School has begun and many are starting to feel the typical “school-scheduling-overload” that hits families at the beginning of each academic year. While your mind is deluged with memories of what went right during the previous school year, and, almost more importantly, what could have been better, now would be a good time to begin implementing strategies that will improve the school year for everyone!
Steven Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, suggests that we begin with the end in mind. He tells us we should have a plan for where we want to go, and how we plan to get there. Taking this into consideration, make your first step one where you create a family mission statement. Decide what you really want to accomplish for your family, and for each person individually. Is the goal to be rich? Or is the goal to be happy? No one is saying that one goal excludes the other, but there are major goals, and then other hopes that might exist a level or two below the biggest ones.
Write down your top goals and discuss them as a family, having a discussion that’s appropriate for the ages of the children involved. This activity, itself, might just provide the framework you need for all the other topics to be discussed. After all, if an activity being discussed doesn’t meet the ultimate family vision, then maybe that extracurricular or topic needs further discussion.
- First, consider the typical beginning of each school day. Is everyone ready to wake-up earlier each school day? If not, think about modifying the home schedule. Things to consider might be an earlier bedtime, as well as an earlier time to wake up in the morning. Technology-use guidelines might also be given a review. Some families have a “charging station” located in an area further from children’s rooms. Beginning at a designated time each night, children bring their mobile devices and plug them in to that “home charging area”. This way, children are not awake into all hours of the night surfing the web, communicating with friends, or checking social media. And, the devices are fully charged and ready for use the next day.
- How long does homework take, and are children often interrupted when they are trying to complete assignments? If this is ever an issue, creating a home study area would be an excellent idea, as well as having an understanding of what should, or shouldn’t, be taking place in or near that home study area for others not involved in academic pursuits. Gathering all materials necessary to complete any type of assignment, and keeping those materials in the study area, would stop a child from having to get up to search for something in the middle of working on an assignment; since brain research tells us that it can take over 20 minutes to get back on topic after a distraction, having all the supplies in one place would avoid having this happen. While creating a home study area in a child’s bedroom would be easy to arrange, it might be necessary to find a container to hold all the materials in case the study area is in an area commonly used for other things, such as a kitchen table or den. With a container to hold supplies, all study materials could be quickly and easily removed when the area is returning to its intended use. Also, including a timer with the study materials would make it easy to determine 20 minute study periods, and 5 minute break periods for getting a snack, using the restroom, or quickly calling a friend.
- What about the extracurricular scheduling? Do students have ample time for school assignments, time to relax, time to spend with family or friends, and still have time to participate in all activities? And have you considered the carpool schedules and financial implications for the family? Now is a good time to discuss, as a family, what needs to change to avoid a repetition of a prior year’s chaos. Think about each extracurricular opportunity: is this idea in response to a student desire, or is this something a parent wants for the child? Is the student really interested in this particular activity, or is the desire actually to remedy a different issue? Discuss the goals for each activity, if the activity meets the desired goal, or if a choice needs to be made. Parents would typically love for their children to participate in anything where a desire is expressed, but that’s not a realistic way to go through life. Teach your children now how to evaluate a situation, and make the difficult decisions. That’s a huge , and important, life lesson!
Hopefully these suggestions will provide a framework for a more realistic and positive start of the school year. Take it one day at a time, and remember: even baby steps taken one after the other will result in a change of course.