Aug. 29, 2019
This weekend is the last hurrah of the summer and with it comes lots of emotions.
I KNOW that as a parent AND a teacher, I’m feeling them all, excited, sad, disappointed, and inspired.
I’m excited about inviting my students into our environment and building a new community, in a Montessori classroom, we typically greet about 1/2 -1/3 new people into the space. I have lots of new ideas about how to make this happen, and with a new teaching team it’s going to be critical to get our systems in place and the foundation laid. (more on this later)
I’m sad because my own kids are growing up, and this time of year it ALWAYS hits hard. We’ll have a high school senior a high school freshman and a 7th grader. These are all such fun AND hard times. Two of our girls are going into new schools and thereby new routines.
I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t get all my projects done that I wanted to over the summer AND I’m inspired and have been tapping into momentum that I’ve build up over these last two weeks to keep my candle burning, fueling the fire and getting myself into my space of power with good food, working out and good sleep.
With all this, it’s important to build routines. No matter how old your child is, toddler to teen, routines give them a sense of safety, purpose and comfort. Let’s face it; we all crave routine to some degree.
Here are some BACK TO SCHOOL TIPS from Kristen to keep your sanity and your children ready to go back to school in 5 days! I would start with a conversation with your kids about getting ready to go back to school; keep it casual and conversational, if you have family meetings, put it on the agenda but get the conversation going and hope that THEY bring up these topics, if they don’t, here are some guiding questions you can ask:
“How are we going to make sure that you feel rested in the morning?”
“What kind of food keeps us healthy? What kinds of lunches will you be making?”
“What can we, as a family, do to make sure that everyone is set up for success with regards to their homework?”
“Let’s take a look at the family schedule and make sure everything is balanced.”
Stay tuned over the next few days for a series of tips to make the next few weeks (and beyond!) manageable.
Aug. 31, 2019
Back to School Tip #1 Get lots of sleep~
Summers are a time that many families loosen up on their sleep routines. They let the kids stay up late (here in the Pacific Northwest sunset can be as late as 9pm) so it makes it hard to get children to bed. I know our family loves to take advantage of these nights sitting on the deck, having a late dinner watching the owls come to life and just enjoying the slower pace of summer.
Most experts recommend getting back into sleep schedule 2 weeks before school starts, but that never worked for our family. A few days before school starts, begin tightening up your nighttime routine. The best course of action would be to have your kids on board, prepared for this transition and get them engaged. Ask them for suggestions on how to make this happen. (see my list of guiding questions) If you previously had a routine, it’s a bit easier to get back to it, but generally speaking get the kids into bed a few minutes earlier than normal each night, school-aged children aiming for 9-11 hours per night. (I like this article by the National Sleep Foundation as it includes recommended times and “may be appropriate” times). Summer time is also a great time to assess the true needs of your child’s sleep. If they are allowed to sleep with their natural rhythm wake up happy and refreshed then check the time, you’ll see how much is right for your kids.
If you didn’t have a routine previously, or it’s time to create a new routine, NOW is the perfect time to get something established. Here’s how you know that it’s time to revisit a routine.
- Your child is moving from Kindergarten to 1st grade. For the most part, children who are 6 and over are more likely inclined to need less sleep. Observe for a bit, and ask yourself, are they waking up fresh, ready to go for the day or do they have a slump in the middle of the afternoon, are they super crabby after dinner? You know your child best, just remember to observe carefully!
- You are having the same battles every night. It’s time to switch up the routine when you find yourself battling every step of the way. I “figured it out” almost by mistake one day I just needed to get the dishes done and the dog walked, so I suggested to my daughter that she head to the bathroom to brush her teeth, and told her I’d be there soon. Her sense of pride and accomplishment was evident when I went to her room to find her not only with freshly brushed teeth, but getting her pj’s ready and on. Another strategy we used at our house was
Bedtime takes forever; arguing, crying, stalling. These can be signs of not enough sleep, or really not ready. Stay patient and observant.
September 1, 2019
Back to School Tip #2 Getting out the door.
