School is almost back in session! While that may bring excitement for some and sadness for others, it’s coming, and as moms, it’s important to prepare. I’ve had a child in school for two years now, and one thing I have learned is that “winging it” before and after school is not an option. We all need a little structure to keep our days running smoothly. These are a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the last couple of years to make sure our before-school and after-school routines run more smoothly:
My #1 tip to start the morning routine is to wake up before the kids. Some days it feels nearly impossible, especially if you’ve been up all night with one, two, three…four children. But I guarantee the morning routine will run more smoothly if you are up before the kids. It gives you a minute to properly wake up, have a quiet moment to yourself, and start the day off right.
A tip that runs a close second to number one, is to minimize the number of children you have to deal with until you absolutely have to. What I mean by this is, if your two-year-old will lay happily in their crib until you have to put them in the car for drop off, by all means do it! A majority of our mornings last school year involved only my school-aged daughter. Then, five minutes before it was time to pull out of the driveway, I got her younger brother and sister out of bed and put them in the car.
Eliminate situations that cause stress and frustration so that the morning runs as smoothly as possible. A game changer for us was to keep a set of toothbrushes, toothpaste, a hairbrush, detangling spray, and hair ties in a cabinet in the kitchen. With this setup, my daughter went from the breakfast table to the kitchen sink to brush her teeth, and then to the counter to brush her hair. No more losing her to the upstairs bathroom for ten, sometimes fifteen minutes of singing instead of brushing.
Teach the routines, practice the routines, and practice the routines some more. Start out the year by setting morning expectations and what the routines should look like. Give your child independence according to their age. By the end of first grade, my daughter could get herself up for school, get dressed, get breakfast, pack her backpack, get her water bottle, and be ready to walk out the door on her own. Some days I did some of these things for her because I love serving others. But she knew the routine and could do it on her own most days.
Everything in its proper place. If you don’t start from the beginning, you will trip over a pile of shoes, lunch boxes, and backpacks every single day. Designate a spot for everything (backpacks, shoes, homework folders) so there is no question where it should go, and your floor is clear.
Diffuse the emotions. You may find that after school, there may be a wide range of pent-up emotions that suddenly explode from the tiny little body of your grade schooler. It’s a bit shocking at first, but my first grader said it best, “I try so hard to be good all day, that when I get home, I just have to get all my feelings out!” These little ones work hard all day and stifle a lot of emotions along the way. They need some time to decompress. A snack, time outside, a little screen time…just try to find what works for your child and use it to your advantage.
Homework first. Trust me, if homework doesn’t happen within the first hour of being home, it’s pretty much guaranteed not to happen. Get those reading minutes in and math facts practiced as soon as you can (after the previously mentioned diffusion of emotions, of course). As the year goes on, give your child as much ownership over this as possible. But set the groundwork, just like any routine.
But what about the babies? I have three other children who aren’t in school and don’t have homework. What do I do with them? Pull out coloring books (call it their homework), set out some puzzles (or magnet tiles; they’re my kids’ favorite toy and also most contentious toy for siblings ever created, in my opinion. Each child could have their own 100-piece set and they still wouldn’t have enough pieces for their masterpiece). Small, simple activities will go a long way to keep younger ones occupied while working with your school-aged children.
A little planning can go a long way in setting both mom and child up for success for a great school year. What are some tips on before and after school routines you recommend for getting the school year started off on the right foot?