The internet has tons of lists about how families prepare for going back-to-school; one list even had 45 things to do!  It needs to be simpler for me. Today, I’ve boiled it down to three simple considerations for the fall to set ourselves up for school-day success!

 

1.  How can you move your child to greater independence?  

Each year I consider how I need to support my child to greater independence.  Maybe it’s lunches, homework, reading, ballet bag, or chores.  Ensuring our children are gaining life skills is essential.  

My parents always say it is easier to learn to parent than to learn to de-parent.  They are right.  Standing back and allowing for greater independence, particularly in the teen years is a definite challenge.  As I enter into the final year of parenting with my oldest, I am deeply considering my son’s independence and ensuring he is ready and confident to take on responsibility.  For him, I am thinking about more specific budgeting practices, driving, and better routines around laundry.  For the littlest one, well, she is three and she needs to learn to manage backpack, snacks, and water bottle for preschool.  Routines support success for each new skill.

Homework can be a real school-days battleground.  Right from the start, make this your child’s responsibility.  I don’t mean right from the start of the year; I mean right from the start of your child’s school days.  Homework is designed for independence.  If your child cannot complete homework independently, it is time to discuss this with the teacher.

Supporting homework success is easy!  Ask your child what support he or she might need from you to complete homework independently.  Build a routine you all agree upon in advance.  Ensure the children have the right supplies and space.  Also, expecting perfection is too much pressure.  Be ready to “let things go” sometimes.  Homework is the child’s work.

This “big picture” work of moving children towards independence is the work of parents.  I let my heart guide me.  I look at what my child is currently doing and build from there.  While it may be easiest to keep doing things for my children, I don’t think it serves them.  Besides, nothing makes little ones feel more capable than successfully taking on new responsibilities.

2.  What are the routines that make life sane? Morning and Evening

I was a slow learner on this front.  I wish morning and evening routines came earlier in my parenting journey.  When the big kids were small, I often had frenzied and out-of-control exits from the house and was chronically late. Defining an exact morning routine really helped me.  By morning routine, I mean benchmarking times for everything throughout the morning, including my own self-care.  

Everyone has to be on board and working towards achieving those benchmarks.  As an example, for us, breakfast is at 7:30am.  

What works even better is to also have a before bed routine that sets us up for success in the morning.  Our children need that too.  For some great ideas, check out Fly-Lady.  She can help you soar into the new year.

3.  How will we structure our extra-curricular activities to support growth? Balance?

Determining extra-curricular activities for our children is a dance in supporting growth and defining balance.  From my experience, thriving families are the ones who seem to create balance in this area.  We all agree that helping children discover and pursue their passions is an essential LearnForward principle.  In the elementary years, school is not enough to achieve this goal.  If school is the only outlet for your child, I venture to say they need something more. However, if your family is running from event to event with weekends crammed full, your children may not have enough time for reflection, integration, and creativity.

My principle became, through trial and error: one fine art and one athletic pursuit per child per year.  Over the years this guideline worked for me, right through until high school.  

Now, you’ve thought through the three considerations, it’s time for a family meeting to discuss and engage with the children.  The purpose of the meeting is to move from silent contracts to explicit agreements.  Everyone has to have the opportunity to voice ideas and concerns and be heard.  Parents make all final decisions.  It’s our job.  Click here to read about how LearnForward believes in family meetings.

If you would like more ideas and suggestions on Back-to-School with success, I’ve pinned lots of information from various bloggers and resources at my “Coffee with Karine” Pinterest Board.

Remember our ideal for the year is thriving.  We want to thrive as individuals, educators, and families.  Over the past several weeks, I’ve been following a new blogger whose mission is to support parents with this vision:  Abundant Mama.  You can find lots of resources from printables, email lists, online communities, and e-courses at her site.  I am also really enjoying her Facebook posts.

Next week, I’m going to discuss the “first-day jitters” as the final post to our Back-to-School series.  Until then, remember to manage your own anxieties first.  [wink-wink]

What can you write down right now that will help you move towards thriving as you enter the new school year?!  How do you want your family to feel in June and what will help you achieve that?  What can you personally implement to model and support school-day routines in your home?  How does your child need to grow in life skills or assuming responsibility?