Source: Indys Child Parenting Magazine

Back to School
Getting back into the groove

by Brooke Reynolds

August 01, 2011

Getting back into school-time routines can be hard – and not just on the kids. As the head of the house, executing and maintaining those routines is your job. Here are some tips to help you and the kids stay on your game.

Bedtime routine: You’ll have a manic morning without one

• Set a bedtime early enough to ensure everyone gets eight hours of sleep. Then aim to get in bed 30 minutes before that. If a student is groggy at school, they won’t be as productive. Try not to cut into the designated sleeping hours to buy more time in during the day.

• Pick out clothes the night before. Give your child two or three preselected outfits to choose from. This way, he or she won’t dillydally in their closet only to pick an outfit that looks like it belongs in Lady Gaga’s wardrobe.

• Have the kids arrange their launch pads and pack their backpacks. See if there are any papers you need to sign or teacher correspondence you should read, and write important dates on the calendar. Check up on their grades and homework schedules at this time, too. “When the student knows his parents are aware of his grades and assignments, there’s less chance for failure,” Susan Stretchberry, director for Sylvan Learning’s south Indianapolis location, said.

• Pack lunches or pass out lunch money if tomorrow’s lunch menu seems palatable. Always keep an extra day’s worth of lunch money in their backpack in case you forget this step.

• Plan breakfast. Make it quick and easy, and prepare what you can the night before.

• Have the kids bathe at night to save time in the morning.

• Do the same thing each night right before bed to help them wind down: read a book or listen to music, pray together and talk about the next day’s plans. A child is most successful at staying on task when he or she knows what’s coming.

Morning routine: It’ll start everyone’s day off right

• Get yourself up earlier than the rest of the family to have your coffee in peace. Then get yourself completely dressed and ready for the day so that you can concentrate solely on the kids when they wake up.

• Encourage them to wake up to their own alarm clocks. This doesn’t mean you won’t end up dragging them out of bed – it’s just a good habit to start at a young age.

• They’ve already showered, so have the kids put on their clothes first thing out of bed. The longer they stay in their pajamas, the lazier they’ll be.

• Aim to leave 15 minutes earlier than you normally would. It’s nice to have that extra padding of time if needed, but it’s also smart to teach the kids about the importance of showing up a little early. Arriving to school early makes for a calmer start to their morning, rather than a rushed and stressful jog to their class before the bell. It’s also safer to leave earlier so that you’re not inclined to drive like a maniac in an attempt to get the kids to school on time.

After-school routine: You’ll teach the kids what’s important

• Give them a half-hour to change into play clothes and grab a healthy snack before they start their homework. The snack will keep them from wanting naps and will help them focus on studying.

• Stand firm on blocking out a time after school for academics, said Julie Thompson Steck, Ph.D., a psychologist specializing in children and adolescents with learning, social, emotional and behavorial disabilities. “Even if the child doesn’t have homework some days, you should use the time to address upcoming assignments so that projects don’t build up, and discuss grade progress so that problems don’t arise there.”

• It’s best for kids to get their homework out of the way first so that the lessons will be fresh in their minds. They’re also more alert in the afternoon than at night. And if they struggle with an assignment, there’s more time to work through it.

• Do homework at a regular time and in the same place each day, and give each child his or her own work space. “Keeping these things consistent will improve your child’s grades, study habits and comprehension,” Rick Fallis, Sylvan Learning’s director at the northeast Indianapolis location, said. “The more habitual this is, the more success I see [at Sylvan].”

• Reward the kids with short homework breaks between subjects. It will help to keep them focused when the work is broken down into smaller, more manageable chunks.

Parents teach best by example, so show your kids the value of routines. Familiarize them with the habitual happenings, and they’ll be able to concentrate easier, with fewer fits about what’s expected of them.

Routines can sometimes have a bad reputation as being boring and rigid, but they don’t have to be miserable to stick to. When you adhere to them, routines can actually provide more free time for the pleasurable, spontaneous stuff. Allow the routines to be the family’s gateway to fun!