School starts in just two short weeks for us and even though our friends and neighbors are savoring the last of summer, we are already back in the swing of things here thanks to Marching Band Camp. Sunshine, my oldest, is now a Senior in High School. He got himself up at 5:45 this morning and jumped right back into the routine.
I love the fresh start that the beginning of the school year provides. Im always happy for the opportunity to reboot my routine and re-establish good habits. I dont know what its like not to go back to school: my parents are both educators and Ive been a student, a teacher, a teachers wife, a parent, and an administrator. I dance to the rhythm of the school year whether I want to or not.
That being said, I thought Id share some of my tips for starting the school year off right.
1. Get a Calendar and USE IT! I recommend a central, visible written calendar for the whole family. With five of us going different directions nearly every day, a calendar is essential. We write everything on the calendar so its important that the squares are big enough for all our information. Football, Marching Band, Back to School Night, Minimum Days, Work Schedules, Youth Group, Doctor and Dentist Appointments – it all goes on the calendar. I tell my kids If its not on the calendar, its not happening.
2. Get ready the night before. Think through your day and prep as much as you can. Encourage everyone to pick out their clothes the night before and lay everything out. Seriously, your know its much better to discover that your kid is out of clean underwear at 7 p.m. than at 7 a.m. If you have a kid who can never find her shoes when its time to go, have her put them by the front door before she goes to bed. Establish a gathering place for everything you need to take with you when you leave in the morning: backpacks, instruments, sports equipment, P.E. clothes, etc. Consider packing the car the night before if thats practical. The more you can do before you go to sleep, the easier your morning will be.
3. Use the power of 15 Minutes. Ive written before about the power of 15 minutes, but it comes into play again at this time of year. When faced with homework, especially after a carefree summer, its easy to become overwhelmed. If youre faced with a whiny or defiant kid at homework time, set the timer for 15 minutes. Challenge them to focus until the timer goes off and then reward them with a brain break. Sometimes youll find that theyll keep working after the timer goes off just because they are so close to finishing or theyve gotten into the groove.
4. Read everything the school sends home on the day it comes home. I know, its a ton but its important to know whats going on and you dont want to be the parent who forgot to pick up your kid on the first minimum day. Transfer all the important dates straight to the calendar right away and toss all the papers that you wont need. My least favorite thing about starting a new school year is all the paperwork that I have to fill out as the parent. Fill out and sign everything on the day it comes home so you dont have to think about it again. This is where the power of 15 minutes comes in handy: dont be afraid to set the timer for yourself. Youll feel so much better when its done.
5. Set a Simple Routine. Whether its morning, after school or before bed that is the hardest for you, a routine can help. The goal of a routine is to make part of your life automatic so you can concentrate on the fun and important things. For kids a routine makes part of their life predictable so they can spend mental energy learning new skills. Imagine what it would be like if you didnt have to repeat the same words every day. How do you set a routine? Start simple. Think about the top 5 things that must be done and write them down in an order that makes sense to you, i.e. shower, get dressed, breakfast, pack lunch, free time. Now post this list somewhere you will see it! It takes 27 days to make a habit so be kind to yourself (and your kids) and dont give up!
Last night Sunshine gathered his supplies by the front door and laid out his clothes without a word from me. He got himself up in the morning and was ready to go by 6:30 a.m. Not every day will start this smoothly, but were off to a good start. Heres to another successful school year!