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Back to school: Avoid morning meltdown

Here's how the whole family can get organized for the busy year ahead.

By GreatSchools Staff

Getting ready to go back to school is a family affair, requiring everyone to get organized. Here are some tips to help everyone in your household avoid leaving important tasks until the last minute.

  • Many schools send out school information and a packet of forms to fill out before school starts. If you can discipline yourself to fill out the paperwork several days before it's due, you'll avoid a last minute panic.
  • Have the necessary immunization records available for easy reference.
  • Update school emergency contact and health information for the coming year. Check with your emergency contacts and make sure they are still available for back up. Keep a copy of your finished form to speed up the process next year.
  • As you read through all the school information, mark important dates (such as Back-to-School Night, parent-teacher conference week and school holidays) on the family calendar.
  • Start a folder for school newsletters and other papers and establish a place where you will keep them so that you can easily find and refer to them if necessary. You might need both a file folder for papers and an electronic one for email communications.
  • Establish a "Get Ready the Night Before" policy. Pick clothes for the next day and pack the backpack every evening before bedtime and you'll save precious time in the morning. Leave backpacks and other items you want to take with you by the front door or in an established place so that you won't forget anything in the morning.

Set priorities and schedules

To make the best use of your time and keep life from being harried, think about priorities for family members and then schedule them into the week.

For children

Before school begins, discuss what extracurricular activities your child will participate in. If your child needs a little extra encouragement to audition for jazz band or to take that early morning Italian class, now is the time to go over the benefits of these activities. Some classes fill up quickly, so it's a good idea to sign up early to avoid disappointment. However, if your child needs to have limits set, have her pick her favorite activities and forgo the rest. Be realistic and don't fall victim to over-programming. Make sure to leave enough time to do homework and for family time.

For parents

Determine how much time you can give to the school each month as a volunteer and involved parent: in the classroom, on field trips, for fundraising events and on school-wide committees.

For the family

Start a family calendar in a common area where each family member can see it and write down their activities.

Prepare for the homework ahead

Having set routines and a place to study at home will make it easier for your child to be organized and successful at school.

  • Set up a well-lit, quiet place with a good work surface to do homework. Try to keep this place dedicated to homework and free of other clutter.
  • Establish a regular homework time. This will help your student to complete assignments on time.
  • Discourage distractions such as television, radio, the Internet or phone conversations during homework time.


