How to Create a Successful Kickstart to the Upcoming School Year
Most schools are right now about 4 to 6 weeks outside of their start dates. Now is the time to start working on resetting sleep schedules. It's so easy to get so relaxed in the summertime where your child stays up late and sleeps in. Unfortunately, for most school schedules that doesn't work out and you don't want to be running around the last two weeks before school trying to get your child up. Trust me you're setting yourself up for struggles getting out the door, an exhausted child, and routine battles.
If they're sleeping in to 9am or 10am now, you'll want to start waking them up earlier, little by little. I always suggest you shift those sleep times by 15 to 30 minutes, per week. Each week, allowing four weeks, provides you a shift of an hour to two and a half hours, if needed. This also means you;ll want to start reinforcing an earlier bedtime. I know it's easy for your kids to stay up late because it's still light out at 8:30 and 9 o'clock, but we need to get them back to going to bed at a reasonable hour. You want to make sure that they're getting a full night’s sleep of 8+ hours.
The next thing I suggest you start working on is organizing the homework or learning space. If your child doesn't have a designated space for learning or homework now's the time to see if you can find a place. Often homework happens at the kitchen counter or at the dining room table. However, what I find is that there's a significant number more distractions that happen in those common spaces. If you can find a place within the common area that can be quiet and just for homework it's going to make things easier for you and your child later. If they already have a designated space now is the time to go through the area to ensure you've cleaned out all old papers, old projects, old supplies, and all clutter.
After you have cleaned up the homework space, you will want to get everything organized and labeled. I have found that by labeling everything, it makes it easier for everyone to know where to go, for what and when. You can't argue that something doesn't have a place to live because you've given it a named place to live. It will help in the long run ensure that everybody is on the same page. They know where to find supplies when they need it and they know where to return supplies when they done.
Next up we're going to set up systems that are going to make getting out the door and completing daily work a breeze. For example, each child should have a place for their backpack…and it's not on the floor. I prefer a hook system so that each child has a hook for a backpack, for a lunch container, and for their coat. I also like to set up file pocket systems for each child or family member. This works perfectly for documents and papers that need to be read, reviewed, signed and/or returned. But, homework comes out of the backpack and when completed goes back to the backpack. That way there is nothing out on a desk or in a pocket waiting for something. It's always ready to go to school or it's coming home from school.
I'm also a huge fan of what I call a command center and I believe every home should have one. It’s an area that has a calendar and it outlines everything that needs to be accomplished on a weekly or monthly basis. It shows everyone’s appointments, reminders, chores, meal plan, and upcoming events. It's the visual calendar that most of us carry around in our pocket, but it's important that everyone can see it. By keeping in a central location, family members will know what's coming for dinner and/or they know what chores they're supposed to do. It's fantastic.
The key to it is that it has to be maintained and it has to be in a place where everybody can see it on a daily basis. If it's hidden in your office or hiding in your phone it doesn't work for anybody but you. You become the bottleneck of flow that your house can have.
Another one of my favorite techniques to make getting out of the door and bedtime and all those daily works a breeze is visual charts. I love, love, love, love, love visual charts. We set up tons and tons and tons and tons of them in our house. They work for all ages. I don't care if your child is 2, or your teenager is a 18, or if your significant other is 31. It doesn't matter, visual charts help everyone and you can make them for any task that needs to be completed. You can use them for backpack checks: what goes in the backpack, what comes out of the backpack, what goes in your lunch bag, what comes out of your lunch bag. You can use them for morning routines: get up, brush your hair, brush your teeth, put on your clothes, put your clothes in the hamper, whatever the case is. Other examples are for homework routines, bedtime routines, how to clean your room, etc.
We also use the command center and visual charts for posting chores. Everybody gets assigned a color and tasks get assigned to a certain color. The key to visual charts is using simplified pictures, easy step-by-step instructions, and everything is color coded. That way If I know that my tasks are in green, I go look at my green tasks and I know exactly what I need to do and I can block out the ones in red, pink, or blue.
Lastly, we're going to talk about is using the right technology. For younger kids this may not apply when they're at school, unless they have an IEP that allows for adaptive technologies. For any child that has an iPad, computer, tablet, or cell phone this is going to apply. Let's ensure that all of these devices are used for more than entertainment. I am fascinated about how this generation is using these devices predominantly for entertainment. When I grew up, these devices for productivity. They were introduced to us as productivity time-saving devices and didn't have access to the internet (as the internet didn't exist yet). You no longer had to write out an essay. You could type it into a Word document. Blackberries were glorified electronic calendars that you could use. Nowadays, kids typically use them to play games or watch videos. Let's show them the productivity that these devices can provide by setting up reminders and installing apps that will help your child. By keeping an ongoing family calendar you begin to shift more responsibility to your child. What we have found when we do this is that it removes power struggles, creates a learning experience, and we have given our daughter back a level of control. By doing this, over time they will build self-confidence and self-reliance. The added bonus is you get to nag less while more is being accomplished.
There you have it. Start implementing these tips today to help your child kick start a successful upcoming school year and if you have a great idea I'd love for you to share it with me below.