Back to School Rhythms for Your Whole Family
Well, hello October. We’ve been back at school for a while now. A whole quarter of the school year is done, yet I don’t fee quite in the groove of a routine. The year started with moving my son to college and then transitioning the other three kids to school. There were meetings for my youngest, therapies, new evaluations, and new medications.
In the midst of all that, my husband and I were able to take a little respite. Those of you who have children with special needs know what goes into planning just a little time away and the fallout that usually ensues upon return. We are just coming out of some of the chaos.
I don’t have it all together all the time and I’m guessing you don’t either. There’s grace here. I’m still sharing because I don’t think these tips on how to structure the rhythms of our homes will be wasted if not implemented at the beginning of the school year.
1. Meal plan/lunch plan
I’ve been horrible at this lately, but it’s always a goal. Life absolutely runs smoother when I am on top of meal planning. My husband does most of the cooking these days, but recently, we sat down to sketch out dinners for two weeks at a time. It saves time and money and reduces our stress when we are each running in different directions for kids’ therapies, doctor appointments, and activities. When possible, we batch cook on the weekends and freeze the meals. Defrosting a quick dinner and adding a salad makes our hectic weeknight evenings more manageable.
I don’t know about you, but our weekday mornings are usually a blur of morning medicine, breakfast, and getting ready for school. Packing lunches for my second grader is usually done once a week on Sunday evenings or Monday mornings. My teens take care of packing their own lunches.
My husband surprised me one day by bringing home a large whiteboard. Our large desk calendar turned wall calendar was not cutting it. We needed a larger place to see the monthly schedule at a glance.
Each person has their own dry erase marker color and their appointments and activities are coded accordingly. It makes it easy for each child to see at a glance what they have on their schedule and what commitments we have as a family. Our calendar looks like a rainbow.
3. Minimize activities
Speaking of scheduling, we do guard our time fiercely. No more than one activity per kid per season. The exception is my son with special needs. His therapy schedule right now is full, so there is no time for added activities. Three sessions a week is more than enough time spent without added sports or activities.
This helps us create space for downtime without having to fight for every free minute. Also, protecting our Sabbath is important to me. It will look different for each family and may not necessarily be a full day of rest, but we do schedule in rest. I’m a better mom when I have that balance.
This one is huge. All my kids have responsibilities and chores. One gift we gave our children when they turned ten was a laundry basket and a lesson on how to do laundry. Now, they had been participating in laundry well before this age, but as of ten years old, they were pretty much on their own, with some guidance.
Another tip I learned from another homeschool mom years ago, was to assign the older kids to clean up duty after dinner as part of their chores. Each night after dinner, the kids rotate the jobs of putting food away, washing dishes, wiping down counters, and sweeping the floor.
5. Consistent bedtime
This might go without saying that a consistent bedtime is helpful, but I am one of my own worst enemies when it comes to a set schedule. Our youngest has a strict and consistent bedtime, but I lack the same discipline I insist he has. I don’t always go to bed at the same time every night, but I do notice a difference in my days when I do.
6. Limit screen time
Limiting screen time helps on so many levels. Our youngest has the strictest rules simply because his behavior dictates the amount he can handle.
We try to limit the older kids to one hour a day during the week and two hours a day on the weekends. Watching shows as a family is excluded because we are spending some time together. The bigs kids and I have a show we watch together after the little guy goes to bed during the week if they finish homework.
Slow and steady, gently folding in a new practice to your routine is probably the best way to incorporate it without the overwhelm. This is not a checklist per se, but rather a loose suggestion. Shifting with the ebb and flow of a fluid schedule has helped me not be so frustrated when things don’t go exactly how I imagined.