list may be long, and you may not understand why everything on it is needed, but trust your child’s teacher, as they have probably been teaching in their classroom longer than you have. 😉 Plus, they are with your loves for hundreds of hours a year, and that is hundreds of hours you know they are in a safe and caring environment, and also hundreds of hours you aren’t teaching them! Buy the Magna Doodle and call it a day. This is the “small stuff” you’re not supposed to sweat. And while you’re at it, buy your teachers some treats for those days when they are at their wit’s end and want to leave, but can’t. You have those days, and so do they!
Now is the time to stock up on supplies your kids need throughout the year. Most kids need a “refresh” of their supplies after winter break. Buy folders now at .10c, Kleenex on the cheap, and glue sticks for .50c rather than paying 10x more in January.
Make sure your kids have supplies to use at home, too. Back to school means homework and projects that require supplies. Pick up a couple sheets of poster board at Dollar Tree (2/$1!) so you don’t have to run out after work on a rainy November day for a project that is “due tomorrow.” While you’re at Dollar Tree, pick up a caddy to make the DIY Dollar Store Homework Station found in our Dollar Store Finds to Keep Kids Organized post. Providing all of the necessary supplies, and expecting your kids return them to their correct spot after use, ensures they will always have the supplies they need for homework.
Establish Daily Routines for Before and After School
Kids thrive on schedules, and believe it or not they LIKE chores. You have a staff of tiny helpers, so put them to work and ease your load. My husband and I always said we were “raising adults.” It’s important kids know how to function when they leave, and you have 18 short years to make sure they can! Back to school is the perfect time to get started if you haven’t already done so.
Start young kids on a morning, afternoon and evening schedule so they establish a routine they can use throughout life. Our Dollar Store Finds to Keep Kids Organized post also shows how to make a dry erase schedule out of a cheap frame. Make one for each of your kids to help keep them on track throughout the day. Even kindergarteners can handle getting themselves ready for school in the morning. Some ideas may be:
-Put lunch in backpack
-Put papers for Parents in the bin
-Have a healthy snack from the snack station
-Shower, brush teeth
-Pick out tomorrow’s clothing
Of course, your routines will be based on each child’s abilities, needs, and ages, but you get the point. It is a lot easier to lay out your expectations than to keep asking “is your homework done” and “did you make your lunch?” If you start early, these things will stick with them through life. You don’t want to be asking your 20-year-old if they finished their homework!
One of the best, and easiest, things I did when my kids were small was establishing a snack station. Check out our post on 15 Game Changing Snack Stations for some ideas. Why a snack station? Well, several reasons. 1) It makes packing school lunches so much easier, 2) it lets kids self-regulate, which is an invaluable life skill, 3) it allows you to manage their snacks, so you don’t have 4 packages of cereal bars or 3 kinds of granola bars open at once, and 4) it makes it easy for your kids to be responsible for their snacks/water for sports or activities when they know exactly where to stop on their way out the door. Whether it’s a large basket or two for your pantry, an awesome tiered cart, or an entire cabinet is up to you, but whatever it is it will definitely make your life easier!
Meal Prep and Meal Plan for Dinner
Guys- this is SO HUGE. Not only will this save you money, it will save you TIME, which is more valuable than money when you’re trying to juggle kids, work, family, sports, lessons, marriage- you know, LIFE. We meal plan to this day
Here are several roundup posts I’ve put together for dinner meal plans:
Meal Prep Like a Pro With These 10 Yummy Recipes (this has been shared over 50,000 times on social media and has *great* ideas!)
Meal Prep Like A Pro – Part Two!
Easy Dinners for Busy Weeknights
Super Easy Sheet Pan Dinner That Will Save Your Sanity
By prepping meals for the week in advance you eliminate the “what’s for dinner” question, stopping to pick up fast food, going out to dinner, and having to stop at the store on your way home from work. Knowing dinner is made is a huge relief, a huge money saver, and a huge time saver. I meal prep on Sunday nights for my husband and myself now, and when our kids were young and living at home, I prepped during the day.
During our crazy busy softball seasons, I used to do freezer cooking and spend a day prepping 30 days of dinners to freeze and eat later. I was lucky enough to add a warming drawer when we remodeled our kitchen, which meant I was able to cook dinner and leave it in the warming drawer for everyone else to eat when they came home for dinner. If you’re planning a remodel, definitely add one if you can. I used mine more days than not! (We’ve moved since that house, and I don’t really need one now, but wow- was that nice!)
Meal Prep for School (and Work!) Lunch
If your kids don’t participate in a school lunch program, don’t have a cafeteria, or simply prefer bringing a lunch from home like my kids always did, prepping in advance saves so much time. School-age kids can easily prep their own lunches, too! Here are 10 awesome lunch ideas your kids will LOVE! Meal Prep Like a Pro: Part Three – The School Lunch Edition.
For lunches for a more…advanced…palette, check out The Lunch List- Meal Plan Like a Pro: Part Three. It has 10 incredible recipes that will not only save you time, but will also make you look forward to eating your lunch! No more boring bag lunches with these ideas!
Establish a Command Center
Every home needs an area that acts as Control Central. This way all family members know exactly what’s going on when. Ideally, this would be located at the entryway your family uses most. This is where important papers, calendar items, upcoming events, mail, keys, etc. are stored so everyone is on the same page. The above example is very basic- you can easily add the activities of the day each day, so everyone knows who is where after school and in the evening. For a more detail-oriented command center, this one has everything laid out for the day and the month, and also has bins that can be used for important papers from the kids’ schools.
For more ideas, check out our post on Functional Entryways to Encourage Organization – lots of great ideas that are beautiful to look at, too. I absolutely love the farmhouse entryway above!
The above 7 Back to School tips should help calm chaos all year long, and year after year, as well. Preparedness and organization is half the battle and you will be so happy to make the change into a more organized lifestyle!
Want more great parenting ideas? Check out our Kids & Parenting board on Pinterest! It’s loaded with ideas!
For additional tips on de-stressing your life and adding some calm, check out these related posts:
Conquer Clutter Once and For All with these Stylish Storage Solutions
The One Hour Cleaning Challenge for Your Kids!
The One Hour Power Clean That Will Change Your Life
The One Thing You Can Do to Get Your Kids to Stop Fighting Now
Do These Things on Sunday and You’ll Have an Awesome Week!
Happy Back to School!