Sending my kids back to school feels like a double-edged sword. On one hand there is the relief that comes when peace and calm reigns over the house during the day – which is absolute bliss for a work-at-home mum. On the other hand, there are the nerves that naturally come when I say goodbye to my boys in the morning. Will they have a good day? Will they have a friend to play with at lunchtime? Are they coping OK with school work and responsibilities?
Then, of course, going back to school means the return of the dreaded homework and the making of lunches and sight words and the nagging from me about all of the above.
This year I plan on doing things a little differently.
To be honest with you, I think I have mollycoddled my boys in the past. I’ve been the one who has packed their bags, made their lunches, cleaned their shoes. Heck, I’ve even sat up late at night finishing an assignment for one of them in my best/worst childish scrawl while the child whose homework I was doing slept peacefully in bed. I know, I know … that is no way to teach them. Hence why there are changes coming.
This year, I am all about empowering my boys. Equipping them with the tools and the confidence to do more for themselves when it comes to school – because after all, isn’t that what school is about? Learning and developing their skills.
Here are five ways we can empower our kids so that they have the best chance for success and enjoyment at school.
My two primary school boys are given a homework sheet each Monday, which outlines the tasks they are expected to do at home during the week. In our house, homework is one of the biggest causes of meltdowns in the afternoon and it is usually because it gets left to the last minute and then the panic sets in.
Towards the end of last year, I made my boys a weekly homework printable and the first thing they do when they bring home their homework sheet is sit down and plan out how they will conquer their tasks and on which days they will do what.
There are some afternoons that we have sport commitments and so there is simply no time for homework on those days. Unfortunately for them, it doesn’t mean they don’t have to do it, it just means that they need to plan their homework around those commitments and use the other days more efficiently to ensure everything is completed on time.
Breaking the homework down into bites-sized chunks makes it less daunting for them. I mean, that pretty much applies to anything in life, right?
I purchased the boys a couple of hard doucment cases so they can transport their homework and readers to and from school with ease. Hopefully this will help to avoid their homework sheets and their efforts at the end of the week from being shoved to the bottom of the school bag and damaged.
For my high school-age son, it’s all about staying on top of the assignments. A month at a glance desk pad that he can record and highlight when his assessments are due, will help to keep him on track.
Finally, I have made sure that the younger kids have a homework station set up somewhere central. A place where everything is stored in order, including pens, pencils, glue, scissors. I have also included a document tray where their readers and homework are filed so there is no more of the “I can’t find my maths book/reader/homework sheet” excuses.
Our homework station also includes a notice board where the kids homework schedules are pinned up, along with their weekly schedules that tell them what days they have library, sport and news, etc.
2. Lunches and laundry
I admit I am a bit of a control freak, so I tend to take the ‘I’ll just do it myself’ approach to everything involved in running the house … including school lunches. I think it is time my kids learn to do a little more for themselves and helping to make their lunches is a good place to start. It can be as simple as helping to put together a lunch menu and choosing the daily snacks, to actually making the sandwiches or lunch meal for themselves.
As for laundry, we follow the ‘if you want it washed, then you put it in the laundry’ principle. I refuse to go hunting for dirty school shirts and shorts, etc. I put a load of school clothes on once a day and I wash only what has been placed in the laundry. The kids also need to help with the folding, the sorting and the laying out of school clothes and shoes in the evening.
3. Make them accountable
I plan on getting the kids involved in labelling their belongings, and I mean labelling EVERYTHING.
The rule in our house is: I will buy everything at the beginning of the year, but if they lose something through their own carelessness, like a hat or a lunch box, then they will need to replace it themselves out of their own pocket money. They learn pretty quickly to look after their stuff when they have to fork out themselves for a replacement.
The same level of care is expected with school shoes. Every year we parents collectively invest millions of dollars in school shoes for our kids and there is no doubt that school shoes last longer when they are cared for. So I have put together a shoe care kit and it will be a weekly job for the kids to clean and polish their own school shoes.
4. Preparing for the day ahead
The kids are responsible for preparing for the day ahead and this is done before they go to bed at night. They use the weekly schedule on their notice board to guide them in what they need to pack for the day, including library books, homework, lunches and notes and their clothes and shoes are laid out ready for the morning.
We have introduced a school notes system for this coming year, and the kids are in charge of making sure the note mail bag is pulled out in the evening and packed again in the morning.
5. A problem solving diary
The most important thing to me is empowering my kids emotionally. The school years can be a minefield as our kids navigate their way around friendships, hormones, stress and self-confidence.
At the beginning of the school year, my boys choose a journal and I encourage them to write in this journal any time they have something on their mind.
Personally, I think journalling the highs and lows of your day and writing ideas and solutions for problems is helpful for anyone of any age.
It’s up to the kids if they choose to share their journals with us. Two out of three of ours do and we find it is a fabulous way of opening up one-on-one discussions with them at bedtime. My boys tell me that keeping a journal helps them to get things off their chest, and I am more than convinced that we are onto a good thing with this.
This article was written by Sonia Stackhouse for Kidspot.com.au and has been adapted for Kidspot.co.nz