Non-hectic school days

Day planners are a great organizational tool for parents and kids alike.

It’s baaaaack. That’s right folks, you can kiss your leisurely mornings goodbye (um, as if, right?). Forget about enjoying that cup of coffee in the morning while the kiddos sleep quietly. And don’t even think about actually taking the care you need to get yourself ready for the day. Summer’s over, and school is back in. And mornings are about to get a little more hectic.

I speak from experience here. I am the queen of hectic mornings – totally skilled now at running out the door with half my hair curled, a toothbrush in my mouth, and a piece of toast I have only half ingested while dragging two kids and their partially made lunches to the car so that we can make it to each of their schools and to my work on time.

Hey, I don’t wear this cape for nothing.

And this year? It’s about to get a whole lot more hectic in my house. One of my kids is attending a school in the district near my house. The other is all the way across town. Guess which one starts first? Of course it’s the one that’s far away. So we will be leaving our house 20 minutes earlier than usual to drive one kid to school, and then back to my side of town to drop off the other. And then it’s back into town to go to work. And then you throw three evening soccer practices a week into the mix…

Obviously there has to be some organization here, or we are liable to never be anywhere on time, or eat dinner for the entire soccer season. And because I’ve done this before, I’ve found several things that work to make the school year a little less hectic.

1. Have a checklist handy for busy mornings. Find yourself reminding your kid to do the same old thing over and over? Go get dressed. Eat breakfast. Brush your teeth. Comb your hair. Get your stuff together and by the door. It gets old, doesn’t it? Write down what you expect them to do and then put them in charge of their own morning progress by letting them cross things off as they finish them. This way they know what they need to do, and you know it’s been done. Mom tip: Go out and buy yourself a dry erase board. It will be the best investment, I promise you.

2. Create an after school routine. Instill a habit in your kid to get their homework out of their bag and start working on it immediately after school. Before TV can be watched, friends can be played with, or any fun can be had, their homework must be done and all important papers must be signed. And then make sure they put the papers back in their backpack and placed by the door for the next morning. There is nothing that impedes the morning process more than going over notes the teacher has sent home 5 minutes before you have to leave for school. Trust me. I know.  Mom tip:  Day planners for kids are a great tool.  If your child’s teacher doesn’t already do this, purchase a simple one for them to keep track of reports due and homework expected, as well as any other important dates the need to be aware of.

3. Prepare for the next day. Have the kids lay their school clothes out the night before they go to bed. Make most of the lunches the night before, planning out the rest that can be made in the morning so that there’s no guesswork. Talk over what will be going on in school the next day. Any tests? Are there some big projects coming up? Keep the communication open regarding school assignments so that it is on their brain, and to also let them know that you care about the work they are being assigned to do. Mom tip: On the lunch note, is your kid tired of sandwiches? Utilize leftovers. They make fun and interesting lunches when your kid is ready to stray from the norm, and are super easy to pack up in a container the night before.

4. Let the kids in on the events of the week. Keep a calendar with every activity written on it clearly. And go over the next day’s activities with your kids. Have sports going on? Make sure their uniform is easy to find (best if kept in the same place ALWAYS). Expecting a playdate? Go over who will be picking the kids up or who is coming home with them. Have plans of your own that the kids are going to need to tag along on? Fill them in. Kids thrive on simplicity, and knowing what is expected of them without any curveballs thrown their way simplifies their lives and leaves them much less stressed than dealing with the unexpected. (P.S. Remember that dry erase board in tip #1? They work great as a calendar too – especially when you can color code each kids’ activities, etc. Um…did I just totally give away some of my anal tendencies?)

5. Plan out meals in advance. Create a weekly menu and stick to it as best as possible. This will also help you to create your shopping list for the week since you will already know what you plan on making. And don’t eschew leftovers. Make your meals big enough so that the next night’s meal is already taken care of. Even if you doctor up the meal the next night so that it isn’t exactly the same, it’s still a heck of a lot quicker than cooking a meal from start to finish, and healthier than ordering take-out. Mom tip: Become best friends with your Crock Pot. Seriously folks, this has got to be the best invention ever. You can pretty much cook anything in a slow cooker. And there is nothing like coming home to a house that already holds the heavenly smell of a home-cooked meal ready to be eaten.

By the way, did you know that by being organized you are doing so much more than just getting out of the house on time? You are instilling good habits in your kid so that when they are on their own, they will know what works to be successful and on top of it. That, in my opinion, is so much more important than getting out of the house with my teeth already brushed.

Do you have tips on how to get away from the hectic, stressful, fast-paced mornings during the school year? What’s your secret?

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3 thoughts on “Non-hectic school days”

  1. Every year, if “Santa” doesn’t buy me one, I buy the “Mom’s Plan-it” calendar. It has lines for every member of the family (or at least up to 5 members), so you can keep all the activities organized. I tried the color coding, but my kids kept stealing my colored pens. 🙂 I have also downloaded iTunes onto my computer at work (because they don’t block that sort of thing), and I am able to sync my iPod Touch calendar with my Outlook calendar. This way, no matter where I am, I am able to see what is on the calendar. Other than that, you already gave away all my “secrets”. 🙂

  2. I, too, have become a believer of the white board, the Mom’s Plan-it and Outlook. Oh yes. I have three calendars. Excessive? No, I’m afraid not. The plan-it calendar is MY calendar, which is completely chaotic and looks like it is written in sanskrit. The white board is for weekly kid-planning, menu details and shopping items, and the Outlook is so that I can relay vital information to my husband via a quick e-mail to his blackberry. I have tried to consolidate, but this system, however nutty and insane….it works. I really do need to follow the rule of laying clothes out the day before because my daughter will take an hour deciding in a single outfit if I let her! And she’s four. I can only imagine what it will be like when she’s fourteen….

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