Back to School Tips and Advice
Next week it's back to school time for us, and many of you have already begun. As you know, we're starting homeschooling, but a couple of days each week we'll still be getting up and out early, and also packing lunches (one day for some enrichment classes and another day for Mass), so I could use some new ideas to make mornings go smoothly and keep our lunch boxes exciting.
Let's help each other out with our best tips and advice to get back into the swing of things this fall and keep our sanity, too!
NOTE: If your advice is a recipe or you have a whole blog post to share on this topic, be sure to link up tomorrow for a back-to-school edition of Real Food Wednesday!
But if you have any other tid-bits to share with us, please do so in the comments!
For example, here are a few of the things I'm wondering about…
- What's your best tip for making mornings go more smoothly? (Besides the obvious, which is getting all set the night before.)
- How do you get kids to sleep who just don't fall asleep easily? (For two of our kids, even if they got up really early they still just don't settle in well at night. I think separate bedrooms would help, but that isn't an option right now…)
- What are some of your super easy healthy school snack ideas? (Here are some cookies you don't feel bad giving your kids for those times you don't have a chance to bake! Also, if you're a local reader, you can see where we get our kids fav meat sticks.)
- What are some of your kids favorite nutritious lunch box meals? (If your kids are still stuck on PB&J's, here's the only nut butter I feel good about giving our kids.)
- What's your best tip for getting back into the routine of school?
- If you have any other juicy advice at all, we'd love to hear it!
Here's a post I did a while back with my own helpful back-to-school tips.
- By the way, in case any of you still feel like chatting more specifically about homeschooling, check out these homeschooling posts. And here I ask for your “one big” piece of homeschooling advice and would love to know what you see as the *most important* thing I should remember as we begin this new adventure. (Thank you!)
What wonderful, creative ideas in the comments! I really wish I had kids to try these strategies out on! Even without children of my own, I find the discussion fascinating. After all, I was a child once.
A point of contention with my partner is that he usually stays up later, and always sleeps in much later than I do, and so he has the lights on when I’m trying to sleep (even with a sleep mask, which I *always* wear, apparently even the skin senses light and it can interfere with melatonin production, so I usually take melatonin). Even if I stay up late Facebooking, I get up first and let the chickens out, feed them, soak and rinse their sprouts, etc., catch up on yesterday’s dishes, start breakfast, etc.
I’d think it was doing a greater kindness to children to teach them to keep to a schedule, which is a very useful skill in life, as long as they also get some free time to dawdle, daydream, or be creative in a way of their own choosing. We all need to be able to make some of our own choices. I grew up in a home where we had schedules and chores and sometimes checklists, and it helped me. David grew up in a more chaotic home, and he is far more unfocused and disorganized than I, though that is honestly something we both struggle with. He’s an entrepreneur, while I’ve always worked for somebody else.
Early habits don’t guarantee anything, but I think it gives a child tools that they can either use or not as they choose in adulthood. Bottom line, it’s easy to learn to sleep in, etc., as an adult, if needed or wanted, compared with trying to learn disciplined habits for the first time as an adult, in my opinion. I sometimes wish someone would remind me “10 minutes to lights out!” but that’s my job!
Last year, I made a deck of cards for each kiddo with one action on each card, so we could make it to school on time.
When they first got up in the morning, they would flip all of the cards over face up, and as they completed each action they would turn that card face down. Then, instead of saying, “Did you brush your teeth this morning?” , I could just say, “How’s your list coming along?” if they got distracted.
It turned out that one child loved the cards, but it didn’t feed into the learning styles of my other two schoolers.
This year, those two schoolers made their own checklists, complete with beads they could slide for each action to move when they had finished. Then, one girl taped hers on the wall to keep from losing it, but the other made hers into a door hanger to hang on the knob in whichever room she is in at the time.
For my new little kindergartener, I drew pictures on cards and stuck the envelope at his spot on the table. He loves being a “big” now and having his own list!
My problem is getting my priorities straight. I prefer to have the dishes all done before bed, but lately I’ve been zonking out WITH the kids around 8 or 830, so the dishes are there and waiting for me when I get up. So I have to get up and wash the breakfast pans before I can use them. Gonna have to get something straight for Monday nights b/c I have adoration 10-11, so I try to lay down for a nap beforehand. Just hate feeling like I’m doing dishes all evening and not getting any QT w/ the kids. What’s gonna happen when they start soccer practice in the evenings? DH is going to HAVE to get on board.
I know some people say to let it go (in terms of keeping a tidy home), but I absolutely HAVE to have a clean kitchen if I’m going to fix ANY food. My goal is to be in the kitchen preparing breakfast @ 630 and sit down to eat @ 7, but we never get down to eat before 730. All the while I’m fixing breakfast, I’m packing lunches as well and trying to get kids out of bed and dealing w/ grumps.
