This is it, if they haven’t gone back already, children all over the country are heading back to school this week. New hair cuts, shiny shoes, pristine book bags. And as they all head off us parents can let out a collective sigh of relief that we have done it. We have checked everything off the kit list, remembered to sort out dinner money, or bought the new lunch box, and smashed back to school this year.
But now comes the influx of “communications from school”. Mine started weeks ago with a “reminder” about dress code for the sixth form (and a discussion with the teen about whether purple was going to pass the “no extreme hair colour” rule). At some points in the year these missives can seem never ending. And somewhat relentless if you have children in multiple schools as I did for a while.
So how to organise it all? How do you keep track of knowing who needs to be where / when / with what extra kit? You need a system. A fool proof system. A bit like the one we have and I thought I might share it in the hope that you find it as useful as we have done over the past few years.
First of all you need a page to a view diary. There are academic ones in the shops now so you don’t need to wait until January. I actually have one that is a bit like a Filofax. A4 pages and with four ring binder holes in it. But if you can’t get one of those any A4 page to a day diary will work.
Now find a place for it to sit and from where it will not be moved. This is crucial. This is a house diary. Everybody in the house will use it and it needs to be stationary, as opposed to stationery (did you see what I did there?). It needs to be open on today, at all times so you get into the habit of looking at it regularly.
Next up make a cup of tea, log on to the school website and note down in the diary all the term dates and when holidays are. That way you know exactly when you are going to need childcare if necessary, or for how many days you will have teenagers lying on the sofa eating you out of house and home.
The next thing to do is write in it all your family or important birthdays, again, so you never forget them. Then this is where the organising come into it.
A week before that birthday write down “Get card for X and post it”. That way you don’t turn over the page on the actual birthday and realise you haven’t sent a card.
This method now carries on for birthday parties and other invites. If you get an invite (or your child does) write the details in the diary AND put the invite on the page too. This is why the diary now never moves as you have extra pieces of paper in it. You might think it is messy but really it isn’t. It means you will never lose another invite and will know instantly all the crucial details.
If you need to buy a present or card or send something, write it down a week before “buy present for X party on Y date”.
If you happen to buy a card or see one weeks before, put it in the diary on that week before date. So now you have the card where you know you will find it and can post it if needed, or take to the party.
Over the years my kids have all learned that everything goes in the diary.
School trip info is the same. The letter goes in on the day of the trip but the day before we write down “don’t forget wellies / packed lunch / £5 spending money for tomorrow”. That way you don’t have a heart attack when you see on the day of the trip that any of those things are needed at 7am and you have to upend the garage looking for wellies.
The reason I have a ring binder type diary is because I put all my bits of paper into those plastic sleeves with holes in. So there are no loose bits of paper.
Ellie is off to look at Cardiff Uni on Friday so all the info she needs is in a wallet, time it starts, post code, parking instructions, and the hotel confirmation for the Thursday night. So all she needs to do on Thursday is grab the folder and she knows everything she needs is to hand.
We have tickets for a play later this month, same thing, tickets and info are in a wallet, and in the diary so we know exactly where to locate them.
We even write things in that we need to remember to do such as today mine says “sort out prescription” because I will only remember this at 4am when I have a raging headache and find I have run out of tablets. If I put it in the diary I don’t need to remember to do it. We carry so many “I mustn’t forget to do that” type thoughts in our head that we just need to get them out and not have to worry about them. Putting them on paper, in one place has helped me no end.
If you do the same with all the bits of paper you are about to start getting from school about parent evenings / day trips / class assemblies you will never be stressed the night before because you can’t quite remember the timings etc.
And that has to be a good thing, right?
Do let me know if you adopt it and how it works for you
Image of a diary courtesy of Shutterstock