Coming into a new school year can feel a little like January 1st. It's a new start?—a new year?—and you and your child can make resolutions and set certain goals, so this is the best [school] year ever. Some have academic dreams they want to achieve. Others would just love to get everything done with as little stress as possible. Aside from new backpacks and school supplies, what are some ways to set yourself up for success this September? Here are different ideas for how you can start the school year off right.
Sit down with your family and see what everyone is hoping to do this year. Sometimes we just agree to the first opportunities that cross our path. Nowadays, it's easy to overfill a schedule and miss out on what you really want to do. Perhaps your daughter has always done yearbook but now wants to change her focus to water polo in the spring. That would certainly change what the school year looks like. Maybe your basketball-playing son has been encouraged to try out for track. That would be good to know before track season starts. Now is the time to debate the value of a chess league versus mathletes or an art club versus a photography group.
Take the time to come together and talk about what is most important to each person. Lay out all the options so everyone can make informed choices about how to fill the coming year with what each person really wants to do.
Every age has many activities which will pull your family in different directions. If you have two children, that means double the potential events that could lay claim to your time. If there are three, then that's triple, and so on. Of course, you want to be able to say yes to everything, but if you do, you are likely to either go insane or need to hire some full-time help with driving, cooking, cleaning, etc. Plus, if you say yes to everything, who knows when your family will have the time to relax and enjoy each other's company. The point is, you are going to need to make some choices, so you and your children are not overextended and exhausted every single day.
To guide your choices, consider the logistics of all of the activities everyone wants to do. How will each person get to his or her respective activities? Who is responsible for laying out all the kids' uniforms and gear prep? See what a typical week will look like. Make sure there is time for homework and eating. Rest is another important element that we can sometimes forget about. It's OK to set some limits so you can make sure there is time to recharge, manage life's curve balls and tie up loose ends.
Now that you all know what you are in for, what habits are going to make the school year go smoothly...or at least as smoothly as possible? What are small habits you can start now that will help you and your family do what needs to be done at the right time? For some families, that may mean getting up at a certain time in the mornings. Other families may need to take the step before that and ensure everyone goes to bed by a certain time, so mornings are not so hard.
You can even use scheduling to support these goals. After all, it's hard to go to sleep if weekly practice ends at ten in the evening or homework doesn't start until after a late dinner. Try planning in a set time for homework to get done so you don't have to worry about it, and your child can be free the rest of the day. Consider doing the same for chores, so laundry and dishes don't start to take over the house during the school year. Set up a rhythm, so all kids' clothes are clean when they are needed, and everyone is clear on who is responsible for the dishwasher every day. Focusing on good habits not only makes your life easier but also creates good patterns your children can rely on to work their way through problems, projects, and tests independently.
Keeping things organized during the school year can be a tall order. Prioritizing what you want, setting limits, so you don't get overwhelmed, and practicing the kinds of habits that move you in the direction you want to go can make the difference between a fun, productive school year and a completely crazy one. Look beyond the lunchboxes to see how you can make this school year a great one for you and your family.