Back to school - for the rest of us

Here in Central Florida, kids are heading back to school as early as this coming Thursday. I noticed the myriad of magazines advising on how to make back-to-school easy and fun for the whole family. You can check Pinterest for more "adorable" but not necessarily helpful ideas. 

The reality is, it's tough and it can be chaotic. I say this as an almost 20-year homeschool veteran. Starting school and maintaining a routine is hard. My kids could lose their math homework between their bedroom and the kitchen!  It's what kids do. 

Despite the fact that I homeschooled the boys, I always ran a side business and/or worked part time. Over the years I've found a few things that DO work if you use them and they do not involve building a mudroom addition, bringing in school lockers or a color coded clock (though, the clock is a great idea for young kids so I'm dialing back my snarkiness on that one.) 

As always, your mileage may vary - we all handle chaos differently. This is my take and I hope you find something helpful.

  • Figure out the main entrance/exit point of your house.  While a lovely bench seat with a basket underneath for each kid in your entry is a great idea and can be an awesome design statement . . . if you come and go through your garage or out the back door, that bench is never going to get used!  
    • Instead, try a wicker laundry basket for each kid. Take a family field trip and let each child pick a spray paint color for their basket. (Encourage the "Pig Pen" in your family to choose a dark color.) As soon as the kids get home, everything goes in the basket and, after a snack, they bring the basket it. They can help you sort out lunch stuff, empty back packs, figure out homework, etc. Make this a ritual - withhold snacks if you must in the beginning. Once everything is emptied and sorted, the baskets go back to their place. You sign what you have to sign and get them going on homework.  Before bed - reload the baskets with everything you need in the morning.
  • Keep a BIG calendar! Pick up some heavy duty blip magnets and a desk-sized calendar. Make room for it on the fridge. EVERYTHING goes on the calendar.
    • If you are dealing with multiple kids, use colored markers to keep things straight. In addition to practices, appointments, events and mom/dad stuff, make a habit of listing something for each day as dinner. You are not bound to what's listed but it makes a huge difference in shopping if you know what's "on the calendar" for the week. As kids get older make them accountable for putting their own stuff on the calendar.  When my four boys were young, I listed things as trivial as laundry day, clean the bathroom day, etc. It was a reminder for all of us.  
  • Try a Sunday post-lunch routine.
    • Ease everyone back into reality on Sunday. Check baskets, backpacks, cabinets (for lunch stuff, ingredients for the upcoming week's dinners), double check with any carpools. You have the afternoon to catch up.  After dinner, create a fun ritual of playing a board game, taking a family walk or working on a family project before jumping into bedtime and back-to-the-grind routines. 
  • If you really struggle with keeping a balance/maintaining order, Flylady.net might be your ticket to success. I am in no way affiliated with Fly Lady. But, it was Flylady that allowed me to finally take control, develop my own routines and free up enough time to do what I wanted to do - write and paint. Like anything, you tweak it to suit you but it's an excellent starting point when you're feeling overwhelmed. 

While I struggle with the idea of "function/form" over "form/function" when it comes to getting back into a routine, I put function first.  Make it pretty later when YOU are the one in charge.