Three Back-to-School Helpers for Parents (and More)

This back to school season is unlike any other. Parents like you and I are trying to make sense of it all and help your kids the best you can. If you haven’t gotten the memo, we are definitely over perfectionism parenting, and survival parenting has gone, um, viral. That might explain the sign taped to my home office door with painter’s tape. More on that later.

We are making adjustments, building our flexibility muscles, finding and inventing shortcuts and hacks, and doing the best with can for today and today only. Tomorrow will have to take care of itself, because today is already booked! Here are three BTS helpers to help you get and stay organized, whether you are doing all-virtual schooling like we are, or whether you and yours are out in the world.

Three Back-to-School Helpers for Parents (and More)

Back to School 2020 Organizing Tip 1:

  • It’s easier to talk than type. Give your kid (or yourself) a break and introduce them to a dictation tool that’s as close as their keyboard. Kids aren’t great typists. My own kids would much rather work on fun pictures, videos, and fonts rather than just putting down boring old words. You yourself have probably gotten very cozy with Siri. You probably even talk to your Kindle Fire TV or Comcast remote. Help your kid succeed in school by introducing them to a dictation app. My kids use Microsoft Word and other Office products on their Chromebooks. With Office 365, you’ll find a handy dictation icon in the top right-ish corner of the taskbar (circled in red below). Click the dictation mode on and off, and watch how much fun your kid has telling stories and answering essays. Yes, they’ll still have to edit it a bit, but it sure beats staring at a blank screen! We authors have a saying: you can edit crappy writing, but you can’t edit a blank page. Allowing them to talk gets them over writer’s block and into their assignments quicker. (It works the same for you and your work, too.)


If you have the older Microsoft Office 2010 desktop software, you won’t see the dictation button, but you have other options, including using the mobile version of Evernote, which I love. There is a Speech Recognition app for older MS software, but I don’t recommend it.

On mobile devices, it gets even easier. Look just to the left of the spacebar on Apple products for the little microphone icon. You’ll find it there on almost every app with a keyboard.


Back to School 2020 Organizing Tip 2:

  • Give yourself work boundaries at home. Like many of you, my work from home time and space is constantly being invaded with kid-sized interruptions, none of which are urgent in the moment, but seem important to their little souls. Even a small interruption can cause you to lose up to twenty minutes of focus! If you are the kind of parent who always puts your kids first, I applaud you. And if you have toddlers, you definitely need to keep a closer eye on those little whirling dervishes! But my kids are 10+ years old, and they should be able to stay out of my office for an hour at a time. But if they can see me, they don’t notice that my head is deep into a project or that I’m dealing with a deadline. I had to literally spell it out for them and posted this sign at my home office door. If this would help you to get an hour of work done at a time, be my guest and print your customizeable Mom’s work from home office sign here.

Mom's work from home office sign


Back to School 2020 Organizing Tip 3:

  • Communication is key, and never more so than this year. We are not a “family meeting” kind of family, but last spring I brought a whiteboard into the dining room, and every day we listed things that we all needed from each other. Yes, we still have a kitchen wall calendar, but this is just for the things people need to know right now. I also added the things that belong in each meal (protein, fresh fruits or veggies, and grain/bread/pasta), which helped us avoid meals like mac & cheese with a side of mashed potatoes and garlic bread. I listed how to plan a meal (use up leftovers first, then open packages, then perishables from the fridge, then cans and frozen foods). It seems I’m not the only one who has to show my family how household basics work. I mean, seriously, how will they know unless someone tells them? Don’t just assume, you know? I recently traded the big whiteboard for a white trivet (pictured below), which looks a whole lot nicer than a big whiteboard. Dry erase pens work on a TON of materials, so don’t go buy something new. Use an old picture frame for a dry erase memo board, a piece of stone like this, or even a coated plate or platter. If you can wipe it clean with water or a spritz of alcohol (Hey! We all have plenty of that right now!), then you can use it as a whiteboard.

back to school 2020


Need more help with your BTS plans?

Last year NBC Channel 10 interviewed us on how we roll. Check out the TV interview here to learn where to put the toothbrushes to calm morning chaos.

This privacy shield is an idea for separating siblings at a shared table, creating a focus space wherever they study, and giving your little one a place to hang or write info (with dry-erase markers) from their day. (affiliate link, click on the picture)

Password Keeper- online schooling is going to create a whole new batch of passwords for you and your kids to keep track of. Order these simple password keepers today.  Or go ahead and write down your passwords for school sites that are going to be important this year on this Free password tracker page from HeartWork Organizing. Yes, you’ve been told writing down passwords is a security risk, but you have my permission! It’s much less a security risk in your home office/school setup than it will be a sanity saver

Order your 2-Pack of password keepers, small enough to keep at your desk or in your purse.

Mask storage

How to Store, Care for, and Organize Your Face Masks

Parent Binders are magical for keeping YOU organized. You may not think a binder is cool or 21st century but consider this—I’m a digital expert and trainer, and I have one. And your kid’s teachers have them. (I know because I’ve helped them organize them!) Paper planners sell millions of copies each year, even though electronic calendars are on every single phone. Think about it, you never need to boot up a binder, worry about a crash, or put in a password. And since you–the parent–is on duty for at least part of the school day, make life easier on yourself. Put all the info you need in one place in this easy-to-update version of a parent binder. 


how to make a school binder

Recipe Binder- Get some help from your family to choose and make all those meals we’re still having at home! Keep them handy for yourself, and encourage your family to help you choose and plan their favorite meals, too.

how to organize recipes


Most of all, remember that you are enough. If you are schooling at home, things are going to be different and uncomfortable at times. But they will also be laughable and one-of-a-kind and ingenious! Below, my daughter put up her pup tent in the dining room to create her own space for camp and school. But she made it too cozy and had to share it with the cat!

pup tent as home school office

Remember to take pictures, give yourself some grace, allow more time for every. little. thing. Because while this time is strange, goofy, at times depressing and anxiety-provoking, it’s also temporary…and it’s the time we’ve been given.

You’ve got this, folks! Please comment below and let me know what you are doing to rock this year’s back to school organizing challenges.