It’s that time of year again. The summer is coming to a close, and the kids are heading back-to-school. Mine are headed back this week, and this year in particular is bittersweet for me. For the first time ever I will have all four kiddos in school. I am both ready to be on my own and wishing the summer would last forever. Since this was the first summer with my children that I have not had to work third shift and every other weekend, I felt truly able to enjoy it. I will definitely be missing the company of my little guy as I run my errands during the day, and I will probably shed a tear or two as the bus pulls away. But I am certain that I will be far more productive without them here, and I will finally be able to focus on building my business.
Beyond the sentimental side of back-to-school season and the melancholy of summer’s end lies the comfortable routine of the school year. I love the predictability, but it can also bring anxiety. Sorting through school supplies and class schedules promising ourselves that this year we will have things under control. We will be organized, and we will be involved. We will not fall behind and end up buried beneath a pile of field trip permission slips and reading lists mid-November.
So in an effort to reassure you, I have put together a list of school year guidelines which have worked very well in our household.
- Have A Routine. During the school year, I find it’s more important than ever to have a predictable routine for your children. In our home it looks like an afterschool snack and homework followed by playtime. Then dinner, chores/family time, and bedtime. Routines will vary based on your own family’s needs and schedules. The important thing is that your children and you know what to expect every day. School can be very stressful for children because they are confronted with change daily. Having a safe, predictable place to come home to makes everything easier to handle.
- Write It On The Calendar. Sometimes I think I need an Administrative Assistant to keep everyone’s schedules straight. And it never fails that there will be conflicts at some point. Make sure you can tackle scheduling issues early by writing dates on the calendar as soon as you know them. I always get the entire school calendar on my planner as soon as possible, and as the dates for other school and extracurricular activities are made known, I add them. This way I can anticipate any problems well in advance.
- Keep The Paperwork Organized. The beginning of the school year means an onslaught of new papers making their way into my home. And with four kids, it really adds up fast! Check out these tips on keeping it from getting out of hand.
- Prepare The Night Before. Make your mornings easier by having everything ready the night before. It wasn’t too long ago that I was rushing around signing papers, getting lunches together, putting boots on, brushing hair, finding coats and backpacks as the bus was pulling up in front of our house. I nearly had a heart attack every morning from the stress. Now I get things ready the night before, and my mornings run smoothly. I set out clothes (with a little input from the kids of course,) which eliminates morning fights about what to wear. My husband makes lunches. My kids and I make sure they have their backpacks ready with everything they need before they go to bed. In the morning, all they have to do is get dressed and eat. Super easy!
- Carve Out Homework Time Before Play. Eliminate stressful after dinner fights about homework and bedtime by getting the homework out of the way first thing.
- Limit Screen Time. During the school week, try to limit screen time. Between work, school, dinner, homework, chores, and bedtime there is not a lot of time left in the day. Make sure that time is quality time by not spending it in front of a screen.
- Get To Bed Early And Leave A Little Time For Reading. I don’t know about you, but whatever time we set for bedtime, it always ends up 30-45 minutes later than we wanted. So anticipate that, and set your bedtime a bit earlier. Have the kids ready and in their beds 30 minutes before you actually want them to sleep. That way they have time to unwind quietly with a book before bedtime. For the non-readers, this is a perfect time to read to them. Developing a love for reading is such a fundamental piece of learning. Foster that by having space for it every night.
- Spend A Little Time Together As A Family Every Night. Typically, this is dinner for us. Some evenings, if there’s extra time, we might add in a board game, a walk, or a bike ride. Whatever it may be in your family, make it a time where the television is off and the cell phones are put away. Talk to your kids, and listen to them. Having an open environment where you are focused on your children ensures that they will be comfortable coming to you when it’s important.
- Stay Positive. When you’re less stressed, your children will be less stressed as well. Tackle every issue with a positive attitude, and you will be teaching your children the greatest lesson of the school year right in their own home. You will always be the first and most important teacher your children will have.