Freshening Up Our School Routines

Dear Friends,

Winter is coming, the holidays are upon us, and we all need to get back on track with our routines. Remember that strong morning, evening, and homework routines make home life a breeze instead of a nightmare!

Let’s start with the morning routine:

1. Has the morning rush become your problem instead of a shared family responsibility? Stop yelling, stop doing everything for everyone, and let every family member do their assigned tasks — for better or for worse! Use natural consequences to reinforce self-sufficiency.

2. Are you getting up on time? Everything goes smoother if you get up, get showered, get dressed, and eat before the tornado of children hits the house. Remember to eat a healthy breakfast!

3. Are the kids getting up on time? Do they have alarm clocks so they can learn to be responsible for getting up on their own? If the kids aren’t getting up when they need to, it might be time to reassess bedtimes! Tell them that.

4. Is the family using media in the morning? Nothing slows down the morning routine like the TV and the computer. Reinstate the family rule: No media in the morning.

5. If the bathroom schedule is out of kilter, get the family together and set up who can be in the bathroom when. It’s like a dance — everyone has to do their part and stay in time, or the whole thing falls to pieces.

6. Is everyone getting something healthy to eat for breakfast? There’s nothing wrong with a bowl of Cheerios, or even a granola bar and an apple in the car.

7.Up and out — busy but relaxed — positive and friendly. What a way to start the day!

Let’s continue our holiday tune-up by polishing up our evening routine:

1. Look at how many times a week your family is eating dinner together. If you don’t have family dinner at least four nights a week, see if you can figure out how to add another night. Soup and sandwiches is family dinner. Frozen pizza is family dinner. Scrambled eggs and toast is family dinner. It’s not what you eat! The point is to eat together and talk to each other. No TV, no texting. Conversation!

2. Think about what is happening between dinner and bedtime. Are activities over-stimulating your kids and making it hard for them to settle down? Remember that whole evening routine goes better if you keep it calm and easy. It’s not the time for wild play, scary movies, or loud video games.

3. Check out bedtimes! Are the kids consistently getting to bed on time? Are some adjustments in order? Remember that school-age children need 9-10 hours of sleep every night to be healthy and mentally alert. This absolutely has to be a parental priority. If outside activities are significantly disrupting bedtime, then the family needs to reassess the importance of those outside activities. Tired children have trouble learning and behaving.

4. How are your bedtime routines holding up? Are you starting the routine about an hour before bedtime? Is the routine consistent for each child, so their body is trained to sleep at the end of it? At the end of your evening routine, does each child have their backpack packed up and ready by the door? Are clothes selected and laid out for the morning? Everything that you can do to keep the morning smooth and easy is time well spent!

5. When you finally say good night, have you had a loving, quiet, calm interaction with your child to close out the day? If not, pick out one thing to change and start doing that tomorrow.

6. Laugh, enjoy your kids, stay positive, and don’t try to be perfect! It’s not possible anyway.

If your family has a routine that needs some freshening up, it’s probably the homework routine! Let’s check out where we are and where we want to be as we enter the holiday season.

1. Do you have a time and place for homework and a basket of homework supplies at the ready? Make sure that your school calendar is up-to-date with project due dates and exam schedules.

2. Is homework being completed on time, without tears and tantrums? If the answer is no, it’s time to check with the teacher, tighten up the routine, and review the motivators and consequences. All of us get forgetful and inconsistent with our homework expectations and rewards — so it’s time to hitch up our pants and get going again. Write a homework contract if everyone needs to have their responsibilities clearly defined.

3. Does your child come home with homework assignments written down and all the necessary books and materials? If not, how can you make that happen? What are the natural consequences?

4. If you come to the conclusion that your child’s homework is academically inappropriate — too easy or too hard or too much — make an appointment for a parent/teacher conference to discuss it. Don’t try to protect your child from work and challenge — just make sure that the homework is appropriate.

5. If your child has special needs, you know that homework can be an incredible challenge and a daily nightmare. Remember that 504 plans and IEP’s can include homework accommodations and modifications.

6. Rule of thumb: 10 minutes of homework per grade. So 10 minutes in first grade, 20 minutes in second grade — and so on. Provide the structure and materials your child needs to be successful, but let your child be responsible for their homework.

Let’s all end 2012 with strong routines in place so we can enjoy our family time!

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Our very own education specialist Alice Wellborn is now a regular contributor at and we are thrilled to share her wise words with all of you. Alice is a school psychologist and the author of the amazingly helpful book No More Parents Left Behind. Get the book at:

**** For the month of December Alice has placed her book at a very special value, now is the time to get a copy of your very own! *******

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