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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tips on Tuesday - 5 Things to Make School Prep Easier

I know we're past Back-to-School time, but there are a few new things I'm doing this year that have really made a difference in our house.  I thought I would pull them together for our first Tips on Tuesday!  It's not too late to start any of these if you aren't doing them already!

Weekly Spelling List Holder
I saw somewhere on a linky party that a fellow crafter had started using one of those photo holder things that has a paperclip-like wire out the top (do you know what I mean?), to display her kids' spelling words each week.  I thought that was such a smart idea!  

I decided to make a few of my own with wood blocks and clothespins.  I cut patterned papers and covered the blocks and clips with mod podge, then hot glued the clip upside-down on the back of the block.  I put initials on the blocks with my cricut, and keep them on the breakfast bar where my boys eat.  Then each week, I copy/paste the new spelling list from my son's emailed newsletter, and print the new list to clip on his block.  My kindergartner's block holds sight words that he's working on.
No more rummaging through stacks of papers to find the week's words and try to get them practiced mid-week!  They are front and center and easily reviewed over bowls of cereal and bedtime snacks.  Before my kindergartner started with sight words, I just clipped a special "I Love You!" note to his block...guess I should have made one for my little man, too, huh?

Fast project, and we're getting better grades on spelling tests!

Pack Ahead Lunch Bins
I saw this at Echoes of Laughter.  I don't know why it took me this many years to start this one (it's kind of a no-brainer).  I just had never done weekly lunch prep ahead of time before this year.  It makes SUCH A DIFFERENCE to spend half an hour on Sunday getting all the individual portions set!  I think it also saves money to do this method instead of buying prepackaged snack sizes.  

I found that one can of fruit is the perfect size for dividing into three plastic containers - one for each of my boys.  I do three cans of fruit each week (peaches, pears, and mandarin oranges) for Monday, Wednesday, Friday, when all of my boys are at school.  For Tuesday and Thursday, I do two baggies of another fruit or veggie choice - often carrot sticks and grapes, sometimes raisins or bananas (I wish I could do more veggies, but they won't touch them with a ten foot pole).

I divide the canned fruit into the cups and then slice it up into bite-size pieces, add a little slosh of the juice from the can, and screw the lid on (the ziplock screw-top containers work awesome for this - no leaking!)  Bag the Tuesday/Thursday stuff and put all of it in a big lasange pan on the bottom shelf of the fridge.
The sides, snacks (my boys still have a snack time in kindergarten and 2nd grade), and desserts get bagged in zippies and stored in plastic bins on the top shelf of the pantry.  I buy three different kinds of chips and rotate the days so they don't have the same thing everyday (that was a personal request from my 2nd grader).  The bags last two weeks, because I just put a small handful in.  I also try to rotate different items for desserts, some store-bought/some homemade...and I will say, doing the make-ahead baggies makes these treats last a lot longer, too, because they are already portioned, zipped up, and in a bin on the top shelf.  An open bag within reach will disappear a lot faster!

I fill up the thermoses and store in the fridge the night before, then lay out the lunchboxes on the counter.  In the morning, I just have to do PB&J's and grab a bag out of each bin to toss in - done!  I sometimes do sandwiches ahead, too, but they prefer them freshly made.  Having the rest done saves a lot of time in an already-hectic morning routine!

Backpack Station
This is keeping my house a little neater this year - having a station to store school bags near the door.  We had acquired this awesomely-distressed piece of furniture that has vertically-divided shelves on the bottom.  It's the perfect depth to hold a backpack!  There are four slots, plus a shelf above.  I keep my own bag on the top shelf, plus usually an umbrella, maybe some hats/gloves...then the bottom cubbies hold my boys' school bags - backpacks for the big boys, preschool tote for little man, and the last slot holds our library tote with the week's library books.
You could set up a backpack station with wall hooks, too!

Homework Caddy
I found a plastic holder with different compartments at Target and have used that to hold pencils/pens, markers, crayons, erasers, sharpeners, scissors, glue/tape, etc.  I don't have a picture of mine, it's nothing exciting.  When it's homework time, I just set it on the table, and anything they might need is at their fingertips.  

You could make your own Homework Caddy though!  I really love this particular one made with painted cans!  The magnet to keep the sharpener in place is brilliant, too!  Check it out at Sandy Toes & Popsicles
 Here's one made from a covered to-go drink carrier.  Thrifty!  Check it out at Roots & Wings Co.
Here's a basket version, and a plastic caddy... click the pics to go to the source
Or this one in a box, that I had previously shared on facebook...

Clipboards at Central Command

This one's on the To-Do list here - hanging clipboards in a Central Command area, for keeping track of papers that need to be signed and returned to school, permission slips, activity fees to be turned in, etc.  These things get lost in stacks of papers at our house.  There's a crazy amount of papers that come home every week!?  I haven't settled on a system for that yet (and I desperately need to!) but I do have clipboards.  I even know where I'm going to hang them - in the little hallway between our kitchen and dining room.  I have a cork board there where I put up one choice of the boys' work every week or so (a cute project, a test with a good grade, etc.), and underneath I plan to hang a few clipboards for keeping important forms separate and in a safe place.

Here's my little hallway where my clipboards will go...

Do you have any tips to make school prep easier?  Please share!


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