5 Back to School Organization Ideas

I swear I was just putting the Winter coats and school paperwork away. Yet, here I am again, making plans for another school year, shaking my head – amazed that the days of sunshine and pools are slipping away and my children have, in fact, entered a higher grade.

When did this happen?

I’m promising myself I will DEFINITELY be organized this time around. Each year, the routine begins and I feel as though we are just a few steps behind…. we haven’t quite figured out school lunches, I’m worried I missed something on the school supply list and I swear I forgot all about tonight’s baseball practice.

But this year, I’m disorganized no more. And I’m dragging you right along with me.

5 BacktoSchool Organization Ideas - ExtraordinaryMommy.com


Here are five tips to keep you on track as your kids head back to school for yet another year.

Mark that Calendar: I don’t care what you use, but use SOMETHING. Maybe you have a large white board calendar by the garage door or you and your significant other have managed to make good use of an online service like Google Calendars or Cozi Family Calendar….the important thing is finding what is right for you. In this calendar, you need to put everything: school events, sport’s schedules, doctor’s appointments, family travels, etc. If you are using an online service, definitely jump ahead and fill in the entire year so next month’s half day at school, parent-teacher conference or weekend soccer tournament won’t come as a surprise.

Pull your Papers together: Some schools and school sports teams require important paperwork…everything from immunization records to proof of doctor’s visits. The very last thing you need is a panicked search for one of these the night before the first day, so check the school’s website to confirm any needs.

Study before you Shop: I know back-to-school shopping can seem alternately exciting and overwhelming, but it is best handled with a bit of advance planning. First of all, what clothes still fit? Which are destined to be passed down, given away or tossed? And which might your kids simply refuse to wear again? When thinking about school supplies, not only are you best served to head to the store with the school’s list in hand, it would be smart to check any arts and crafts areas around the house. With just a small amount of cleaning, I discovered unused erasers, red pens, highlighters, notebooks, folders, pencils and rulers. I can promise you I would have purchased each and every one of them all over again if I simply hadn’t LOOKED to see what we already had. Another quick tip – if you can get away with it – the process is quicker and a touch less expensive if you can go without your kids. (no one is begging for extras or adding anything to your cart!) Additionally, if you are looking for a great way to keep your supplies organized, Mabels Labels is a favorite.

5 Back to School Organization Ideas - Mabels Labels: ExtraordinaryMommy.com

Master your mornings: Mornings can easily morph from a slow to chaotic in a matter of seconds if you don’t take the time to plan ahead. As your kids get a little bit older, teach them to take a bit of responsibility for getting ready. Lay clothes out the night before and make sure backpacks are packed and ready to go. Mom and dad can set the table for breakfast, prepare a few snacks for the week and even prepare a portion of the next day’s lunches. Again, if the kids are older, get them involved in each of these steps as well.

Ready the Routine early: Don’t wait until the night before school starts to establish a new ‘school year’ bedtime, a regular dinner time and yes, that early morning wake up call. The shock of Summer ending and re-entering school is more than enough for your family without a battle on the first day. Since Summer is typically a time when bedtimes vary ….as do the morning wake-ups, the scheduled meals and full days, it would be smart to begin re-establishing a routine at least a week before your kids have to make their school days a reality once again. (keep in mind – I suggest this, but find it almost impossible to implement!)

What are your best tips for getting back in to the swing of school? Share your thoughts with me here or on Twitter. You can find me @DanielleSmithTV.

Best Back to School Items…for Moms!


You amazing, awesome mother, you. You are already diligently cataloging whether Charlie needs jeans, if Eve needs a new backpack and where to find the best back-to-school deals for your kids. You will research the best place to snag those sneaks that your son has to have, and look high and low for an Elsa and Anna lunch bag.

You will scour the Internet and trek the mall in order to find those items that will make your children happy and proud when they enter the doors of their school that first day.

But wait! As usual, you are forgetting someone. Yourself! To keep everyone organized and the trains running on time, there are a few items that YOU, Mother of Dragons, can totally use for #backtoschool. You may not need a plaid skirt or number two pencils, but you can use these fabulous, functional items especially for dedicated moms.

momAgenda Desktop Planner $43 Keep all of your work, personal and kids’ appointments organized in this beautiful, intuitive planner developed with you– the over-extended mom — in mind. There is something about keeping track of all family plans in a paper calendar that keeps your commitments, deadlines and just your mind more organized.

Wall Pops Calendar $14.99 A dry-erase calendar in a family common area helps everyone in the house. Train the kids to check what they need to bring with them to school that day (their instrument? gym shoes? art folio?) and what activities are planned for the afternoon and evening. We love how these calendars are constructed on wall decals so not only are they reusable month to month, they are super easy to hang, rehang and are not bulky on the wall.

