Today is about Stopping the Drama
Photo by sergis blog
I have not written in months, but it’s time to start blogging again. My last entry was about a great pizza place I visited on a warm spring day in May. One day led to another, then I was deep into summer, and then it was back to school. Now that the weather is cold, and it is the New Year, I feel like getting back to Parent Jazz.
Today’s entry is about 10 steps for getting organized for back to school. With three school aged children, my house is in a constant state of near-chaos. However, there are some tips I’ve learned over the years and would like to share that help keep things less crazed.
- Pack up the kids’ school bags the night before. Cleaning out and packing up the school bag, collecting all of the papers, homework and permission slips the night before makes the morning process much less crazy. I also find that the younger are your children, the earlier in the day you should go though their school bags. I have stayed up late too many nights because I didn’t find the note from my kids’ teachers reminding me to send in brownies or some other treat the next morning until late at night. Even with older kids, this is a good exercise to help them think through and plan for the next day.
- Create a launching pad to get out of the door in the morning. Once the school bags are packed, put them in a place where everything is collected to go out the next morning. In addition to the school bag, this place can be where projects, sports equipment, special clothes and other necessary items are all kept. This helps avoid the last minute running around in the morning looking for shoes, glasses, gloves, or whatever other items tend to be forgotten until your kids are walking out the door.
- Have a space set up to work and study. I had to remind my kids, this does not include the space in front of the TV. The study space should be away from distractions, well lit, and have school supplies nearby so your kids don’t have to go wandering around looking for things. With younger kids, a centrally located spot like the kitchen table is fine so an adult can supervise, help keep them on track and be available to answer any questions. Older kids don’t need as much supervision, but should not try to work in front of the television.
- Make studying a habit. Establish homework and studying time as part of their routine. After coming home and having a snack, kids can then sit down to do their homework. Even when my youngest has no homework, we give 15-20 minutes of some extra reading or other type of work to do at home just to establish the habit. As kids get older and get into other activities such as sports, it becomes increasingly important to establish the habit of sitting down at a specifc time to do their work.
- Create a school folder for each child. This is the place where all the reminders, permission slips, teacher notes, and notices are kept. Every child will bring home loads of paper notices, and you need to have single place to keep all of that information. In addition, to having a place to keep it, you also have to have a set time to deal with it. For us, it’s during dinner. So when my kids come home and say “I need you to sign this”, I have them put it in their school folder and we can go through it during dinner. This also gives me a chance to coordinate all of the kids schedules and make sure we don’t commit to attending a concert for one kid, when there is another conflicting event for another kid. This leads me to the next tip….
- Put up a family calendar. List everyone’s commitments and events, where they will occur, what time, and what is needed for those events. We use it for both school and social commitments such as birthday parties, as well as doctor’s appointments. Again, with more than one kid and working parents, having that visual reminder of who needs to be where, and when helps keep us organized. It also is the place where things can “land”, meaning when a notice or appointment comes in, I can put it on the family calendar and not have to worry about losing it.
- Meet other parents and exchange phone numbers. Despite having systems to keep track of notices, there will be times when you need another source of information about what’s going on in school. This is when other parents can be helpful. In addition to sharing information, it simply helps to build relationships with other adults with children. Your child will develop friendships with other kids in class and the kids will want to spend time at each other’s house. Knowing the parents helps to make sure your child is safe, and you are comfortable having her spend time in someone else’s home.
- Buy things in bulk so they are on hand whenever you need them. For me this starts with school supplies, so we have lots of paper, pencils, and other supplies on hand for most of the year. However, I also use this strategy for things like brownie mix, which I buy from Cotsco so we always have some available for school events, bake sales, pot lucks and other brownie emergencies. In addition, at the beginning of the school year I will buy several gender neutral, age appropriate toys and have them wrapped. So over the course of the year, as my kids get invited to birthday parties, we have a wrapped present on hand and have one less errand to run on the weekends.
- Plan for breakfast. Studies show that children who eat breakfast perform better in school. So make sure your child doesn’t leave the house without having something to eat. The best breakfast does not have a lot of sugar, and consists of complex carbohydrates and some protein. While this could involve cooking an egg with toast, or oatmeal with milk, you can create “grab-n-go” breakfast like a bagel with peanut butter, or yogurt with granola. The point is to not have to think about it in the morning, but to set up standard breakfast options so it’s one less decision to be made on busy mornings.
- Get everyone to bed on time (especially the parents!). I’ve written about the importance of sleep before. In this case, it applies to both the parents and the children. I have teenagers, and it is harder to get them to bed on time than when they were younger. When they stay up late, it is hard to get them up in the morning, they usually oversleep, and it makes the whole morning routine rushed and chaotic due to lack of time and focus. On the other hand, my youngest is in bed on time, getting her up is a breeze, and her mornings run very smoothly with no grumpiness and very little drama. So get everyone to bed on time.
Over the years, I have used each of these tips and find they work and are really helpful. Unfortunately, I have not been able to implement all of them at the same time. Hopefully, you will be better able to put these tips into practice to make the school year run smoothly for your family.
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