Back-to-School Time Savers


As summer comes to an end, it comes time to say goodbye to carefree mornings and prepare for the more structured days of the school routine. If your school mornings generally consist of everyone rushing around in the house, fighting over the bathroom, trying to make lunches, eat breakfast, and make it to school and work on time — and your after-school hours filled running from one kid's activity to the next — maybe the following tips will help your family get out the door on time with less stress. Ease into the school year with these back-to-school time savers. (See also: 10 Ways to Save Time With Batch Processing)

Retrain Your Internal Clock

A week or two before school starts, start getting the kids to bed earlier and waking up about the time you will need to wake up on school mornings. This is particularly helpful for families who have no set schedule during the summer weeks, and can help everyone ease back into the early morning routine.

Create a Morning Routine With Checklists

Children have greater success when they know what is expected of them, especially young elementary children. Figure out what needs to be done on school mornings, and what order it should be done in and create checklists for the kids to follow. For children who can't read yet, simple picture-based charts will work (a picture of clothes to show it's time to get dressed, cereal bowl for breakfast, toothbrush, etc.).

For older children, make a simple step-by-step list of things to do before heading out the door and slide it into a clear page protector. Then your child can use a dry erase marker to check each item off their list as they get ready for school each morning. When your children know what to do next without the need for constant reminders from you, it gives you some extra time to prepare their breakfast and lunches — and to get yourself ready, too.

Use the Night Before

Many families try to do everything in the hour or so after waking up. You can reduce a lot of morning-time stress by using the night before to get organized. Get clothes for the next day ready for everyone in the family, including shoes and accessories. When clearing the table after dinner, prepare lunches for the next day and get everything ready for breakfast — even set the table. Make sure all homework or work materials are packed in bookbags and briefcases and the bags are waiting by the front door or in some other designated spot. The more you can do the night before, the less hectic your morning routine will be. Starting the day more relaxed helps everyone continue the "good day" vibe for the rest of the day.

Post a Family Planner on the Fridge

Get a large dry-erase calendar to use as your family planner and keep it where everyone can see, at a glance, what is happening for the week or month. Consider using dry-erase markers in different colors for each family member's schedule to make it easy to see where each family member will be at any given time (Joey's baseball practice, Sarah's piano lessons, etc.).

Create a Study Area

Homework and study time is easier to manage if there is a designated area for each family member. You may create a desk area in each of their bedrooms or set up the dining room table as the study area — the location should have minimal distractions and all the supplies they may need to complete their assignments. You could keep a drawer in the china cabinet filled with pens, pencils, crayons, paper, scissors, and glue sticks, or ensure each child's desk has all the necessary supplies for getting the job done. If homework time is an issue in your home, establish a rule from the first week of school that requires homework or quiet reading at a specific time each day in order to gain video game or television privileges.

A little preparation and organization before the back-to-school rush begins can help keep your family on track, on time, and less stressed. Who knows? Implementing these tips in your own household might even give you a few extra minutes of sleep each morning!

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Guest's picture

Retraining your internal clock is so important! By easing into it, it'll be so much easier for the kids (and you) once school actually starts. I should have done this more while I was in college too: I'm not much of a morning person...

Guest's picture

What great ideas! I especially love the Study Area idea. My youngest will be getting homework for the first time this year and I hesitate to have both kids doing their homework in the same place at the same time. Separate study areas are a great option!

Guest's picture

Another good idea is to choose a week's worth of clothes on Sunday. Put together a complete outfit on a hanger and you'll save the hassle of deciding what to wear every morning. This works for the parents as well.

Also, decide on a week's worth of lunches/snacks and post the list on your fridge. Just rotate through it, changing the chicken salad for tuna, or grapes for oranges, for example. You can have a Panera-like system or soup/sandwich, salad/sandwich, or soup/salad. They pack easily, and are quick to prepare once you have a few key ingredients ready.

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