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Tips for a Straight-A School Year

By Belinda Elliott Daily Life Producer It’s that time again. Whether your children will be stepping onto a school bus for the first time, or starting their senior year in high school, now is the time to get ready to send them to school.

Kathy Peel, an organizational pro who was dubbed “America’s Family Manager” by Oprah, offers these tips to start the school year off right.

Make Plans Before School Starts

“This is a great time to have a family meeting about back to school,” Peel says. “Talk to your kids about how you are excited about what God is going to teach them this year.”

Determine Your Goals
“I like to suggest that parents think back to the last school year and ask, 'What would you like to change?'” Peel says.

Perhaps you would like the family to be more organized, mornings to be less rushed, or your weekly schedule to be less hectic.

Establish Expectations
Now is the time to discuss your plans and desires for the upcoming year, she says.

"Talk about how curfews are going to go back and bedtimes are going to be changing," Peel says. “And ask your kids for goals. What would they like to happen this year?”

Say Goodbye to Stressful Mornings

A little advance planning can make your mornings run smoothly.

“It’s critical that we do everything we can to send those kids out the door on a peaceful, positive note, knowing that they are loved," Peel says, “because they are going out into a stress-filled world.”

What does that mean for parents?

“We don’t need to be running around looking for gym clothes,” she says. “We need to have some standard operating procedures.”

Set Up Control Central
Peel suggests establishing a “control central” in your home. This is a place to keep the family calendar, post phone messages, and set up family inboxes for each member of the family.

These boxes are where children can put letters from their teachers, permission forms, and other papers that may need to be signed by a parent.

Determine Standard Operating Procedures
Along with setting up a place to keep track of important dates, times, and papers, Peel says, it is also important to establish some rules about what will be expected of your children when they come home each day.

“Tell the kids that every afternoon this is what you are going to do, before you hang up your backpack – and you want to have a hook someplace where they are to hang their backpack – they are to unload their backpack and get all important papers out and put them in their inbox.”

Perhaps before they go to bed they could be expected to pack their backpack with everything they need for the next day including homework, gym clothes, or signed permission slips.

Routines like this help the family stay organized and avoid desperate morning searches for important items.

Keep Family-Time a Top Priority

In our fast-paced culture where everyone is constantly on the go, it will take determination to make spending time with your family a high priority. Decide now how many nights per week you want your family to be home and plan evening activities based on that.

Manage Extra-Curricular Activities
Before the school year starts is a good time to consider what extracurricular activities your children will be involved in, Peel says.

“I think activities are great,” she says, “but it’s important not to go overboard.”

There are so many activities for children to pursue that if parents don’t limit them, they can find themselves overly committed and pressed for time to finish school work or socialize with friends and family.

“Also, it’s important for parents to be students of their children and learn how God hardwired them and designed them,” Peel says.

Some parents fall into the trap of trying to keep up with other parents, she says. They often feel pressured into signing up their children to play sports or take music lessons, even if the children aren’t interested, because that’s what other parents are doing.

“Don’t try to push your child into certain activities just because everybody else does it. Be a student, limit them, and don’t let your family's schedule go haywire running your life because of all the kids’ schedules.”

Unplug to Stay Connected
Even when all of your family members are at home, they may not be interacting with each other frequently because of the things inside our homes that can also eat away at our time.

“We live in an exciting day of technology,” Peel says. “I love technology, but there’s a problem.”

When family members are working on the computer, talking on the phone, watching TV, or playing video games, they may not be truly connecting with each other.

The telephone, for example, can be a huge distraction that prevents meaningful conversation with your kids.

“You might be hearing about your child’s horrible day at school,” she says, “and we act like Pavlov’s dog when we hear the phone ring. We just automatically go get the phone. That is so sad that technology rules our lives. We have to manage it.”

She suggests having a set time each day where the family unplugs from the rest of the world, even if it is only for the amount of time it takes to eat dinner.

“The bottom line here is to disconnect once a day so you can connect with your family,” she says.

Simplify the Dinner Rush

Dinner is also an important time of the day for families to spend together.

“There is empirical data that shows kids who eat dinner with their families are less likely to get involved in drugs and alcohol, less likely to be sexually promiscuous, and more likely to be successful in school,” Peel says. “So whatever you have to do, make it a priority to build your schedule around having dinner together at least three nights a week.”

Simple Meal Planning
Meals can be made easier by keeping your pantry well stocked.

“I like to suggest that you keep ingredients for 5 quick meals on hand,” Peel says. “It might be a jar of pasta sauce, some pasta, bread in the freezer, and a bag of lettuce. I’m not very good in the food area, so I just always keep easy things on hand to fix.”

She also suggests getting the whole family involved with meal prep and clean-up so that all the work doesn’t fall on one person.

Better Grocery Shopping
Buying groceries will also go smoother if you plan ahead.

“A big mistake that a lot of moms make is that they go to the grocery store nearly every day, and that wastes so much time,” Peel says. “Tuesday is actually the best day to shop at the grocery store because the lines are shorter. There are fewer people in the grocery store on Tuesdays, and the food is fresher.”

She cautions against shopping on the weekends because the stores are busier and the shelves are often depleted. Most grocery stores restock their items on Monday nights.

Make it a Great Year!

Remember, a new school year offers an exciting fresh start for your family. In addition to praying for your children and preparing them spiritually for a new school year, making sure that they are well organized as they head to the classroom will make for a smoother transition out of summer.

A little advance planning now can mean an A+ experience for you and your kids.

For more on family management tips, check out Kathy Peel's book, Desperate Households, or visit


For more stories like this one, sign up to receive Family News from in your email every Friday.

Belinda Elliott is the Daily Life Producer for In this role, she manages the Family and Entertainment sections of the Web site. She earned a master's degree in Journalism from Regent University in 2003. In her spare time she enjoys good friends, good books, and movie nights with her husband. Read more of Belinda's articles.

Comments? Email me


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