I just got home from a vacation, so writing this post is a little hard. I’m still in that whole vacation mode where I want to be lazy and relax, not sticking to a schedule. In just 17 days, however, school begins and life demands a better schedule and routine for both you and your littles.
Disclaimer: I am not perfect. These are tips, and I do not do all of them all of the time. There are some days where I just cannot even with managing the chore list. There will also be mornings where I have to pry open my eyes with toothpicks because I made the decision to stay up late to finish a really good novel the night before instead of preparing for the morning. Therefore, my child will be halfway to school when I see the lunchbox on the kitchen counter. Those are the moments where I am kicking myself. There is grace, though, mamas. That is a whole other post.
TIP #1: Start slowly introducing a schedule now.
We have chosen two things that are non-negotiable each day approximately two weeks prior to school starting: earlier bedtimes and a chore list. Just by establishing those two things, our children are getting into a routine that will prepare them for a more strict bedtime and a harder work ethic. Yes, the sun still emits light until 9pm at night. We are very clear, however, that the kids need to be in bed. What they do once they are in bed is up to them, but we encourage a little bit of reading, which also gets them thinking about school. They don’t enjoy doing chores in the morning, but they do get satisfaction from physically crossing off a “to-do” list. Keep chores age-appropriate and fun. Click here for a great read from contributor Ashley K. about keeping chores fun. Also, if your student got a homework packet at the end of the year, you might want to dust it off and plunge into it a little each day!
Tip #2: Prepare for the mornings the night before.
I’m not a morning person. I’m just not. I tend to come alive at night, which makes the mornings really difficult. With that being said, I need to be on top of things the night before. Even if you are a morning person, it helps to get ahead of the game the night before. There are three things that are just easier if checked off the list before your family rises: 1. outfit; 2. backpacks/folders; and 3. lunches/snacks.
I know that some children wear uniforms to school, so there isn’t the whole “let’s stare into the closet for 10 minutes” thing going on, BUT if that’s your case, you still need to make sure the outfit is laid out (and not in the laundry basket!). I typically choose a couple options for my children, and then they pick a winner.
There is nothing like a “I can’t find my folder! Where’s my folder!?!” drama sesh in the morning. That is when I fall apart, especially when I have not had enough coffee. Before my kids head upstairs to their rooms at night, I ask them about their folders. Not only do I ask them if their folder is in their bag, but I also ask if their homework is in it and if it has been signed by mom or dad. Also HUGE: Place all backpacks, jackets, etc. in the same area for an easy grab and go in the morning.
If your child eats the school lunch, I can’t even talk to you right now. We cannot be friends. Just kidding! My children used to eat the school lunch until these little people called their peers, started bringing yummy packed lunches to school. Then it was all over. With that being said, my children and I tag team packing their lunches. Perhaps I’m crazy, but I don’t like to make a sammie with deli meat and condiments the night before. I prefer to do it in the morning. Everything else, though, is packed.
Tip #3: Have an after-school plan and establish it early.
It is imperative that you have a plan in place from the moment you walk into the door from school. You may even need to leave your phone in the car to avoid distractions so that you can give your children your undivided attention…preaching to myself here! Some might like to use an actual visual where children have to move a magnet or a clothespin from task to task to track progress. I like this simple chart.
Here is what our schedule looks like:
Refuel: Snack (Click here for 50 awesome ideas from Food Network!)
Revive: Outdoor and/or physical time (weather permitting…heck, if it is raining, give them an umbrella and rain boots…They need to expend some energy!)
Reengage: Homework (OMG, this is just the hardest! Also, how did we do homework before Google?)
Let’s go ahead and just camp out on the whole “Reengage,” part. Folks, while my kids are refueling and reviving, I am chugging the caffeine because it takes a whole lot of energy to dive into the homework, especially depending on the grade level of your child. I have a tale of two students: one doesn’t complain and grumble and gnash teeth at the mention of homework…one does. I can’t say I blame the former student, though. If I had a quarter for every time that child said, “Mom, I work hard at school all day long and then I have to come home and work hard…I don’t get it,” I would be rich. I know, kid. Motivation can be hard after school. We could get into a whole discussion on homework, but let’s just move forward with how to tackle it head on so that it doesn’t become a headache.
Here are some homework helps:
Have a set place to do homework without distractions. If you have multiple children doing homework, make sure that they are in different rooms unless you want to add referee to your role that afternoon. Also, before they sit down and get started have them make sure all their supplies are handy (i.e. sharpened pencils, scissors, crayons, etc.)
Set a timer. If they have not accomplished their homework in that allotted time, have them take a break. They can come back to it later.
If you have multiple children who need assistance, divide up your time. For example, I’ll spend the first 15-20 minutes with one child and then the second 15-20 minutes with the other. I don’t want to run back and forth between my two children like I’m in a tennis match. If they don’t know an answer or are confused, I encourage them to skip it and wait for me.
Give them guidance, not answers. This can be tricky for me sometimes because I want to move on with the afternoon, BUT this does more harm than good in the long run.