Thursday, August 25, 2011

Organizing your Home for a Successful School Year. Part 1: Preparation

Here we are again, back to school! Summer went unusually fast for me this year, how about you?  By now most schools have started classes here in Utah and I thought it would be a perfect time to give some tips for the pounds of paper and homework that is coming our way. I hear it all the time from Mom’s, there utter frustration with the amount of paper that comes home from school!  Here we are in our digital society and yet we fight with paper everyday when our kids empty their backpacks. Organization is a crucial part of educational success. Here are some surefire ways for a successful school year;

Drop Zone
Create a space if possible where the items “drop” for backpacks, books, jackets, shoes, etc.  Establishing a “home” for the items for school makes them easy to locate as you sprint out the door to the car or bus. The drop zone should ideally have multiple shelves and containers, labeled with each family member’s name in their specific spot which can literally stop things piling up in the wrong places. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, labeling can be your best friend. So LABEL EVERYTHING.  Make sure also that all items that are going back out the door the next morning, be back in there “homes” the night before. And when everything is labeled, it's a very simple task to do.

Designate a Homework Spot

As much as we all wish it weren’t so because of the mess and clutter, the kitchen or dining room table tend to be the places chosen for our kids to do homework.  This can work well if you establish a “drop zone” (see above) near the table. That way when the kids come home from school they have a place to put their homework, papers to be signed, etc.  

Family Papers Command Center

Find an easy to access location for a family papers command center. A desktop file is a great way to do this.  Make a hanging file folder for every person in you home, that way you are “containing “the paper clutter and they have their own designated space. It also may be helpful depending on your child’s school schedule to create a Homework “to-do” and Homework “completed” hanging file folder. This is especially helpful for children who struggle with ADD / ADHD (more helpful tips for those with ADD / ADHD and school work later). The command center becomes the “home” for each person’s loose papers, and the additional files add a home for those other papers with actions required. Set aside a time each day (that’s right, I said daily) to file the daily papers, I guarantee you will never lose another important paper again! 

Designate a “Homework” Time every weeknight

Whether you require your child to complete their homework after school, lessons, sports or dinner, designating a set time everyday when homework is to be completed enhances your child’s chances in succeeding.  It may not be the same “time” every night due to scheduling, but every week night should have a designated time in which homework is completed.

Keep School Supplies well stocked in the Homework Spot.
I keep a small container in my kitchen (because our office is downstairs) of staples, tape, white-out, papers, pens, pencils, glues, etc. in a small box so if we are in need of one of these items while doing homework, we don’t have to go far to find it. This makes the supplies very assessable to the kids. Ideally you want them all in ONE place, if possible.  Because my house has 4 levels, this is not possible for me.  So we keep the bulk of the office/school supplies in our basement office   By having supplies where homework is worked on, you know what school supplies you have.  I take inventory of all my office supplies when I make a list for my big shopping trip to the grocery store. This could be an ideal time for you to do it too.

Weekly Family Caucus
Sunday night is “the night” at the Isom household that we hold a family caucus.  It is simply a time set aside weekly when your family comes together to share their schedules and activities for upcoming week. Designating a specific night and time increases your chances of success with doing this weekly.  We have a large calendar on the refrigerator door so everyone has access to it and are able to see everything easily.  Go over each family member’s commitments for the week. I even have my son decide what days he wants to eat school lunch and what days he wants home lunch so I can prepare things the night before and it is not as much of a rush in the morning to get things done. By doing this you are teaching your children vital organization and communication skills they will use their entire lives. And it helps bring the family together and every person feel like their life and scheduled activates are important.

Still Frazzled? Give me call and I’d be more than happy to assist your family with calendars, paper organization, etc so your family will have a successful school year.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Surviving those long hours "traveling in the car" to your vacation destination.

It seems more often nowadays that families are opting to drive to their destinations than flying. With the price of fuel high and airline tickets reflecting the cost, more and more of us are hitting to the roads and braving the drive with our kiddos instead of flying the friendly skies. We did it as kid's all the time. Things like walkmans were the lifesavers for our parents and somehow we all survived traveling in the car with minimal battlescars.  I am convinced if the gadgets now were available when I was growing up in the 80's and 90's, my parent's would have been all over them like we parents are now.  

One of my Facebook friends, Amanda (see her blog here) recently posed this question on her page:

What are your favorite car trip snacks/foods/activities?

I LOVED so many of the suggestions Amanda's wise friends who are Mom's made I asked permission to post their ideas here!  Enjoy! It's amazing what we can do when we help each out as Moms!  These Moms ideas RULE!

  • Julianna Strunk Wolfley Licorice is my favorite snack! When we took our 18 hour drive to a family member's house, I found a lot of fun printables online for the girls. I also went to the dollar store and picked up a couple of fun things. We let them pick something new at each gas stop.... well worth the money!

  • Michelle Langston Hanna Alphabet game......go through the whole alphabet picking the letters out from signs and license plates while on the road.

