“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”…no, it’s not Christmas (yet!), but it is back-to-school time! And while summer has been amazing and fun, if you’re a parent like I am, you may be welcoming back the structure of the school year. That said, the start of school also means routine, rushed mornings, remembering all the things – lunches, homework, projects, etc…it’s a lot of work! But with a few simple tips you can help make the school year run smoothly.
In my house, we learned that taking 10 minutes the night before can help immensely with organizing your family for the next day. We have a scheduled homework time right after dinner and while my daughter does her work, my husband and I clean up from dinner and make her lunch for the next day. As your kids get older, you can get them to make their own lunches by having pre-cut fruit and veggies on hand and some grab-and-go options like nut-free granola bars and yogurt.
When homework is done and the kitchen is clean, we take 10 minutes to go over what’s needed for the next day. Is my daughter’s homework complete and in her bag? Is it a swimming day tomorrow and is her swim gear in her bag? Do I have an early meeting and need to have my breakfast ready the night before? Is there dinner prep that needs to be started for tomorrow evening? All of these things get sorted and assigned in this 10 minute time slot. Then we can finish our evening knowing everything is taken care of.
One other thing we have our daughter do in this 10 minutes is lay out her clothes for the next day. I can’t tell you how much of a help this is! We’ve a had a few mornings where she’s changed her mind, but mostly she just gets dressed without a fuss.
Get up 30 minutes early
I know, getting up early isn’t for everyone, myself included! But honestly, if you’ve forgotten to make a lunch or there are last minute things that need doing, this 30 minutes can be a lifesaver. And if you’ve got everything prepared from the night before then this 30 minutes can be spent having a cup of tea or having a more leisurely breakfast.
Keep breakfast simple
As nice as the idea of fresh pancakes is, it’s just not doable on most school mornings. Unless you’re up at 5 am, in which case, pass the syrup! But if you’re not an early riser, keep it simple. Cereal and milk, pre-cut fruit, yogurt, toast…these are all easy and fast options for breakfast. Kids who eat a healthy and balanced breakfast are able to function better throughout their day, but this doesn’t mean you need to be poaching eggs or baking muffins from scratch.
The bane of my existence, to be honest. I am not a fan of making lunches. So like breakfast, we keep it simple. We made a list of things my daughter likes and we rotate through that list over the week. It means she repeats a lot of her lunches, but they are balanced and healthy and most importantly – she eats most of it.
When she first started school, I tried to go for variety and packed something new every day. She barely touched most of it. We chatted about it last year and came up with options that she will eat and that are quick and easy to make, even if we are throwing it together the morning of.
Another aspect of making all meals easier to deal with during the school year is meal planning. Once a week, usually the weekend, we sit down and make a list of meals we want for the week and make the shopping list based off those meals. We make one trip to the grocery store a week to get all the items we need. This has helped a lot with our budget. When we were in and out of the grocery store a few times a week, it was adding up fast! With a list and one trip for the week we are less likely to impulse buy. And knowing ahead of time what dinner is and how and when to prep for it has been a game changer for us.
My husband surprised me one day by painting a chalkboard wall in our kitchen. At first, the control freak in me was spun! But then I saw the potential and I calmed down. We have since organized that wall into the house’s command central. We have a large calendar hanging there, a chalked in “To Do” list with chores that need taking care, an “Up and Coming” list of events and appointments, our meal plan for the week, a list of important “To Buy” items, and this year we plan to add a magnetic strip so that we can hang field trip forms that need signing or bills that need paying.
This station has helped a lot with keeping organized during the school year. Even if you don’t have a whole wall to dedicate to your household, you can easily create a smaller version on your fridge or pantry door. I’ve also added a small chalkboard to the back of the front door with a list of the essentials that I can refer to before we walk out the door – lunches, water bottles, keys, etc…That last minute reminder has been a morning lifesaver!
Set a timer
The last tip that I have to share has been key to getting out the door on time. Set a timer! I have my phone set up with specific alarms to go off to help keep the morning moving. I found that my constant nagging to get a move on was not as effective as the sound of a timer. My daughter has them memorized now. 8 am alarm? Time to brush teeth! 8:30? Shoes and backpack to be ready to leave in 5 minutes, and when the timer goes at 8:35, we are out the door. Like clockwork…most of the time.
Hopefully these tips are helpful to your mornings. They can be chaotic and frustrating so if you find yourself in the thick of it, try to take a breath. Eventually your kids will be old enough to get themselves out the door, so teaching them good habits now is important!
By Jen Lehman