Can we talk about 5th-grade homework for a minute? So, we came from a school district that had a no-homework policy and just started a new school this year where there are a solid 2 hours of homework a night. Add that to a rigorous select soccer schedule and my poor girl is like a workhorse these days. If it weren’t for routines, this ship would sink.
Kids thrive on schedules and routines because life flows more smoothly for the entire family when a schedule is in place.
Even when we weren’t so heavily guided by the homework/sports/eat/shower/homework/sleep/school/repeat cycle, routines were essential. And I’m going to share a little something with you that stays between the moms. Ready? When my husband leaves town for business, the house runs SO much smoother. Why? Because he throws off our routine. Completely. He has none. No routine. He blows in from work at all hours, he gets up at different times, he messes up our rhythm, expects attention when we’re on to the other thing and makes us late when we’re rushing out the door. It’s a mess. It causes stress for everyone. Even the dogs. I’m not even kidding. But, God love him, he keeps it interesting around here so we stay true to our routines the best we can anyway.
With the help of developmental psychologist and girl expert with Girl Scouts of the USA, Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald, I’ve put together a few tips to help you put together a simple plan that gets buy-in from everyone, which means that your kids might actually stick to it. And who knows, maybe the hubs will too. 🙂
Here are a few tips to guide you in creating a realistic routine:
- Develop a morning routine for your children that includes dressing, eating breakfast, brushing teeth, putting together their lunch, and gathering up everything they will need for the school day. Do it the same way each day so they can learn to do it themselves when YOU go out of town and Dad’s in charge.
You know how there’s nothing more satisfying than crossing off items from your to-do list? Whether your kids realize it or not, they get the same feeling of accomplishment from having a game plan and finishing the tasks laid out for them. There’s so much in life that we can’t predict or control. Daily routines help kids feel safe while teaching them the incredibly important skill of time management. And an after-school schedule might be the most important of all since it’ll ensure that they finish school work, have time for a relaxed family meal, and actually get to sleep at a decent hour.
But it doesn’t have to be all work and no play! In fact, it’s important to recognize that just like you’ve had an intense day at work, your kids have had a busy day at school and can benefit from some decompression time. Here’s how to strike a happy balance and make everyone’s evening a little easier.
Develop a plan with them, not for them
Sit down and talk to her/him about all the things they want to do and need to do when they get home from school. Listen to what they say and take their needs seriously. They might want time to chat with friends, watch TV, or any number of other things. Of course, they can’t spend all evening doing those things, but if you put them into their schedule, they’ll see that you are hearing them and working with them, not against them.
Map it out
Let’s say your kids have five hours between the time they get home and when they should start getting ready for bed. After setting aside about an hour for dinner, divide up the rest of the time between homework, chores, and a little time to relax. Hint: Want their mind to be as sharp as possible for studying? Let them take a break first to recharge! Kids are often overstimulated and tired after school. Having some downtime and then a plan for getting homework and chores done after will reduce any worries and let them know they can fit it all in.
- Develop an after-school schedule to include a small snack, homework, dinner, and packing lunches for the next day. You’ll need to have varied day schedules when your children participate in extracurricular activities. I started my girl with a planner when she was in 3rd grade so she could keep track of her specials at school and when she had after-school activities. She enjoyed putting stickers in it and adding her friends and family birthdays too.
- Develop an evening schedule to include showers and brushing teeth, helping your child choose and lay out their school clothes for the next day, (a sanity saver for the morning) a winding down time void of electronics (which can overstimulate a child’s brain before they are going to bed), some cuddle time for everyone to chat about their day, add in some story or prayer time and then lights out.
Test it out
The key word here is “test!” Write out your daughter’s new schedule and post it in a central spot to make it easy for everyone to remember what was agreed on. If after a few days you realize that you allotted way more time to homework than was necessary (or not enough!) fine-tune the plan going forward. And definitely be open to changes for special events or holidays. Even the most rigid schedules need flexibility now and then!