Had a rough spell w/ DS this morning. I am pretty much always late for everything and always rushing. This doesn’t bother me so much until it comes to getting my kids to school on time. I feel like that’s most important for them. DS was getting an attitude this a.m. w/ me and his brothers and just dragging his feet. So he was in tears and I was yelling. Thankfully we reconciled, I apologized and we hugged. But he’s going to be doing drills when we get home: I will set the timer and he has 5 minutes to get fully dressed. He has to do this successfully 3 times. And then he will go to bed early.
I wish I wasn’t so tired all the time and I could stay up past the kid’s bedtime to get my crap together. Poor DH is on OT not getting home till 10 or later and then hitting the books for school.
jenna @kidappeal says
i just wrote a series on real food classroom snacks, real food classroom parties, and allergy free (gluten,dairy) classroom snacks + the notes I sent to the boys teachers about their health, recovery, remaining issues. the posts are long and sloppy bec. i was supposed to be on vaca last week when i wrote them. if you can make it thru them there are dripping with good strategies for public school parents. i will link them up in a round-up post for RFW.
bed time: that’s really hubby’s department, they take a detox bath, he reads a chapter book to them while they soak, they get ready for bed, then he reads them a bit more with lights low in their beds. sings a song. lights out. usually no problems. i can tell if they are having a healing reaction, exposure at bedtime because they ask for me. they just need one more mama hug if they aren’t feeling quite right. it clues me in that there was probably an exposure/detox during the day that i need to identify. i reassure them that their body needs to sleep to finish repairing, give them hugs and leave within minutes. i decline offers to snuggle at night and offer them a cuddle in my bed in the morning after their body has done it’s nightly healing. they get it. for years we’ve told them that they grow and remember while they sleep, so usually the tuck in no problems.
I’m ducking when I say this because you probably don’t want to hear this: really early waking makes me suspect there is an unknown health issue. my 8 year old woke pre-dawn for years until we healed leaky gut and asthma. this summer when no school alarms were needed, he would sleep until sunrise, and sometimes after except on mornings when he’d had a recent exposure, healing reaction. symptoms woke him early. waking before dawn is not normal. ( IMO)
Still ducking: sluggish to get out of bed, suggests a health concern too. my 6 yr old spend years being sluggish to wake because he wasn’t done healing and being restored yet. he woke up grumpy, would grunt at me and ask me to go away and “stop it’ when i touched him. heart breaking. now that his leaky gut and ashtma is healing, he smiles when i wake him. he wraps his arms around my neck. he gets right up and gets dressed. he comes to the table and eats because his tummy no longer hurts. he no longer refuses “unpalatable” (read: not his favorites) food. i no longer have to beg and plead for him to eat a few bites for breakfast. he just eats up whether it’s what he wanted to eat or not. huzzah!
still ducking : reluctant eaters don’t feel well. resolve the root cause of dis-ease and you solve the reluctant eating.
that may have been TMI, but i can’t not tell you how TRANSFORMED our mornings are around here now that our bodies are healed and our brains no longer prevent us from doing the right things like getting up, eating breakfast, being flexible, following directions, being nice, and working like team pepper to get out the door on time. school starts at 7:30a, so we have to be real lean with our time.
because i no longer nag, remind, holler, and they just do what they’re supposed to do, we even have time for a morning walk around the block!!!! amazing. this might be back to school honeymoon, but even beginning of school in years past haven’t been this rosy, so i think some of these changes will be lasting.
we also have a nagging tax at our house. it’s very effective. if you want to hear about that, i’ll write a guest post for you 🙂
hope this helps. be well!
For getting everyone to bed and awake smoothly, I find that a consistent routine is essential. If they go to bed between 9 and 9:30 every night they know just what to expect, and a regular routing gets them mentally prepared. Allowing an hour or so of book time helps to relax them, and the warm milk with vanilla does wonders too.
In the morning I try to get up half an hour before anyone else and get breakfast in the pan, everybody is in a much better mood if they wake up to the scent of bacon, and it gives me some peaceful quiet “me” time to organize my thoughts (or scatter them if I get distracted by shiny stray ideas. Yeah, that happens a lot.).
I’d like to say that planning is the key and that I get stuff ready ahead for meals and snacks. The truth is, half the time I’m dog paddling with snacks and meals. I think our “prep tasks” list on the fridge will help to have things ready when we need them. This week I’m just “freezer diving” to use only what we have on-hand (and having bone broth in something every day to get those minerals in!). Next week we can get a menu going again and shop for it. It really does help to have a list of dinners and to plan snacks also.