Comments from readers

"Thank you so much for all this tips and suggestions, it help us a lot to be more organized and to help our children to be better on school. thanks again "
"I just started college and used these techniques the night before I began classes. Once I received my class schedule, I wrote it down on a separate sheet of paper and post it on our bulletin board. I then made copies of my schedule and gave them to my parents, so everyone would know when I had class (and avoid potential arguments!). Later, I set up a day-by-day schedule so that I could have time to study, work out and still have my free time. The next thing I did was decide what I would need the first day and what I could keep at home. Being prepared and not having to worry about the next morning, I slept a lot better that night. That meant I was refreshed and ready to go! When I got home that evening, I went over each course packet I got that day. Because I followed these steps, I am not as stressed and I always get there on time. I don't panic now, so I can just sit back and enjoy my classes. I also think this is good information to pass along to my dad. He gets all nervous in the morning and has been late a few times."
"We love your tips and suggestions. My child is very ADHD so this helps a LOT"
"Record all their fav. cartoons so that they can have something to look forward for the weekend. There is no time for tv during the week. There is too much to do preparing for the next day. Our routine is after school...they give me a kiss...wash their hands, eat a snack and a drink...Do Homework..Go outside and play ...Physical activities are very important...Unless it rains then they can watch a recorded cartoon..that way u know it's only 30 fast forwarding through the commercials."
"I already try to employ these suggestions with my 8 year old daughter. I think she will also be more responsive after I have HER read these suggestions, too!"
"Thanks this is GREAT!"
"it's always been difficult to get my girls ready for school in the morning, and this year my son starts school also. i was dreading the morning hustle & bustle i know is coming, so i made a responsibility chart that they will check off each day. it lists everything from making the bed & brushing hair, to checking backpacks & doing homework. they each have a designated color to check things off, and at the end of the week anyone who has checked off everything for each day will get piggybank money (allowance). also, they can not check off a task if mommy has to remind them more than once about getting it done. i'm posting it on the wall in the kitchen so it's easy for them to see & read (yes, even my kindergardener can read it)."
"I think kids should just come home and do there homework and get it over with."
"This is a awesome site for parents, I love all the information you get in this one site!!! GREAT JOB!!!"
"My son gets a monthly school lunch calendar. I ask him to look at it, circle the days he wants to buy lunch. On Sundays I will make up sandwiches needed for that week and freeze them. All I have to do is grab one & a few other items and add it to his bag. Sundays also include picking out a whole weeks worth of outfits. I iron quickly over the areas needed & put back. My son helps in the process buy choosing what he wants to wear and gets his socks and underwear in one place together. This allows him to wake up when his alarm goes off & begin getting ready on his own. At the end of each year the school sends out the next year's calendar of every day off/picture day/back2school night/grading periods, etc. & I enter every date on my huge 18 month calendar (I buy mine with at year end."
"These are great tips. Something I would suggest is making sure everything is packed the night before each day of school. I'm a high school student and this works for me when I have my clothes picked out, lunched packed, and backpack ready to go for the next day. The next morning moves much smoother and I don't have to rush."
"As a K teacher in PA, I ask the parents to assemble all of the supplies for doing homework in a shoe box which they decorate as a family. I tell them to keep it on the top of the refrigerator so they'll be sure to find it when it's time to get homework done. It's a practice I started years ago with my own children. Having the necessary supplies on hand makes less stress for everyone. These are great tips!"
"I am an older working mom of a 7-year old boy. It has been a huge challenge to get him moving in the mornings with clothes and eating. He loves tv early in the morning and late in the afternoon, because he is tired and just wants to veg out. I believe that tv adds to many of my problems. I love the idea of setting an hour limit to the tv. For years, whether in school or daycare, I have packed things at night to cut down on the chaos. As for homework, I get home so late that it is difficult to do anything extra. I keep flashcards at the kitchen table and go over sight words, math problems, etc. when we have a few minutes during meals. My son will do anything for chocolate ice cream and M&Ms as a treat. Thanks for the great ideas!"
"Well the routine in my house is first the kids get home then they eat a snack. then they have a choice of wacthing tv or doing homework. after an hour they have to take a shower then if they didnt do their homework before they have to do it now. after they eat dinner and then go to sleep at 9:30 for my 11 and 12 year olds and 9:00 for my 6 year old."
"I have another technique that may help the High-school student. Put on a hat that you do not regularly ware or something visual that everyone can see and know that you are studing this will visualy remind others not to distub you while the hat is on. If you have a younger sibling make sure they know not to disturb you while you have on your 'study hat'."
"My families school routine is first you come home give any sent out parent letters then go to homework then chores while the parent checks the homework then when the kids are done they can do whatever they want but only 4 hours of TV mon-thurs. it has worked so far and eliminates problems."
"Getting involved in your children's education is very important. We model to our children. If our children see us volunteering and participating actively in activities, they'll do the same.Parental involvement is most effective in elementary until early years of high school. After that, they would prefer to do things on their own."
"LOVED your ideas, I emailed it to many other parents and posted it at home.! Ideas- 1-email your teacher the week ahead, welcoming her/him back and if parent is available, see if teacher needs help the first week. 2-Our school has a big supply list, of general thing, paper towels etc... Drop those off the week before of day before, label sack with student/teacher's name and grade 3-Go over bus behavior with child. Head off any BUS STOP activities that might be inappropriate 4-Call a few school friends/parents before school starts and meet for a dinner out/ park day"
"Your tip about getting ready the night before will save much morning confusion. Thanks."
"This article was really informative. It will help me prepare my son for pre-school. Thank you for the help."
"We have a school year routine of zero TV Mon-Thurs. This has eliminated so many problems. On Friday, if there's not been any problem reports from school during the week, my daughter can pick the video of her choice and we often have a 'picnic' in the living room floor on blankets with our dinner. She is entering second grade this year."
"What a great article! I teach 'K' in N.C. I think this is so helpful I am printing it and the link for my 'K' parents. Thank you!"
"My 7 year old son only eats lunch if he is the one who packed it. So I have a basket in the fridge with snack baggies full of assorted fruits, cut up veggies, peanuts, etc. along with yogurt, rolled up meats and cheeses, (he doesn't eat sandwhiches for some reason). Then another basket is on our country with drinks, napkins, spoons, straws, etc. He can pack his own lunch using these two baskets and I do them up every Sunday with him providing me with ideas of exactly what foods to put in there for the next week. Works like a charm, he gets choices, he gets to do it himself, I get to sit and eat a muffin while he does the work. "
"I like it very much, and I think that this year is going to be better for everyone on my family."
"After I check my daughter’s homework, she puts her backpack by the front door. We then prepare the lunchbox with everything that doesn't need refrigeration. My daughter then sets out her clothes for the next day. My daughter doesn't like to socialize when she first wakes up in the morning, so to avoid any confrontations I gave my daughter an alarm clock to wake herself up in the morning. I set my alarm 30 minutes before my daughter wakes up. I get up, get ready and then I listen for my daughter to get up. This has worked so well for us. My daughter doesn't have me hovering over her in the morning and I finish up the lunchbox and breakfast while she is getting ready. "
"My son likes to relax in the morning, so I bought him an alarm clock and he sets it extra early (90 minutes before it's time to leave) so he can have tv time in the morning. He always gets up right away and has time to do what he wants to in the morning. "
"Ecellent. I use to allow my daughter to unwind when she came home, so she could listen to music, get a snack or watch tv. She could do homework also, if she wished. Homework had to be done and checked by me an hour before bedtime and then she had that hour free also. We never had problems with homework or bedtime, but she was a vey mature young girl and my only child. I made sure tachers kept homework to no more than one hour. It worked for us. "
"This is a very handy article. How easily we get drawn into postpooning such preparation till the last minute. Great foresight!!"
"I also enjoyed this article! Our only child is entering first grade this fall. I am a working mom, so any tips on getting out the door on time in the morning and on getting homework done at night are much appreciated!"
"Good article. I am so looking forward to the new school year. The excitement of seeing old friends and making new ones is a fond memory for me. The morning stuggles of a 'non morning almost 7 year old son' (he is a bear) will be a challenge, but with the tips that were provided, I am looking forward to see how they will work out. Thanks! "
"I just wanted to say that this page has helped me a lot! And I hope the school year will start great with thi plan! THANK YOU! "