A few years back (quite a few now) when my oldest daughter was in Kindergarten, I found that getting out the door on time was difficult. I had no real routines and was just “winging it” to get out the door every morning. About that time, I discovered flylady.net. Marla Cilley (aka Flylady) is a proponent of routines and “you can do anything for 15 minutes”. The concept of routines was not new to me, I had just forgotten how to create and use them. And the idea of tackling a job for just 15 minutes was freeing.
I created before bed, before school, after school routines for each of my children, and myself. Through the years, these routines have evolved and changed as my kids have grown. The school year is about to start again, so it’s time to tweak those routines and start the new school year off smoothly.
You might wonder why the before bed routine is listed first. The reason for this is that if you don’t plan ahead the night before, then you might forget something in the morning. This leads to panic and your household running late to get out the door. Here’s a rundown of our before bed routines. Yours will be different because your household is different.
• Is all your homework done & in your back pack?
• Do you have any papers I need to sign?
• Fill water bottles – put in fridge (these go in the lunch boxes in the am)
• Have snack if needed
• Clean Litterboxes & wash hands thoroughly
• Take shower
• Brush teeth
• Allergy meds
• Check your closet – do you have all your clean clothes for tomorrow? make sure you have bras, socks, underwear, etc. ready to go
• Read for 15-20 minutes or listen to music
• Prayers, hugs, and lights out
At first, your kids may fight the routine. But after awhile it becomes second nature. If you forget to do something, they’ll remind you. Having the same routine every night is also calming and helps them to wind down before going to sleep. This may seem like it would take a long time to do. However, it doesn’t have to take long. For us, the longest part of the routine is the showers. But, while one kid is in the shower, the other one can be doing part of their routine or reading. The routines do not have to be done at exactly the same time, they can overlap.
My Before Bed routine has a couple of additional steps. This allows me to sleep an extra half hour in the morning. And since I’m not a morning person, this is a definite bonus.
Mom’s Before Bed Routine
• Finish loading dishwasher & run it
• Prep non-perishables for lunch boxes – put in baggies
• Fill lunch boxes with non-perishables (cookies, chips or crackers, napkin, spoon or fork)
• Make sure thermos’ are washed (I have one kid who prefers soup for lunch)
• Prep fruit & veggies, put in re-usable containers in fridge (grab n’ go in the morning)
• Wipe down stove, counter top and sink – kitchen surfaces are clear and ready for morning use
When you and the kids get up in the morning, you can hit the ground running.
This leads to the morning routine. We have our morning routine perfectly timed so that we can get out the door and to school with about 5 minutes to spare. And, most mornings, my husband can take my oldest daughter to school, and then I just take my youngest daughter to school. We aren’t on the bus route, so morning drop offs and afternoon pick ups are just a fact of life.
Your morning routine may look different, especially if you have pets. For information on building a morning routine, you can visit flylady.net and follow her steps to building your own routines: FLYing Lesson: Building Your Own Control Journal.
• Mom & girls – Get up, potty, wash face
• Mom – dress
• Fill cats’ water dish
• Kids – breakfast before dressing (just so they don’t get food on clean clothes)
• While kids breakfast – mom packs lunches; heat up soup for thermos, make sandwich, pack bags, add water bottles and fruit/veggies from fridge
• Kids – brush teeth, dress, brush hair
• Get dad up
• Put shoes on
• Do you need pencils? Grab & sharpen
• Get back pack & lunch box – walk out the door
This routine takes us approximately one hour. We’ve also been able to condense it to 30 minutes on the rare occasions we’ve overslept or the alarm hasn’t gone off and still make it to school on time. With three alarm clocks set, it’s rare that we have a problem. And, if there’s a morning when my husband or I has to be somewhere early, we get up about 15 minutes earlier to get our shower.
If you have pets, you may need to add a step or two and some additional time. We don’t have dogs, so walking a dog in the morning isn’t part of our routine. Our cats needs are taken care of in the evening before bed. All I do in the morning is give them some fresh water. The beauty of routines is that they can be adapted to fit your needs.
Once the kids get home from school in the afternoon, they have another routine. It looks brief, but can take lots of time depending on how much homework your child must do.
After School Routine
• Hang coats, put back packs on launching pad, put shoes away, put gym clothes in laundry
• Empty lunch bags, put cold packs in freezer
• Have a snack and drink of water – take 30 minutes to unwind
• Start homework – use 15 minute timer to break down larger tasks (we do 15 minutes of homework, then break for 15 minutes, then back to homework)
• Get mom or dad to sign paperwork
• Unload dishwasher (if not already done)
You might wonder about the frequent homework breaks. But I found that if you make a kid sit and do ALL their homework before they get up, it causes a huge battle. Sometimes they’ll find it only takes 10 or 15 minutes to do a math worksheet or practice spelling words, and then they’re done. But, if it’s a larger project they will begin to fidget and sometimes even cry that they “can’t do it” if they have to sit and do all of it at once. In a sense, you are teaching your kids time and project management when they use the 15 minute method. They will break their tasks into smaller bites and feel a sense of accomplishment, rather than frustration. The 15 minute timer has been a tool for success in our household, and it can be in yours too.
Your back to school routines may look different from mine. You may have music lessons, or sports practices. You just work those into your routine too. Bring snacks and water with you for the kids to eat “on the go” if you’re spending time in the car after school. Have the kids work on homework in the car or on the practice bench while siblings play. My oldest has theater rehearsals most days after school. When she’s not on stage, she works on homework. Most days, by the time she’s home, her homework is done.
The busier your day-to-day life is, the more you benefit from routines. It does take a little time to write down your routines, but you can do that 15 minutes at a time too. Set the timer and sit down with a piece of paper. Think about each step you take to get ready and get out of the house in the morning and write it down. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Three columns with three lists is all you need to start. Post it on the fridge and make additions or corrections as needed. Once you’ve got it tweaked, you can take a few minutes to type it up if you like. But don’t feel you have to have it perfect. Life changes, so will your routines.
My routines help our family run smoothly. Back to school is the perfect time to set up routines if you don’t have them. But you can jump in anytime!