7 Things Every Mom Should Do At the Start of the School Year
The most organized mom bloggers we know let us in on their fall must-dos, from stocking supplies to getting into lunch lady mode.
Oprah.com | Sep 01, 2011
Create Your Own Supply Closet
Late August and early September are the best times to find bargains on school supplies, like name-brand marker sets for a dollar and boxes of crayons for 25 cents. Gabrielle Blair, a designer and mother of six whose blog, Design Mom
, has chronicled her family's moves from New York to Colorado to France, knows how crucial it is to have a well-stocked art bin no matter where she is. Blair likes to buy a year's supply of colored pencils and glue at the very end of summer. "You'll be so glad to pull out a fresh set of markers when February rolls around and you're making Valentines," she says. Art supplies make handy last-minute stocking stuffers and birthday gifts, too. Pick out something new for yourself while you're at it, like a fresh notebook or pen. Blair loves Michael Roger Decomposition Books, an updated—and 100% recycled—take on the classic black and white marbled composition notebooks.
Toss Those Too-Short Overalls
Blair goes through her kids' wardrobes and gets rid of everything they've outgrown or never wear. Her thinking is if they have only good-looking, well-fitting options in their closets, getting dressed each morning will be a much happier experience for everyone. (Younger children will have an even easier time if you pair up matching outfits and store them on one hanger.) Donate items that aren't stained or torn to charity; even umbrellas, pillows and blankets in good condition can go to someone who needs them. Store out-of-season clothes or hand-me-downs from older siblings on the highest shelves of your child's closet. Here are more smart ideas for maximizing closet space
, like placing shelves over doors and putting hooks on bare walls.
Rethink Backpack Shopping
Marie LeBaron, founder of the popular parenting site Make and Takes
, a former kindergarten teacher and mother of three, brings each of her children backpack shopping alone and lets them pick out their favorite pack. If you'd like to ensure your kid doesn't pick what you deem the ugliest, least practical or most poorly made bag in the store, follow the advice of Carina Schott, whose blog and online shop, Nonchalant Mom
, has an eye for kids' items that we'd be glad to use ourselves. Schott does her own backpack research online ahead of time, then lets her kids choose from the selection she gives them.
Avoid a Paper Explosion
Even though Amanda Blake Soule, author of the crafty and creative blog Soule Mama
, homeschools her five children throughout the year, September still signifies a beginning. So at the end of every August, she gathers all the artwork, stories and poems her children have created over the past year. They look it all over and stash a few pieces away for safekeeping. It can be tough to decide what to keep, but Soule usually holds onto things she knows her children were particularly proud of or worked especially hard on, and items she thinks her kids will love seeing in 20 years. She writes the child's name, age and year in pencil on the back, and saves them in this extra-large folder
, one for each child.
Sign a Lunch Contract
Jenny Rosenstrach, who writes about cooking for her family on her blog, Dinner: A Love Story
, was determined not to let packing the dreaded school lunch threaten to pull apart her marriage, so she drew up a contract with her husband
outlining lunch-packing responsibilities for the year, with lines like, "You hereby agree to be the sole and exclusive lunch and snack packer every other
school day (excepting holidays, early dismissals, and Pizza Fridays)." Rosenstrach says she did this because "If you don't immediately set up the rules, you will be sentenced to a year of resentful brown-bagging and it will crush your soul." Further annotations from her husband—adding "mentally" to "medically unable to perform the task," for instance—remind us that a sense of humor really is key to getting the dirty work done.
Remind Them What a Times Table Is
Nonchalant Mom's Schott likes to help her five- and nine-year-olds ease their ice pop-addled summer brains back into September by reviewing math and reading. She relies on iPad apps: For her younger child, TeachMe: Kindergarten, Montessori Counting Board and Starfall ABCs; for her older one, Stack the States and Stack the Countries. Schott's blog has a list of more than 30 educational apps
Have a Plan to Deal With "So, How Was Your Day?"
If conversation with your child goes something along the lines of you asking how her day was, her responding "good," you asking what she did, and her saying, "nothing," try this strategy from North Carolina artist and mother Jean Van't Hul, whose blog, The Artful Parent
, covers kids, art and creativity. When her first-grader gets home, Van't Hul has a snack and an item from her list of 10 Simple Art Activities ready. Sometimes it's only when her daughter is immersed in Q-tip pointillism or building a structure out of toothpicks and stale marshmallows that she'll reveal what happened that day. You can print out Van't Hul's cheat sheet
and tape it to the inside of a kitchen cabinet for easy reference.