5 Back to School Tips

Back to School, Back to School…
Did anyone get the Adam Sandler/Billy Madison reference?
It’s ok, it’s a really, really weird movie from the 90s that doesn’t make any sense anyway…

This time of year means some adjustment to new schools, new schedules, new routines… all sorts of fun things for us parents! These are some great tips I have learned through lots and lots of research in parenting, education, and personal development to help make things feel not so crazy. Here’s how I get through all the things in September…

#1 Schedule a Weekly Family Meeting

We just discovered the beauty of the family meeting. I can’t recommend it enough. It’s been so helpful in keeping on the same page with my husband about what is going on. It saves frustration. It saves having to text all the little things throughout the week. And it’s been such a game changer in feeling more like a team.

Sunday nights are working well for us, I think because 1) it’s right before the beginning of the next week, 2) it’s easy to remember, and 3) it’s the most relaxed day of the week.

We bring our calendars, our budget, our meal plan, our projects, our to do list, our pet peeves… 😉 anything and everything we want to talk about with each other.

Here’s what we usually cover during that time:

A look back: What happened last week? What went well? What didn’t? What adjustments can we make to improve things?
This week: What is going on this coming week? What do we need to work out in terms of transportation? Activities? Homework? Meals? Work commitments? Babysitters needed?
Next week: What is coming up the week after that? Anything we need to start preparing for now?

The biggest questions we’re asking ourselves during this time is:
1) Does our calendar reflect our family’s values? and
2) Are there any ways to make this week simpler and easier?

Once a month, we take some extra time to look at our budget. Where are we at with monthly expenses? What is coming up that we need to plan for? And is there anything coming up the following month that we need to start preparing for now? That way we are looking ahead a couple months and not getting surprised when the gutters need cleaned or the oil needs changed or the furnace air filters need replaced (glad I reminded you about all of that, aren’t you? 😉

We plan to more actively involve the kids in the meeting when they turn about 9 years old (or when they need to start weighing in on particular things). We save anything we don’t want to them to hear for another time. Right now, our goal is that they see mom and dad working together as a cohesive team. And, it provides some predictability and structure to their week. Which brings me to my next tip…

#2 Have a Weekly and a Daily Rhythm

I use the word “rhythm” because things don’t have to be scheduled at a certain time. They can, but it’s more about the order that things go in.

Here’s an example of a daily rhythm:
Brush teeth
After School Snack
Music Practice (or Soccer Practice, depending on the day)
Brush teeth

For the weekly rhythm, it helps to name each day according to the main event:
Monday- free day
Tuesday- soccer day
Wednesday- music lesson day
Thursday- soccer day
Friday- movie day
Saturday- soccer game day
Sunday- family time and planning day

Generally, your weekly rhythm should look the same week-to-week. The rhythm for the day however, should change a little based on the things going on that day.

I wish I would have heard about this sooner, but we started color coding our days. Young children relate to this so much more. The minute we started referring to them this way, my boys got more excited and started remembering what happens on each day. They know for example, that music lessons and swimming happens on yellow day. Our colors are:

Monday- purple
Tuesday- red
Wednesday – yellow
Thursday – orange
Friday – green
Saturday – blue
Sunday – brown

The idea here is that things are predictable. Of course, it’s good to shake things up a bit with surprises, family trips, and visits with friends. But studies have shown that having a rhythm reduces stress, increases confidence, and raises self esteem in kids. It all makes sense. When kids feel like they know what’s going to happen, they feel better (and we do too!).

But there is one thing we need to consider when we’re crafting the perfect rhythm…

#3 Protect Your Child’s Free Time

I love to schedule and plan and I can be super guilty of this myself. It comes from the best of all possible places: We want to do everything we possibly can for our kids.

Nurture their interest in music
Be a good swimmer
Make the dance team
Try out for basketball
Ooo, there’s a drawing class. They love to draw…
And college is coming up, ooo gosh better prepare for that and do some more after school science classes…

But in the effort to provide lots of experiences for our kids, we’re running the risk of them losing crucial thinking time.

Losing rest.
Losing imagination.
Losing their childhood.

And unlike all those activities, their childhood is not something they can ever go back and do again as an adult. They will never get those developmental stages back.

I know that was a little heavy… it’s not fun to think about at all. But before things get busy, take some time to look at how scheduled your child is. Decide what activities give your child the most for their brain development. The most for moving their body. The most for nurturing their spirit. And then let go of all of the other ones so they (and you!) can have more free time.

If you’re looking for more fun things to do as a family during your down time, I am a big fan of Hike it Baby. I post some daytime, after school, and weekend family hikes there for families with kids ages 0 through elementary school. It’s such a great way to get out and enjoy the outdoors!

And while we’re talking about your child’s down time, we should mention it’s also good to…

#4 Schedule Regular Date Nights with Your Spouse

It’s so important to find time to connect and recharge as a couple. Parenting can be intense! And it’s so helpful to be reminded every once in a while of who the two of you were before the children came along. It’s also good to have a time to talk about all of the things you can’t talk about in front of the kids.

It doesn’t have to be a big deal or a big night out. It can be a movie night at home after the kids go to bed. Or a walk during the day together. Do something that you both enjoy that the two of you can look forward to. If it’s too much to do weekly, start with scheduling it monthly.

But it can be a night out… Tigard Parks and Rec has a new Kids’ Night Out (Parent’s Night Out) event where you can drop off the kids for a few hours and go have some fun together.

If you’re a single parent, all of this still applies. Especially for you – you have a lot on your shoulders. Take some time for yourself or with friends to recharge and remember that you have an identity outside of your role as parent.

And, my last tip for how to not go nuts during the school year…

#5 Prepare Everything the Night Before

We’ve all had this kind of morning…

So you’re not scrambling, set everything you’re going to need for the next day right by the door.

Instruments for their lesson

If you’re not already doing this, you’ll find that the morning goes so. much. smoother.

I’ve extended this philosophy a little bit into a few other areas that I’ve identified as “culprits in creating craziness”. We have a few meals in the freezer ready so we don’t have to cook. After dinner, everyone pitches in and helps clean up so everything is clean, set, and ready for the next meal. And before bed, I take a look at my own to-do list, move anything around, and remind myself of the top 1 to 3 priorities for the next day (so I can jump right into doing them).

I hope you were able to find some helpful gems in here. If you are already doing all 5 of these things, then wow – email me at rdolphin@oregonmusicacademy.com, I would love to hear how you rule the school year! 🙂