By TMoM Team Member Kelly Hines

I say the same thing every August – this year, I’m going to get organized for school. Then, a week after school starts, I say – NEXT year, I’m going to get organized for school. For many of us, the school year is starting this month, which means it’s not too late to get your act together! As the parent of three kids (a second grader, a fifth grader, and a high school junior), here are my tips to get organized for every educational level.

School Supplies

College: Buy too much stuff, spend an uncomfortable amount of time ‘decorating’, don’t be surprised when half of it comes back at the end of the semester, still in the wrapper. Don’t be surprised when the unwrapped half comes back, stuffed in a black trashbag, smelling like Big Macs and B.O.

High School: Send your child to school with a half-used spiral notebook and a pen you found in the bottom of their lunchbox. Have them write down the list of supplies for each teacher, and be prepared to spend your evening looking all over town for them. Because MOM I NEED THEM TOMORROW!!!

Middle School: Buy everything on the list on the school’s website. Question why they need forty-seven two pocket folders. Search desperately for a light blue, two pocket, three pronged folder before you finally find it on Amazon, which is where you should have gone in the first place.

Elementary School: Buy everything on the list. Buy extra boxes of Kleenex and Clorox Wipes. Refuse to spend the extra $1 on the presharpened No. 2 pencils because, by golly, you can sharpen them yourself. Remember you only have a tiny, plastic, heart-shaped pencil sharpener, buy only AFTER you get home with the unsharpened pencils. Try to cram the seventy-eleven number 2 pencils in the tiny Hello Kitty pencil case that your child insisted on getting. Wonder why all schools don’t just charge a fee and provide a pack of school supplies on the student’s desk the first day of school. No, really. Why?

Back to School Clothes Shopping

College: They’re getting a college education, they want CLOTHES, too?

High School: Buy an entire fall wardrobe for your child who has claimed this is the year they’re ‘upping their game’ from jeans and band t-shirts. Don’t take the tags off. Enjoy seeing new clothes for the first three days of school before the jeans and band t-shirts come out of the closet.

Middle School: Buy a first day of school outfit. Get the ridiculously trendy thing that everyone has. When I was in seventh grade, all I wanted was a pair of Reebok high tops and two layers of scrunchy socks to wear with them. My parents weren’t rolling in the dough, but my mom made those shoes happen. Some kids don’t care about trends and that is fantastic, but some kids do and it’s absolutely ok to want to have something ‘cool’. Middle school is hard.

Elementary School: Pull out the jeans that you bought last year in a terrific sale. Weep when you realize they are all too small. Don’t bother buying anything today, because it probably won’t fit tomorrow. Be thankful that, as a group, elementary school kids will wear anything.

Packing Lunches

College: They’re getting a college education. They want FOOD, too? Just send them off with a loaded debit card and a case of Funyons. They’ll be good.

High School, Middle School, and Elementary School: OK, I’m going to get serious for just a minute here. If you think that your child is even kind of ready to pack their own lunch, make them pack their own lunch. Unless they’re the kid that will show up with a raw potato and a stick in their lunchbox, make them pack their own lunch. You can make it easy for them by pre-cutting and portioning fresh fruits, vegetables, and snacks. Utilize leftovers and get out of the sandwich rut – make a batch of chicken salad from leftover chicken, or turn ground beef into taco salads. It’s totally worth it to spend an hour on Sunday washing and chopping and bagging. Have the kids (or you, if you have Potato Kid) pack lunches at night so you won’t be rushing around in the morning. Make a deal with your kids to let them buy school lunch once a week if they want, and give everyone the day off from lunch duty. Check out some of the great Pinterest posts or my favorite go-to for healthy, kid friendly meals, Super Healthy Kids on Facebook. They even provide complete lunch meal plans! It might even get you through the end of the year without May becoming the Month of Lunchables. (But probably not.)

In General

  • Set ground rules. No electronics during the week, homework before play, snack before homework, chores – whatever your rules are, go over them again before school starts. Some parents (that is, me) get slack over the summer. It never hurts to have a little reset before every gets back to the grind.
  • Set your child up for success. You know your child’s strengths and weaknesses. You know if they need total quiet to do homework, or if they need to burn off energy as soon as they get home. You know if they can handle a jam packed schedule, or if they need more time to just chill. Help create an environment that allows them to succeed.
  • Expect, and accept, mistakes. You try taking a few months off of work and then being thrust back into it all at once. School is a job, that’s why it’s called school work and not school fun. Your child is probably going to be grumpy. They’re going to forget they have soccer on Tuesday. They’re going to sneak their phone into their room after bedtime. They’re going to be grumpy and whiny and then they’ll fall into the routine. Until they do, give them (and yourself) a little grace.
  • Have a talk about kindness. Make bullying unacceptable in your world. Let your child know that they are special and wonderful and worthy – just like everyone else. Then let your actions echo your words so that they know you say what you mean, and you mean what you say.

And have a great year.

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