“Back-to-School” is a lot different this year, and to be honest, I’ve been feeling a little stressed by the responsibility. I’m not great at decorating our home study space, I’ve been struggling with some health issues (so I haven’t been as present as I would have liked), and Eric and I are trying to balance our professional work with our family work. Some moments haven’t been super classy. 🙂
But here’s what I know…
Whatever “school” looks like for each one of us, this is a great time to create peace, order, solid routines, and experiences that will strengthen the whole family.
(And the ideas I’ll be sharing aren’t just for families with children…I’ve personally signed up for the online resource called “Great Courses,” and I consider myself “back to school” as well!)
All right, let’s dive in with a few ideas that will hopefully give you a boost!
(1) Prioritize a clean room for everyone.
I know…a little weird but I believe the BEST back-to-school gift we can give our children is not a new backpack, a colorful binder, awesome clothes, or cute lunchbox snacks. (Those are fun, of course.)
I believe the best gift is teaching them to create and maintain clean bedrooms.
And I want to explain my reasoning here:
- They’ll wake up each day with an automatic “lift.”
- They won’t be tripping over things
- They’ll have a solid foundation for excellent study skills.
- They’ll be able to find their clothes and school supplies.
- They’ll feel comfortable inviting friends over to play.
- They’ll have mental space to THINK.
- You’ll both feel calm and peaceful at bedtime.
- And it doesn’t cost anything.
You’ve probably already thought about lots of additional reasons this would be awesome, but if you’re wondering why I’m so passionate about children having clean rooms, it’s because I rarely had one. I grew up in a wonderful family, but we had piles and piles of “stuff,” and I remember CLEARLY how stressful that felt.
We might think that children don’t care.
We might think that “cleaning” is boring to them.
We might not even consider cleaning with our children to be “quality time.”
But when we take time with our children to teach them how to create clear, organized, beautiful spaces, we are equipping them with skills that will continue to serve them for their entire lives.
I spent a couple of days helping our teenage son “minimalize” his room (his sister is going to college, so he got her room), and he was SO excited about it.
As I was tucking him in bed, he said, “Mom, I really want to keep it this way. Before, I had so much stuff everywhere. Now I feel like I have SPACE.” Hearing the relief in his voice touched my heart. I want your children to feel that same lift.
(As a little side note, our daughter Grace created a clean-your-room challenge for kids, with details on HOW to do that. I’ll link to it below!)
(2) Discuss each person’s goals for the school year, the purposes you are pursuing, your fears, and the opportunities.
As I was typing that, it sounded kind of like a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats…there’s a link to the Wikipedia article below!).
The idea is simply to take time—maybe while you’re driving around running errands—to talk with your children about what’s ahead. These kinds of conversations work SO well when you’re doing housework together, cooking, organizing closets, or tucking your children in for the night. (Just don’t miss the opportunities to have real conversations because this time of year is ripe with awesome topics to discuss!)
One funny conversation I had with our 13-year-old son was about how he thinks this year is the perfect time for him to get braces. I asked him why he thought that, and he said, “Masks!” We laughed…. Yep, no one will even know!
This has also been a great time to listen to our children talk about their worries. (There are a lot of potential reasons to worry right now….) I won’t share the private conversations we’ve been having, but seriously, our children are feeling a lot of concern and stress as they navigate all of this. We need to create space for these purposeful conversations.
(3) Create solid expectations for privileges, consequences, etc.
If we don’t put some kind of structure in place for homework, grades, screen time, friend time, etc., it turns into total chaos around here.
We’ve set up a “when-then” structure for screen time, which I learned from Amy McCready of Positive Parenting Solutions. (When homework and home responsibilities are done, they can have one hour on a screen.) And we’ve also set up a vacation-screen-time structure, where the amount of time they get each day during vacation is based on their GPA the previous semester. Your family will obviously have your own rules, standards, etc., but once we put the rules in place, it was pretty awesome to see how motivated they were to meet those requirements.
And I KNOW there are so many theories on the “best” way to do this. I don’t claim this is perfect or anything, but it works for us, and we’ve felt pretty good about it so far. 🙂
(4) Build space into your schedules for naps, quiet time, and/or reading each day.
I won’t go on and on about this because I’ve written a ton about naps and quiet time (link at the bottom of the post), but having required down time each day reduces fights, gives children space to breathe, and helps me, as the mother, to feel like I have the capacity to manage all of the responsibilities on my plate.
(5) Prepare as much in advance as possible.
That morning “where-is-something-I-can-take-for-lunch-and-I-can’t-find-my-shoes” craziness honestly drives me insane. It’s like Groundhog’s Day every single day…. We’ve pretty much solved this by setting up an evening routine to prepare lunches, get bags ready, etc. It never works 100% of the time, but it’s become part of our family culture, and because we have our family devotional before school, everyone feels a lot more present—knowing there aren’t 15 last-minute tasks that need to be done before they go out the door.
(6) Do a weekly grade/assignment check-in.
Some children naturally do all their school work and never need to be reminded. Others feel overwhelmed and put things off as much as possible. (Anyone have a procrastinator in your family?) I’ve made it a weekly routine to sit down with our children individually for about 10 minutes each, look at their grades and assignments, talk about the projects coming up, tests to be made up, etc. and help them update their calendars and lists.
We’ve started using Asana.com with all of our teenagers, and they LOVE it. We set up all their classes, projects, routines, deadlines, etc., and then they just work from their Asana tasks each day. I didn’t know they would like it so much, but boys and girls alike, it’s a game changer….
(7) Create meaningful daily connections.
This one can sometimes be tricky, but I think it’s the most important tip I’m sharing today. With so many screens available in the modern home, it’s super easy to become disconnected from our families. But if we set a goal to connect with each family member on a meaningful level each day, we can create beautiful relationships that will give us all stability and comfort.
