We go back-to-school on September 6th, and I’m already dreading the drudge of all the driving, lunch-making, and general grind of getting people to and from school and all their activities. Here are some tips I’m going to try to follow to help me stay one step ahead of the school year. (Note: We are a Montessori family so we don’t have homework other than reading, in case you are wondering where the homework time is!)
1. Make lunches the night before. Some parents have their kids pack their own lunches but in our house we don’t have the time (I’m an “alpha male” and I like to do it quickly, and efficiently – having a child pack their lunch requires supervision and patience and organization that I really don’t have). Also, I’ve seen some self-packed lunches – for me it’s really important that my children love – and eat – their lunches. Some of the self-packed lunches I’ve seen – peanut butter sambos, Cheezits, bag of prunes, an apple, a cookie – have come home uneaten, except for the cookie. Once in a while I’ll have them help me pack them, but mostly I just pack them myself (they help me cook dinner, though!)
To help me, I usually have a weekly menu of 5 lunches that I can rotate, like this (which helps with my grocery shopping) and I make things ahead, like a big bowl of fruit salad, oatmeal cookies, and pasta salad:
- Monday: Pesto pasta salad with chicken cubes, fruit salad, oatmeal cookie (for drinks, they always have ice water).
- Tuesday: Turkey sambo on roll, crunchy veggies w. ranch dip, apple.
- Wednesday: Homemade soup with a roll, fruit salad, yogurt.
- Thursday: Hummos & veggies, whole grain pita bread, cheese cubes, low-fat pudding cup.
- Friday: Pizza day so I don’t pack anything for Ella, but Fi is gluten-free so I pack one for her. Her favorite lunch is chicken Caesar salad, yogurt with oats she can sprinkle, an orange, and a little square of chocolate.
2. Have a big drawer where you keep all the re-useable lunch containers. Have the kids bring their lunches in after school, empty them, wipe the lunch boxes down, and put the reusable containers into the dishwasher or sink.
3. Everyone gets to bed early and on time – follow the same bedtime routine nightly: shower or bath on “shower nights,” brush teeth, reading time, bed. Because she’s older, Fi gets to stay up 45 minutes later than Ella, reading in bed.
4. Keep everything that needs to go out the door for the day (i.e., backpack, field hockey sticks, leotard etc.) on the “launch pad” so you don’t forget anything in the morning.
5. Wake up before the kids do so you get a jump on the day. (Um, just the fact that I have to write this one down tells you that it’s a tough one for me!)
6. Make a daily schedule for everybody and generally stick to it. For us this schedule revolves around getting the music practice in (piano and violin) first thing in the morning – we do an hour in the morning before we leave the house, and 30 minutes as soon as we get home from school. If we miss doing this hour, it really backs up our afternoon and night time schedule and it doesn’t go as well since everybody is tired and needs downtime at night.
7. Before bed, have the kids pick out their clothes for the next day, right down to shoes and socks so you don’t have to go looking for them in the morning. A fun thing to have them do is lay the clothes out on the floor to make “people” shapes.
8. Breakfast is tricky for me because Fi is gluten-free and loves a “full, hot breakfast” in the morning, while Ella (who needs protein every 3/4 hours or she’s prone to have a meltdown!) eats like a bird in the morning. It helps to have a pitcher of gluten-free pancake batter made in the fridge so I can just pour it, and cook it. I sometimes serve Fi “microwave” bacon with it. Another “fast-food full breakfast” I can do is poached eggs on gluten-free toast. For Ella, it’s usually something “on-the-go” in the car, like an apple turnover or a (gasp!) a donut and a “breakfast milkshake” with milk, a banana, and protein powder. Sometimes if she’s hungry enough she’ll have hot oatmeal. So frankly, I am all over the map with breakfast and I’m the one who needs some tips here! - for some unknown reason, they don’t like to eat breakfast cereal (other than slow-cooked oatmeal…slow-cooked! eeks!) so this really slows us down!
9. Keep their schedule on an iPhone calendar so you can check it when you’re on-the-go if you need to. We have so many things going on and so many activities to get to – sometimes I don’t even know what day it is. So for me, the iPhone has saved me.
10. Hang a monthly family calendar with appointments and events scheduled where everyone can see it (like in the kitchen).