We were on time to the first day of school three weeks ago. But as the week wore on, we got there later and later; and that 7:20 a.m. goal departure time was getting farther and farther away from the time we were actually leaving, shoes untied with toaster waffles stuffed in sweaty hands.
It built until one day, I blew. Ranting, raving, screaming - WHERE ARE YOUR GLASSES? WHY AREN'T YOUR BOOKS IN YOUR BACKPACK? YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN DOWN HERE ALREADY! PUT YOUR SHOES ON IN THE CAR!
I felt awful. This is not the way I want to send my kids away for the day. It makes them in a rotten mood; and honestly, it makes me fear even more a school shooting and those being the last words I say to my children.
The house eerily quiet, I could hear myself think for a change. What are you doing, Kathy? You used to be a teacher! You wouldn't yell at your students like that. You would have a classroom management system in place with expectations clearly posted.
Consequently, I spent the rest of the day prepping my house just as I used to prep my classroom. By the time my boys arrived home, I had graphs and charts and posters hung that clearly stated the objectives.
"I did my job, boys, now you need to do yours," I stated, and washed my hands of yelling for the rest of the school year.
Here are the three simple things I did:
1. I made a morning checklist.
I hung this in my eleven-year-old's cubby. He is the one usually coming to the car and then going back inside saying he's forgotten something important. Now I don't have to nag and remind. Everything he needs for the day is spelled out and hung right by his backpack. It's in his hands now.
2. Designated a spot for important things:
Again, for my eleven-year-old. He is always misplacing his glasses. They can be anywhere from in the shower, to on the floor under the bed, to buried in the covers of his bed. This is the spot where they should always be. We are still working on this, but it helps a lot and is a huge time-saver in the morning.
3. After school expectations:
After school is another time I get tired of yelling at the boys to do certain things. So, I spelled it out for them. Don't laugh at my primitive pictures, but those are for my second grader who is still learning to read. This is where I have seen the biggest difference. I see the boys checking the steps when they get home. Just the threat of losing the screen time - which is clearly spelled out as a consequence - is enough of a motivator for them.
We usually get home at about 3:30-:35. I put in step #6 for Slim because he needs to check the Brain POP of the day. The other boys skip that step and get right to their work, adding that 10 minutes on to their screen time later or to their active time.
As a supplement to these strategies, I'm also employing:
- Consistency. This is something I've had to work on personally. Getting up at the same time, getting the boys up at a set time, and leaving the house at the same time every day no matter what. This helps a ton by getting the boys to school early enough to be ready for their school day.
- Scheduled homework breaks. Lil' C doesn't have that much homework in second grade and Knox is really good about finishing his fourth grade homework, but Slim has a lot of sixth grade homework that is tough for him to focus on after a while. I let him have 5-10 minute iPad breaks after a certain amount of work - that I designate - is done. Sometimes I will ask him to estimate how long something will take him to do. Then I will set the timer; and if he can beat the clock, he earns extra break time. It really helps to motivate him.
- Praise and extra mom time. I am always sure to point out what the boys are doing well. I am specific with my praise, "I like the way you sat right down and started your homework without my help." With so many boys to help, I try to set aside extra time to read a special book or play a game with someone whose homework is done.
I'm starting here; and if necessary, I will add some behavior mapping if people are slacking off and making poor choices. Search Pinterest boards for some ideas on how to create a behavior map. Be sure to put both positive and negative (or expected and unexpected) behaviors and consequences on it.
Your child does not have to be a special education student, or have ADHD or ASD to benefit from these strategies. We all learn in a variety of ways from visual to auditory to kinesthetic. I bet you have more than one type of learner in your house. Trust me when I say, this will work and save your sanity.
I'll post more tips as the school year progresses. Do you have an idea that works for your kids at home or at school? We'd love to hear it! Leave it below or post a link.
Together we can help our kids succeed (and save ourselves from headaches!).