Linda’s Tips for Easy Mornings, Homework Success and A Peaceful Family
By Linda Lambdin, Principal of Tierra Pacifica Charter School
If school mornings in your home are calm, peaceful and enjoyable. If it’s easy to get to school on time, if your children get themselves up and ready, always have their homework and never forget where their shoes are then you can stop reading right here. If however, mornings at your house are sometimes less than idyllic, here are some tips.
You and your children will be getting ready for school in basically the same way for at least 13 years. That means 2,340 mornings that can either be smooth and organized or filled with tears, stress and cajoling. If your routine takes 20 minutes longer a day than it needs to that is 60 hours a year (about 2 school weeks) wasted that could have been spent doing something fun. If you have to prompt your child through the 25 steps process of getting out the door you may want to pull your hair out some mornings and that is not a good way to start the day.
These routines are worth putting time into up front. Put aside some real time to plan in detail how to make everything as efficient and simple as possible. Practice, and soon you will find that life has gotten a lot simpler because your kids will be capable and organized and you will no longer have to be running the show.
1. Making the morning work.
· Arrange your child’s bedroom so that they can get completely dressed, and ready without moving their feet more than a step or two. Put the laundry basket in the same area as all of their clothes, shoes, socks and underwear and mirror if they have one. This may mean moving the dresser next to the closet.
· Make a poster (or print out the one below) that lists in order exactly what they need to do in the morning and a different poster for what they need to do at night. The morning one might say…Use the bathroom, wash face, brush teeth, comb hair, dress including shoes, eat breakfast, make bed, put lunch in backpack, put on coat, Place backpack and yourself in car by 7:55 AM. (That’s a lot to remember isn’t it?! That’s why you make a poster with a list.)
· Hang copies of the posters where they dress, in the bathroom and by the front door. (For pre-readers the poster can be stick drawings or snazzy photos of them doing the things.)
· Make a different poster for night. Shower, brush teeth, clothes in hamper, PJ’s on, clothes picked out for tomorrow, shoes where they belong, in bed reading by 7:30. (Sample posters are under this article.)
· If your child needs one, buy them an alarm clock. If you’re like me and really
struggle in the winter mornings and you hate alarm clocks, you can invest in a
special timer plug. They are sold on line and they make a lamp slowly become
brighter so it’s like waking up with the sun. It’s pricey though – and a cheap
alarm clock works fine.
2.Keeping track of things – the Zen Backpack.
· Get a backpack and a Sharpie and write your child’s name on their backpack,
lunchbox, and their hats and in all their sweatshirts, coats and sweaters.
· Keep the backpack organized by keeping nothing extra in it. Make it a rule that
you may not buy or put anything other than the bare necessities in the
backpack- even though Staples says you NEED all those school supplies. The
same is true for a notebook if your teacher says you need one. Do not fill it up
with staplers, paper and post – its. Keep it as light and empty as possible. Only
carry what the teacher says should be carried.
· Get a good pencil sharpener that will last for years. Install it near the
homework spot. Keep dozens of pencils with good erasers in a drawer nearby
to use throughout the year. But practice keeping track of one pencil.
3. Homework that makes it to school
· Create a specific place for the backpack and coat near a place where
homework is done.
· Hang a poster there that says-When You Get Home -empty trash and lunch
out of backpack, do homework, pack backpack for the next day, hang
backpack in it’s spot, feed the dog, set the table, play outside. (In whatever
order works for your family of course.)
· Role-play taking out homework and working in the homework spot, then putting
all books (remember no extra ones) and homework in the backpack
immediately after using them and putting the backpack in it’s special spot.
4. Rehearse and practice each of these routines several times so your child already
knows the routines once the pressure of school starts. Practice through play-acting how
to read the lists and mime the routines. Make it fun. Have family members do it right
and note all they did right. Then have them pretend to do things inefficiently or wrong.
(You know… underpants on the floor, going to breakfast with PJ pants on, leaving
homework under the table.) Talk and laugh about what was wrong and how long it will
take if things are that mixed up. Then do it correctly again until everyone really has the
routine of following the lists without prompting.
5. When you need to prompt in the morning, just say, “Look at your list!” Wait, and
then congratulate them when they start to do the next thing on the list.
6.Schedule family meeting times throughout the year in which you brainstorm ways to
simplify these routines or modify the posters even more so that you can shave even
7. Remember to congratulate and reward yourselves. As these habits become more
automatic your children are receiving two precious long-term gifts: self-reliance and the
security of knowing that they are needed because their family functions like a team.
Oh by the way – if you think you don’t have time to create posters, move furniture and
practice routines and you don’t mind yelling in the morning and searching for shoes…
no problem. I was a single mom and didn’t have time for it either. I’m only letting you
know because, according to my calculations, by the time my son Tyler left for college,
he and I had spent the equivalent of a full school year searching for socks.
Finally, buying lots of socks all the same color helps!
Sample Lists – add pictures for young kids or for fun.
· Use the Bathroom
· Wash Face
· Brush Teeth
· Comb Hair
· Eat Breakfast
· Make bed
· Put Lunch in Backpack
· Put on Coat
· Place Backpack and Yourself in Car by 8:15
· Brush Teeth
· Clothes in Hamper
· PJ’s on
· Clothes Picked out for Tomorrow
· Shoes Where they Belong
· In Bed Reading by 7:30
When You Get Home List
· Empty Trash and Lunch Out of Backpack
· Eat Snack
· Do homework
· Pack Backpack for the Next Day
· Hang Backpack and Coat in their Place
· Set the Table
· Say a specific thank you to a family member