In many parts of the country back-to-school is just around the corner. We’re talking days here, not weeks. The promise of a hot and lazy summer filled with pool days and late night drive in movies that stretched out before us at the end of May, is now like a sunset fading in your rear-view mirror.
Whether you are a homeschool mom, a public or private school mom, a mom of preschoolers; a stay-at-home mom, a working mom or a caregiver for children who are school aged, this post is for you.
However you approach the educational experience, I have some very simple but useful tips for making the most of a great school year.
Now is the time to take a quick inventory of YOU. What are your strengths and where can you improve? Are you naturally organized, an early riser, a great keeper-of-the peace? Focus on your greatest areas of strength in order to help your kids succeed. I have found (very recently) that I actually love getting up about an hour before my family wakes up. I use this time to exercise, have my personal devotion time, and even just sit in stillness while I drink my coffee and mentally prepare for my day. I’m mentally alert, spiritually fed, and sufficiently caffeinated long before my kids wake up. It’s made all the difference in our mornings.
If you find yourself in a panic, back-to-school is a great time to establish some new habits for yourself. Get in bed at a decent hour so you feel more rested. Set up a homework station in a corner of your kitchen with everything your students may need for a peaceable after school worksheet session. Are you a social butterfly? Make a carpool plan with your neighbors to take kids to school or organize a playgroup for other homeschool kids. If cooking is your thing, look at a way to incorporate a meal planning system into your routine. You are uniquely created with some outstanding talents and abilities. Refocus on those gifts.
I can’t overemphasize the importance of looking at the big picture and taking a gander at the end goal of where you (and your family) would like to end up. When you take the time to do that, you’re giving yourself the gift of foresight. Beginning with the end in mind will enable your school year to flow smoothly. Knowing the hopeful outcomes will also help you to set and keep priorities when life feels frazzled.
For example, it’s important for our family to eat dinner around the table as often as possible. In order for us to make that a priority, we have to work hard to keep week night commitments to a minimum. We try to alternate sports and seasons with our kids’ activities so that we are never away from home at dinnertime more than a few nights a week. Better grades, more downtime, closer friendships or more community service may be your goals. Knowing that will help you determine the best ways to plan and spend your time this school year.
As a person of faith, I must, must, must center myself daily around the truths of my beliefs. For me, that includes spending time in prayer, reading my Bible, and even journaling. When the days get crazy, and let’s all face it, the days are always crazy, I can reset my heart and mind on the truth of God’s promises. I usually can’t go too many days without this Daily Bread before I’m left starving and parched. Keeping our compasses pointing in the right direction will help steady us!
I can easily spend a lot of mental, physical, and emotional energy chasing dreams, hopes, and ideals that will always elude me. I too easily look around me and see what “she’s doing, what she has, how she’s doing it” and feel jealous, defeated, or like I’m coming up short. This life I am living is my life, with my family and our unique circumstances. When I keep my eyes focused on Christ, I can rest in the fact that my choices are aligned with the calling and will of God for my roles as a woman, wife, and mother.
This idea of trimming away the excess can literally transform many areas of our lives. We can do this in our finances, in our material possessions, in our schedules and in our priorities. The school year is a very full time for most families no matter how you approach learning and no matter the schooling option you have chosen. The days are packed full of all kinds of good things but very rarely can we do it all…or do it all well.
If getting involved in a mid-week church service is important to you then your daughter can’t be in ballet four nights a week. If saving for and taking a cool trip over spring break is on the docket, then maybe you should cut the little-used gym membership, Netflix subscription, and daily Starbucks run from your expenses. Maybe it’s a relationship you need to set some boundaries with. Perhaps now you no longer have time for that hour-a-day phone call from Aunt Agnes or that draining time suck of being on Pinterest so much. Snip-snip!
One of the greatest things, we, as mothers and managers of our homes can do is to “make plain our vision” for our families. Setting very clear and reasonable expectations for everyone in your household is such an important part of having a peaceful school year. I love implementing things like meal plans, weekly family calendars, daily school checklists, and chore charts for my kids. In addition to verbally mentioning important events and dates to one another, Ryan and I also have a practice of sending those details in the form of an email. That way we have clearly articulated (twice) something that is on the horizon.
It may feel like an extra step to write things out or plan out calendars and schedules, but I promise you the effort is worth it when doing so allows everyone to stay in the loop of family life. When we illuminate the path, we are essentially casting a wide net to effectively communicate with the members of our household.
Before our homeschooling years, when my kids were younger, they were all in a mother’s day out program two mornings a week. They loved it but I think I loved it more. At least one of those days each week, I’d meet a handful of my girlfriends who were other mothers in the same season of life, for lunch. Better than filling up our tummies we were filling up our hearts. We were qualifying and validating the current challenges (and joys and laughs) of motherhood. Those lunches helped to pull me out of post-partum depression, self-pity, and often offered perspective on handling marriage snafus.
The type of opportunities for this type of “filling up” can take on a different look in different seasons depending on the ages of our children, the amount of time out of the house we may have, or even the physical location of where we live. But no matter the circumstance, it is vital as mothers that we take the time and energy to keep a full tank (or thermos). I find that I’m a more patient mother, a sweeter wife, a more available daughter-sister-friend when my own needs are being met. Maybe for you that’s a weekly lunch date, meeting a friend to walk or jog, a brown bag book club that meets at work during lunch or an occasional weekend away to recharge. The key is acknowledging the importance of this and building it into your schedule during the school year. You probably wear a lot of hats from August to May. You may be the chauffeur, the teacher, the cook, and the police, but being a mommy-martyr never helped anyone. Go! Fill up!
Starting the school year off smoothly and keeping it running like a well-oiled machine doesn’t have to be daunting. By taking the proper means necessary to prepare for the trip you’re much more likely to enjoy the scenery and views!
“I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees!” -Henry Thoreau
[the images and graphics in this post were created using Canva.com]