teen girl sitting under the covers on the bed

As you enjoy the last of your lazy summer days, it’s time to start thinking about the new school year. Regardless of what emotions that reality evokes for you, there are practical steps families can take to help set the kids (and parents) up for success. Here are tips to get organized before school starts.

Adjust Sleep Schedule

As summer comes to an end, so should late bedtimes. The importance of adequate sleep can’t be emphasized enough. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children ages 6–12 need 9–12 hours of sleep daily. Earlier bedtimes are the best way to achieve that goal. Arriving at school rested is a great way to start the day.

Pro tip: If your children are accustomed to staying up late, now is the time to establish a new routine — don’t wait until school starts.

Eliminate Piles of School Work

If you haven’t already, toss last year’s homework sheets and papers (except report cards and important projects or notes) to make way for an influx of new ones. Need a reliable organization system? We recommend getting a file box that accommodates hanging folders—one for each child—and hanging file folders labeled as follows:

  • One for each school subject
  • One for each grade (K–8)
  • One for report cards
  • One for communication from school or teachers
  • One for misc.

File papers throughout the year into the appropriate folders (unless they can be tossed immediately). At the end of the year, keep only the most important documents and move them into the relevant grade level folder. 

What to Do about Artwork?

When my kids were younger, we chose a couple art pieces to display and put the rest in a box, labeled with their names. Every now and then I pulled the box out, explaining that we don’t have space to keep all their artwork. The kids thoughtfully reminisced their way through the pile and decided what to keep, what to toss and what to send to grandparents. I reserved the right to keep a masterpiece they wanted to toss (such as, the hilarious questionnaire my daughter filled out when she said I was 87 years old and my favorite activity was making her dinner). 

I took photos of artwork we were on the fence about and we ceremoniously let it go. If needed (and if you have time), consider taking that one more step and create a scrapbook, featuring photos of everything the kids made that year. 


Re-Establish Rules for School Mornings

Think about what works for your family and what doesn’t. Is it time to set boundaries on phones, reconfigure the breakfast routine, or train the kids to wake themselves up? If waking kids up is a frustrating battle of wills, remove yourself from the equation. Get an alarm clock (if phones are not kept in bedrooms at night), and put it on the other side of the room so the kids have to get up. If they are late for school, it’s OK to let them suffer natural consequences from the school. That’s how kids learn to do things differently.

Back to School Checklist

Kids who thrive with to-do lists, may appreciate our free, printable Back-to-School Routine Checklist to help them stay on task each morning and evening. Consider laminating it and using a dry-erase marker so it can be wiped clean and re-used daily. 

Talk about Lunch

It’s best to get input from your kids about what to pack if they’ll be taking lunch to school. Discuss options (keeping the five healthy food groups in mind) and let them help decide what to take. Think outside the (lunch) box — find “52 Easy School Lunch Ideas” at www.sandiegofamily.com/things-to-do/dining-and-recipes/school-lunches-for-kids

Pro tip: Figure out which snack or lunch items can be packed the night before—or even on Sunday night for the upcoming week—to alleviate morning chaos.

Address Homework Routine

Designate a homework area that is free from distraction and has easy access to necessary supplies. Decide in advance what the homework, snack, afterschool activity, dinner and bath time routine will be. Kids need guidelines and consistency. Now is the time to start fresh.

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Lisa Gipson is San Diego Family’s managing editor. Her favorite part of going back to school was shopping for school supplies.

Get more back-to-school organization ideas in our article, “Get Organized for the School Year," where we share tips from professional organizers, and discuss how to handle backpacks, family command centers and more. www.sandiegofamily.com/resources/education-directory/get-organized-for-school

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