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Get out of the house: tips for back to school

One of my all time favorite commercials is for Staples, where you hear the holiday music "It's the most wonderful time of the year," and it turns out to be an ad for back to school. It's genius and any parent whose kids have been home all summer driving them crazy, knows that September brings relief. But before the kids go back to school, there's a ton to be done preparing them...and you. Here's my handy checklist on surviving back to school and relishing some peace and quiet. 1. Closet check For most of us, school starts in the warmer temperatures, so your kids can wear their summer clothes for the first few weeks. However, depending on the age of your child and their need to wear the latest and greatest, you should go through their fall clothes from the prior year to see what still fits and what they'll still consider wearing. "Mom, that's so 2011." Then scour the circulars for the best back to school sales and shop early to get them a few trendy pieces, or clothes that fit. "Look Mom, no floods."

2. Supplies Two years ago my son's school introduced the greatest invention in the world: the school supply kits. This is done through the PTA and allows you to pay one price to have your child's entire supply list shipped to either the school or your house before the start of the year. No more hopping from store to store to get the exact markers and glue sticks required. The school sets it up, and even better, proceeds go to the PTA. So while it may cost a bit more, it saves you time, gas and sanity. I went online in June and ordered everything he'll need in September. Viola! If this option isn't available to you yet, ask your school to look into it for next year. You'll thank me.

3. Schedule: We're all on summer time right now. Meaning your kids can come and go as they please, there's no after school activities to worry about and your time is your own. Those days are about to be over. Get either an oversized paper calendar or dry erase calendar for the kitchen or family room and start writing down who'll be where on which days. Does your daughter have dance on Mondays? Your son have drama on Wednesdays? Worse, do they have extra-curriculars on the same day? Start talking to friends about who can carpool so you can assure they get where they need to go and that you don't have to bear the full burden yourself. No one ever said, "I wish I didn't plan ahead." No one.

4. Homework help Chances are your kids slacked a little this summer. Maybe they read a few books, but how much regular "work" did they really do? Getting back into the nightly homework routine can be rough, so start enforcing it now. Get them reading a few pages or a few chapters of their favorite books every night. Pick up a grade-appropriate workbook from the bookstore and maybe do some fun flashcards around the dinner table. Anything to keep their minds sharp and make it easier to go back to the grind.

Are your kids heading back to school? Got any suggestions I missed? I'd love to hear them.

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