Back to school organizing...let's start a thread

quiltgloJuly 25, 2006

We got out in mid-June and are going back on Aug. 22nd. A very short summer for us and I'll only have a week after my mom is here before the kids are back in school.

I don't have any major tips but here's what I do. I learned the hard way to buy really good quality backpacks. No cartoon characters. Same for lunch bags. Checked these out and they are good for another year.

I'm slowly washing all of the winter outdoor gear and making a note of who needs gloves, hats, gaitors, ski goggles, snowbibs and boots. With all of these items I've learned that my kids take better care of them if I don't have a ton. I buy one good pair of gloves and put the older ratty pair away in case theirs are wet and we are going our for the evening. It seems like the families who have a dozen gloves send the message for the kids not to hang onto them...and they don't. Learned that the hard way, too.

We register for school during the second week of August. The school is requesting proof residence (about time) so I noted on my calendar to bring a utility bill to registration. I also purchased Flylady's calendar this year since it starts in August. I usually buy More Times Moms calendar, but it doesn't start until Sept. I printed off the school calendar from the district web site and wrote the dates for the entire school year on the calendar and pitched the paper. We do the same once we get the Scouts schedule, etc.

We don't buy new school clothes in one swoop, so that's not a problem and everyone will just wear their summer stuff as school starts. Then we'll check on the jean situation and see if anyone had a big growth spurt. Since I am able to keep up well with the laundry, I keep track of who needs underwear and socks.

I've learned to buy double or triple of some of the school supplies and I put them away. They always need pencils, glue and paper throughout the year. Other items seem to last. While the supplies are always available in stores, it's just much easier for me to have them tucked away so when that note comes home I don't have to make a trip somewhere.

I have a cabinet set up for lunch prep. When I buy things like cookies, if I go ahead and put them all in portions in bags, we don't end up snacking on them and we stay out of the stuff. I keep most of it on a tray, so I can just pull it out and we can get the lunches put together quickly. I also keep on spare lunch bag in case someone forgets to bring theirs home. My kids are good about bringing them home, but occasionally someone forgets. School lunches are awful, but we keep a monthly school menu taped to the inside of the cabinet door so the can check and see if there is something they like.

Launch pad in the entry area has been wonderful. Everything ready to go the night before. All of my kids have alarm clocks from the time they start school. This night-owl mom has morning kids so they are usually up before it rings, but it's an independence habit I like to establish early. They each have a daily list next to their light switch for their daily jobs. That works well and they know they can't go out and play until the stuff is done. We have it divided up between before school and after school.

Extra timers are a useful gadget. My 12 yo has been setting one for a couple of years to pace himself on getting his homework completed. I have a 9 yo who hasn't had much homework yet, but I know this year will be different so we'll need to get her in the habit of using one.

Unless someone has a major growth spurt in the next month, I think we are pretty well set. Anyone have any tips which work well with their family?


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Good quality backpacks are essential! Don't ask how many cheap vinyl ones I bought before I figured that out. LOL Jansport has a lifetime guarantee--we returned DS's old-old backpack for repair last year, and they really fixed it!

I also stock up on school supplies while they're on sale. Everything is kept in a big Rubbermaid bin. I need to inventory the bin; I'll do that this weekend.

The school schedule will be written into my small academic calendar (it fits in my purse so I have it with me always) and then be taped on the cabinet for everybody else. We won't get the schedule for another couple weeks (our schools start Sept. 6).

Great idea on alarm clocks for kids. Why didn't I think of that?! Our oldest son had to "practice" getting up to an alarm clock before we sent him off to college. LOL You think I would have learned and got the next son one already!

    Bookmark   July 25, 2006 at 5:53AM
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We also buy Jansport bags, the last one lasted 3 years! I could try sending it back for repair, too, but we are sick of looking at it. Maybe this one will make it till graduation.We hit the sales at Walgreen's drug store and got mechanical pencils for 10 cents a (5) pack, paper,highlighters, etc. We always seem to get better deals at the drugstore with coupons. Now we have to start aiming for a more reasonable bedtime. Registration is Aug 10 and school starts the 14th. Since the weather doesn't cool down till the end of October we are in no rush for back-to-school clothes.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2006 at 6:20AM
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Gloria, I love your idea of a cabinet for lunch prep with the items pre-bagged. I am usually bagging snacks and cookies for lunch boxes at the last minute, doing it in advance will make this much easier.

I'm a fan of the L.L. Bean backpacks. My DD has had the same one for five years and we just bought her a new one only because she needed a bigger size. The old one is still in great shape and we use it for sleepovers, trips to grandma's, etc.

I am planning my school supply run for tomorrow. Target always has their stuff out early and it's dirt cheap. We still have pencils, crayons and pens left from last year, and everything is going into a plastic bin rather than being spread around the crafts closet (which is a complete nightmare at the moment and is my next organizational challenge, but that's another story). I've already pulled out what we have left over, and I'm making my shopping list.

I've FINALLY learned that I don't need to shop for clothes before school starts. After going through the kids' clothes recently I do know they will both need new sneakers ASAP, and the DS will need new blue jeans once the weather turns cooler, but other than that, we're in good shape unless one of them suddenly goes through a growth spurt. I've been blessed with lots of hand-me-downs for my DS, so he shouldn't need much.

