5 Tips to Organize for a Smooth School Year

Make this year different by following these organizational tips.

School starts soon for Charlotte-area kids. If you are like me, you may discover that although you have the best of intentions, you quickly fall behind with the hustle-bustle of the school-year schedule. Don't let yourself become overwhelmed, ready to throw in the towel at the start. Make this year different by following these organizational tips.

1. Go Through Last Year's Leftovers

Before the new year begins, consider the supplies that can be reused/recycled, donated or disposed. What supplies do you have? What is the condition of last year's leftovers? Are your glue sticks dried out? What are you out of? Have the dry erase markers gone AWOL? What do you need? Make a shopping list. Replenish.

Organize the supplies in drawers so that they can be easily found. Consider buying dividers that fit into drawers to separate extra pens, notebook paper, notebooks, folders, binders, binder dividers, sheet covers, note cards, highlighters, pens, pencils, colored pencils, crayons, glue, erasers, rulers, dry erase markers, permanent markers, sticky notes, paper clips, rubber bands and more.

2. Create Command Central

In our home, command central is in the kitchen. We congregate here for breakfasts and dinners, so this space works for us. Our command central consists of a master calendar, a file box with folders and several drawers of school supplies.

The file box contains a file for each child and a file for mom. Inside the front of each folder, staple a sheet or two of lined paper. The paper is a place to jot important dates and reminders that can be checked off when tasks are completed. The folders also hold back-to-school night information, such as class lists and rules; permission slips for study trips; exams; quizzes; artwork; and other correspondence from teachers — some handwritten and others printed off from the computer.

Go through each folder at the end of the term, adding the no-longer-needed paperwork to the recycle bin. Hold onto artwork until the end of the school year and make a decision, with the help of your child, on what to keep and add to his or her keepsake files.

3. Revolve Around a Master Calendar

I like being able to add the entire school year's important dates as soon as they are available. This helps with planning and avoiding scheduling conflicts. Even in the era of electronic tools and apps, I prefer a calendar all can see. The master calendar is a great visual for helping kids understand and appreciate the dynamics of pulling together as a family to make things run as smooth as possible. Kids can view their school project due dates and exam dates; doctor, dentist, and orthodontist appointments; social events, like sleepovers; extracurricular activities like sporting events; and school breaks.

Assign each child a color for the master calendar. The color matches his or her file folder. Red is reserved for mom because it signals "priority,” such as keeping an eye on a child's performance in a certain subject he finds challenging or writing a check for school pictures. As far as the type of master calendar, I prefer a large calendar that I can add my kids' names to.

Colored markers are kept in a pencil holder close to the master calendar, duct-taped and marked "MC" for master calendar in permanent black marker so that they are returned to command central if inadvertently taken.

4. Dedicate Space for a Homework Station

We had a dedicated homework area close to the kitchen until our kids were old enough to independently do their homework. While preparing dinner, I encouraged my kids to focus on and complete their homework until they could do it without my cheerleading. Now they do their homework at their desks in their rooms.

Go over Internet safety with your child, and regularly check in. Many kids are expected to be online for homework and research. Resources via the Internet are wonderfully accessible, but hazards lurk everywhere. The Federal Trade Commission requires that sites collecting information from children ages 13 and younger comply with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. Read more about how the privacy protection act is designed to protect children at coppa.org.

5. Prepare the Night Before and Take Advantage of Weekends

My kids are sleepy heads. They race against the clock every morning as they eek out the last minutes of sleep. They arrive at the breakfast table half asleep. To combat this, have children shower and lay their clothes out the night before. Also have them ready their backpacks and sports bags the night, along with their shoes and jackets, if necessary. What do they pack? Homework, fully charged laptops, clean and empty water bottles, snacks and fruit, and the needed and clean athletic gear.

If my kids forget something, and they often do, it is typically in the vicinity of command central. They can easily grab it because of the organization. Confusion and stress are reduced.

Weekends are when I do laundry. I also make meal plans, with enthusiastic input from my kids. Use the weekend to talk about the week ahead. Some weeks are busier than others. Make time to go over your organizational tools and tweak where needed.

Judy M. Miller is a freelance writer, author and mom to four who have pretty good organizational skills.

Why Get Organized?

The benefits of organization go beyond simply keeping things neat.

  •  Children's learning time is finite. Don't waste time searching for school necessities.
  •  School becomes more of a priority when you put things in order.
  •  You take control over your family's schedules, which helps everyone.
  •  You have a place to easily find the information and paperwork you need.
  •  You save money because you are not duplicating supplies.
  •  You make efficient use of your dedicated space.
  •  Your kids learn the much needed life skill of organization.
  •  It helps minimize or alleviate the stress of keeping up with children's chaotic schedules of schoolwork and extracurricular activities.

How to Setup Command Central

  • A master calendar: This is the visual where all activities for everyone in the family lives so all can stay up-to-date on what’s going on. Add upcoming events as soon as you can and color code for each child.
  • A file box: Label folders for each child, and put a piece of lined paper in the front of each to write important dates and tasks that need to be done that can be checked off when completed.
  • Boxes for school supplies: Use a variety of different size boxes that can stack. Label each for what it contains, such as pens, pencils, markers and other school supplies.

Add this Office by Martha Stewart Desktop Tech Organizer to your command central station to organize digital devices. $19.99 at Staples and staples.com.