My favorite times for these connections are when we’re making dinner, relaxing together after dinner, cleaning up the house together, walking the dog, getting ready for bed, or driving in the car. I keep my phone off as much as possible during these late afternoon/early evening hours, and we try to focus on activities that enable us to talk, snuggle, or enjoy activities that are totally screen free.
We do also have some morning time where we watch funny videos/look at memes on Instagram, and that IS on a screen, but it unites us and starts off the day with some laughs.
And I just have to add in this one other thing we do that is my favorite…. If the kitchen needs 10-15 minutes of tidying (cleaning up dishes, wiping counters, sweeping/mopping the floor, etc.), we turn on the disco lights we got on Amazon (linked below…and you will want these), we blast our favorite dance songs, and we have a family kitchen-clean-up party.
Our children think it’s ridiculous, but they still participate. Oh my goodness, it’s so awesome.
Okay, I think that’s enough for today. 🙂
In essence, I just want to say that back-to-school isn’t just about having cute clothes and themed decor. It’s a time for relationships, personal growth, and creating a strong family culture that will be the foundation for a beautiful life.
We talk a lot about decluttering, organizing, cleaning, and creating systems here at LearnDoBecome, and the REASON we do all this is so we can wake up excited each day—to live well-architected lives that can withstand all the challenges that might come our way.
I know that there’s a lot more pressure on each of us this year, and a handful of things are most likely not going that well. But I am confident that when we focus on who we are becoming each day—and on who each of our family members are becoming, we can identify at least a few solutions that will make a big difference for us all.
Wishing you the very best this school year!!
Consider the ideas shared here and identify something (even if it wasn’t specifically mentioned here) that you may want to implement into your own home. We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
- Clean Your Room Challenge
- SWOT Analysis Definition
- Mommy’s Quiet Time 101
- Great Courses (Accessing this program requires a paid subscription, and we are not affiliates–we just enjoy the courses!)
- Amazon Disco Lights*
Free class: How to Stop Drowning in Piles
Have you had a chance to join our free class? If not, we’d love to see you there! Sign up here!
PAM PARKER says
Clarification: I checked out the Great Courses link on here and they are actually $12.50, $15.00, or $20.00 per month, depending on which plan you choose.
Taryn Wood says
Thanks, Pam! We’re glad you’re here. 🙂
Thanks so much! Awesome post! It helps me remember a good time I had with my five-year-old granddaughter yesterday sorting through dirty clothes thanks so much!
Barbara Holland says
I wish there was a way for my friends with school children to read these 7 Tips! Such great advice. Is it on FB? My grandchildren are in their 20’s, through college and working and my great-grands are still babies, but I was a life-long public school teacher (grades 1-5) and this is fantastic advice for parents. I like your son’s room, also. Making my bed when I get up sets the tone for me, as well.
I haven’t signed up for your getting rid of paper piles as I’m too poor with technology. I’ve lost so many things I’d had on computers since my first one in 1985 that I now just trust paper more than things locked away only to be seen on computer — when I can find them. (I’m in my 80’s) But I’m sure it’s helpful for younger folks who handle computers well.
Again, GREAT tips.
Taryn Wood says
Thanks, Barbara! You can share this link with them, https://learndobecome.com/7-favorite-back-to-school-tips/. We’re so glad you’re here!
Rebecca D Sikes says
Don’t forget us empty nesters who are working from home!
Taryn Wood says
We’ve got you covered, Rebecca! Many of these tips apply to you as well. 🙂 Thanks for being with us!
Very beneficial info… for a Senior Citizen also ( I have school aged grandchildren )
Taryn Wood says
Thanks for being here, Bobbie! We’re so glad this is helpful to you!!
Hello! Great article. Can you tell me how you use the Asana for your family? I checked out the site and I think it would be good for our family, but am unsure what would work best for our 14 and 16 year olds.
Thanks in advance,
April Perry says
Hi Shelley! Yes! All four children each have their own Asana account. For our boys, we created a “School Projects” title (on the left, where projects are created in “List View”) and then we have each subject in school as a sub-heading. Then we put their projects, routines, and assignments below. The great part is that you can make routines recurring–so when they check them off, they pop up again at the right interval, and you can divide projects into bite-sized pieces with deadlines. I had them set up “My Tasks” according to due date, and now they just need to click “My Tasks” to see what they need to get done that day. They are also integrating things like scout merit badges, driver training, ACT prep, etc. (Life gets more complicated for the high school group…) Our daughters use Asana for school, personal, and work projects. I would start simply and see if they like it–and then adapt as needed. Right now, a lot of assignments are organized digitally inside their school “Canvas” platform, so we’re trying to adjust to see what will work best–without double-handling all tasks. Hope that helps!
Amy Novak says
Thanks for all the great tips! I would love access to the Asana/Evernote training. I am in the Master Class, but I can’t make live trainings – not with today’s current environment. How can I get a recording? Thank you!
Taryn Wood says
Hi Amy! Thanks for being with us! The video will be recorded and will be available in our STEP Mastery Facebook group. Be sure to join us there if you haven’t yet!
Lisa Zach says
Great tips, April! Would it be possible to show us pictures of a typical setup for the kids Asana app? My three youngest kiddos are still in school, (two high school and one college) so this could be very helpful for us. Pictures or a video would be so great! Thank-you!
April Perry says
Great question, Lisa! I’ll need to work on that with my boys. With the new school year, they’re managing most of their assignments in Canvas (the school’s app), but all extracurricular things are done in Asana (scout merit badges, ACT prep, Driving, etc.). The quick answer is that you create a project for them called “Extracurricular” or “School” and then put the topics inside, with dates attached so they show up in “My Tasks.” 🙂