If you want to spend the upcoming school year rushing out the door, chronically late and always frazzled, move right along. Nothing to see here. But if you see those other school moms — always early to drop off their kids, who arrive bright-eyed with perfectly pressed shirts and nutritiously packed lunches — and seethe with jealousy, it's time you start prepping now.
We gathered up 12 of the most helpful things every organized mom does to make the return to school a smooth transition. You might want to start thinking about them now.
- Ease Into a School Year Schedule
- Create a Master Calendar
- Keep That Calendar Clear the First Two Weeks
- Purge the Craft Bin
- Pick Out Clothes the Night Before
- Make Lunches the Night Before
- Prepare For the Whole Week on Sunday
- Always Leave Seven Minutes Early
- Set Back the Clocks
- Save Facebook For Recess
- Clean Out Backpacks Daily
- Always Have Extras . . . of Everything
If it's the night before the first day of school and you're just now enforcing a rigidly early bedtime followed by a painfully early wake-up call, just plan to fail miserably. Seasoned moms know you can't go from Summer to the first day of school with the flip of a night light switch. It takes weeks to slowly return to a school-year schedule, and it begins by waking late sleepers earlier and earlier until their body clock adjusts.
You might have a Google calendar synced up with your partner, but for elementary-school-aged kids, it's a good idea to have a large, printed or whiteboard (easier to make edits!) calendar that is in an easy-to-spot, highly trafficked place in the house. This way, you can see what's happening with everyone, including after-school events and childcare schedules, at a glance.
The thought of your child in someone else's care for a solid eight hours might make you jump at the chance to get to all those doctor's appointments, but hold off just a bit longer. Try to wait to schedule a haircut or your car's oil change or an important board meeting until your kids have gotten through one or two weeks of school. Even the most prepared moms can't predict the unexpected, but they can be available for when it inevitably happens.
Before the school year starts, take an afternoon to purge the house of anything that's on its last legs — half-used pencils, sticky scissors, broken crayons. Or if pitching nearly dried-up markers feels wasteful, set aside in a pile that you know is only going to last you a few more activities. This will help you decide what you actually need to buy when the back-to-school sales begin.
Mornings are always rushed, even for the most prepared moms, so whatever you can do in advance, do the evening before. Pick out your kids' clothes — or if they prefer, have them pick out their ensembles — the night before. Set aside not just the outfit, but the shoes, belt, hair clips . . . anything that goes along with it, so that you aren't scrambling to find a matching sock at 7 a.m.
Putting together a PB&J and apple slices might seem like a no-brainer that takes all of five minutes, but those five minutes inevitably last a lot longer when you're surrounded by cranky kids and a slow coffee maker.
Getting things organized the night before is a key to a successful school day, but once you've mastered that, try planning a full week ahead, at least with dinnertime meal planning. Getting all the groceries you need on Sunday to last the whole week will save you from last-minute time-consuming market runs.
It's inevitable that if you plan to leave at 6:45 a.m., you aren't out the door until at least 6:55. Decide what is the very last minute you can leave without being late, and make it your goal to leave seven minutes prior to that. Why the odd number? Knowing that you want to be in the car at 6:48 is more specific than a general time on the hour or half-hour, so you're more likely to stick to it.
If just trying to leave early isn't cutting it, take matters into your own hands. Call it cheating, call it playing the odds: tweaking the alarm clocks to be a few minutes ahead — five minutes or 10 at most — will keep everyone on time, whether they realize it or not.
The most productive of mornings can be quickly curtailed by "just one quick look" on Facebook. If you tend to start your day by scrolling through your feed in bed, kick the habit and let the social media binge be a reward for getting the kids out the door.
It's amazing what kids bring home with them . . . and then bring to school . . . and then bring back home. A quick pass through their many-zippered satchel, ideally right when they get home, will help them stay clean and organized, not to mention help you know what's going on. Chances are, that memo the teacher needs you to read is crumpled at the bottom of that bag.
If you miraculously bought every last school supply on the list, you're still not out of the woods. For the items that often get lost or broken, buy an extra set. You will certainly use it over the course of the year, and it will prevent some eleventh-hour run to Walgreens the night before a big project is due.