*Sponsored series. See Disclosures Below.
With three kids and two busy working parents in our house, the beginning of each school year requires a family management system to simplify school year logistics. Here are some tips we use to get our household ready:
1. Create an online calendar: The first thing I do each year is gather all of the school and activity calendars together and create a color-coded online family calendar. Because our teen and twin sons are so busy this year, I made separate calendars for each child and assigned them unique colors (I grouped my twin sons together because they go to many of the same activities). There are many calendar options including Microsoft Outlook, Google Calendar and Cozi.com.
2. Identify location friendly activities: With my busy work schedule, the only way to survive the school year is to find location-friendly afterschool activities. With some luck and lots of investigation, I discovered great programs close to home. For example, my kids are enjoying Karate lessons at the local dojo rather than the location two cities away attended by many of their friends.
3. Set up carpools: At the start of the school year it’s good to talk to other school parents as well as review class and afterschool activity directories to find other families close to your house for potential carpooling. This reduces my time spent on the road or my kids’ time spent on bikes traveling across town. For families requiring flexibility, it’s best to find carpool families who are similarly flexible.
4. Create weekly menus: For many families, of the most stressful things about the school year is meal planning. Creating weekly menus can help streamline busy school weeks by using some weekend prep time to prepare ready to eat meals in the fridge. For nights when cooking or “re-heating” is out of the question, having a list of local restaurants that either have delivery or will carry out to curbside (such as California Pizza Kitchen) comes in handy .
Low on meal ideas? Luckily there are so many online recipe and food blogs that include recipes for every taste and level of cooking experience. I find it helpful to find a meal strategy that fits with our family schedule. For example, we like using a crockpot to cook food during the day that will be ready for mealtime. Another option is finding budget friendly staples that we can bake in advance like beans & grains and then throw in difference ingredients to spice things up.
5. Develop digital shopping lists: Once you have a weekly dinner and other meal requirement list (including kids’ lunch meals), the required food shopping can be greatly simplified by using a digital shopping list. Tools such as One Note, EverNote and more can help you have your shopping list available on all the family devices.
6. Identify family chore lists: The start of the school year is a great time to review household chores and then identify those that are a good fit with your kid’s schedule. For example, one of my 10 year old sons is a natural at moving laundry through the washer and dryer. Next step is to teach him to sort and fold clothing.
7. Establish well-stocked school work areas: The beginning of the school year is a great time to empty out the old, broken and worn down school supplies from last year and start fresh with new pencils, pens, paper and rulers located near homework spaces. This will help to silence the “I can’t find a pencil” complaint!
8. Set up school year screen time limits: During the school year we have screen time limits to allow our kids to relax while prioritizing the completion of homework. Some families have no screen time during the week. We settled on somewhere in the middle, which means our kids get limited screen time only after they get their homework done.
9. Evaluate Assistive Tech: At the beginning of each year I talk with each of my kids to see if there is any ways we can help support their learning with technology. In the past this has included finding a dictation app to help with writing exercises or using other Assistive Learning Tools.
10. Update Household Technology: Each year it seems we need to add some new technology or update our current computers to match our kid’s school needs. This year we needed to buy an extra printer to allow my teen access to print from his desk. We also realized that we needed the ability to do homework on the go, so having mobile WiFi has enabled us to complete assignments between activities on the road or work at the park on nice days and enjoy some fresh air.
What’s in your back to school preparation list?
Disclosure: This is a sponsored series. I received an AT&T Unite mobile hotspot as part of my sponsorship. My words are my own. I am happy to say that my AT&T Unite has enabled our family to have WiFi wherever we need to get work done. For more information, visit att.com/Unite or connect with WiFi Family powered by Netgear.