When the kids come home from school, so begins the busiest part of my day. Homework, making dinner, music lessons and practice, sports–the list goes on. It’s important to me to not only keep this part of the day as organized as possible, but also to really connect with my school-aged kids. They’ve been gone all day, and I don’t want to rush, rush, rush through a crazy afternoon just to put them to bed without really connecting with them. It’s also much easier said than done, which is why I have a game plan! There are five things on my after school list, and I’m feeling ready (almost) for the new school year to start in two weeks!
It’s not always possible to each of them every single day, but I know that the days I do, they make a huge difference in the way the afternoon goes, and in our family. Some days are lazier, and I can slow things down a little, and I love those days! Most days though, we have somewhere to be in the afternoon, so it means really being ready for the afternoon, and having a plan in place.
1. Spend 5-10 minutes with each child alone
Out of all of them, this one is the mot important to me. Even if I have to make sacrifices in other areas (depending on the day), I do my very best to spend some alone time with each child after school. It’s a time when I can go through their backpack, and not only look at any papers that have come home with them for me to sign, but also completed papers, assignments, or artwork that they can tell me all about. I can look in their eyes, ask them questions, and be focused on what they’re telling me, without lots of other interruptions. I get to talk to them about their day, and really listen for things both said, and not said.
2. Have a healthy snack ready
Are your kids as starving as mine after school? An after school snack is an absolute must, and having it ready to go when they walk in the door really helps the afternoon move along so much better. While they’re eating, I can use that time to speak to each child individually, and capitalize on that time for more than one thing. It also helps me keep the kitchen cleaner and save time in the long run, because they’re not rummaging through the pantry to find something to eat, then making a mess.
3. Give them a few minutes to unwind
After sitting down for the majority of the day, it’s time to let those little bodies run and let loose! I wish my kids had more recess time during the day, but I’m happy to let them have some down time before we get started on homework. The amount of time depends on the day, and the schedule–sometimes we have to get right to homework because we will be playing somewhere and doing something else later, but I really try to fit it in first. I find that after a snack and some wiggle time, they can and will focus so much better on their homework, plus be more happy and cooperative.
4. Set a routine for homework and practices, etc.
Every Sunday evening I make a plan for the week–and looking at what we have each day. I write it all in–homework, music practice and lessons, dance, sports, appointments–you name it, it goes on the list. Then I can write up a schedule and be ready for the week. This not only helps me to stay on top of everything, but it also helps my kids. They like knowing what’s going on, and I’ve found that they do a lot better when they know what needs to be done and when. Our schedule mostly stays the same during a season, so it’s nice that we don’t have too many changes very often. It also helps me with my menu planning, and makes making dinner so much easier. I can figure out when I need “fast” dinners and throw something in the crockpot, or the days when I have a little more time. A plan makes all the difference, and the times when I don’t have one, it has such an effect on our day.
5. Let kids take turns helping with dinner
My kids love to help in the kitchen, and are always asking to be in there with me while I’m making dinner. It’s the perfect time to spend some quality one-on-one time, and I get a helper at the same time! Everyone gets a turn, and I just rotate through the days. If it’s an easy crock pot dinner, then the child that has that day helps me set out all the food, and any other small kitchen tasks that need to be done. Not only do I get to talk to them about anything that’s on their mind, I also get to teach them about food preparation, and give them some life skills at the same time.
Here’s to a new school year!