Let me introduce you to the world that makes up my career – despite my occasional potty mouth, I am an upstanding citizen who teaches high school history and economics. So when I thought (and cried) about going back to school, I also thought about potential ways to reorganize my classroom and prep for the year. Interestingly enough, I haven’t been able to go into my classroom AT ALL this year. The renovation of the HVAC system has shut the school down to teachers for the summer and I am going freaking crazy. Many people believe that teachers just lay around their new in-ground pools, sipping margaritas, and plotting revenge on their worst students. Totally not true. A majority of us work throughout the summer and prefer beer to margaritas because we don’t make enough money to afford margaritas and in-ground pools.
If you do find one of us during the summer not locked up in our classrooms or fretting about the unknown changes that are upon us in a few weeks, ask them about organization. We are masters. After all, teachers have to either organize for 30 permanent students or (as is my case) organize for a rotation of 30 students multiple times a day. Below are my own personal top 10 back to school organization tips that have my teacher approval sticker. I’m focusing on 5 different areas with a few ideas for each: Paperwork Organization, Homework Stations, Lunch and Snack Organization, Clothing Organization, and Printables that Work.
Paperwork Organization: as a teacher, I know that I’m going to hand out a butt load of paperwork in that first week. Sometimes, the kids go home with those papers organized in folders (stop laughing, this shit could be real). The other 99.9% of the time it’s necessary to figure out a method for your family.
1. This can be as simple as grabbing a plastic file organizer or file tote and a few colorful file folders – get the kids involved by letting them pick out the folder colors. You could also create a separate organizer for each child and color code a single family organizer. The possibilities are endless depending on your space.
2. Keeping kids work can be a pain, use a section of a family plastic file organizer and create color coded sections for kids work or a large scrapbook box. Go through the papers at the end of the week and have your child pick the one piece of work that they want to keep and trash the rest.
3. Display kids artwork by hanging a few nice clipboards (or spray paint a few to match your decor) and switching out artwork – make your kids responsible for deciding that weeks display. I do this in my classroom, give credit but don’t feel obligated to hang onto EVERYTHING that your child brings home. Be selective about what you keep – this will help with organization on your end.
Homework Station: create an area and become serious about keeping it organized and clean. This should be the place for the kids to continue a routine and schedule for school work. It could be just a small part of a larger household station but designate it solely for school work. No matter what you think about homework (step off of the soapbox ma’am), it is one of the largest reasons that students do not succeed in school. As a teacher, I can’t tell you the number of parent-teacher conferences, parent phone calls, and parent emails that all lead back to a lack of student organization and homework issues. They seem to go hand in hand.
4. This can be as simple or as elaborate as you want – use the Dollar Store and Target dollar bins goodies, remake an old bookcase, or go full out and create a large workspace for the family. Go to Pinterest and search for “homework station” for a ton of ideas. Below are 3 homework stations that I love:
Lunch and Snack Organizer: food is key, food is king. Well, to a teenager who is like literally so over hungry, food is king. Don’t let it be Burger King but instead an organized method of choosing snacks and packing lunches. Ugh, and don’t let your middle or high school student convince you that they will be able to totally have a healthy lunch at school – they won’t. They will eat fries, chicken fries, healthy Doritos (see? HEALTHY mom), and a Powerade. Again, make your kids a part of the planning, shopping, and organizing. SIMPLE TIP: create a Pinterest board (or 5) devoted to lunch ideas and snack ideas. Check out a few of mine HERE.
5. Use plastic baskets (check out the Dollar Store or the Target $1 bins), color code OR use tags/labels to keep your fridge and cabinets organized. Check out THIS POST from Jen at I Heart Organizing for a short tutorial.
6. Take a short part of one day on the weekend to prep meals and snacks for the week. You may think that you will have time in the morning or the energy but you won’t, so do it ahead of time. From freezing PB&J sandwiches to portioning out carrots and granola mix – do it ahead of time for quick grab and go selections. AND your kids can take a role in the prep and choosing in the morning.
Clothing Organization: summer is slowly slipping away (I need to stop making myself cry) and that means shorts, tanks, and sandals also need to slowly slip away. For many students, it also means TONS of new clothes. How to keep both types organized is super helpful – the following ideas tackle both the summer and the new school clothes. Note: if you don’t have a child who will need those outgrown and in good condition clothes – donate please! Every year, teachers face the additional issue of students who are either homeless or facing a very difficult home life situation that prevents any new clothes from being bought.
7. Clean out the closets: use a proven method of cleaning out closets (might as well tackle your own while you are at it!) to either keep, sell/consign, donate, or trash. Check out THIS POST from Design Dazzle about the “after” organization ideas –
bribe convince your kids that they will be able to redesign a new closet organization method AFTER they go through a closet purge.
NOTE: Please, PLEASE read and understand your school’s dress code! This is one of the largest distraction in school – let’s work on making sure your kids are comfy (and covered, dear lord my eyes hurt) because clothing should be a norm not a reason to sit in the office or gain attention.
Printables that Work: While you are getting the kids organized, now would be an excellent time for you to do the same – hint, hint, wink, wink. There are so many creative printables that can work to keep your household of school kidlets organized (and you) and many are FREE! That fresh, beginning of a new (school) year shouldn’t just be for the kids.
8. Check out THIS POST from Ruth at Living Well Spending Less – she rounded up a ton of free household printables that range from meal planning to holiday shopping.
9. No more minivan interrogations about forgetting homework, no more Mom! phone calls, no more turning around to go back to the house because the kids didn’t remember to actually bring their bookbags. If you are looking for a checklist to keep the morning in order and the kids accountable, THIS POST contains an amazing and simple DIY checklist.
10. So the school day has gone well, the kids are in a great mood and chatting about their school day, how do you carry that momentum forward to avoid a meltdown later on? Checklist please. Yes, I totally believe in giving kids a break after school – a time to decompress but use their momentum to keep them on track. I’ve included a link (THIS POST) to just one of the hundreds that were found on Pinterest. Did I mention Pinterest? Let me tell you about using Pinterest. Use it. Use Pinterest.