Organization and Cleaning

Homework and Uniforms and Lunches, Oh My!

Esther Pransky August 31, 2020

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Yessss! Our children are going back to school.

We’re all looking forward to the normalcy and structure (even if it isn’t quite normal) that school will bring.

But if we’ll be 100% honest with ourselves, there are parts of school that we didn’t miss AT ALL. Like the mad morning rush. Or the endless evening marathons.

And while we can’t eliminate those stresses, we can start the year with more than good intentions. Let’s look at some practical tips and habits that can help tame the morning and evening craziness.

Here are the principles we’re going to work with:

#1 – Set routines.

#2 – A good morning starts the night before.

#3 – Teach your children to be as independent as possible with daily chores. That may mean giving up on perfectionism for practicality, but experienced mothers will tell you it’s worth it.

Packing lunches

Lunches are a great place to start. If your children get school lunches, you can smile smugly and skip to the next section.

For the rest of us, you already know your morning will be much smoother if you pack lunches the night before. Of course, that puts the pressure on your evenings instead.

But not if you teach your kids to make their lunches. Even six- and seven-year-olds can pack part of their lunches with supervision.

You can coach them to check their knapsacks for half-eaten remains or reusable snacks from today. You can teach them what’s appropriate and what’s off-limits. (Example – two Dum-Dums and a Laffy Taffy is NOT a balanced lunch.) They may surprise you at how responsible they’ll be, given a chance.

Will the kids eat their lunches if they pack it themselves? Not necessarily, but you increase the odds if they have autonomy over what and how much they bring to school.

Home economics

What about those incredible time savers: store-bought snack packs?

They win hands down for convenience. But given that a fair percentage of packed school lunches go to waste, here’s some cost-benefit analysis.

Take pretzel crisps, for example.

  • A 14 oz. party-sized bag costs $3.68 or $.26 per oz.
  • A pack of 24 snack bags costs $13.98 or $.39 per oz.

That’s 50% more for the snack packs, which adds up quickly throughout the year.

You may decide the convenience is worth it. But if you’re watching your budget, this could be a place to cut back. You can buy large bags of snacks and have the kids divide it into their own snack packs at the beginning of the week.

Uniforms/school clothes

No one wants to play the parent in the classic “child about to miss the bus because she can’t find a clean shirt/uniform skirt/sock” scene.

How do you avoid it?

You could lay out uniform clothes the night before. If that’s not your style, a consistent laundry system will also do the trick. It doesn’t matter if you do laundry once a week, once a month, or every day, if it’s consistent.

Take stock of the number of uniforms your children own and how often they go to school. Then devise a system that works for you and stick to it.

And one more tip: Teach your children to dress themselves! They can start as young as three and four years old, with some help.


Those brand-new knapsacks can quickly become overwhelming black holes of moldy snacks and papers. Even if the backpacks don’t stay pristine, you can keep the mess from getting out of hand by setting up routines:

1. Have a designated spot for knapsacks. If you have an official mudroom or hooks, that’s great. If not, it can simply be “the back wall of the dining room,” but make sure everyone knows where knapsacks go. (I.e., not in the front hall to trip everyone who enters the house.)

2. Once each night, have your child go through his knapsack to clear out old food and random papers. You could do it at the end of homework time or right before making lunches.  It’s hard to be consistent, but this routine can save you from buggy, rotting fruits and last-minute paper-signing emergencies. And imagine how easy it’ll be to clean the knapsacks before Pesach.

Ah, homework.

Experts recommend setting up a quiet homework spot for each child with all supplies at hand. But that sensible advice doesn’t always match reality.

It may be a question of space, but often it’s preference. After a whole day away from home many children want to do their homework at the kitchen table with a parent nearby.

So here are some real-life tips from the trenches:

1. Set a routine. There are two lines of thought about this. One is for children to do homework immediately when they come home and then play. The other is to have some playtime first to unwind and then do homework. Either one can work if you keep it up.

When you set up your system, you might want to consider the big picture. For example, when does your child become too tired to do homework? (That’s totally different from bedtime! A child can be awake enough to play energetically, but too tired to write or think.)

Also, how does homework fit into the other parts of your family’s schedule? Should you be giving homework attention to younger children before the older ones come home? Or maybe you need to take the baby’s nap time into account?

2. Even if you don’t have dedicated homework stations, make sure you have adequate supplies like pens, pencils, and paper in a central location.

3. Helping with homework can mean walking a fine line. You want to be available to your children at homework time without doing it for them. Stay nearby for supervision and questions, but resist the urge to take over. You passed third grade years ago! No need to do the work again. On the other hand, if you’re not there or not paying attention, chances are, the kids won’t do homework at all.

Training your kids to work independently changes your entire routine. You can function as a supervisor instead of a harried lackey.

But you’re always needed! The smoothest school routines happen with the full attention of a dedicated adult.

Keeping your after-school hours free may be the #1 thing you can do to keep your house running efficiently. Plan your day so that you’re not running to appointments, taking phone calls, or going shopping during those crucial afternoon/evening hours.

Your presence (in body and mind!) will make the most significant difference in how the night, and subsequent morning, go.

Wishing everyone a great new school year!