In these blissful first days of school, the homework is minimal. We've only got one sport's practice to get a child to. It seems like we have plenty of time for everything. We even have time for evening Wii tournaments or walks around the block. Everyone's homework gets done with a minimum of fuss.
Yet, D-Day on our calendar is September 4. It seems everything starts on that day -- special chorus, afterschool math competition, hockey, a new mom's group that I'm leading. If we don't have our afternoon routine down by Sept. 4, it will be a disaster.
While getting everyone out the door in the morning can be difficult, getting everything done in the afternoon can be just as crazy. That's why it's so important to have a plan. If we just let everything come down to chance, then we'll be flustered and our kids will be frustrated. Proverbs 21:5 says "The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty."
Now, having a plan for our after-school routine isn't going to make us rich, but it will keep us from having a poverty of time or patience. Use these tips to plan your own after-school routine.
Give your kids time to decompress. School can be stressful. Your child has been sitting still for several hours. Build some time in your schedule for them to grab a snack and relax for a few minutes before moving on to the next thing. Be available for them to talk with you about their day during that time. Whether it's five minutes or half an hour, our kids need a little time to rest their brains and bodies before rushing off to something else.
Have a set time and place for homework. My girls know that after they have their snack, it's homework time. Homework has to be done before practice or we don't go to practice. Usually we do homework at the kitchen table, but my older daughter will sometimes take hers to the desk in her room. Having a set time and place for homework means you're sure it gets done, and you're not trying to cram it in around everything else. Your set time and place may be different from ours. It may be that your kids do their homework in the evening after they have piano lessons. There's no right or wrong way to do it. It's simply important to have a time and a spot.
Work with your kids. We can make all the plans we want, but kids are unpredicatable. We may think we've created the perfect homework environment only to find out that one of our kids gets distracted sitting next to the window. Talk with your kids about what works best for them. Create an environment after school that works for your kids. And keep in mind that the routine doesn't have to be the same every day or for every kid in your family. Find what works best for your family, and do that.
Plan ahead. Tuesdays are crazy days around here. We have guitar lessons and soccer practice. The window for dinner on Tuesday nights is miniscule, so I have to plan ahead. Dinner has to be ready before we head off to guitar or my older daughter won't get to eat. Yesterday, we had dinner at four o'clock because my younger daughter had an hour-long lesson instead of half an hour. It takes some planning, but we manage to get everyone fed and out the door on those nights.
Be flexible. Don't let your schedule be so rigid that you can't be flexible. If you've had a stretch of horrible weather, and it's a sunny afternoon, bend the homework rule and send your kids out to play. Pick your kids up from school and take them out for ice cream every now and then. Our kids need to know what to expect when they get home, but that doesn't mean we can't switch up the routine every now and then.
Having an afternoon routine helps our kids know what to expect when they get home. It keeps chaos to a minimum and helps us keep our patience and tempers in check. Nagging about homework and getting ready for practice is kept to a minimum when everyone knows what to expect. An afternoon routine offers your household an opportunity for peace and fun and can help make this the best school year ever.