With kids in Kindergarten, 3rd, 9th and 11th grades this year, if there is one thing I have had a lot of practice with, it is managing everyone’s schedules and activities. Over the years, I have learned to streamline, cut out what I can and which things I HAVE to maintain in order to keep my somewhat loose grip on my sanity.
I feel I should add a disclaimer. Just because these things work well for my family does not mean that there are not about 100 other ways to do things or things to do to stay organized with school-aged kids. Feel free to add your tips or things that work well another way for you in the comments.
Handling Paper and Scheduling
When papers come home, I put them in my in-box so I can enter them into the calendar as soon as possible. I live and die by my iCalendar. We use iCloud to sync to our phones, I add alert reminders for appointments, so everyone with an iPhone gets the alert. Then I don’t have to nag others to get to where they need to go – iCal does it for me. Google has a similar calendar system, if you don’t have an iMac and you can set up reminders, as well. When making appointments, I enter it right into my phone so I can avoid having to enter it later.
Everyone gets a color. Color coding helps me know at a glance who I am talking about or whose information I am looking at the moment. On our calendar, we don’t even have names on the entries – it is all determined by color and you can add or remove calendars by person, for ease of viewing.
Create Easy Access
We have this ‘command central’ just outside of our mudroom and we use it so much. It has been so great to have – now that everyone can pretty much read (Kindergartner is coming along nicely), they can check their schedule easily and in a simple to understand format. Plus, the teenagers can add things or make notes on theirs, to help themselves keep things straight. Sometimes I don’t even have to know about it – Yay! We also have bins with papers and such for each person – everyone knows where to look before coming to ask Mom.
Long-term to “keep” papers (contact list for sports, schedule for church events for the year, school calendar) go into our family binder.
Grocery lists go on the refrigerator.
The 11th grader is off with friends, home later, grabs a snack. The 9th grader is off to swim practice, grabs food to eat later. The Kindergartner is hungry, and on and on. I can’t always keep track of what is leaving the house food-wise, so I print out a list and stick it on the fridge. My kids know they need to add an item to the list if they want to eat it again anytime soon. They do a pretty good job with it. I redo the list as I plan menus and organize my coupons, but the fridge list helps me remember what I need.
Schedule laundry days.
My kids know that laundry is done on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And they better have their laundry upstairs (teenagers) or they will be out of luck – wait until next time, or do it yourself. Ditto for hangers. If you don’t bring them up, your stuff does not get hung up and you have to do it yourself later. Again, they are pretty good about it all. It helps that they help out with laundry in the summer, so they know how much work it can be and are more thoughtful because of it. I actually prefer that they make the scheduled laundry day, because them I have enough to make the types of loads, like whites, etc.
Keep an organized entry/exit area.
We actually remodeled our laundry/mud room a couple of years ago, but you can work with what you have. iHeartOrganizing recently did just that and it looks great! The key is to have a place for everything, so you are not tripping over shoes or leaving things behind in the mess. Ideally, a hook or shelf or bin for each person will help keep people organized and aid everyone in getting out the door on time and in tact.
Our area has a couple of hooks for each person, a cubby and a shoe bin. Our charging station is next to the washer and dryer, which are stacked to be out of the way as we go through the room. While I do love it, I am not sure that it could ever be big enough. The chaos of six people in one room (and usually two dogs and a cat underfoot) is tough to manage no matter what.
Establish a routine.
We sort through backpacks daily, and all the paperwork goes into my inbox. I try to take care of things nightly, or at the very least, weekly. I fill out paperwork, write out checks, attach pictures – whatever needs to be done. For the elementary kids, these items go right into their daily folders in their backpacks. The teachers remind them to empty the folders each morning, which is great (that is just how our school handles communication, so I work within that system). For the teenagers, I clip it to his or her cubby, and they are responsible for grabbing what they need before school/church or sports. This is not to say I don’t have to remind them. *sigh* But, at least my husband and I know where to check before we leave.
Hold your kids responsible.
I really do try to remind the kids to give me papers and be on top of what is going on in general (have you gotten the order form for the team photos, yet?), but I just cannot do everything alone. I am not at every event, not in charge (my husband goes to Cub Scouts, for example) and I am rapidly aging, it seems. So, when someone is disappointed that they did not get signed up or something taken care of, I put it squarely back on his or her shoulders. “Did you give it to me? No? Well, this is why we have the systems we have in place. I don’t want you to miss out either, but you have to remember that I cannot do it alone, and in the end it is your responsibility to know what you have going on.” I have said that plenty. And it helps them get it. For a kid, suffering a little now = remembering next time.
How about you? I am fascinated with how people organize and run their families, so I’d love to hear what works for you.
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