Get organized for success this school year

Ottawa’s ‘Mom in the Know,’ Julie Findlay, has tips, tricks and hacks to get you and your children primed for a smooth (and awesome!) school year.

Keep playing
Games that work on all educational skills:
• Monopoly
• Apples to Apples
• Games of 7
• Card games
• Cooking in the Kitchen with Kids

Check in with your children: at the breakfast table, dinner table, or any down time. Ask about the day and what they have done, what projects and assignments they are working on, and offer support where you can. A memo board or work calendar in the homework area can be a key tool for this.

Communicating with your children and their teachers is the key when it comes to a successful homework routine and educational success. Be sure to attend “meet the teacher” sessions, a great way to create a rapport and understand the teachers’ expectations at the beginning of the year.

MITK tip: Signing up for your parent council is a great way to stay in the know. There is always online communication available from the parent council and the school. Bialasiewicz Bialasiewicz

Establish a routine
Kids thrive on routines, so establishing a routine from the start of the school year is imperative. Reading before bedtime, whether you are the reader or your children are reading on his or her own, is a great way to wind down after a busy day.

Figure out what works best for your children, whether that means doing their homework right after school, having a little downtime and then doing their homework, or tackling it after dinner. Try and keep homework time consistent.

If you find your kids are in the zone right after school, be sure offer a protein-packed snack to help them stay concentrated until they finish the work.

MITK tip: Based on research, we know that habits and routines change after 21 days consecutively. So be patient with yourself and your little learners.

Transitions, even the ones we are excited about, require energy. We assume when the transition is positive that everything goes smoothly and no support is required, says Nicola Clarke.

Saying goodbye to summer and hello to school is a big transition. There is a shift in priorities, friendships and in focus. Be aware that your children might need additional attention.

Create a designated work space
Having a designated area for your child to do their homework will help get them into the homework mindset and stay focused. Have this area in a quiet space in your home with no distractions such as television or games. Keep in mind that it’s best to find a space that is easily accessible if they need help or guidance.

MITK tip: Everyone gets new shoes for back-to-school. Personalize your shoebox and ensure all the tools needed to complete homework are in the box: pens, pencils, calculators, French/English dictionaries and thesaurus. We used the school supply list provided by our school to make sure we filled our boxes with everything we would need for the school year. If my kids find another spot to do homework, their toolbox can go with them. SevenOnSeven SevenOnSeven

Visual aids are great for your children and their work space

For the youngest grades:
■ Alphabet letters
■ Numbers
■ Recognition words that they are learning

For the older grades:
■ A homework duo tang that could include helpful information that will help build strengths
■ Multiplication chart
■ Math formulas
■ Grammar rules
■ Find the tools that work for your child

MITK tip: There are many books and workbooks out there that reinforce essential skills and develop critical thinking for children. One of my favourites is 365 Simple Science Experiments with Everyday Materials from Scholastic. We learn to predict and test and come out with some great conclusions. It can be fun to be involved in your child’s learning.

Keeping it together

Label it
Emily Press Labels has all the labels needed to identify kids’ belongings and keep their things out of the lost and found.

Art portfolio
We can now keep all of our little artists’ artwork! Take two prices of Bristol board and staple them together, keeping the top open. I have been collecting the artwork and reusing it as wrapping paper, cards, and giving out pieces to family. I frame the “great works of art.”

Have a calendar nearby. It will be a perfect tool for recording when assignments are due and field trips, as well as all other extracurricular activities your child might be involved in. The calendar is a perfect organizational tool, as well as a keepsake at the end of the year to take a look back at all of your child’s accomplishments.

MITK tip: Most schools have a newsletter with important dates; add them to your calendar as soon as you receive them. Get rid of the paper trail!

Julie Findlay is Mom in the Know, a spokesperson for all things related to raising a family and living a healthy, happy and balanced life. A wife and mother of two, Julie has turned her teaching career into a lifelong passion of sharing with others. Pinterest:, Facebook:, Twitter: