Are you stressed out managing your kids’ school routines and homework?
The early morning starts and rushing errands/work while the kids are at school can take its toil on even the fittest among us.
I have two kids in primary school and Josh my youngest will join his brother next year. I also have an elderly godmother to care for at home. Some days can be overwhelming but I am learning that the difficult days will pass, and to relish the good and fruitful moments.
If you find yourself struggling to keep up with a hectic schedule, these tips/hacks may be useful for you.
1. Prep breakfast in advance
I’ve fed my children rolled oats for breakfast since they were little tots. When they were around 2-3 years old, we started them on baby oats, or oatmeal, that is easily softened by just milk or water. Top it up with their fav fruits like berries, raisins, or granola.
When they started primary school, they started on rolled oats, which has a chewier bite. I prepare their individual bowls at night, top them with fruits and leave it in the fridge. In the mornings, my kids will get their bowls and fill them with milk/water. They will have breakfast by themselves and clear their bowls after.
I’m blessed that they are independent in this small way, and thankful for the few minutes of extra sleep. It also helps that I don’t have to think about what to prepare for breakfast! (I know oats are not everyone’s thing, but I’m sharing this so you can think about what might work as a fuss-free breakfast for you.)
2. Talk to your child about school
With three kids at home, it can be hard just getting through the day, much less find time to connect with each child.
But I’ve come to realise how important this is, especially for my tween. She comes to me at night and just wants to grumble/chat/tell funny stories/hang out, and occasionally share about her struggles.
So whether it’s in the car, or snuggled up in bed at bedtime, strike up a conversation with your child. Find out how he spends his recess time, who he hangs out with, where his favourite places in school are, and the highlight (or lowlights) of his day. There may be priceless moments when he reveals something that is stressing him out, and when we can step in to trouble-shoot, reassure, and pray.
Time spent in less-structured activities (i.e., free play or child-directed play) leads to better self-directed executive functioning.
3. Minimise enrichment classes after school
I’ve observed that my kids need to wind down after school, whether it’s by reading a book or playing a board game. While this can be linked to each child’s personality, it is essential to provide some free time for your kids to relax and unwind after school.
Studies have shown that structured activity after structured activity is not the best way for children. This study shows that time spent in less-structured activities (i.e., free play or child-directed play) leads to better self-directed executive functioning. In layman terms, this means they are better at setting and meeting their own goals, which is the basis for independence, self-motivation and autonomy.
4. Create an inbox at home for school communication
You know how letters from school and little projects/excursion notifications tend to pile up. I try to input dates into my family calendar straightaway so I know when each child needs to be picked up early/late.
For letters with a “what to bring” segment for the child, I’ll put it on a notice board (just an empty wall space near my desk). So when the child hollers, I just ask them to refer to the “board”.
All other things like spelling and tingxie lists, or ongoing projects like a book list go into each child’s in-tray. This helps to minimise the risk of important things going missing.
5. Scenario plan for anxious children
I have an anxious child under my wing, and school can be a stressful affair for him. Things like being late or losing school worksheets are especially sticky.
To help him along, we have clear morning routines that we modify if he wakes up later than usual. For example, if it’s very late, he skips his regular breakfast and I pack a peanut butter sandwich for him to eat on the way.
If his pencil case is missing, we run through what to do the next day – things like looking around his row, and going to the lost and found corner at school. Instead of scolding (although yes sometimes I’d nag), we try to shift our focus to identifying the problem and solving it.
6. Break up revision for spelling/tingxie
I typically leave my kids to handle their own revision for spelling, as they are more confident with the language. But for Chinese tingxie, I break up the learning into two chunks. His spelling day is on Thursday, so he starts learning the first five words on Tuesday, and the remaining five on Wednesday.
This helps them memorise the words better and makes the learning more bearable too.
Which tip is most helpful for your situation?