women
Organising the school gear

Both my husband and I love things being in their place. When it comes to our kids, we’ve worked out that if we want them to put their things away, they need to know exactly where each item has to go.

Over the past couple of years my husband has placed many hooks around our house and we’ve created designated areas for school gear. The kids know where they have to place their school gear and can easily access their hooks.

School bags

Before we hung bag hooks in the laundry, we used to find the kids’ school bags in their bedrooms, at the back door, in the lounge room — or wherever they dropped them when they came home from school. It would drive me crazy walking around the house and almost tripping over a school bag that had been left in the middle of the hallway. The kids now know to hang them on their hooks as soon as they come in from school. Not only does this save me from tripping over them, it also means it’s less likely that things will be misplaced if they fall out of their open bags.

I wish I could say that this system means the kids hang their bags up 100 per cent of the time without being asked to.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The hooks have, however, significantly reduced the number of times I’ve had to remind them to hang up their bags.

Lunchboxes

Once the kids have hung up their school bags, they know they have to place their lunchboxes on the kitchen bench along with any school notices. Of course, knowing and doing are two separate things. On the days when the kids don’t place their lunchboxes on the bench, I leave their school lunches on the bench. It’s up to them to find their lunchboxes and pack them.

School shoes

Just like me, our kids love not wearing shoes. Before entering the house after school most of them take off their shoes. This used to lead to the frustrating situation of having six or more pairs of shoes scattered at our back door. My husband’s creativity and resourcefulness once again came to the rescue. He altered a bookshelf to fit flat against a wall near the back door. This became our shoe shelf. When the kids take off their school shoes, they now have a place to put them, keeping the back door free from school-shoe debris.

Library books

Our house contains countless books. We have a great stash of our own and we visit the local library regularly to borrow books. While I love having so many books around me, we sometimes found it difficult to track down the school library books. After an hour-long search one evening trying to locate my daughter’s missing library book, we developed a better way of looking after the books.

The kids bring school library books home in their library bags, so we decided to place some hooks at the end of the kids’ bunk beds. The kids hang their library bags there and when they’ve read their school library books they place them back in their library bags.

Making schoolchildren independent

To cope with the school environment, kids need to further develop their independence skills. Our kids have shown an increase in self-esteem from being able to successfully complete age-appropriate life skills. I still remember the look of pride on my eldest son’s face when he made his first solo train trip into the city. There are other skills he’s not so keen to have, such as that of changing his own bed linen. However, as the parent I like to make sure he does whatever he’s capable of. Table 1 (overleaf) lists some common tasks appropriate for each age group in the primary-school years.

Letting go

Letting go and being prepared for your kids to experience the consequences of their behaviour are important steps in building their independence skills. I often find this concept difficult to apply, and it’s something I continue to work on. For example, I now expect all our kinder and school kids to pack their own bags. It’s their responsibility to ensure they have their lunchbox, hat and everything else they need for their school day. However, it did take me some time to fully hand over this responsibility to the kids. In my early years as a school mum I could be seen driving forgotten hats to school for the kids.

Keeping track of things

Once you venture into the world of school, you very quickly work out that to stay on top of things you need (1) a way of managing all the incoming dates and (2) a way of tracking all the outgoing items!

Table 1: independence skills for school children

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A family calendar

We’ve been using a family calendar for about five years and I’ve found it the best way of managing all the kids’ activities. When kids get birthday-party invitations or special-event notices from school, I ask them to write the details under the correct date on the calendar. I’ve also taught them to adopt the habit of checking the calendar regularly themselves. It’s helpful to have little alerts from the kids about upcoming events. If our preschooler has a big event coming up that he’s excited about, we even write a countdown for the last few days for him. I love showing him the calendar and asking him to work out ‘how many sleeps until ’ by himself!

Children’s diaries

A diary is a great self-management tool for kids in middle- to upper-primary school. They can use it to track their reading, homework and sporting commitments.

Label everything!

I think every family has one child who always comes home with less gear than they went to school with. Growing up in my family, believe it or not, I was that child. Being organised is something I’ve grown into.

We have one of these children in our family and he’s been that way ever since he started school. Having all his items clearly labelled doesn’t magically bring them home, but it does make it so much easier to find things again. More specifically, it makes it easier for him to find his things again. When we realise something’s missing, I try hard to make it his responsibility to locate the item. I’ve found youngsters tend to hunt distractedly through the lost property bins, so if they have a familiar label on all of their school gear they can find what they’re looking for more easily.

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