I'm really not mentally ready for back-to-school, but it's coming up very quickly. Getting the bedtime and wake-up times back on track is going to be a chore, especially as my DD will be catching an earlier bus to middle school and I am not used to that schedule yet.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2006 at 5:05PM
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Our middle school sells "Homework Boxes" to raise money for the PTA. It's basically a sterlite bin with school supplies (pens, paper, crayons, scissors, glue, etc.). The idea is to have everything in one place so your kids don't have to hunt around to find things before they can do their homework.

We always had that here for the kids, we just called it the "Project Box" and included lots of craft supplies.


    Bookmark   July 25, 2006 at 5:35PM
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Our elementary school did the school supply box also. I'd rather write them a check for $30 because I still had to go out and get items.

I'm wondering about a roller backpack for my middle schooler. He'll have about six blocks to walk and his backpack last year got so heavy. I'm concerned that it won't work well in the snow and then it will just end up being a heavier backpack with the roller gear in it. Anyone have experience with those?


    Bookmark   July 25, 2006 at 8:51PM
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Check to see if the roller backpack will fit in your son's locker (if he has one). My daughter's school does not allow them because they are too big for the lockers.

My daughter's school purchases supplies for all of the students, and she wears a uniform so back to school is a non-issue for us, she does not go back to school until September 6 (her last day of school was June 21), so we are lucky to have lots of summer still left.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2006 at 9:20PM
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Oh, good point about the locker. They are really, really narrow. Hmmm.


    Bookmark   July 26, 2006 at 2:29AM
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Another vote for Jansport! I was fortunate to have a friend who told me long ago to forgo the cartoony backpacks and buy quality. I bought each of our children a Jansport when they started kindergarten and it made it all the way through elementary school! (6 levels!)

I have a cabinet in our laundry room for all school supplies. They are there year-round. Whenever I see school stuff on sale, I grab it and add it to the cabinet.

This year our baby will be starting middle school. Three kids in middle/high school. That means not as much school supplies, but major check writing! September (when our schools start) is always a hard one for us.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2006 at 2:55AM
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I find it frustrating that the schools won't send a list of the next year's supplies w/ my kids until the first day of school.

My DD, who's in middle school, doesn't ahve a locker, so she uses her LandsEnd rolling backpack. BUT...she has to lug it up and down stairs, and it's HEAVY! Every one of her teachers last year lectured me about how she shouldn't be carryiing text books in it--but she DOESN'T. She doesn't have anything in it but notebooks the teachers told her to get. And since she doesn't have a locker, she can't leave a few of them behind anywhere.

My son's school allows roller backpacks, but the kids can ROLL them; they have to carry them.

and the backpack itself is not exactly light.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2006 at 12:04PM
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I thought for sure I posted to this yesterday. Obviously not. Now I feel like I've lost some memory of time yesterday.

My kids go back Tuesday, this coming Tuesday, Aug. 1. I met the 4th grader's teacher yesterday. Gave her fair warning. I already know the 1st grader's teacher, the program she's in keeps the same kids together for K-3, it's called Intact Family. The kids move up together to the next teacher in the family. So I also know that when DS goes to K in a year, he'll be in that family and will have the same teachers DD has. I explain this because it actually helps with organization of back to school! The 1st grade teacher sent her packet of info, including the supply list, home last spring. DD is already familiar w/her teacher and knows where the classroom is for not only 1st, but 2nd and 3rd, too. If we're crunched for time, we could actually skip the meet-the-teacher night tomorrow. But she wants to go, so we'll go. My middle schooler will also meet his teacher tomorrow night.

Then, with supply lists on my desk, I will change into my pajamas, make a cup of coffee, and buy school supplies on line! I love It really is an easy button. Last year I ordered almost everything at, got free delivery b/c is was over $50 and it was all delivered to my front door by a Staples truck in 24 hours! I was ready to hug the delivery guy! He has no idea the headache he helped me avoid.

We also keep overstock supplies, stock up when they're on sale this time of year. They always need something as the year goes, it's a great feeling to have it handy and not need to go after it.

DH wants to rearrange the kids' rooms. He wants to move the oldest 2 in together in the biggest room, put the youngest in the smaller room alone. Then he wants a nice big table for computer and homework for the older boys. While I think that is a great idea, and the boys actually do, it's a lot of work! But considering the shared needs and activities of the older boys, it would be a better use of the spaces.

I need to organize myself for back to school, that's the biggest thing. I need to make that main notebook like flylady talks about and commit to using it. I've got volunteer and PTA duties that need managed, the kids activities, household stuff, plus I've taken on caring for my neighbor's 7 m/o 3 days a week now (she's a teacher). So I've filled my plate, that's for sure. This time of year feels like a time for new year's resolutions to me, organizational ones in my case.

