Real moms share tips to kick off the school year

Get the early morning alarms set!

The new school year means on-time schedules, after-school activities and often chaotic days. Instead of starting this year feeling overwhelmed, make a concerted effort to get it all together this year.

We found some moms to share the real scoop on what works and what doesn’t.

The night before

It is 100 percent worth it to pack lunch the night before just to ease up on the morning rush. I also make sure we know where their shoes and backpacks are before going to bed. Otherwise, searching for shoes a minute before we need to leave never turns out well.

Emily Piszczor, La Grange Park

We lay out all of our clothes, even socks and underwear, the night before. Finding a matching sock at 6:15 a.m. can turn into your biggest nightmare. That also gives me time to wash something if I realized that his uniform or pants aren’t clean.

Michelle Covington, Glen Ellyn

Set a regular wake-up time for yourself in order to shower.

Jennifer Dwivedi, Chicago

I meal-plan about a month in advance so I have crockpot meal ingredients for days with activities or I can prepare in advance if we need to leave right after dinner.

Anne Sedore, Naperville

The daily meals

Frozen grapes are awesome. By lunchtime, they’re still nice and cold and because they’re frozen, they don’t get smashed by a drink or other heavy items.

Also, bagged lunches can get boring. So whenever there is an opportunity for portable leftovers, I always put that in his lunch. For example, if I’m making cheeseburgers the night before, I always make an extra.

Michelle Covington

Two or three Sundays per month, I spend a couple hours prepping food that can be frozen and easily thawed for breakfast or lunch. I also prep ingredients for smoothies the night before and simply toss into the blender in the morning. I’ll also prep omelet ingredients the night before so it takes just minutes for a hot breakfast.

Heidi Ruehle-May, Oak Park

Stop the morning madness

Make it your child’s responsibility after school each day to put the lunchbox where you need it in the morning. For us, it’s next to the sink. It helps me to wake up and walk in the kitchen to see lunchboxes right where I need them.

Christine Fenno, Oak Park

I find it helpful to add in an extra 10 minutes for departure time. So even though they should start getting shoes on at 8:55 a.m., I tell them 8:45 a.m. We all have bad mornings trying to get everyone out the door in time. I try to remember to lighten things up once we are in the car by laughing about the craziness or turning up the music really loud so they don’t start their day at school stressed from the morning craze.

Stephanie Pulcanio, Glen Ellyn

More days than not, they sleep in the clothes for the following day. We also have a little chalkboard easel on our island that has what days they have gym class, library, swim team or safety patrol.

Maria Stathakis Ping, Oak Park

We don’t do screen time before school. No TV or tablet before school cuts way down on the number of times “Please go get dressed” must be uttered each morning. Essentially we bore them out the door every day.

Kelly Murray, Oak Park

Sanity for all the stuff

Backpacks are unpacked as soon as they are home. I also have a large zippered envelope for the stuff I’m saving throughout the year that’s in the kitchen, so when the bags get emptied, either things go right into the recycling bin or into their respective envelopes.

Maria Stathakis Ping

Every activity has a file folder, including a school folder for each kid, on the side area of the counter in a filing system. Papers get signed and sent back immediately. I get a big calendar from Paper Source and hang it right in the kitchen so we can all see what is happening each day.

Anne Sedore, Naperville

Backpacks are kept next to the charging station. Ipads stay in their backpack when not in use. The charging cords are long enough to go from the charger into the backpack. There is also a big sign on the back door saying, “DO YOU HAVE YOUR INSTRUMENT?”

Jeanine Pedersen, Oak Park

My boys always need to be reminded, so I wrote on their mirror, “Dirty clothes in hamper, hang towel, brush teeth.” It is literally in their face to remind them! I also have a dry-erase board in the garage next to their equipment that’s color-coded for game schedules.

Kristine Serio Ippolito, Villa Park

I hung various Command hooks under each child’s first letter of their name right behind the front door. It’s helped us be amazingly organized.

Leah Marie Picek, La Grange Park

Plan for the papers

For the really outstanding artwork, I hang it on the wall either in $1 colorful frames from Ikea or on a wire display string that extends the length of the wall. When he brings something great, I just pull something off and replace it with the new thing.

Maja Rzepka-McLaughlin, Chicago

For school papers, I have one folder with each kid’s name on it. Memos get laid inside and dates get written into my planner ASAP. Forms get signed and returned right away, otherwise I’ll forget about them. For master plans, I use an Erin Condren life planner. Everything gets written in as soon as it comes up. That way I don’t forget anything and we don’t get double-booked.

Angie Gazdziak, Chicago

My go-to is a corkboard in the mudroom with important papers tacked up there. I also have a paper calendar on the side of the fridge for all other reminders. It may be a little messy, but no one sees it but us.

Jenny Kinsella, Algonquin

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