With 2 high schoolers I don’t feel like we can be as relaxed as I would like or as we used to be. Like it or not, they need to get a certain amount of things done to have the option of college and there is just not enough time in the day if we sleep in. Actually, things just got really complicated because one dd has a new goat project and another was gifted a horse. Both need care in the morning so our breakfast routines have drastically changed (sigh). Now it’s something like: eat a quick piece of homemade toast or muffin with some fresh milk and run out to the animals. During the summer I wasn’t seeing them again until 10:00 but that is being drastically cut starting this week. That brings be to my first little tip that helps us: we start easing into the schedule the week before but without the schooling part.
Another tip: I bring the dc in on the scheduling. We had a big conference yesterday (over snack time!) and brainstormed outside obligations like speech class and drama, home necessities (broad topics like chores, animals), and subjects. Then we listed all of the subjects to see how much time or how many times per week they needed to spend on it (and divided that along with how much time from me). THEN I made big spreadsheet of the week on construction paper and started plugging things in, trying to consider my adrenal roller coaster issues. It ended up being Week A and Week B because Art is every other week and takes up the entire afternoon. It still needs some tweaking but it’s a start. I tried to build in as much “work time” (for olders) and “shelf work” (for younger dd) time as possible for them to use as they choose. Getting them involved means letting go a bit but not only do I think it’s important, they usually have better insight than I do about their needs and learning.
Hope this l-o-n-g response helps someone :).
Great response! I involve the kids in schedule planning too. Sometimes they all have to get up and get going for one child’s activity so it’s nice to hear from all of them to balance it out, and they learn to compromise, be sympathetic, etc. Real life skills. Middle school is very different from the younger spontaneous and leisurely days. Fun all around, but different.
We have a BIG breakfast together and have snacks for lunch that the kids make themselves at different times. They usually pack their own lunches for away days, too. (They pack the night before.)
Lunch ideas – home made fruit rolls (we dehydrate all summer), dried pears and apples (making now), trail mix (the kids all make theirs with the ingredients that they like best), popcorn, boiled eggs, crackers & brie, prosciutto wrapped over melon, pesto (we make and freeze pesto in the summer) & leftover meat stuffed in pitas, pepperoni sticks (grassfed and uncured), kielbasa or summer sausage from the butcher (cured but I don’t mind that trade off for the venison for the latter) – both are really good on rye or whole wheat sourdough with lots of butter, yogurt, cheese, bread and olive oil/balsamic to dip, apple/pear sauce that we are making now for the year, liver pate with lettuce and tomato, sliced pork shoulder with BBQ sauce, sprouted muffins, pickles. This year I am going to order some insulated Kleen Kanteens for soups & stews as well. You can heat them, fill the thermoses and not have to worry about reheating them (in a microwave) at lunchtime. (Or keeping raw milk cold.) I bring kombucha and little cups for whoever wants it (so far nobody has asked me if it’s booze.)
Making boiled eggs once a week and having the pepperoni & other meats in the freezer is a lifesaver for when you need a last minute snack. Also, have an easy dinner for the days you’re out, like a couple of roasted chickens or reheated meatballs or soup or something.
Thanks, and great lunch list! I’ll be adding some of these to my ‘prep tasks’ list on the fridge also, like boiling eggs to have handy.
Oh, another quick snack or part of lunch (I don’t think it’s been mentioned but I may have missed it) is smoothies. Right now I’m on a buttermilk kick and we like it better than milk kefir plus it’s much easier for me to handle and keep up with the culturing (I know it has less strains of goodies but that’s okay with me). Yesterday’s was buttermilk with a frozen mango (they had been on sale 4 for $1 so I froze a bunch) along with lunch and it was really good. A few days ago it was buttermilk with fresh nectarines as a mid-morning snack.
smoothies are a great idea. the sale mango ideas touches on another thing . . . organic works better if we live the cycle of the seasons. you know, beef in the fall, eggs in the spring and summer, fruits and vegetables when in season. grains when they’re not. it’s also a huge money saver – i bought lugs of blueberries and cherries for $2/lb, and when they’re imported from outside of the area, they are $5-6/lb. they freeze and dehydrate well and make nice jam.
this article that talks about the benefits of eating in season (as far as the EFAs go) really made me think about eating in season . . . there are probably more benefits that we don’t know about.
Hey Kelly our before school and after school goes fairly smooth, because we set clear expectations ahead of time. In the morning Grace has to be dressed and have her hair done before breakfast. She has to be at the breakfast counter by 7 a.m., or she does not get to watch PBS while she’s eating. TV goes off at 7:30 on the dot, I don’t even have to tell her, and that’s her cue to take care of her breakfast dishes and get her teeth brushed and face washed. If she does all of this promptly, then she has time to read before she heads out the door and reading is a great motivator for her. We stuff the backpack with library books and homework the night before. After school has a similar structure. We’re going to have to do some things a bit differently this year as she’ll be swimming 2 days per week after school as well as church one evening, but we’ll figure it out.
