Cleaning Up The Infrastructure

The infrastructure for school is the organizational systems and materials that allow the business of school to move forward effectively.  There’s a systems level – buildings, buses, food service, textbooks, computer network, but there’s also a personal level – backpacks, lunchboxes, desks, homework folders, school tools, calendars.  Let’s think about the state of your child’s school infrastructure and do some Spring cleaning!

First things first – The Backpack:

1. How heavy is it?  Check out the guidelines published by the American Physical Therapy Association at  They recommend that a backpack should be no more than 15% of a child’s body weight.

2. How does your child wear their backpack?  The APTA article referenced above gives guidelines for selecting a safe backpack, and recommends that a child should always wear it using both straps – never slung to one side on one shoulder.

3. What’s in the backpack?  I have personally found rocks, an old lunch in a bag, a half-eaten apple, a flattened granola bar, notes addressed to me, and a mass of crumpled papers and pencil stubs.  This is a good time to supervise a complete clean-out and clean-up!

The next item sorely in need of a Spring cleaning is usually The Lunch Box:

1. Lunch boxes get awfully nasty, but it’s easy to let the weekend go by without a thorough cleaning.  Now’s the time to check it out and clean it up with soap and water.  How long has that apple been in there?  That gob of peanut butter has been on the lid for the past two weeks!

2. This is also a good time to reassess what you’re packing for lunch and what kinds of containers you’re using.  Is your child eating the lunch you send?  Is your lunch box system working well, or are you frustrated every day with leaking containers and broken lids?  Is your child’s lunch box easy to clean and easy to pack?  If not, make a note for next year!

3. The last thing to think about is this: who is packing the lunch box and when is it being packed?  It’s so much easier if lunch boxes are packed and ready to go the night before.  And if your children are older now, packing lunch should be their responsibility – not yours.

Partner with the teacher to check out The Desk:

1. Have you ever wondered where all the permission slips, progress notes, and library books have gone?  Well, if they aren’t in the backpack, they’re probably in the desk!  Drop the teacher a note and ask if you can come by one afternoon after school to supervise a desk-cleaning session.  You’ll be amazed at what you find.

2. Ask the teacher how often the desk tops are disinfected.  Classrooms in which desks are regularly wiped down have lower rates of viral illnesses.

Take a good look at where your kids do their homework – The Homework Center:

1. How is your system for homework holding up?  Are your homework routines chugging along, or do you need to freshen them up?  Do you have an appropriate time and place for your children to get homework done?

2. Check out the homework supplies.  Have you run out of paper, pencils, and glue? Have all the markers dried up?  Is the homework folder a ragged scrap?  Have the scissors and the stapler gone missing?  Refurbish and restock!  Look in your child’s assignment notebook, and also check the classroom website.  Do you have all the due dates for long-range assignments and projects on your calendar?

And last but not least – The Family Calendar:

1. Have you updated the family calendar to reflect any weather-related changes in the school calendar for this year?  Double check the school system website to make sure that your family calendar is accurate.

2. Check the school website to make sure that you have the correct dates for when the statewide tests will be given at the end of the year.  You want to be able to plan ahead for a good night’s sleep and a healthy breakfast on test days.

3. Those long-range projects can sneak up on us if we don’t keep our calendars up-to-date!

4. And let’s make sure that we have all the end-of-year information on the calendar: when library books will be due, when the awards ceremony is scheduled, when the fifth grade trip to the middle school is planned, when eighth grade graduation is scheduled.

5. If you still struggle with using a calendar for organization, check out the FlyLady calendar system.

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