Gearing up for back to school is obviously going to look a little different this year. Four months of distance learning earlier this year has taught us all about how it worked out – both the good and the bad.
We have a few weeks until classes begin and I know a lot of us are feeling the panic already. Whether you’re opting into your school’s online classes, doing homeschool all on your own, joining a pod, or going into the actual classroom for a few days a week, get your home set up now, so you’re not rushing at the end of the summer.
Read on for my top 10 tips for an organized routine at home.
1. Personalized room set up
You probably don’t want to think about this past year’s home learning, but take 30 seconds to evaluate what worked well and what didn’t. Where did they learn best (dining room table? Desk in their room? Patio table?). Headphones? Adding a second chair for mom?
My daughter did most of her Zoom classes and homework at the desk in her room, but every once in a while she took her laptop outside for class in the sun. Got kids that rotate location based on the task at hand? A rolling cart will be your best bet. I love setting them up with these magnetic attachments, perfect for papers, pens, water bottle, and more.
3-Tier Rolling Cart, available at The Container Store
2. Password reminders
I never thought my almost 8 year old would get her own laptop. But here we are, 2020. And just like us adults they have to remember multiple passwords for different online classes and apps.
Make it easy on them and write those passwords down. One place to store the list is taped to inside their desk drawer, so all they have to do is slide open the drawer and peek inside if they forget one.
3. Paper, alllll the paper
One of my favorite parts about school being AT school? The mess and work-in-progress stay there. Okay, maybe I like other things about it too. Like socializing with their friends, the teachers and admins that love them, them being out of the house for most of the day…. But yeah, the amount of papers they collect is INSANE and it must be contained.
Get ahead of it now, before it accumulates. A paper sorter, like this one from Amazon or this one from The Container Store, is a perfect place to hold their work. Create a space for each kid’s work in progress, completed homework that needs to be shared with the teachers or parent, and blank paper.
Or, a customized paper sorter, like shown in the pics below, is a great way to keep it streamlined. It’s a desktop version of my memory boxes that fits perfectly in a rolling cart or shelf. Order yours here!
4. Post the schedule
I don’t mean a detailed, 30-min increment schedule if that’s not your thing. A color coded schedule like that happens to be what works for my almost 2nd grader, but I know that’s not for everyone. I do recommend listing in a commonly viewed place (kitchen, dining room, etc) what’s on the agenda for the day. It might mean just one or two things, but that’s enough to help set expectations for their school day. A dry erase board is perfect for this – I love this one from Three by Three, a woman-owned, Seattle-based company.
Extra credit for going over the day’s activities it at a “morning circle.” We use our chalk board to list the date, too (English and Hebrew in our house!) cause let’s be real. Keeping track of what day it is: HARD STUFF, my friend.
5. The little details
This might sound obvious, but I realized my daughter had to leave the room every time she needed to empty her pencil sharpener (so many times a day! We should probably address why she’s breaking all these pencils…) or toss scrap paper in the recycling bin in the kitchen. A simple add to solve a small problem can make a big difference!
6. Pack a lunch
The step you thought you got out of by being home for lunch time? Sorry, you might not want to hear this one. But pack their lunch in the morning (or the night before if that’s part of your routine) and avoid stalling, lunch time hangry moments. Kids want a fresh cooked meal for lunch and you’re game? Meal prep it ahead of time – chop the veggies, mix the sauce, or whatever else is involved, so that it’s ready for the oven or microwave midday. Not only will lunch time go smoother, but you’re establishing a routine, differentiating it from a weekend or vacation day, which will set their mindset that it’s a school day, no matter the location.
7. Start your day off on the right foot
With a morning walk. Even if it’s to the corner and back, fresh air will only do good. Even in the rain – grab the boots and do those puddle jumps. YOU TOO, mama! It’s a practice our family started about a month into the stay at home order, and it was a major mood shifter when we had cranky mornings.
8. Afternoon activity
Make it special, or at least different than the “school” part of the day. Even if school or “work time” in your house only lasts a few hours, set an activity to mark the end of the school day. Outside play, art, screen time, whatever. But something away from their school work station will help differentiate the routine and help with the homeschool burnout.
Check in with your kids often. What is working for them? What is bugging them? What do they want to change about their distance learning setup? Including them in the plans is a helpful way to get them on board with a tough situation.
10. Text a friend
Ok this one is for you, exhausted parents out there. Know that you’re not alone. Single parents, full-time working parents, parents of kids with special needs, parents with struggles of their own. This is hard. If you’e feeling overwhelmed from the burden of it all, text or call a friend. We all need support, and seek friendships in those that can be there for you.
Having an awesome day? Reach out to a friend. Chances are likely that they will need someone to talk to, even if it’s a quick emoji reply back 🙂