Sunday, August 14, 2011

School Days, School Days...

In many parts of the US, kids and adults are getting ready for the start of school. We have year-round schools here in North Carolina, so my boys have been in school for nearly a month. Last year, I had one son in kindergarten and one in preschool, but this year, they're both at the elementary school. We've had a chance to work through some of the challenges that come with the start of the school year. Since my illness makes my energy level unpredictable, it means that I need to plan, plan, plan to make sure that we're taking care of the kids regardless of how I feel each day. Some of the tricks that have made it easier for us...

Paper can be your family's friend - We started the year with a paper calendar that allowed us to see everything quickly at a glance. Each person had their own spot on the calendar for which we could write the specifics of their schedules. We could easily see who needed to wear tennis shoes for PE and who needed to take library books back to school.

But don't knock online options - I'm a big fan of Cozi ( I've played around with a few online calendars, and this one is the easiest one I've found for tracking and pulling up multiple schedules. Each family member has their own colors, so when I pull up my calendar on my phone, I can tell by the colored dots which family members are involved in which schedule items. It's easy to maintain on the computer and immediately syncs with my phone. In addition to calendars, I can put multiple shopping lists and To Do lists on the site and easily pull them up on my phone. It's great when I go shopping to just pull up my list on my phone...and if I forgot to charge my phone, then my husband can pull it up on his.

Don't take the weekends off - It's so easy to tune out over the weekend and not think about school (ask kids, they do it well). But a few minutes of planning on the weekends can make the week go so much more easily. Each weekend, I'll go over the school menu with my boys and find out which day they're packing lunches and which days they're buying. That way, I can plan my grocery list, and we don't have to argue about it each morning.

Speaking of buying lunch - Does your school offer an online option for paying for your kids' meals? If so, then I highly recommend taking advantage of this opportunity. My school uses an online account that alerts me when their balances fall below a preset level and offers me a quick and easy way to add money to the account whenever needed. It is so much easier than having to pull out cash in the mornings and have correct change or hoping they don't lose their money.

Get organized - It's so hard to keep up with all of the papers, etc. required for school. For us, a binder, a magazine rack and some file folders have been invaluable. We use the binder to keep the reference materials in one spot, so it's easy to find the school calendar, menus, handbooks, and classroom procedures. The magazine rack is the place we store the homework and projects that aren't due back the next day, library books, and homework supplies like pencils and crayons. Each child also has his own file folder so we can keep track of the classroom-specific information and papers.

Have extras in stock - Being the mom of two boys has taught me to accept that they will forget to bring things home every day. So we have a spare lunchbox, freezer packs, and water bottles on hand so that we aren't sidetracked by a child leaving lunch at school.

Follow a routine - There are certain things we need to do every day, and others that are done on particular days of the week. Documenting and following a routine makes it easier to keep up with all of those details.