Saturday, August 26, 2000

Back to school: Survive the daily challenge


Dose of organization helps prevent chaotic mornings

By Shauna Scott Rhone
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        As August's dog days dwindle, the relaxing days of summer and sunshine give way to a regimen of schedules, class work and deadlines.

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        Making just a few changes at home can make all the difference and start everyone off on the right foot.

        “Just getting kids out the door on time is a daily challenge,” says Stephanie Denton, owner of Denton & Co., a Hyde Park-based professional organizing firm with residential and corporate clients. Here are some suggestions to keep the din of chaos down to a decent decibel.

        Create a “launching pad.”

        Ms. Denton suggests designating an area of advance preparation for the next day's activities.

        “Designate a place by the front door for backpacks, musical instruments, gym clothes, things you'll need for the next school day. Setting these things out the night before makes it easier to remember in the morning.”

        Prepare clothing

        Picking out clothes is a big hassle in the morning.
        “Have kids plan their outfits a week at a time, maybe on Sunday evenings. Pick out five outfits and place them in the closet in date order on separate hangers. Or you could use hanging sweater bags and label them with the days of the week. Storing clothes this way takes less closet space.”
        Color code your child.

        Select a separate color for each child (or separate color for an only child's many activities) and follow that scheme. For example, a brightly colored pocket folder will hold that child's assignments for you to sign or the week's test results. Ms. Denton suggests putting those folders in a standing file.

        “Put a desktop file rack labeled for each child on the kitchen counter. If it's in one place, you'll always remember to check it each night, sign the papers that need it and put them in their backpacks for the morning.”

        Create a communications center, including a message board.

        Using the color scheme above, coordinated magic markers alert the family of immediate events, like recitals, practices, late arrival from school. Boards with a cork insert are handy for leaving phone messages. Mount in a frequently traveled area of the house, such as the refrigerator or inside the front door.

        Establish a quiet area for homework.

        “Create a designated homework area,” Ms. Denton says. “A lot of times, kids are doing their homework on the dining or coffee table. That's really not the best place, since they'll have to move for dinner time or unexpected company.

        Buying a desk and chair and placing it in a quiet spot with good lighting and supplies on hand will help a lot. Plus, the student will have a centralized place to keep papers for long-term projects and won't have to look for lost things.”

        Stackable plastic cubes or crates are good for storing the year's papers or keeping track of material accumulated for major projects. These also can be color-coded to each child or subject.

        Ms. Denton has another idea for the study area.

        “Long-term assignments need planning time. Posting a month-at-a-time calendar on the wall above the desk can help keep track of soccer or sports schedules and project deadlines. The student can mark interim milestones and accomplishments on his or her individual calendar.”
       



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