Permission slips, health forms, phone lists, lunch bags – sometimes keeping a child's school life organized can seem like a job in itself. Here are some simple things you and your child can do now to make mornings, homework, and the school year less stressful for everyone in your family.
Notices and schedules
Create a system for keeping written and electronic notices and schedules organized. Here are some tips:
- Set up folders to keep track of school notices from teachers and the school, including after-school and other activities. You might set up both an electronic folder and a paper folder to organize each of your children's schedules and notices.
- Create a master calendar for everyone's activities. You might use an electronic tool like Google Calendar or Cozi to help keep your family activities organized. If you use a paper calendar, consider writing each child's activities on it using ink or a marker in a different colour. This can make it easier for children to keep track of their schedules.
- Store teachers' names, email addresses, and phone numbers in a place where you can easily access them. You might store these in your smartphone contact list. Or use an address book or agenda you always have with you.
- Remind your child to share any notices with you that come home from school.
- Write down scheduled events immediately in your calendar. As soon as a notice comes home from school – whether it's a school closing, parent meeting, an upcoming event, or a tutoring session – write it down in your calendar. If you make this a habit, you'll have fewer scheduling mishaps.
- Set up electronic reminders for yourself so you don't miss an important meeting or school event.
- Set up a regular time to talk with your spouse or partner about upcoming school events. Sometimes one parent tends to become the keeper of the calendar simply because he or she gets home from work earlier and is the first to see the papers a child brings home. A 5- or 10-minute discussion on Sunday evening can help bring you both up to date. Follow up with a similar discussion with your child to look at the events and assignments on the calendar for the coming week.
Helping your child stay organized
Helping your child form the habit of keeping things in their place and planning ahead will pay off this year and for the rest of her life. The transition between school and home will be smoother if you:
- Create a special place for your child's school things, like her gym or music supplies, homework folder, and backpack or school bag. A certain place by the front door, a laundry basket with your child's name on it, or space on a shelf can all do the job. Children of all ages appreciate knowing they can count on having their things together and ready to go. You may want to establish an evening routine of asking your child to check that everything is ready for take-off in the morning.
- Make a homework area. Stock it with supplies like pencils and sharpeners, markers, paper, a ruler, tape, and paper clips. If your child will be working at a table that other family members also use, he can keep the supplies together in a plastic tub or crate. If your child will use the same set of supplies for school and home, make sure he has a container that won't pop open in his bag or backpack.
- Teach your child how to use a planner or calendar. Show your child how to record assignments, projects, extracurricular activities, and school events in the planner. Many older children use electronic planners on their smartphone or laptop. Check to see what preferences teachers have or if they recommend a specific electronic planner.
- Lay out school clothes – or have your child do it – the night before. Even young children appreciate the opportunity to help pick what they'll wear, and you'll avoid last-minute scrambles for the right shirt or socks.
- Leave milk or lunch money in the same place every morning. Or look into whether your school offers prepayment through a card or online account.
- Leave the television off in the morning. An interesting television show will compete for your child's attention in the morning when you want him to focus on getting ready for school. However, listening to a radio news program together, especially with older children, might be an educational way to start the day.
- Help your young child clean out her school bag once a week, and encourage an older one to do it himself.
- Set up a schedule for activities like homework, TV, baths, and bedtime. Children of all ages benefit from a predictable routine. If your child won't be completing homework in an after-school program, try scheduling homework in the early evening so your child won't be tired when she does it.
Setting a quiet study time for the whole family, when parents catch up on their own work or household chores, can help your child focus. If you are taking care of a very young child while an older one does homework, you might think about establishing a quiet time with the younger child, too – doing puzzles or reading together.
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