7 Tips for Back-to-School Organization

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This post was originally published on August 8, 2016 and updated on July 1, 2019.

Starting off right with back-to-School organization is foundation of success at school. Back-to-school time means more than just buying new clothes and school supplies. Through my experience as a parent educator and as a mom of three, these are my seven favorite tips for back-to-school organization and school success.

Colorful decorated box for school supplies with text overlay.

As a parent educator, I’ve taught many classes on how to help your children with homework without actually doing it for them – a challenge that many families wrestle with. We all want our children to succeed at school and because we want them to succeed at life, we need to support them not do their school work for them. That’s an important distinction – our role is to support our children and make it possible for them to do their homework. 

Frequently Asked Questions about School Organization

  • What Age Should My Child Be?
    • You can begin teaching school (and life) organization skills from a very young age. Teaching habits in involving responsibility, like putting away toys, are the foundations of school and academic responsibility.
    • As soon as your child begins school, whether it’s preschool or kindergarten, begin teaching them to be organized by structuring their environment with established locations for their backpack, coat, shoes, etc.
    • Keep in mind your child’s age and developmentally appropriate expectations for that age.
    • Teaching school organization is a process and you’ll be teaching different aspects of it for most of their school attendance. Realize that you are teaching skills and building on them as your child is able to take more personal responsibility.
  • How Do I Find Tips that Really Work?
    • There are no magic solutions. What works for one child may not work for another. And what works at one age may not work later as your child is older.
    • Try different techniques and find ones that work for your family.
    • Trying different back-to-school tips and figuring out what works (and doesn’t work for your family) is a great teaching opportunity for you child. You are modeling how to practice and adapt organizing, planning and the use of routines to find what works best for you.
  • How Do I Get My Child to Stay Organized for School?
    • Use a Morning Routine Printable (free printables for prereaders and readers and tips to customize) to help children learn and remember their morning preparation on school days.
    • Use a backpack checklist (this one is a free printable) to provide your child with a visual reminder of the items that need to go to school in the backpack and come home from school.
    • Practice, practice, practice (and patience from mom and dad).
  • How Do I Stay Organized on a Budget?
    • You can help your child stay organized without spending a lot. I like to use repurposed items to save money (and the landfill).

Tips for Back-to-School Organization

All of these back-to-school tips are free or cost pennies because I’m saving money everywhere I can to fund three college educations. Why waste money when you can use items you already have for free?

Establish a set time for homework and make homework time the focus of your after-school routine.

Consider your child’s schedule and your family’s schedule. Find a set time that will work most days for your child do homework. In my family, homework time starts 15 minutes after my children get home. We talk about their day while they eat a snack and then they immediately start homework. On occasion an appointment, play date or a practice may impact our schedule, but that is rare. My children know the routine and the expectation to focus on their homework. It’s important to make a set homework time the cornerstone of your after-school schedule and don’t just fit homework in whenever you can around other activities. If you want your child to place an importance on completing homework then you need to place an importance on making time for her to do it.

Establish a set place for homework.

The homework center can be a location that works best for your family. Some children need a quiet place with no distractions, while other children need to be near a parent for supervision and assistance. Having a set location for homework encourages your child to establish a homework routine that will help develop focus. For my family, sitting at the kitchen table has worked best. I’m able to help my children stay focused on homework and answer questions while I prepare dinner and handle other chores.

Make sure the supplies your child needs are available.

The supplies your child needs to complete homework will vary depending on the age of the child and his teachers’ requirements.  Keep all necessary supplies located together near your child’s homework area. This helps maintain your child’s focus rather than having him wander around the house looking for an item and losing focus. I keep our supplies in containers that my children can grab from the cabinet and carry to the table. Each container is clearly marked so my children don’t waste time searching for what they need.

Keep the homework supplies organized.

If your child doesn’t have the supplies needed, then she can’t complete her homework When your child can quickly find the supplies she needs to complete her homework, it help her keep focused on her task. Organization doesn’t have to cost much at all to be effective. Try these free back-to-school organization ideas.

decorated box with Homework Supplies label and school supplies scattered around

Clearly Label Homework Supplies

Labeling the supplies so you can stay organized this school year will help your child quickly find the supplies she needs and then put them away where they belong (so she can find them next time she needs them). Being able to find his supplies quickly means no wasted time or frustration for your child.

Keep a visible schedule of assignment due dates.

It can be as easy as placing the schedule inside the organizing box or as fancy as having a homework planner. Find what works best for your child and your family. The goal is to teach your child to plan ahead and manage the workload well.

Box with quiz schedule and zippered backs of school flashcards

Add a little fun.

Choose fun homework supplies and store them in containers decorated with your child’s favorite characters or theme. Homework is more interesting if means using your Frozen (or whatever character) supplies. I found this berry container with the Frozen characters label, but you can easily add stickers or glue a printed picture to a container.

2 decorated berry containers with Homework Supplies label and school supplies scattered

These are my these are my seven favorite tips for back-to-school organization and school success, what works for your family?

Pin these school organization ideas for busy parents for later when you really need them.

Simple Back-to-School Ideas

collage of simple back to school ideas

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  1. My biggest extra tip is to buy the large foam core board (or poster board) early in the season and stash it behind a large piece of furniture. Inevitably, kids tell parents at the last minute that they need one and this will save a late night trip to Staples.

    1. Such a good tip, Seana. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to run out at the last minute just for poster board.

  2. I like your idea of having homework supplies organized. My son has pens and pencils in a pencil cup, but that’s about it. Thanks for the ideas.

    1. Thanks, Brenda. It helps keep children organized and saves time since they don’t have to hunt around looking for supplies (and get distracted 🙂 )

  3. My daughter is starting 1st grade, and I suspect we will have homework this year. These are fantastic tips – I especially love the first one, about doing homework 15 minutes after getting home. I will definitely be utilizing your tips this year – thank you for sharing!

  4. Such great tips. I homeschooled my daughter, but having a place for her to do her school work was important. I made sure she had all of the supplies she needed to do the work she needed. Even though she was homeschooled, we went out at the beginning of the school year and purchased school supplies – she loved feeling a part of that tradition.

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