Ikea Rissla Magazine File  $9.99 Do you live a double life of working woman and M-O-M? Then a two-sided file is perfect for your duality. Keep the PTA handbook and soccer phone tree on one side, and your agenda, work forms, expense sheets, etc. on the other side.

Cozi Family Organizer App Free House your entire family’s to-do lists, digital calendars and shopping lists in one place that syncs and shares all users’ additions. Sending your husband a shopping list or reminding your teen about his orthodontist appointment has never been so painless.

Handbag Handcuff $42 If your car is your command center, then your purse is your co-pilot. Keep that baby safe and from toppling over at red lights with this crazy helpful innovation (invented by a mom…of course!) Just attach one cuff to your bag and the other cuff to your car’s headrest post. Your goods will be secured from spilling all over your passenger seat and car floor.  

Lifeproof Phone Case $59.99 – $89.99 Drops, spills, cracks, dunks and more hazards threaten your precious smart phone daily when you are a busy parent. We love how this case offers optimum screen, device and liquid protection while still remaining sleek enough to slip into a pocket of skinny jeans.

What back to school item for YOU is at the top of your list? Share with us! 


Back to School – Quick and Easy School Lunches

Quick and Easy School Lunches - ExtraordinaryMommy.comPeanut butter sandwiches. Almost every single day last year my small people requested a peanut butter sandwich, and I complied. Now, there are three things you could say about that: 1) I’m giving them the food they would eat and 2) I’m incredibly lazy. Both are probably accurate. I DID know they liked it. I DID know they would eat it. And yes, it certainly made that one small area of parenting just a little bit easier. But it definitely didn’t award me a gold star in ‘lunches’ when it came to parenting.

So, this year, determined to do better, I started researching.  Or crowd-sourcing. Or looking online. I asked my friends on Facebook. And the first few people jumped off my page with ‘GO TO PINTEREST’ and then my brain exploded… because people? One of the first things I saw was THIS: It is a cherry tomato, cucumber cut out with a cookie cutter and an individual shrimp on a popsicle stick. Sure it is cute, but oh-so-very-time-consuming and my kids just aren’t going to eat that.  (I link because I don’t want to take the picture…. you know how I feel about that :) )

So, I asked AGAIN and this time qualified – OTHER THAN PINTEREST. I wanted real options. Something that I could create in a reasonable period of time and that, *gasp*, my kids might make on their own. And that they would EAT.


Here are some suggestions…. from me, from my small people, from other fabulous mothers I know.

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Back To School – The Top 5 Best Things About It (According to ME – The Mom)

Back to School 2013My small people have officially reached the age where saying you are excited to go back to school is no longer considered ‘cool’.  It is now much more ‘in’ to wrinkle your nose in distaste, to roll your eyes, to screech in horror, or if you are MY CHILD and all of the aforementioned are unacceptable when speaking to another adult (and just might render you grounded the first few weeks of school) you struggle not to mumble, smile a little and say, ‘I can’t wait to see my friends’.

Now, I know this to be true, but the fear of being eaten by the never-before-seen, yet frequently mentioned, homework monster still has them on edge.  Even now, two weeks in and we are still trying to get used to the whole process.  Scratch that, I’M not trying to get used to it, THEY are.

I love it.

Sure, I may have had my teary-eyed moments as I felt that age jump that can only accompany the first day of school: one moment they are 1st and 3rd graders enjoying Summer and they next, they are brand-new 2nd and 4th graders.  It is as though they aged 365 days in 24 hours.  But even that wisdom can’t temper my enthusiasm.

I am excited.  Here’s why:

The top 5 Best Things about Back to School (According to the resident adult)

Soooo…. agree or disagree?  What have been the best moments, FOR YOU, about Back-to-school?

That Mom Award I Didn’t Win….

I was watching out the window….  you know, pretending NOT to be watching out the window.

He hopped out of the car first, turning around to help his big sister down.

As they made their way up the front walk, their second full day of school already a memory, she moved into the lead…clearly the expert in being dropped off after school. She turned around a few times, making sure her kindergarten brother was close behind.

I watched discreetly.  They were smiling and hurrying to the door, anxious to spill the days events at my feet. I did a few mental hand-springs: I have this down.  Would you look at them?  Uniforms still mainly clean (despite the small dude’s morning run through the sprinklers with the dog – IN said uniform – he claimed he was HOT), backpacks on tired little shoulders, actually looking out for each other.  I thought to myself, “I bet they even ate their grapes.”

