While I love the relaxing schedule of summertime with no need to rush out the door every weekday morning at 8, I am already gearing up for back to school. It’s the planner in me, based on 19+ years of parenting 5 kids.
8 Fundamentals I Need for Back to School
All of these fundamentals are important for my sanity during the school year. Those pesky kids want to eat all the time. They have places to go and things to do. Homework has to be done, and done early. And, don’t get me started on the contact paper project that goes on for days at the beginning of the school year.
1. Family Calendar
Every family needs a central calendar for staying organized. The best calendar is the one you stick with. For my family, we have a desk calendar hanging on the wall in the kitchen. Everything goes on this calendar written in pencil. I also put my kids dishwashing and table setting schedule on the calendar.
Once a week, I review the calendar and make sure the information syncs with my Google calendar and my Erin Condren Life Planner. I carry the Life Planner with me to doctor’s appointments. After struggling with a small screen when making appointments in Google calendar, I went back to a paper planner for sanity’s sake.
2. Meal Planning
I’ve learned yet again that I need to meal plan. With my husband and I eating Paleo and making sure our kids eat more Paleo, we need to spend more time in the kitchen preparing foods, even if it’s preparing simple recipes. Writing down a basic meal idea and what I need to cook during the day to make dinner time simple has reduced my dinner time stress enormously.
Read More: Simplified Meal Planning
My meal planning is fairly simple. I love to cook, though I don’t love to spend a lot of time planning. This is my basic routine using the Erin Condren Life Planner:
- Look at the calendar for the following week. Wednesday night is always Venturing night for my oldest son, and always spaghetti and meatballs. If there’s something earlier than 6 on the calendar, I serve leftovers that night otherwise, I plan on starting dinner early.
- Look at the fridge for leftovers from the current week and vegetables that need using up. I check the meat drawers in the freezer in case my husband has used something over the weekend that I thought was still there.
- Sit down with my husband to talk about meal ideas. He loves to cook, and he likes to be included in the meal planning process.
- Using my Erin Condren Life Planner, I write out the plan in pencil and include notes for food prep, recipe locations, and taking food out of the freezer. I always schedule at least one leftover night during the week. If the fridge remains crowded with food, I will change the plan during the week and have an additional leftover night. Usually, I just need to cook a meat for the new leftover night.
3. Erin Condren Life Planner
Yes, I have 2 Erin Condren Life Planners. My husband bought me the first one for Christmas. After I spent a month using it, I decided to get a second one to help with meal planning.
I keep both planners open on my kitchen counter. I ended up dividing the main planner into 3 sections on each weekly spread – tasks, appointments, and cleaning/homekeeping tasks. While some may find the boxes a little small for writing in, I think they’re perfect. I HAVE to limit myself, and not put too much stuff on each day.
One thing I continue to struggle with is time management. Since we have an changing schedule every week during the summer, I find it hard to find a regular blogging rhythm. Once the kids are back in school, I can block off time on my Life Planner for blogging, working out, and home stuff.
Read More: Working Mom Tips for Summer Survival
4. Homework Station
I store our homework supplies in a cleaning caddy kept on a bookcase in the dining room. Next to the homework supply caddy are bins for papers from school labeled with each child’s name. Having everything near our regular homework spot ensures we don’t waste time looking for pencils and other supplies.
In my office, I kept the stapler, ruler, and electric pencil sharpener. These supplies have been known to disappear in our home.
Homework Station Supplies
- Caddy or box to hold the supplies
- Pencil Sharpener
- hole punch
- glue sticks
- school glue
5. Morning and After School Routines for the Kids
Getting kids out the door to school can be the most stressful time in a mom’s day. Coming home from school is almost as stressful. Conquer the stress with a routine.
It’s pretty easy deciding what your kids need to get done in the morning before they go to school. Almost every parent expects their kids to be dressed, have their teeth brushed, and have their lunches made before going to school.
Beyond the basics, when do you sign forms and permission slips? When do kids decide on bringing or buying lunch?
After school, think about what you want your kids to do the minute they walk in the door. I have mine put their lunch boxes on the counter and put their papers for me to review in their bins along with their homework books. While the kids eat a snack, I review the homework books and papers. Then, we start homework.
Two Free Printables for your Back to School Routines
Two years ago, I created 2 printables for my kids to help them get out the door in the morning and settle into our afternoon routine after school. Before I created these printables, we were constantly rushing around for stuff at the last minute in the morning. With the expectations clear and the routine stuff done, I am better able to handle any last minute issues. Having an afternoon routine has helped homework time run more smoothly, too.
6. Master Planning List
To stay organized with my back to school preparations, I have a master planning list for each of my 5 kids. Many items are duplicates like doctors appointments, back packs, and lunch boxes. I keep the lists in my Erin Condren Life Planner and bring them with me when I’m out shopping. This way I can buy what I need when I find it on sale. I usually buy an extra set of crayons and pencils for each child since we go through these quickly.
Grab a Free Printable Master Planning List for Your Kids today!
7. A Big Supply of Contact Paper
All moms with kids in Catholic school know that contact paper is first on their list of school supplies to purchase. In fact, I swear we keep the companies that make contact paper in business every August. Everything, and I mean everything, is covered in contact paper.
This year, I will have 4 kids with many, many workbooks, folders, and composition books needing to be covered with contact paper. I start buying the contact paper in July, and I keep buying it because I know I will never have enough. I think I went through 10 rolls last year.
In fact, I am in the process of writing up how I cover books with contact paper since I’ve only done hundreds over the years.
8. Tickler Files
For about 10 years, I’ve had a file crate set up in my office with hanging files and folders for each week of the year. I keep school work, invitations, event flyers, birthday and anniversary cards, the monthly school calendar, and pretty much anything else time-sensitive which isn’t a bill.
I bought the file crate at Staples along with a box of hanging files and plain brown file folders. Each hanging file is labeled with the month beginning with July and ending with June. I write down the dates for the weeks on the file folders which go inside the hanging files.
In each hanging file (the month), I place the school calendar and lunch ordering information before the weekly file folders. Into the weekly file folders go school work, invitations, forms for school, sports, and scouts, cards, and anything else I need to use during a particular week. Each Sunday, I review the weekly file and make notes in my Erin Condren Life Planner.
What Are Your Must Haves for Back to School?