Ahh! Getting out the door. I’ll have to be honest with you. This has been the hardest one for me over the years. I WISH I could go back and do over, but I can’t. I will say, despite many mornings of not so great departures, my kids are ok. So, before diving into this work, remember, the #1 task is to be gentle with yourself.
Here are my top 10 tips for getting out the door…
1. Prepare the night before, yes, this it easier said than done, and while I wasn’t that great at it THEN my kids are great at it NOW! So even if youfeel like you are talking until you are blue in the face, KNOW that they will hear you and they WILL eventually do it!
2. Decide as a family what your morning meal is going to be and stick to it. I know that this is a big one for many, child changes their mind, doesn’t know, doesn’t like…BE KIND and FIRM
3. Decide on a time for all the transitions and remind them FREQUENTLY throughout the morning. “5 minutes of getting dressed left”
4. Get yourself ready first. Just like the airplane mask! If you are ready first, you will be in a better position to help your child.
5. TRUST that this won’t last forever. Your walking your child(ren) through each step, closely monitoring NOW will set in and become habit in time.
6. PLAN ahead. Make a decision early on when things are going to happen. Wake, dress, toiletries, eat, out the door.
7. Avoid the temptation to “do more”. I can’t tell you how often we were late because I stopped to drop one load of laundry into the wash! REMEMBER you are also modeling for your kids the behavior you WANT TO SEE!
8. Decide what the non-negotiables are, and let the rest go. I’ve been known to let my child get to school without shoes (I was driving and they had indoor shoes at school but…)
9. They won’t starve, so if they refuse to eat, or forget their lunch. They’ll make it. (other kids LOVE to help out!)
10. Don’t forget the I LOVE YOU. While these mornings can often get crazy and busy, the most important thing you can send your child off to school with is your LOVE!
Finally, remember the first thing I said? Be gentle with YOURSELF. This takes time, practice and patience.
Tell me in the comments which one tip do you think you can try? Do you have any other tips that I may have missed?
September 2, 2019
Back to School Tip #3. Plan your meals.
Your elementary children have opinions, tastes AND they are still experimenting with boundaries. Again you have to be…Kind and Firm in your approach to meal prep. Now, what I am talking about here is MOSTLY about their lunches and breakfast on school days. But, the planning and suggestions can also be applied to meals in general.
1. Get the kids to join you in a brainstorming session. Quick discussion about the elements needed in a lunch.
- main course (major source of protein&good fat~long term energy)
- fruit (quick energy with lasting power)
- veggie (fiber to fill your body and lots of nutrients)
- carbohydrates (quick energy can be combined with main course)
Elements for breakfast are about the same, we like to make sure that the kids have a protein and fruit for sure and if they are super hungry whole grain carbohydrate (our family tries to keep our carbohydrate intake down).
2. Take that brainstorm and make your shopping list. For a very long time, our only vegetables were peppers and carrots, and when my daughter got braces, I found myself cutting her carrots into manageable sizes.
3. Assemble the lunches the night before. I’d pull out the components, and make mine alongside my kids. Sometimes creating portions of the lunch that would last a few days.
Here’s the key, your goal is to model the behavior you want from you child. I’m going to assume that you want them to eventually be independent and making their lunches on their own. By spending the time now, when they are young and impressionable, you get in their brain in a different way, you’ll have times to teach them how to make their own egg salad, you show them how to balance their choices (maybe 2 cookies instead of 5, or chips instead of cookies…you get the idea) These things are taught soooo much better by example and a quick comment than a long winded lecture.
AND know that once they start making their own lunches, they appreciate what you do even more.
Breakfast choices vary greatly from family to family, if you are a family who has breakfast together, your kids can help plan the menu. Be sure to have a few options built into the menu so if there is something there they don’t like, something else can take the place of it.
If you are a counter breakfast family (like us) we have standard foods available for them to serve themselves. I’d monitor this and remind to do dishes and give time reminders as needed.
What are some meal planning tips that you have found useful? How do you make sure that your child is fueled and ready for the day ahead? Comment below with any suggestions and tips that you might have to share with the community.
September 3, 2019
Back to School Tip #4, prepare for homework.
