5 Steps to a Simpler School Year

After a summer of relaxed schedules, the shift back to packing lunches, supervising homework, and ferrying kids to after-school activities can be a jolt.

This year, you can make it less chaotic for the whole family.

Reuse or buy green supplies

Get the right supplies. The school supply list gets longer every year. Before heading to the store, check your home stash to see if you have any of the requested supplies already on hand.

Do the bulk of your supply shopping kid-free if possible, especially if you have younger children. Most kids gravitate toward the pricier or fancier options not on the list, and it can be challenging with kids in the middle of a crowded shopping aisle. Once you get the basics, then bring the kids along to choose one or two fun supplies.

Simplify your child’s wardrobe

Don’t stress the back-to-school wardrobe. Many parents feel like they have to rush out before school starts and buy their child a whole new wardrobe. You don’t. Second hand or thrift back to school shopping is a great way to save money and avoid the pitfalls of fast fashion.

In many places, the first month or two of school is still summery weather, so they can continue wearing what they already have. Donate outgrown items and move stained or items with holes to the play clothes pile. Make sure shorts, skirts, tops and tank tops fall within the boundaries of school dress policies. Then get one or two pairs of pants and a jacket that fits in case cooler weather sneaks up.

Set up a homework station

Create a homework station. With a simple caddy, drawer, or shelf of extra school supplies, you can stock:

  • pencils
  • pencil sharpener
  • large eraser
  • pens (including a red pen for marking)
  • colored pencils or fresh crayons
  • loose leaf paper
  • ruler

I also keep a few sheets of poster board and a bin of construction paper, blank index cards, glue sticks,  glue and markers for last-minute projects. I prefer to keep these separate from our regular art supplies, since my kids love to do art on their own. This helps eliminate late-night trips to the store.

Get ready for simple, healthy lunches

Plan ahead for school lunches. If your children buy lunch at school, deposit money in the lunch account or keep an envelope of small cash set aside for the inevitable cry of “I need lunch money!” If you have younger children, check into the option of limiting what they can buy if they have access to sugary treats in the lunch line. My children usually bring lunch from home, but I always keep a few bucks in their school lunch accounts in case we forget to grab the lunch box or if something unforeseen happens.

If you send lunch from home, check your supplies to be sure you have a sturdy lunch box, reusable containers, and cloth napkins. Consider a choose-your-own lunch chart with options for sandwiches, finger foods, side dishes, beverages and healthy desserts to make putting together a healthy lunch fast and easy. Older kids can make their own lunches, but a menu or chart of options can help them make healthy decisions.

Plan the activities

Decide in advance what extracurricular activities each child will participate in. Sit down before school starts to discuss what activities each person wants to do, and create a calendar that shows at-a-glance who has what activities each day. Your daughter’s soccer schedule and your son’s band practices affect not just them, but their siblings and you, too. So it’s important to consider each person’s schedule for the simple sanity of the whole family.

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