Back to School: Tips + Tricks for a Smooth Transition

27 Nov 2017, Posted by alanacherneck_0 in Uncategorized
back to school

When I was a teacher, mid-August marked a BIG internal shift from summer relaxation to back-to-school mode: when I started feeling equally anxious and excited about getting my classroom in order for my new group of students.

As a mother, mid-August comes with a bit of a different vibe. It’s a time to start winding down fun summer adventures and begin mapping out new schedules, new routines and a new academic year ahead.

With two of our girls in school full-time this year, I knew it would be important to tackle the tasks that we go through each day, and create a system to help the back to school transition go smoothly. 

I have found that when I have systems and strategies in place, our days go A LOT more smoothly. We don’t always manage to stick to them {some days we get TOTALLY derailed!} but with the girls getting older (7, 5, 4) it’s much easier to manage the daily routines of life with kids.

In this blog post I share some practical ideas we use to make the back to school transition a bit more predictable and manageable


Back to School:  Morning Routines


While everyone’s days may look different, morning routines generally follow a similar pattern. What are the essential tasks your child needs to do, in order to get their day to a good start? Involve your kids in a family meeting to talk about the most important things that need doing. Start NOW! 

I’ve created a checklist that is hung on our wall, based on our “Essential Tasks.” The girls use a dry-erase marker to check off the tasks as they complete them. This self-check system allows the girls to take responsibility and promotes independence.

morning routines


morning routine download

We have a mini “reward” system to encourage them. At the end of the week, if the girls have managed to do all of their jobs, they are rewarded with 30 minutes technology time on the weekend. 

Remember The Hair Chair? If you’re a mom of girls, you NEED one of these stations to make morning hair-do’s a little less painful!


Back to School: Organization Station / Command Centre


Another aspect of living with kids is ALL THE PAPERS and schedules.  Do you have a “hot spot” for all the paper that comes into your house? It usually ends up on the kitchen counter in a big pile, waiting to be sorted.

A few things have helped me conquer the hot spot in our home, and while it’s not perfect {we still grow the occasional pile on our counter!} it is much better than what it was.


File Folder Sorters

I have three IKEA file folder sorters and store them inside a cupbosard in my kitchen – very close to the mudroom. Having three sorters is like forced organization. I have three dedicated sorters, labeled: “Bills” “School Notes + Art” and “To be Filed.”

file sorter organization

When a paper comes into the home, it immediately goes into one of the files. If it is a note from school requiring a signature, I try to sign it right away and place it in the backpack. The information gets transcribed to the calendar.

We also have a magnetic board in our cupboard {simple DIY galvanized steel sheet from Home Depot}, with a calendar where I post notes and schedules I need to access daily (girls’ school calendars go here). I still love a good paper calendar, and use it to write all of the important events going on. (My husband and I also use Google Calendar to share important appointments, meetings and events).

magnetic board      magnetic board

Get the Gear in Order

Living in Canada where winters are a very REAL thing, our kids have a TON of gear. Aside from the normal items (backpack, jackets, shoes), we have multiple sets of mittens, hats, scarves, and ski pants. Where do all of these go?

Hooks and hangers!

After I greet the girls with a “welcome home kiss and hug” when the girls come home from school, they know they immediately need to put their items away. We use a coat hook system, and each girl has two hooks – one for backpack, and one for ski pants and jacket. The rest of the items (if they’re dry) go into their own basket.  If items are snowy and wet, we place them on a nifty “drying rack” that sits above a vent. 


We also have a “back-up” mitten station where extras get stored in a shoe-sorter on the back of our mudroom door. 

