It’s not easy! I’ll give you that. If you’re anything like us, beginning the school year is like turning an aircraft carrier. It’s takes work and a lot of space to get going in a new direction. Plus, fighting through the early mornings, mountains of homework everyday (we never had this much homework when I was a kid), and multiple school functions that seem to airdrop onto our calendar while we’re sleeping (we swear there are gnomes that come out at night and do this) makes for one hectic year.
How do you find balance? How do you make it a great school year?
Keep in mind that it’s a marathon, not a 100 yard dash! You have 9 and half months in front of you. Pace yourself. You’re not going to go from a lazy summer schedule to a pristine, ironed out new schedule overnight, even if you are Martha Stewart! However, you can make these first few weeks successful. I believe this because I’ve lived it for nearly a decade now. And, trust me, we’ve learned what not to do and do by some serious trial and error!
That being said, here are 6 ways to get the school year started right:
Create a routine.
I can’t stress this enough. We are huge routine people and it’s proven very successful. It’s really a non-negotiable for us. Six of our eight children still live at home and are 13 years old and younger. To not create order would be futile. A healthy routine is not overly detailed. In fact, choosing a few simple things to do and sticking to them (more on that in a minute) is the key.
Our routine consists of packing lunches the night before, bath time the night before, the same bedtime and then the same wake up time and routine after they wake up (get dressed, brush teeth, put shoes on, sit down for breakfast). Notice that it’s spread from the night before to the morning of. It’s impossible to pull all of this off with younger children on a school morning. Sometimes it’s even impossible to pull it off with teenagers.
You also need to create a routine you can live with and not feel overwhelmed by. You know what you need to accomplish for your children to make it out the door on time and have a great day (as far as it depends on you). So, create a routine based on your own reality.
Stick to it.
That’s right…stick to the routine you’ve created. This is probably the hardest thing to do because, as we all know, life will take over at some point. I was standing in the kitchen, helping my wife get lunches packed and school bags packed the night before our boys first day of school last week when the thought occurred to me- “This is going to become difficult in a few weeks.”
Because it will. It’s just the truth. The same vigor that you begin the school year with, the same hardcore commitment you have to doing things different from past years, will be challenged…by life. Don’t beat yourself up too bad when this happens (notice I said “when”). Fight to stay on track. Fight to stick with the routine you’ve created for your children. Consistency is everything in raising children. This has never been more true or valid than with their school year.
It’s up to us, as parents, to set the course for a successful school year for our children!
I can’t begin to count the amount of times we’ve blown it and forgotten sometime very important, like a school assembly, or a deadline to turn something in for one of our kid’s classes. Actually, my wife is a master at keeping these details in front of us. I’m usually riding front seat on the struggle bus with it comes to communication and details.
The key is to over-communicate everything single thing. Email your child’s teacher every day just to check-in. If your child is taking a school picture order form back to school, with payment in his or her bag, call the teacher later in the day to make sure they received it.
Two of our kids have aids to help with their special needs so my wife is in constant contact with their teachers. She emails them nearly everyday during the week. She also goes through each of our son’s school bags and reads everything. If something is confusing, she calls or emails the teachers.
Good communication with your child’s school helps eliminate a lot of gray areas that tend to exist between families and schools.
Get up earlier than your kids do.
I can almost feel your glare through my computer screen right now. I know for many of you this is easier said than done. But, if you’re not ready to go each morning, your kid’s won’t be ready to go. This doesn’t necessarily apply to both of you (if you have a spouse). For instance- I’m an early riser but my wife is not. So, I’m usually up a couple of hours before my children are. My wife is able to stay in bed right up until my boys get up.
If she does not quite wake up when they do, I’m downstairs with breakfast ready to go (usually), and ready to walk them through the routine of the morning.
You will frustrate yourself and your children if you’re rising the same time they are. I have experienced this personally. One of the most important things to keep in mind is that your children, while it doesn’t always seem like it, are taking the day’s cues from you. They will have a good cue to follow if they are greeted by a parent who’s prepared.
Work as a team.
There’s a reason why there’s two of you. You’ve been given the great gift of working as a team. You and your spouse are in this together. Even if he or she leaves early for work, you can both work on your routine together, the night before, or early in the morning. Obviously if you’re a single parent, things are a bit different. But in a home with both parents, it’s critical that you work together.
Your children will notice when this is not the case and it will have a profound impact on the routine and system you’re working to institute into your family.
Pack their bags the night before.
As much as it depends on you and your situation, do everything the night before! I cannot tell you how many mornings we’ve been stressed out, trying to get our kids off to school, where I’ve had the thought- “I should’ve done this last night!” I even have this thought when it comes to getting my own self out the door for work.
The night before wins! Repeat that to yourself- “The night before wins!” I guarantee you that if you utilize your time before the following morning, you will experience way less stress than if you try to cram everything into an hour and half before they head to the bus. It’s that simple!
Parents, I would love to hear your feedback or insight into this topic. What are some of your experiences? What are some additional ways to help make the school year great?