5 back-to-school organizing challenges -- and solutions

Aug. 9, 2017

Getting ready for the new school year is an exciting time for kids -- new teachers, new subjects, new grade level and new classmates. It's also a time of familiar challenges -- getting up early again, staying on schedule, keeping up with homework and preparing for exams.

To help you get ready for this coming fall, here are our top five back-to-school organizational challenges and the solutions to help.

  1. Morning Madness? Set up a Routine
    One of the toughest parts of the start of the school year is making the transition from the laid-back summer schedule to the rigorous academic routine. Suddenly the alarm starts going off at 6:30 am, the kids start fighting for the bathroom, and your morning turns to mayhem.

    To stay ahead of the frenzy this year, parenting strategist Natalie Blais recommends setting up a regular bedtime and morning routine. This can include everything from a lights-out time to a time for showering, brushing teeth, reading books or making breakfast. You can even test out your plan 10 days before school starts to get your kids ready for the first day.

    The earlier you start, the more time you will have to get into the swing of things and adjust to the new schedule. "Kids thrive on routine," says Robert Nickell, syndicated parenting columnist and founder of Daddy & Co. "It helps them know what to expect, creates a sense of calm and solves many morning meltdowns."

    Get more tips on how to Limit the Morning Madness.

  2. Homework a Mess? Define a Workstation
    Another common pitfall is the roving workstation. Although you want to give your kids room to choose where they'll best concentrate, it's important to help them establish a definitive work space. This way kids know exactly where to go when it's homework time.

    Organization expert Stacy Erickson cautions against defaulting to the bedroom desk. "Most desks in bedrooms end up as clutter-catchers rather than workspaces," she says. Instead, think about the kitchen or a common area. "Kids generally like to do homework where they can interact regularly with adults," she advises.

    Try these 9 Solutions for Homework Challenges.

  3. Missing Materials? Get the Right Supplies
    Pens, pencils, protractors, papers -- it's a lot to manage and keep organized. Family therapist Dr. Fran Walfish recommends including your kids when you go school supply shopping so that they can help pick out their materials. Personalizing the process can also help them take ownership of their supplies and know what's theirs.

    Ann Dolin, president of Educational Connections Tutoring and Test Prep, adds that consolidating subjects into a master binder can help keep track of assignments. She also recommends a shower caddy for pens, pencils, highlighters and calculators to help kids easily carry around their essentials.

    Learn How to Save Money on School Supplies.

  4. Unprepared at School? Make a Launch Pad
    Like the shower caddy, nearly all parents and professionals champion the "launch pad" as a quick and easy way to make sure that kids have everything they need -- from homework to lunch, sneakers or gear -- while at school.

    Colleen Ashe, professional organizer and CEO of Ashe Organizing Solutions, advises families to designate a "grab and go" spot where they place all backpacks, lunch boxes and activity equipment for the day ahead. Then, before bedtime, check in with the launch pad to make sure that you have everything you need to grab when you head out the door the next day.

  5. Out of Touch? Get Involved
    The flurry of back-to-school organizing can sometimes leave us so harried keeping up with our schedules that we lose sight of what's actually going on at school. Try to stay mindful of the bigger picture at the start of the school year and make time to meet with your kids' teachers. If you can, check out school events or get involved with parent associations.

    Check out these 16 Ways Parents Can Be Involved in the Classroom.

Organizing expert Stacy Erickson reminds us that every family is unique and should develop their own system to stay on track during the back-to-school season. The key is to figure out what works best for you, and then get organized and excited for the coming new year.


Tiffany Smith has written for All You, Time for Kids and the Boston Globe. Follow her on Twitter at @tiffanyiswrite​​​​​​

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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