Regarding sleep… a little magnesium can be very relaxing. Natural Calm is a powder you can mix with water or a little juice. We often do warm milk with a touch of homemade vanilla and a splash of maple syrup. Lastly, a little “massage” does wonders. Her massage is actually joint compressions. We learned this in her occupational therapy sessions years ago. Google it and you can find a video. It only takes a couple of minutes and Daddy’s hands are the best. We also never do TV after dinner and cut off the DS, iPod, etc at 7 pm.
This next part, I’m going to try not to type in a whiney or mean voice. All the talk of letting kids go to bed when they want, get up when they want, have all the screen time they want, etc… is making my blood boil. I feel as though kids need to be on their parents’ schedule as well as bend to structure, rules and authority. If kids only do what they feel like doing, when they feel like doing it, then how in the world will they ever learn how to serve others, obey God, hold down a job, stay out of jail, etc..??? The root of problems in our culture today is that we are a self-centered vs. God-centered people. I could go on, but many of your readers are rolling their eyes already, so I’ll stop.
Blessings… I’ll be praying for your family as you embark on this homeschooling adventure.
Yes, I’ve had similar thoughts. Kids also LIKE being told what to do deep down inside. Structure and discipline (given with love and taking into account the needs of the child) are actually comforting to children. try talking to someone who didn’t get enough growing up, and they usually have residual issues. It’s not fun for a child to feel like they’re in charge.
Naomi Williams says
Even though they’re not going to an actual school, go ahead and buy them the Back to School supplies: New lunchbox, folders, pens, clothing, etc. It will go a long way toward making them feel like they’re not missing anything.
Academically, do the hardest or least enjoyable subject first after a sound breakfast. Eat breakfast together and keep the conversation light. So the fun or favorite subject right after the hard one.
My difficult sleeper settles in much better if I spend a few minutes with her right at bedtime. There always seems to be a big issue weighing on her that needs airing. A little comforting and sometimes a back rub is a great help.
We are out of separate rooms as well, but a room divider gave one girl the sense of privacy she needed.
For us, a light touch and sense of humor in the morning helps. A daily joke at the table, a “landing zone” where everything is kept and picked up from, an early enough alarm that there is no rushing, and a brief blessing on the way out the door help.
I have no help on the food issue, I need inspiration there too!
I love this:
“My difficult sleeper settles in much better if I spend a few minutes with her right at bedtime. There always seems to be a big issue weighing on her that needs airing. A little comforting and sometimes a back rub is a great help.”
We do something similar. My son gets quite chatty in the quiet time just before bed time, so we talk about the day (one favorite thing and one not-so-favorite thing). When he is particularly curious, I allow 3 questions (“2 more”, “1 more”, “all done” – the rest have to wait for morning). Usually he’s ready to roll over and fall asleep. If he’s still having troubles, I offer to come back in and check on him in 2 minutes, then 4 minutes, then 8 minutes. Only once has he made it past that 8 minute check-in. For us, the key is not to rush it. If needed, I’ll start the process 15 min earlier the next night.
Ann Marie @ CHEESESLAVE says
(1) What’s your best tip for making mornings go more smoothly? (Besides the obvious, which is getting all set the night before.)
Get up when you want. Let kids sleep in until they wake up. Have an easy, fun-filled breakfast. Pancakes, cinnamon toast (on sprouted bread with sucanat). No stress. (Much easier when you are homeschooling!)
(2) How do you get kids to sleep who just don’t fall asleep easily? (For two of our kids, even if they got up really early they still just don’t settle in well at night. I think separate bedrooms would help, but that isn’t an option right now…)
Our new strategy: let them go to sleep when they want. We tell Kate she can have quiet time in her bedroom until she falls asleep, and she listens to audiobooks. If she stays up late, she can sleep in.
(3) What are some of your super easy healthy school snack ideas? (Here are some cookies you don’t feel bad giving your kids for those times you don’t have a chance to bake! Also, if you’re a local reader, you can see where we get our kids fav meat sticks.)
Popcorn made with coconut oil and butter
Homemade tortilla chips fried in coconut oil
Cheese and crackers
(4) What are some of your kids favorite nutritious lunch box meals? (If your kids are still stuck on PB&J’s, here’s the only nut butter I feel good about giving our kids.)
Leftover chili or stew or soup
Grilled cheese sandwich on sprouted bread
Rice pasta with meat sauce
Leftover shepherd’s pie
Homemade mac & cheese
Quesadillas with grass-fed cheese and extra sour cream
All of these can be put into a thermos!
(5) What’s your best tip for getting back into the routine of school?
Stay in your pajamas until noon. 😀 After the reading/homeschooling is done, let them play outdoors all afternoon!