At the beginning of the school year you can usually find me kicking and screaming my way from summer vacation. Schedules? Homework? 20 more things added to my already hectic calendar? Nooo! Luckily, I’ve found a few practical ways to avoid being overwhelmed by the suddenly busy days of the school year.
Probably the biggest time waster in the morning is the school lunch battle. I’m a firm believer that kids should be involved in planning their school lunches, even packing them on their own. But leave them to it on a rushed morning and they’re liable to snag a few convenient snacks as their lunch, ending up hungry by the end of the day. A better way is to start the bagged lunch planning before the week even begins. Sit down with them on the weekend and create a list of lunches together for every single day – from the sandwich to the snacks. Then, have them pack up anything they can the night before school so there’s barely anything left to do in the morning.
Create a routine
Left to his own devices, my son would come home from school and make a beeline for the fridge, and then to the TV. That’s why we’ve created a routine. He may get a snack first, but then he must finish all of his homework and have me check it before placing it in his backpack and by the door for the next day. Then he has chores he must complete that are clearly listed on a weekly chore chart. Only after all these are done is he allowed to watch TV or play outside. Before bed, clothes must be picked out, his lunch must be prepped, and then it’s shower time. A routine is even more vital in the morning, since kids tend to be groggy. This is also why we prep everything the night before. All my son has to do in the morning is wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, finish making his lunch, and then be out the door with all his belongings.
Keep your child’s space organized
If your son or daughter can’t find their clean shirt in the morning or don’t have a cleared off space to do their homework, things are only going to go downhill quickly. Get your child in the habit of putting all their dirty clothes in the hamper, and keeping their clean clothes in their drawers by category. Teach them to make their bed. Create a space for every one of their belongings so they can easily put them away when they’re finished using them. Help them keep their work station cleared off and supplied with pencils, scissors, tape, glue, and anything else they may need to finish their homework. File all papers worth saving (artwork, notes from teacher, project guidelines), and throw away everything you don’t need. An organized space does wonders for an organized mind! And you’ll be creating valuable habits for them to grow up with.
(note: we’re still working on perfecting this tip in my family)
Keep in contact with the teacher
Our most successful school years have been those when the teacher and I were conversing regularly about my child’s progress, and what was going on for the week at school. Some teachers keep parents updated through a website. Others use email or letters home. And in some instances you may have to visit the class regularly to find out what’s going on. Whatever the method, stay involved with what’s going on in your child’s class. This way there will be no surprise projects or reports due, and you will know how to help your child if they’re struggling in an area of school. Your child will see that you care enough to be involved with their education. And their teacher will fully appreciate your involvement in their efforts to educate your child.
Keep a detailed calendar
The start of school can be quite a culture shock to those of us used to the lazy days of summer. Suddenly there are new activities, sports, clubs, and responsibilities that dictate our days. And this usually means everyone is going in separate directions. It’s enough to drive anyone insane! We tackle the crazy schedules by keeping a huge dry erase calendar centrally located on the kitchen wall, detailed with all our schedules in time order, and color coded to show which schedule belongs to which family member. This helps us to know when there’s a conflict we need to work around, and also helps the kids know where they need to be and what they need to be doing every single day. There are no surprises. And it also helps us to avoid overscheduling by seeing at a glance what’s going on day by day.
Here’s to a brand new school year!