Back to school Tip #4. Planning for homework. This is a very special subject for me, and I will be diving more into my thoughts on this in a later post. But for now, depending on your elementary student’s school, the amount of homework can vary.
1. Create a homework station. I HIGHLY recommend that you watch your child carefully to see how they work. MOST kids prefer to do their homework in the middle of the family chaos. (we are social creatures!) This means it might take a bit longer but I highly recommend doing this. It give you the parent time to clue into what may be troubling them and creates topics for conversations and questions for teachers and helps nurture the feeling of love and belonging.
2. Listen, encourage, and be patient. Ok, these are three tips, but you get the drift! When your child stumbles with their homework don’t be quick to give answers, keep the encouraging responses to “keep thinking”, “you are on the right track”, and be patient. (a fake distracted umm-hmm goes a long way in the kids being able to figure it out for themselves)
3. Review their work. The children are good at this age about telling you what you want to hear! “Did you finish your homework?” usually ALWAYS results in a yes. Ask, “Let me take a quick peek at your homework” or “backpack check, is homework in there?” OK, my teacher hat is on now, I ask the parents of my students NOT to check the work, just make sure it’s done. This helps keep any tears or arguing down and allows for some autonomy.
4. Keep a homework planner. This process takes time to establish, so be patient. Some kids are super organized, others need coaching, believe me, it will work out in the end.
5. Keep encouragement task specific. You worked hard on those math facts, how do you feel? I know that this was something you were not looking forward to doing, but you persevered and powered through it. We’ll take more in detail later about Encouragement vs. Praise. But for now, keep the praise minimal and replace with encouraging phrases.
September 5, 2019
Back to School Tip #5~The Schedule
So for our family it’s been awhile since we’ve
had the crazy driving schedule. When my
kids were 14-12-9 I’ll tell you, it was HARD!
I had to go out of my comfort zone and ask for help. I was working full time and had been
committed to a self-care regime that included working out, so that added to the
So you know the drill,
1. Map out the entire schedule, maybe a different color for each child, OR each location (thankfully they were all dancing at the same studio! Soccer, on the other hand was at two different fields on the same day!)
2. Assess the schedule, does your child NEED to be doing all of these things? Soccer, dance, piano and cooking classes? Cost, stress and practicality are all things that go into the formula when I assess an after school activity.
3. Elicit help. Figure out carpool, check with the team to see where everyone lives, and start a carpool discussion. Hire a teen to do some driving for you, (my oldest had a friend at the high school who was also teacher at the dance studio to; I paid her drive my girls from school to dance~it was a win-win for her, because she was also picking up her younger sister at the middle school, so she didn’t have to go out of her way but it was a LIFESAVER for me)
September 8, 2019
Back to School Tip #6. Self-Care.
This post is all about you, the care provider. We all hear about it, but do we actually practice it? I used to always say, oh, I don’t have time for that; I’ve got too much to do.
However one day, and honestly, there was a “day”, I made the shift. I made the shift to change a lot of my habits and included self-care into my life. It wasn’t super easy, and THANKFULLY I had the support of my husband to prioritize ME.
Self-care looks different for each one of us and takes many different forms. Eating healthy, getting rest and exercise are all basic fundamental needs and if we aren’t getting those things taken care of, we really won’t be able to take care of our family.
I’ve know this, I had practiced this before I had children, but once I became a mom, I turned into martyr mom and really did neglect myself.
What did I do on that “day”? I selected a few key changes that I was going to make, food and exercise. I found a gym that has a program that I loved from before kids and I jumped on a food plan that MADE SENSE to us. We were all in.
My motivation was really to feel better and within just a few short days/weeks, I was naturally sleeping better, had more energy and was more present for the people I needed to show up for. This was 5 years ago, and getting to the gym is now a habit, and making healthy(er) choices for food is ALMOST second nature, it’s always work.
Next up for me is to carve time for the creative, while that is a big part of self-care, I have some barriers to break down, AND I understand that I can only do so much, so for now, I teach art to my students and enjoy the process!
I hope that by sharing my story, I’ve given you some tips and inspiration for taking care of yourself. When you take care of yourself, you are also taking care of your children, they are watching you and they will model your habits and priorities as they grow.