Routine and  Intention for the New School Year by Amber Cox

Let me paint you a picture:

It’s morning, I’m running frantically around throwing any spiral/homework paper/anything I can see my daughter may need into her backpack while screaming “We are going to be late!”  I’ve grabbed a bowl of Chex, a cup of OJ with a lid, and my daughter’s vitamins.  All of which she eats in the car on the way to school. Of course, my breakfast consists of black coffee.  I’m distracted as I’m driving her to school.  How many tardies is this now? What else did I forget? When am I going to make it to the bank? Insert another million questions.  I frantically rush her into school where she walks in and everyone else is already sitting and prepared for class.  And then I dart 5 minutes late into work where I hurl the whirlwind of chaos that I am upon my coworkers.  You can imagine how the rest of the day goes.

Let me clarify this was not every day.  There were a few days where just a few parts of this were true.  As school is upon is, I start to fret and question “Have I set my child up for success this year?”

         The answer easily is NO. While we’ve been running around trying to squeeze in every last ounce of fun possible, we have had zero conversations about what she is hoping to accomplish this year.  What are her goals? We haven’t prepared space or time for homework, morning routines, sleeping, and a million others.

When I think of my job as a parent to teach my child to be a successful grownup, part of this includes “how to” set yourself up to be successful.  Routines are the answer.  Many of us as parents live here because of all the opportunities, but these can make for jam-packed schedules. By the end of the school year, we are running an exhaustive marathon just trying to finish.  

As a result, I’ve made a list of questions to help prepare my daughter and I for organization and success this year.  I’ve created five mini sections with questions to ask yourself take one on each day with your children, so this is not another overwhelming task.  Then, the first weekend after school, you and your children can work together to maximize and create your routines for a successful start to the school year.  Some of these ideas will be second nature to many, but maybe not all.   

 Morning Routine – Create a chart they can put stickers on

1) Is it an expectation they will get themselves up?

2) How long does it take your child to get ready in the morning?  

3) Are they showering in the morning or at night?

4) What can they do the night before to make it easier to get out the door?

5) How long does it take you to get ready? 

6) Can you get ready while they get ready, or do you need to be ready before they wake up?

7) What breakfast is acceptable? 

8)  Vitamins/medications? 

Homework

1) Is there built in homework time? 

2) Where is the best spot for them to do homework?

3) Do they have all supplies easily accessible?

4) How are they going to remember their homework?

5) Would they benefit from a day planner?

6) When is the best time for them to do homework?

7) What is the teacher’s expectation of how long homework should take?

8) What happens with the free time after homework?

9) Is it a free fall, must they have something else done before screen time, is screen time allowed after school (if so how much?)

10) What snacks are acceptable and at what times?

11) Do they have chores? 

12) If they need a computer for their homework? Whose will they use? Where will it be? What are they allowed to look at? Should it be in a public area?

 Bedtime 

1) What time should my child go to bed?

2) There are great resources WebMD talks about how much sleep they need at a certain age

http://www.webmd.com/parenting/guide/sleep-children#1

3) Good Housekeeping has a great chart for ages 5-12 based on what time you want your child to wake up

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/parenting/a34333/viral-bedtime-chart/

4) Should they pick out their clothes the night before?

5) Is their backpack packed?

6) Do they have all their sports, band, etc. packed for the next day?

If they are taking their lunch to school, can they pack it the night before?

 After School – Activities, Friends, Chores, Etc.

1) Chores- When are they doing them, what are they doing, and how much time are they spending on these chores? 

2) When will my child/I know that after school activities are taking over and their academics are suffering?  How will I know when this is happening?

3) How will we go about remedying this?

4) You might be asking why is this important the first week of school. And I will tell you, having a conversation about this sets everyone up for success.  There is nothing worse then being mid season in anything a sport, theatre, band and realize my kid’s grades are slipping.  These results in the thoughts of do we need to stop? Do I ground my child? Do I take away the extra curricular?  This creates awful anxiety producing conversations for the parent and child.  If it’s a discussion upfront, it’s still disappointing if we have to stop an extracurricular but at least this way it doesn’t come up out of nowhere, and we have a chance to be proactive.

5) Is your child responsible for doing their own laundry?

When is the machine free? Are we waiting till we have gone through every piece of clothes or is it every Wednesday or Sunday evening that works best.  

6) Is screen time allowed (TV, Video Games, IPAD)?  How much?

 Brainstorm with your kids:

1) Do they have a goal set for themselves for the year?

2) What is it?

3) How will they know when they’ve reached it?

4) How will you know if you’re starting to be overwhelmed?

5) What are some solutions before going to the extreme of cutting out extra curricular (ex: cut down screen time, extra 15 minutes of homework, should we talk to the teacher, do we need a tutor)?

6) As a parent, I have found the 45 minutes my daughter was in theatre as a great time to run errands (go to the bank, dry cleaners, grocery shopping) 

Success is not an overnight achievement; it is created through ongoing conversations exploring what works for your child.  It is a trial and error process. We are aiming to create language for them to empower themselves and learn the “how to” of problem solving to go on to be independent amazing adults.

Special Thanks to Kate Niles, Tay McNeely, and my Mom (Charly Tella) for your feedback and editing!