School is almost back and this year I’m determined to stay organised by putting a few simple strategies into place.
Even after all of these years, I often find it takes me several weeks to get back into the swing of things once my children return to school but I’ve found some simple ways to help keep on top of things in our family.
Let’s face it, getting organised and staying organised goes well beyond the chime of the 3.30pm school bell. Beyond the school lunch box there are after school activities, meal planning, appointments and family schedules to take into account.
Here are some ways I find useful to keep everyone on track in my family …
List of lunch box foods
I try to get up at least half an hour earlier than my girls in the morning so I can pack their lunches in the quiet, before the chaos hits! But sometimes I’m unsure of what sandwich filling to pack so I have to wait until they get up to quickly ask them what they might like, which then kind of defeats the whole purpose of getting up a little earlier. My girls are known to take a peek into their lunch boxes before they head off to school and I really dislike having to repack them if they don’t like what they see. I much prefer to know that they are going to school with a healthy lunch that they will eat.
So last week I sat my girls down and asked them what type of fillings they like best in their sandwiches, if they are happy for a sandwich to be swapped with a wrap/rice cakes/crackers, plus any other types of food they are happy to have packed in their lunch box.
Obviously, each child is different, but over time I have discovered the lunch box formula that works with my girls is a sandwich (or wrap, rice cakes or hot food in thermos), two types of fruit/vegetables and two snacks (one sweet and one savoury).
I still sneak in a new type of food in their lunch boxes every now and then to try to expand on their ideas, but the list I have prepared is a great reminder for me in the morning. This way, they have variety in their lunch box, instead of reaching for the same foods because they are fresh in my mind from the day before, and I also know they are getting the healthy fuel their bodies need throughout the day.
Morning routine chart
My girls are aged 7 and 11 and it still amazes me how I need to lead them through their mornings even though it’s exactly the same routine they have completed every weekday for several years now. Sigh.
We have used routine charts in the past, especially when they were younger and starting school, so this year I’m dragging them out again to help keep us organised and get the year off to a good start.
These charts will be laminated with a copy placed in the kitchen as well as in each of my girls’ bedrooms. That way, I can just point them in the direction of the chart to keep them on track throughout the morning and step in to help them out if they really need it. If your children are younger, you can include graphics or even photos of themselves completing these tasks to help them along the way. I’m really hoping it will foster some independence skills and confidence in their own ability to get things done.
My children’s school morning routine goes something like this:
- Have breakfast
- Get dressed
- Make beds/tidy room
- Brush teeth
- Pack school bag – lunch box, drink bottle, reader case/homework bag, special items (show and tell, library bag, etc)
- Put on socks and shoes
- Off we go!
The television and other devices only go on in the morning after all tasks are completed otherwise it really slows us down.
Family calendar and weekly schedule
My husband and I sync the calendar on our phones so we both know exactly what is going on. Every member of the family has a different colour assigned to them, along with ‘Bills’ and ‘Special days’ like birthdays, anniversaries and so on.
Each Sunday, I sit down and take a look at the week ahead in our electronic calendar and write this information down into a weekly schedule that I then keep on display in the kitchen. To some it may sound like I’m doubling up, but I find it a great way to remind myself of what we have coming up in the week ahead, plus it’s on available for every family member to see.
The weekly family schedule also has a list of the meals I plan to make for dinner each day (see more in meal planning section below) as well as my children’s specialist classes and other important days coming up at school so I know when they need to bring along their library bag, show and tell, remind them they have school choir practice at lunch and so on.
Last year, I used a whiteboard planner I picked up from Kmart and ruled it up into sections for my two school children plus another column for other tasks, such as bills that need to be paid, appointments and so on. It worked really well, but this year I’m trialling a diary that I leave sitting out on the kitchen bench and may use the whiteboard just for meal planning.
Weekly school timetable
Once school is back, I like to put together a list of specialist classes my daughter’s have on each day of the week, such as sport, computers, library, art, music, LOTE and choir practice. I find it really helps them get prepare for the day and sometimes they may choose their uniform depending on what they have on a particular day, for instance if it’s a sports day my girls may choose to wear a polo shirt and shorts instead of a dress. Last year, I had this information included on the weekly family schedule, but this year I plan to print and laminate a separate timetable that sits next to the morning routine chart.
Each week, before shopping for groceries I write out a meal plan for the week ahead. I use my calendar and take into consideration my family’s weekly schedule and after school activities when deciding what dinners to make during the coming week to ensure I have enough time to make them. I make sure this plan is somewhat flexible so I can easily swap meals around in case we don’t feel like eating something on a particular night.
It’s easy to feel inundated with all the notices that come home from school as well as alerts on the school app. I try to deal with each of these as soon as they arrive so they are not put aside and later overlooked. If I can’t action it straight away, I clip the notice to the front of the fridge and make a note in my diary so it can be completed as soon as possible.
Once it has been done, I then add any necessary dates into the family calendar on my phone and pop the paperwork into a folder that I keep in the kitchen. I have a magazine file that contains different coloured plastic folders labelled for each member of the family as well as bills and other paperwork I need to keep, such as orders, tickets and so on, so I can quickly grab it out when needed. Each school holidays, I try to go through the file to sort out any paperwork that is no longer required.
I hope you find a few of these tips useful for your family and they help you stay organised for the school year ahead. Good luck!
How do you stay organised throughout the school year? Any tips you can share about what works well with your family?