  • Shauna Dalton Steed I Spy bags are fun to take on a car trip. It's  a fun thing to have for trips.
    • Ashley Reese Graves Treat, trail mix!!Activities, looking for out of state license plates to see if you can find all 50 states.

  • Heather Woolf Bennett We are planning a surprise Disneyland trip from Santa. Bret had a cute idea to bring little gifts along the way, that they can open at certain milestones/cities. Things like coloring books, Push Pops, a new DVD to share. They have DS and Leapster too, so we will probably get them each one new game.

  • Michelle Bradshaw I second Michelle's idea....but then we find things that start with the letter, find things with a specific color, etc...20 questions, start a story and then everyone has to add on a part. I could go on with my games but my kids mostly think I'm annoying...quiet things are watch movies, color, mazes, word searches, etc...can you tell we take the 14 hr trek to UT a lot?

  • Michelle Bradshaw Snacks....I will eat constantly the entire trip so I started cutting up fruit and putting it in a little cooler with drinks etc.. kind of sticky..but eating 30 grapes is better than the whole can of pringles. My kids like the fruit too.

  • Alycia Danielson Nelson My sister in law did the cheap gift thing - she went to the dollar store and got fun things that they could open every few hours and her kids LOVED it! The portable DVD player worked wonders for our kids and for snacks - I ended up getting them things they never get or don't get very often that they like. I noticed my kids drank more in the car than normal - so maybe a fun drink or water bottle?? I really like to bring a small cooler and fill it with fruits and veggies cuz they're so nice to have when you get sick of the "traditional travel junk food".

  • Melanie Parker Thompson Google Disney princess coloring pages. I did that and found hundreds of free coloring pages to print out and stick in a binder for my little girl to color. We also try and do snacks that aren't messy, like grapes, raisins, wheat thins (they don't crumble), etc.

  • Linda Grover I bring books, stuff for the kids to enjoy on the way back.  Have a safe trip.

  • Alice Palmer I always bring lots and lots of treats and snacks on our really long road trips--it makes a big difference--we like to make our own trail mix with random stuff like swedish fish, pretzels, fruit loops, etc. I bring lots of little baggies to distribute the food. My kids like grapes and sliced apples too and I always like to bring a bag of tootsie pops or dum dums because they last a long time and keep them quiet. Good luck!

  • Kira M. Muddy buddies are my favorite car trip snack!

  • Carli Kraus Gaskill We've got lots of miles under our belts and our favorite roadtrip activities are music we sing along with and audio books. We've listened to The Chronicles of Narnia series, Charlotte's Web (read by EB himself) and, the ultimate hit, the Frog and Toad books (read by Lobel himself). I also love these Scratch and Sketch series of books if your kids are into art. Check them out on amazon.

  • Amie Duncan Ashby Nothing that will melt!! Have fun. :)

  • Julia Dodge Clark Red licorice and I give each kid a travel kit. It is mostly stocked with things from the dollar store which they haven't seen until the moment they get into the car. If the ruin it no biggie it was a dollar-at least they were occupied. I took my girls on a 20 hour road trip last summer-by myself. What saved me was the Dollar store stuff and Redbox. I picked a different "new" movie at each gas fill up. Good luck and I hope you have fun!
  • Rebecca Duncan Snacks-a good combo of sweet and salty-grapes, string cheese, carrots, apples, etc. I'm not all junk  on trips-let alone eating it in general. I have found that we all have a better time, and the kids behave better as well when there's less junk involved. As crazy as it sounds, it's true.

  • Jackie Tomlinson Ward I second the audio books! We love to check them out from the library. We even get the short picture books for the littler kids, that way they don't have to stay focused for long, and they can turn the pages along with the CD. My kids also love dry erase boards. They each have a lap sized one, and it will entertain them for hours. As corny as this sounds, my littlest ones love puppets/finger puppets in the car. When the toddler gets cranky, we put on puppet shows. (backs of car seats make great backdrops!) Now that I have older ones, they will help entertain the little ones. The other thing my kids have liked on car trips is the lacing thing. You can get all sorts of shapes and animals with shoelaces to lace up. Also, like Carli, we have our favorite traveling CD's that we sing along to. Have fun. We've make the trek from SLC to Portland or vice versa at least once a year since I got married.

  • Linda Clark Isom Another fun thing I did with my son was buy a super cheap generic scrapbook. Every time we stopped (whether it was a gas station or potty) we would glue one item on the scrapbook and write about what we did. We also wrote in it every day we we at our destination and pasted post cards of what we were doing. It so fun to look at at it an see what we were doing and what my son had to say. Good Luck!

  • Melanie Willardson Something cheap and very entertaining is a bag of colored pipe cleaners (that you would buy in the craft aisle). We've been on many long trips since our relatives live on the other side of the country. The pipe cleaners last a long time. You can make necklaces, bracelets, rings, crowns, etc. Then, take them apart and make animals, etc. etc.
 Thanks Ladies, for the FABULOUS ideas !  Happy Tripping!

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