This back-to-school business is a piece of cake.  I win.  Whatever the Mom Award is for making it through the first couple of days of school with your kids and your sanity intact…..  that award is mine.

“Mommy?” sweet hands reach for mine .  Those big blue eyes have a serious question.

“Yes, Buddy…..”, I waited.

“Am I a girl?”  I can tell he’s worried.

“No, Coop… you are, most definitely, a boy.  Why?”

“Because a boy today said, ‘Are you a girl?’ to me and then pointed to the boy next to him and said, ‘You see Scott**, he’s not a girl…he’s a boy because he has a haircut like mine.”

Coop has the most amazing hair ever. Ever.  Thick. Blond. Wavy curl.  He has good hair, but it is longer than the other boys in his class.  We like it that way. More importantly, HE likes it that way.

I sat myself down right there on the floor in the entry way.  You know that whole ‘piece-of-cake’ thing?  Who was I kidding?  I mentally, and gracefully decline said Mom Award. I don’t know if I will ever be any good at this parenting thing.  Seeing your kids sad….or wounded… it doesn’t get easier.  And I know I won’t always have the answers. This is just the beginning.

I never took my eyes from his, “Buddy….  you know you are a boy.  Sometimes people say things that aren’t nice.  That’s ok.  We know that words can hurt.  You tell him you ARE a boy and walk away. ”

My sweet girl chimed in, brushing his blond hair from his forehead, “Buddy, its ok….  I’ll protect you.”

And with that?

I suddenly felt like I was winning again.

**name changed so as not to identify anyone in the class


Wordless Wednesday – Favorite School, Favorite Small People

My small people have now started school.  Two weeks ago, I took them to MY last school, the University of San Diego.  I snapped this picture (with my brand new Nikon!) and it shows everything I love about that small dude and small girl…. and everything that is gorgeous about USD.

The small girl plans to attend as a Freshman in 2021.

I Support My Child’s School My Way

Just as I imagined I would be married by 21 with kids by 23 (wrong and wrong), I pictured myself as the consummate Home Room Mom.  You know…. the one up at school 3 days a week, planning every holiday party with gusto?

I’m not.

At all.

And, gosh…. for my sweet girl’s sake, I really want to be…. because she is still at an age where she really wants me there.  And for the past few years I’ve been there, but my gusto has been a touch absent.  Don’t get me wrong, my happy face is firmly in place in the classroom, but my heart simply isn’t in the planning.of.every.single.detail as it relates to all class events.  And as much as I loved making these ornaments with Delaney’s class last Christmas (they are gorgeous, aren’t they?) they weren’t my idea – I had to ask on Twitter for something brilliant.  Fortunately, there are brilliant volunteer minds out there. (hint, hint friends… many of them are on Twitter and Facebook – ask and they will answer!)

Quite honestly, I don’t want to be in charge.

I just want to be there.

And for the first time, with both of my small people at the same school, for the same hours, I will be able to volunteer in small shifts, on a more regular basis.  I know schools need lots of hands and lots of hearts.  And what is beautiful, in my mind, about volunteering at your child’s school, is that you have the opportunity to give what you can, what works best for you and your family – be it an hour or ten, twenty dollars or two-hundred.

In the past, I volunteered for large events.  Events that required lots of woman hours – lots of planning. What I want to do now?  The small stuff.  What matters to me is what matters to my small people – that they see my face.  At school. I don’t want to volunteer for the big-behind-the scenes stuff….. I want to actually be there when I can.  I want to help at lunch time and recess, at school fairs and book events. When my reward is a giggle, a smile and a wave.  Maybe even a point and a whisper, “that’s my mommy”. They are still at an age when it is cool to see  ‘Mommy’ at the school. I’m smart enough to know that won’t last forever.  I just hope it lasts through this year.

I want to take advantage of that as long as I can.

free online sign up sheets with volunteerspot


I SUPPORT MY SCHOOL.. MY WAY! And I’m joining VolunteerSpot’s sponsored Back To School campaign to help raise visibility for parent involvement in schools.

Save time {and sanity} and get more parents involved at school with VolunteerSpot.com!

VolunteerSpot’s FREE online signup sheets make it easy to organize parents and signup to help for just about anything: classroom helpers, snack schedules, carnivals, library volunteers, parent-teacher conferences and more….  No more ‘Reply-All’ email chains or clipboard sign up sheets! Please share with your room mom, teachers and parent leaders…

Plus there’s a huge Sweepstakes on VolunteerSpot’s Facebook page!
Win $500 worth of school supplies for YOUR School! Enter here