Can you believe August is among us? Didn’t summer JUST start? And now our mailbox is flooded with back to school ads, and there’s no escaping the school displays at Target.
As a teacher and parent, I know that Summer to Fall is probably the hardest transition on families. From flexible days, sleeping in, and vacation time back to the scheduled grind of school, homework, practices and lunch making.
It can be easy to walk into these back to school days begrudgingly, longing to keep all the Summer goodness intact. I don’t know about you, but I want more for us in this season. I propose we treat it with the anticipation we do the New Year, with all the excitement and anticipation of fresh starts, healthy choices and new attitudes.
Here’s what I’m thinking. Let’s walk into Back to School and the holiday season (yep…I just said that) with chosen joy, with straight priorities, with hearts bent on seeing the positive, with minds willing to “let it go”, and with an unwavering dependence on the One who makes us enough for it all.
Let us walk with grace and grit into this whirlwind that is sure to happen, because we will absolutely not be owned by a season. And if we’re going to do this, we’re going to need a plan (or two). I decided I’ll break this into two different posts. Today’s post will focus on practical ways you can prepare for and make easier the coming season. Part 2 (next week) will focus on how to prepare your heart, mind and spirit for the coming season!
I have learned that it is ALWAYS worth the little extra work ahead of time to make the later days when tensions are high a little bit more manageable.
This all comes down to organization. Maybe you’re a certified Marie Kondo or maybe you’re more of a slap it together last minute kind of girl. Either way, we can all put into practice some helpful organizing to make our lives easier. P.S. You’ll want to read ALL the way through for a special freebie at the bottom.
Start meal planning. I know, duh. But seriously, after coming home from a long day at work where you just need to sit down for a minute, hearing “What’s for dinner?” is like a cuss word. Having no plan and no food in the house because of no said plan is super frustrating. It doesn’t have to be crazy complicated, just make a plan. There are so many apps out there these days that make this super simple to plan, make grocery lists, etc.
Make a list of your tried and true recipes plus some other easy weeknight dinners and schedule out what you’ll have for the first two survival weeks. Some of our family favorites that are pretty quick and easy are: chicken pesto pasta (use the pre made vegan pesto from Trader Joe’s…OMG), carne asada burritos, Mongolian beef, rice and broccoli, loaded baked potatoes, lettuce chicken wraps, and grilled chicken thighs and veggies (thank you bbq).
Apps to look up: Mealime Meal Plans & Recipes, Plan to Eat & Copy Me That. These basically all do the same thing, but each one is a little different aesthetically and navigation wise. I’d love to hear what you use as well!
2. Pick out clothes ahead of time. This is one of my favorite time savers (I even do it for myself a lot of times) so that mornings don’t get the best of us. Each Sunday I pick out outfits for my kids for the whole week. So, I can send my daughter to get dressed and she knows exactly what she’s wearing. If you have a “do it myself” kind of child, include them in the process. Give them two choices for each day.
For storage, I usually have stacked them in their closets in a wooden crate. However, I do love the hanging organizers I have seen floating around online and I’m looking into getting a couple this year. If you’re unsure what I’m talking about, just look at these awesome ideas:
3. Share a family calendar. A lot of you may already do this, but it has been a major game changer and sanity saver for us. I have a large dry erase calendar by the garage, because I like to see it that way, but my husband could care less about that thing. So, we started sharing a digital calendar on our phones. Everything goes in the calendar so we never have to wonder what the whole fam’s schedule is like for the week. Whenever I put in an event I share it to the family calendar and my husband gets an alert on his phone. If it’s something for the kids or something I know he may have a hard time remembering, I set an alert for the day of the event as well. Ideally, you could sit down at the beginning of the month and plug in dates together and discuss expectations for what time management and responsibilities will look like. We don’t always do that part well, but it’s something we’re working on. We used to have so much conflict about schedules. Thank Jesus for digital calendars (praise hands).
4. Have an “Drop-it Zone” (aka command center). Everyone needs a place to put important things when they come in the house. Permission slips, homework, a bill that needs reviewing, backpacks, etc. If we don’t create a space in our home where these things can go, they end up cluttering up the dining room table or getting lost. Ugh.
An entry way closet, or a corner of an office or guest room could be an option. There are some cute baskets at the 99 cent store that would be perfect for organizing. I have also seen some adorable organizers at HomeGoods and other stores. You could add hooks for backpacks, baskets for library books, buckets with extra school supplies, etc. There are a ton of wonderful ideas I found via Pinterest, so I compiled a bunch for you here. All photos are linked to their source!
5. Homework Station. Even if your child doesn’t enjoy sitting in one place to do homework (I don’t either), it’s really nice to have a space where all homework and school materials are kept. No more scrambling for a piece of scratch paper to work out a math problem, a pen for signing a permission slip or the special pink crayon desperately needed to complete the unicorn drawing.
6. Family Pow-wow. Before your kids go back to school, have a family discussion about expectations. Talk about what mornings and after school time will look like. Get their input about what feels good and helpful and encouraging. Work together to create a game plan to prevent conflict and frustration.
Some ideas to start conversation: When will homework be done, what should happen if someone isn’t ready to go in the morning, when will chores be done (and who does them), what will schedules look like for everyone (even parents).
You might find some great ideas come out of this time together. When children have a chance to express their needs in a way that makes sense to them, you can work together to make solutions that motivate instead of stifle. Maybe your child needs a visual reminder checklist for the mornings. Maybe they need alarms set for them to know when to start something or when it’s almost time to go. The solutions can and should be simple. The goal is to minimize stress and create a united front.
7. Get lunches ready the night before. Give your little people some responsibility and let them make their lunch (with approved options of course). Some people even prep boxes that their kids can grab from to fill their lunches. One might have fruit, another a protein option, another a snack option, and so on. I might try this, as this is the first year we’ll actually be packing lunches for my big girl kindergartner (excuse me while I cry…again). Here are some lunch prep ideas:
I hope you’ve enjoyed these back to school organization hacks. Let me know if you use any or have other ideas to share. You can tag me on instragram @ms_tarasmith! I look forward to hearing your feedback and connecting more! Tune back in next week for how to prep your mind and heart for this crazy season ahead. If you’re subscribed to my email list, you’ll get the post sent right to your inbox on Sunday. If not, what are you waiting for friend?
As promised at the beginning of this post, here’s your cute FREEBIE! Downloadable love notes to pop into your child’s lunchbox. Click the button next to the desired note style to download the PDF which has two sides (the front graphic and the back note lines). You’ll need to print double-sided and adjust the page size settings to get it postcard style.