I'm going to add magnet hooks for keeping papers on the frig to my Staples order, thank to Talley Sue. And a calendar, agenda for my notebook.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2006 at 5:10PM
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Thank you for starting this thread. The moment I read about your Flylady calendar, I ordered one on-line and it arrived on July 31st! It is the best calendar I've ever had in it's size range (we've tried the sprawling office calendars in the past, those take up a lot of wall space). There is more than enough room to write down important events and activities. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   August 3, 2006 at 5:48AM
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I bought my son an LL Bean backpack when he started high school. He'll be a senior this year, and it looks as good as new. It should last him a lifetime. Best money I ever spent.

My daughter's Swiss Gear pack is still good after one year of middle school. But she's harder on things, so the jury is still out on that one.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2006 at 6:38PM
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Last year while my kids were organizing their binders I made one of my own. It has a sheet protector with each kid's schedule and tabs for each class. I place general school info behind (not inside) the sheet protector. I put the syllabus sheet for each class behind those tabs, and add anything else important throughout the year. Some tabs might not have much, but others (like Band) collect quite a bit. Sometimes I have to badger my kids to get those syllabi, but usually the teachers want them signed and returned, so they come my way. I try to toss stuff as it becomes outdated so the binder doesn't become too full.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2006 at 6:51PM
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Something I usually forget:

Check to see which kids need a new winter coat and boots!

    Bookmark   August 7, 2006 at 6:02AM
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oh--here's one thing I do that works--I label all sides of every book I can (not the "raw edges" of school-owned text books, though)

DD lives out of her backpack; and I *hate* the LandsEnd one we bought her, bcs it slopes in toward the top, and it won't hold as much. (in fact, I think they discontinued it--I cldn't find it on the website) We've struggled w/ it so much, overloading it, that it's about to rip. She needs a boxier one.

But I labeled the *edges* of her marble/composition notebooks, so she can tell which is which even if she's looking at the top or bottom edge.

DS has to cover his textbooks, so I label them on the spine, the front, the back, and all around the edges of the front and the back. So when they're shoves in his desk, he can see the label no matter what. Each subjects gets a different color of ink AND a different lettering style, so help him recognize them faster.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2006 at 5:47PM
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Great Thread!

Since I have no children, with the exception of the 300 darlings I teach every week. Here is how I help to keep parents informed and organized.

I like to use the free calendar on my mac (iCal) and have posted the link to subscribe to it on the school's website. Each day I put what the kids are doing, what assignments are due, and other information that I know is most helpful.

The parents have responded well to this, some have gotten bold to have the calendar email them each time I update it. It integrates easily with their Outlook calendars or they can look on the website as well. It makes parents and feel a part of the learning.

As far as when I was in school, my mum ran a tight ship- we had to write what we were up to on the white board calendar with our assigned color. We started this in Elementary school so once my siblings and I got to High School it was second nature. And my parents were always aware what was going on, including if there would be extra children for dinner.

My vote is for Jansport for a backpack and Swiss Gear for luggage. I used my Jansport from 10th grade through Grad School and my luggage on a 3 month trek in Europe.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2006 at 12:14AM
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Since we are going to the beach the week before school starts, I've already finished the back to school nightmare.

This is my daughter's first year of high school and they are in restricted clothes. Any solid pants with the exception of jeans and sweats. No minis. Shirts and sweaters must be solid and collared. Any shoes with the exceptions of flip flops. We bought her clothes now because she didn't really have those and grew alot this year. She got 5 pairs of pants, 8 polos, a bookbag tote, a pair of moccasins and few notebooks. She's done.

11 year old wears a uniform (public school). He needs clothes because he grew 5 inches this year and put on 20 lbs. Hard to keep up with clothes. Needed a couple pairs of khakis (no cargos), a pair of shorts and 5 new uniform golf shirts. Socks and underwear (a review of both showed many holey pairs). New sneakers. A backpack of his choice. A couple notebooks and a pack of pens.

Doctors notes and physicals are done. Bus passes received. New garage door keypad installed for afterschool.

I'm set!

    Bookmark   August 8, 2006 at 7:50PM
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Though this thread is eight years old, I really have enjoyed the tips here.... like packaging snacks into single serving bags. Yesterday I ordered my "Orange Circle" 16 month calendar from B&N for store pick-up, and will begin transcribing dates as soon as I pick it up. I've also been inspired to sort out the coat closet since I won't really have time to think about winter gear once things get cold later in the Fall. It would be exceptional to have a list of things needed so that I can plan those purchases.... like warm coats and boots. Finally, I need to make sure that my children who don't have cell phones have a reliable alarm clock.... those are practically antiques around here now that my older kids have cell phones, but I use mine every morning.

At our parochial school, we pay for supplies (including things like kleenex and antibacterial wipes-which stay in the classroom) with tuition, and the students are given all of their gear for the first semester during the first week of school.This is a huge time saver for everyone. My challenge is to get school shopping done before the Texas tax free weekend on Aug 8-10 because shopping on those days is like shopping on the day after Thanksgiving at the stores we frequent. Everyone needs shoes, and the growing DS needs pants.

In the meantime, the very best way I prepare for school is by deep cleaning my house during the summer since I work at the school as a Teachers Aide. Nothing substantial gets done from Sept to May in terms of making progress on the home management front.

Are there any smartphone apps that can help in this area?

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 6:59PM
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