A brand new school year is upon us. Are your children ready to learn? Children who are ready to learn are well-rested, fed, and dressed appropriately. They arrive at school on time, with completed homework in their backpacks. They have a healthy lunch or money to buy one.
The easiest way to make sure that your children are ready to learn, every day, is to establish strong routines at home. A morning routine, evening routine, and homework routine are powerful ways to support your children’s education at school.
The purpose of a good evening routine is to get everyone calm and settled enough to get to sleep at a decent hour. When children do not get enough sleep, their school work and school behavior suffers. Sometimes children who haven’t gotten enough sleep act tired and groggy, but just as often they act wild and inattentive. School-age children need 9-10 hours of sleep every night to be healthy and mentally alert, so if your child gets up at 7 a.m., he has to be in bed by 9 p.m. And many parents do not get enough sleep either! You cannot be healthy and take care of your family if you are exhausted.
Two things have to happen before a family can have a good evening routine. First, the homework routine has to be in place. When evenings are spent in a battle over homework, no one can be calm and settled. Second, there has to be a family policy about outside commitments. If every afternoon and evening is a constant round of activities, there is no time for homework, family dinner, and an evening routine. I suggest that you limit everyone in the family to one or two outside activities at a time. Otherwise our lives get as cluttered as our homes!
Here is an action plan for a good evening routine.
- Everyone gets home from work, sports practice and after-school care around 5:30. While Mom or Dad gets dinner going, the kids work on homework.
- After dinner, everyone has some time to finish homework, play, talk, read, or watch TV. Do not allow children to get overstimulated with wild play, violent video games, or scary TV shows. Keep it calm and easy. Most elementary school children are supposed to read to a parent every night, and now is a good time to do that.
- Start the bedtime routine about an hour before bedtime. Have it written down and posted for each child. Each child is responsible for their own routine. A good bedtime routine for elementary school children includes getting the backpack packed up and ready to go, laying out clothes for the next day, washing up, brushing teeth, getting in pajamas, and having some quiet time with Mom or Dad.
- If you do exactly the same thing at the same time every night, then your child’s body will be trained to fall asleep at the end of the bedtime routine.
Middle and high school kids still need a routine, although it will be different and they have to be part of establishing it. Preparing for the morning is still appropriate, as is some quiet time reading in bed before going to sleep.
Once the children are in bed, it’s time to wind down and get ready for a good night’s sleep yourself.
Next time we’ll discuss the Homework Routine. Strong routines at home are a powerful way for us to support our children at school. Pick the routine that will serve your family best and start working on it, one baby step at a time!