Saturday, Aug 29
Part 4: MANAGING HOMEWORK TIME, PLAY TIME, DINNER TIME, SNACKING, THE AFTER SCHOOL HOURS
Part 5: SCHOOL LUNCHES I DON’T PACK THEM ANYMORE
Uniforms, check. Paper & emails, check. Scheduling & calendars, check! Now, how do we manage the after school hours? It’s not easy, I’ll start with that, but it can be peaceful, believe it or not. For me, managing the stuff that comes with having kids has always come naturally, but managing the actual children? Not so natural. I guess that’s why I strive to have order in my home. Stuff is easy to control. People are not. Don’t get me wrong, controlling the people is not what I am striving for anyway. What I want for my children is independence, and that takes training and leading by example and sometimes this can take a lot of energy and patience, two things that are hard to come by sometimes. I want to send my children out into the world each day knowing that they are capable of taking care of themselves and the after school hours are a great place to begin. Before I get started, here are three posts about our family routines that you mind find useful:
Family meetings work really well for us. We sit down at an appointed time (we always tell the kids in advance so that it’s not a reaction to something, it’s planned) and we have an agenda. A couple of days before the meeting, we ask the kids to tell us what issues they would like to address at the meeting. We are always surprised at the things they want to cover. We add their topics for discussion to our agenda. One of the older children takes notes in our Family Communication Binder. These notes include resolutions to the issues that need to be addressed. For example, one week, Dimples was extremely frustrated with her little sister Social Butterfly because she kept wanting to play as soon as she returned from school. Dimples wanted some alone time in the room they share, even just for ten minutes. So, we came up with the resolution that SB wouldn’t bother Dimples in their room for ten minutes after she got home from school. Dimples got the decompression time that she needed after a long day at school and SB learned that sometimes people need to be left alone. In a large family, it’s so important to revisit routines every once in a while. What’s working? What’s not working? We always give a new routine a trial run before we tweak it, which is three weeks or so. Everyone tends to be very “gung ho” the first few days, and then the reminders start. But this is okay! We stick to it and persevere and the result is children who know what they are supposed to do where and when. What could be better? Just a side note, don’t put too many items on your Family Meeting agenda, especially with children under ten. We try to finish our Family Meetings with some sort of fun activity. Play time outside with mom and dad’s undivided attention, an ice cream treat, or going to a park close by are just a few ideas. Maybe a popcorn and movie night in the basement would be fun. The idea is to make it enjoyable so that they look at the Family Meeting as time spent together working toward a goal, not a lecture session.
Alright, what does this have to do with homework time, play time, dinner time, and after school snacking? Everything. Here’s how we handle the after school hours.
3:17 pm I am pulling out of the driveway for school.
3:20 pm Little One and I are in the carpool line, waiting patiently, listening to kids’ music
3:30-3:35ish We arrive home with the whole crew
3:35 pm We enter the house through the garage where the kids put their shoes on their shelf, hang up their backpacks and their coats/jackets (later the big kids will bring back packs into the house for homework time. Little kids will grab the folder or book they need.)
Between 3:45 and 4:00 pm Sit down at the kitchen table for DINNER. Yes, dinner.
4:20-4:30ish pm Play time for the younger children, homework time for the older children. We do our best to complete homework before any child goes to an activity
4:45 pm Homework time for the younger children
5:45 pm (this is very flexible) Make lunches/snacks, the goal is to get this done before dad gets home from work.
6:30-7:00ish pm Sit down with Dad while he eats his dinner and have a snack (or more dinner)
I cannot say enough about how important it is for our family to establish a rhythm to our afternoons. I’ve tried getting by many years without routines and what ends up happening is just chaos. I yell. Children get stressed. Things don’t get accomplished. I get stressed. People aren’t fed well. Mom and Dad are dealing with constant meltdowns. Everything is a reaction. When you have certain times set aside for putting things away, accomplishing work, eating, and playing, then there is peace. There is harmony. People know when things are going to happen and don’t experience stress or anxiety. When our family doesn’t stick to our routine, it shows almost immediately in our children’s behavior. There just isn’t enough time in the day to provide for your children’s needs if you don’t plan ahead. And when children’s needs aren’t met, they will let you know, usually in the form of misbehavior.