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Staying Organized the Old-Fashioned Way

Melissa Roja Lawlor
June 13, 2012

Blogger Michelle Wolfson shares her old-school organizational tricks for a new school year as part of the Care.com Interview Series

In the digital age, moms who are the old-fashioned, carry-the-datebook-in-your-purse type are few and far between, but blogger Michelle Wolfson is a proud member of the wall-calendar fan club. Her personal collection of Mommy Confessions includes her self-proclaimed lack of organizational skills. But she has a few go-to tricks to keep track of her three kids' schedules, activities, and schoolwork. Find out how she manages it all without losing her mind.

Tell us about your family. How do your kids feel about school?

My husband and I have been married for 13 (gasp) years! We have 3 children: two girls and one boy who are 10, 7, and 5. Most days they don't put up too much of a fight about going to school. My oldest is a voracious reader and loves to learn. My middle child is more in it for the social aspects; she might learn something while she's there. My youngest is in Kindergarten, so he is new to the whole school thing. This is his first time riding the bus and going to school with his sisters.

Over the summer months, how do you keep their brains working?

Last year my 5-year-old did a preschool/pre-k camp, which helps expand on the concepts they have learned during the school year, coupled with arts and crafts, games, and team building exercises. My daughters attend a nature camp, which focuses on learning about science and nature, and environmental issues. Besides that, we try to take fun and interesting day trips throughout the summer to places like the zoo and the aquarium.

What are some essential items your child must have before the first day of school?

We always stick to the basics. Last year I purchased a really good, high quality backpack for each of them; I'm hoping that they stand the test of time. I also recently purchased Pack-its to replace their lunch boxes. I am a bit of a fanatic when it comes to packing things that traditionally spoil easily. I love that Pack-its keep everything super cold for several hours.

What are some organizational tricks you use to help yourself get the kids ready to go back to school?

I am lacking in the organizational department, but somehow manage to multitask and get it all done for three kids. I keep folders on the kitchen counter labeled with the name of each child for important papers from school and a magnet on the fridge with each kid's name on it to hang up letters from the teacher, reminders, invitations, etc. These two tricks have helped keep me from missing some important deadlines. I realize m any moms in the digital age have apps and e-calendars to manage everything, but I'm an old-fashioned calendar-on-the-wall kind of gal. Each child has their own color, and we color code the calendar to keep track of where everyone needs to be.

Have you ever had to deal with any issues at school? How have you handled it?

Last year, a group of girls were purposely excluding one of my daughters. It is heartbreaking. You want to be fair and rational, but at the same time, your first instinct is always to protect your child and have her back! So you have to do some digging and fact-finding. Why are these girls being mean to my child? Did my child do anything to incite this? What is his/her role? Am I getting the whole story? And then we had to meet with the principal and the counselors, etc. Eventually it all got resolved, but it is heartbreaking when you think that your child is being left out or made to feel bad. You want to make everything okay for them all of the time, and you wonder if you've failed somehow.

As you approach the first day of school, what are some specific things you do to prepare your children for the big day?

About a week before vacation ends, we start going to bed at our school night bedtimes to get back in sync, and I start to get my organizational system in place. On the first day of school, I take a picture of all three kids in front of our house. Each one holds a sign with the year and their grade. I love seeing how they change and grow from year to year.

What's in your child's emotional backpack?

I really try to instill self-confidence in them. I try to explain that there will be times when not everyone will agree with them, or even like them, but they need to be true to who they are. If they are "good people" and they do their best work, that is all they need to do. They know that sometimes there will be people, even their friends, who may do or say things that make them uncomfortable, and they know it's always more important to be comfortable with themselves, and never do something they know is against their personal belief system just to fit in.

What tips can you give parents who might be struggling with the transition to going back to school?

  • Don't forget that kids take their cues from us. Showing them that we are cool, calm, and confident about the upcoming school year really goes a long way. The more positive you are, the less anxious they are likely to be. I try not to worry too much, but when my oldest goes to middle school next year, that will introduce a whole new level of anxiety!
  • Get oriented. Help your child to feel more familiar with the school when they start. If you pass by the school on a regular basis, be sure to point out all of the positive attributes of the school, all the great things about starting a new school, meeting new friends, etc.
  • If all else fails, let them go. Let them experience the anxiety. We won't always be there to hold their hands. Most of the time, even if they are a sobbing mess when you drop them off, once they get acclimated, it quickly passes. Trust that your child is in good hands. And a lunchtime check-in phone call or two, or ten, isn't unheard of either.

Michelle Wolfson is a former social worker turned stay at home mom to 3 children. She put her degree in social work to good use wiping snotty noses, potty training toddlers, and keeping 3 a.m. sick bed vigils. She lives in New Jersey and blogs about life with her family at Mommy Confessions. You can follow Michelle on Twitter and Facebook.

For more helpful tips, check out the Care.com Interview Series: Secrets to Back-to-School Success »

Image used with permission from Michelle Wolfson.

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