5 Ways to Love School Days

The start of a new school year is exciting. It can also be hectic. For the next nine months. Getting kids out the door in the morning and handling the witching hours in the afternoon (from the time they get home until they’re in bed) without actually turning into a witch can be a challenge.

I’ve found a few things that are helping smooth my mornings and de-hassle my afternoons. We’ve only been in school for a week, but so far it’s been my best week of school ever. Here’s what’s new in our house.

Homework Time

Some kids do great having free time right after school so they can unwind. Mine would probably love that, but I’ve found that if I let them play right away, I have a tough time reining them back in when it’s time for homework. So our homework time starts right after school, and if it’s to go right, it must be uninterrupted.

Nothing can make my kids lose focus faster than knowing a friend just stopped by and is waiting for them to finish. So I made a little sign that goes on my front door. It says, “Homework Time. Please don’t knock.”

No doorbell, no urgent firehouse-like scramble to see who’s there, and no “Pleeeeease can I play? I promise I’ll finish my homework laterrrr!”

Limited Toddler TV Time

This one goes hand in hand with Homework Time because it’s actually a homework strategy: I limit my toddler’s daytime TV shows. If my two-year old has had little (maybe one show) or no television during the day, I can guiltlessly plop him in front of a show when homework time begins, and he is content to sit there and relax while the rest of us work.

Then, when homework is done, and the little guy is finished with his show, everyone goes out for fresh air until dinner. And here’s the best part: No one is in my way while I’m getting it ready.


Night-Before Lunches

I’m done with feeling inferior looking at Pinterest with all the cute lunch ideas like grapes in the shape of a face and heart-shaped PBJs and fancy they’ll-love-it foods that I’m never going to take the time to make. Besides, those grapes aren’t going to stay like that once that lunchbox leaves the counter.

I don’t worry about fancy. I worry about done, and the night before is the time. A little fruit cup or bag of carrots, a drink, crackers, string cheese—whatever it is—can all be packed the night before. Even the sandwich. If you put the lettuce between the meat and the cheese, the bread won’t get soggy. If you need more veggies, like tomato and pickle, just stick them in a separate baggie, and your kid can put it on the sandwich at lunchtime.

Then all you have to do is grab the lunchbox out of the fridge in the morning and send it.


Compartmentalized Clothes

The best six bucks (per kid) I’ve spent all year has been on hanging closet organizers.

One for each kid, five compartments in each organizer. On Sunday night, we fill them with the week’s outfits, down to the socks—especially the socks. And guess what is no longer part of my weekday mornings:

“Why are you not dressed?”
“That shirt doesn’t go with those pants.”
“That’s not clean; pick something else.”
“Where’s your other shoe?”

Even my little first grader simply grabs an outfit, puts it on, and he’s ready to go.


Media-Free Zone

This one, we have not yet perfected, but we are on our way, and it’s making our evenings so much more personal. The concept is this: power down the computer, the cell phones, the tablets, the television, the gaming devices—anything with a screen. Don’t just set them aside. Turn them off.

Our media-free zone goes from 6 to 8 p.m. (roughly, depending on things like karate and gymnastics). It’s a two-hour block when we talk to our kids face to face. We eat together. We pajamify (yes, that’s a word), brush teeth, read scriptures, have prayer, and tuck kids into bed with no outside distractions.

I can hardly express the level of peace (even relief) it gives me not to hear a text notification go off while I’m asking my kids what they liked about their day and what they look forward to tomorrow. My heart fills when they ask me things about the world or nature or God that they may not have asked if I had been reading something while I waited for them to doze off.

These golden hours should have no interference. And guess what. When I turn the phone back on, the texts and voicemails and e-mails are still there, waiting, and it really, really doesn’t matter that it’s been an hour.

No doubt, things won’t always be smooth. There will be forgotten permission slips and big projects and days when I neglect to pick something up at the store. But these changes are already making our lives better. So far, so good. Here’s to a great school year.

- Sara