Ask the Experts

Q: “I Need a Summer Plan That Maps Out Back-to-School Steps”

At the close of another school year, students and parents alike are exhausted and burned out. But ignoring academic expectations, school supply lists, and schedules won’t make them go away this summer. Here is a summer plan that will lead to back-to-school success.

Q: “I’m so tired once school lets out that everything my kids bring home sits until August. Then I’m scrambling to unpack all the supplies, papers, folders, etc., right before school begins to prepare us for the new year. I want to get myself set up right so we can clean up from the school year, get ourselves ready for the summer, and be prepared for back-to-school season. I don’t know what to do first or even what to do. Can you help me get organized?” — WheretoBeginMom


Hi WheretoBeginMom:

After a busy school year of juggling kids’ activities, homework, and school obligations, as well as family and work responsibilities, it’s no wonder we all feel exhausted after the final school day. Many of us struggle to muster the motivation to plan for summer, let alone, get ready for a new school year.

Here are some go-to tips that helped me when my children were younger. Use them as a roadmap to get organized and set up for a successful summer.

Summer Plan: Getting Ready for School

  1. Week One: As soon as school wraps for the summer, begin the school organizing/clean-out process by decluttering binders, folders, and notebooks. Don’t save every old homework or handout, but do keep study outlines and guides, quizzes and exams, and final drafts of papers and projects. You never know when they may come in handy for a future class or younger sibling.
  2. Week Two: Do your children have summer assignments or assigned reading? Have your kids write their assignments in their new planners and on a family calendar for all to see. This ensures there is no week-before-school panic that books weren’t read or the report hasn’t been written. It is also always a good idea to schedule summer activities around their summer (back-to-school) homework. Pick up any books your children may need early in the summer so they have ample time to get a head start.

[Free Resource: 20 Secrets to a Smarter Summer]

Bonus tip: Leave books near a comfy chair or in the beach/pool bag for easy and convenient reading.

  1. Week Three: Empty out leftover school supplies from backpacks and desk drawers. Take inventory, test out ink pens, and store all reusable supplies in plastic bins that are clearly labeled. Make a list of what you have and what you need, then take advantage of end-of-the-school-year sales.
  2. Week Four: Organize your home’s designated homework spot. Dust off the desk, clear out the trash, change the lightbulb in the desk lamp, sharpen pencils, print out upcoming sports or theater schedules, and hang new calendars on bulletin boards. Revamping this space for the new school year may get your student excited to use the area when the time comes.
  3. Week Eight-ish: After the relaxing and rejuvenating ease of summer, jumping into “back-to-school mode” can be tough. To make that transition easier, restart routines around two weeks before the first day of school. That includes pushing up bedtime, setting back-to-school screen schedules, and practicing getting up and out the door on time in the morning.

[eBook: Declutter Your Life (and Home! and Office!)]

Summer Plan: Organizing Tips

  1. Right Now: Summer tends to hit us hard and fast once the kids are out of school. Take time now to create your summer calendar to feel more prepared. Add vacations, kids’ sports activities or summer camps, family reunions or parties, and any events you’re committed to attending. Make sure to use this time to schedule the unscheduled! Leave space in your calendar for relaxing summer days and spontaneous fun. Place the calendar where your whole family can easily access it (the kitchen is a great spot). This way, everyone in your home knows what’s happening over the summer.
  2. Don’t let a last-minute request for a park trip or a pool date with friends catch you off guard! Keep a tote bag in your car stocked with sunscreen, bug spray, extra clothes and swimsuits, towels, and snacks. This way, you’ll be ready for any impromptu adventures.
  3. Are you taking any road trips this summer? Keep boredom at bay by making individual travel binders. Place markers and pens into a soft case that clips into the binder. Print out coloring pages, tic-tac-toe cards, and other games your children can play in the car or plane. I also used to fill inexpensive shower caddies from the Dollar Store with snacks for my kids. This idea was seriously genius!
  4. Kids usually have extra time on their hands over the summer, so it’s the perfect opportunity to enlist their help around the house. Whether you work on creating a job chart together or make one for them, it’s a great opportunity to teach responsibility and accountability. Include all household responsibilities that need to get done on a weekly basis and any big projects (garage clean-out, anyone?) that you may have been saving for the warm summer months.

Bonus tip: Involve your children in your activities and summer plans. When my son was younger and needed entertaining, I involved him in the tasks that I was doing. This included time in the kitchen, outside gardening, and yes, even laundry. All these activities are more fun to do when a partner joins you. And your children will be building life-long skills along the way.

  1. Keep summer snacking easy — and healthy—by setting up snack stations in the refrigerator and pantry. When my children were younger, I set up designated “grab-and-go” stations filled with pre-portioned healthy snacks and drinks on Sunday nights. This was my saving grace since I wasn’t in the kitchen prepping snacks all day, and they were able to flex that independence muscle when it came to feeding themselves. A win-win for everyone.

Ideas for pantry items could include trail mix, whole-grain crackers, all-fruit bars, nuts, popcorn, applesauce, and nut butter pouches. Stock your refrigerator with string cheese, apple slices, Greek yogurt, sliced veggies, single-serve hummus cups, and even pre-made sandwiches.

If you want more ideas for end-of-school and summer organizing tips. please visit our website at orderoochaos.com.

Enjoy the summer!

Back to School Summer Plan: Next Steps


ADHD Family Coach Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

Submit your questions to the ADHD Family Coach here!


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