We LOVE Mabel’s Labels to identify the items. (With three girls, this is critical!) Each girl has their items (lunch gear, mittens, boots, shoes) labelled with their name for easy identification {also cuts out the fighting over “who’s is who’s!} I am NOT an affiliate, but if you ask me in October, chances are, I will be doing a Mabel’s Labels  fundraiser for one of the girls’ activities!

mabels labels


Back to School:  Food Management Systems


Self-Serve Snack Drawer

When the girls come home from school at 4:30, they are FAMISHED. I have created a “serve-yourself” snack station, where healthy snacks are always available, and free for grabbing {aka – they don’t need permission to help themselves}. Some ideas:

  • Pre-washed apples, oranges
  • Trail mix
  • Almonds
  • Pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
  • Dried fruit
  • Yogurt covered raisins
  • Pretzels
  • Dried chick peas…
  • Dried soya beans

after school snack tray


Lunch Duty

Making lunches can be a REAL chore {and daunting, considering I have at least another 10 years of lunch duty – which, for the record, is approximately 6,000 lunches!!}

But it doesn’t have to be a brutal chore {brutal like all.the.laundry post-vacation, or like the bi-monthly Costco unpack/meat-dividing task}.

I feel like I have actually mastered the art of making lunches FUN. Crazy, right?

So here’s the thing. Bento boxes are key. I grew up in an era where sandwiches were the standard. PB + J (no longer an option), egg salad, ham + cheese. Rotate. Today, kids have so many options for lunch boxes, and bentos are like the adult equivalent of a REALLY high-end buffet.

My favourite bento box is the Yumbox. It has 5 compartments – each food group segment sized perfectly for kids’ portions. Plus an extra little section for dips, or treats. {I am NOT an affiliate, just really passionate about this product. So passionate, we bought six, thanks to a recommendation from a friend.}

yumbox bento boxes

Bento boxes are key to making lunches FUN.



I created a handy “mix-and-match” cheat sheet for all the possibilities (most of which I try to have on hand all the time). This takes the guess work out of planning the lunches each day, and makes it kind of a game. I am being 100% truthful when I say that lunch duty is actually {a little} fun.


yumbox mix and match

Meal Prep

“So, what’s for dinner?” My life BC {before child} REVOLVED around dinner preparation. Visiting the butcher. The grocer. Gathering fabulous recipes from “Bon Apetit” magazine. The experimentation. The WINE.

With kids, cooking dinner has become more of a chore. A to-do. “How bland can I make this meal in order for it to be a real winner?” is the every day goal.

#truthbetold: I still hate making dinner. HOWEVER. This meal plan system makes it a lot easier {and a touch more predictable, and a bit boring}. Gone are the days of experimenting with curries and coriander, hello to the days of plain noodles with butter.

I have a two-week dinner rotation, and a grocery list for all the items on the plan. I do sneak in meals that my husband and I will enjoy, but I will be honest. The meals are meant to appeal to the unadventurous palettes of the kids.

Back to School: Workstation Set-Up


Our girls do their homework at the kitchen table, mainly together, where they are free to ask questions and receive support from my husband and me. Their homework and home reading goes into a drawer labelled “School work,” and can be easily accessed at all times.

As they grow older, I see the need to have a more quiet and private workspace. Below is some Pinterest inspiration, as well as a tween boy workspace I design, and some “Mood Board” motivation.

To create a workstation, think about the following elements:

  • Desk
  • Comfortable chair
  • Task light
  • Organizer / Caddy (I love the Boon Stash, and Urbio Perch thanks to my friend Megan at The Art Pantry who introduced me to this unit!): pens, pencils, scissors, calculator, glue, pencil crayons)
  • Bulletin board / display board

Here is a teen boys’ workstation I designed for a client that incorporates some of the elements of a good workstation:

teen workstation

And here is a simple concept board I made up with a few items {many from IKEA – including the desk and wall grid / trellis} we’re considering for our oldest daughter:

kids workstation


If you’d like help designing a STYLISH, ORGANIZED workstation for your kids, email me at  for a consult / e-design, priced at $100 for a limited time.


I wish you all a fabulous time of new beginnings: whether you are a mom sending her kids off for the first time, or the tenth time, soak in all the wonderful things this new season brings {and if you’re like me, relish in that cup of HOT, FRESH coffee finally!}




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