The following is a guest post from regular contributor, Rachel at Useful Beautiful Home.
I did everything right, or so I thought. I checked and double checked the list of school supplies. I attended all the new parent orientation meetings. I resourced my Pinterest page on healthy meals for school lunches. My husband drew a silly lunchbox note while I packed the lunch ahead of time. We set up a child friendly morning routine chart. I had emergency precautions prepared for the teacher because my daughter carries an EpiPen. Everything was done by Sunday evening for the first big day of Kindergarten. I. Was. Ready. (Yeah, I realize we’re talking about just KG, but roll with me for a minute.)
Fast forward to halfway through our drive to school on Monday morning when my husband asks, “Did you put her lunch in the car?” “No, did you?” “NO! Turning to our daughter I ask, “Did you grab your lunchbox?” Of course she echos the same, “No.”
Sigh, while thinking to myself; all that preparatory work and my child is going to starve on her first day of school. I’m an absent minded school mom before the year has even begun. Surely this will affect her for life, at the very minimum reaching into her college years. I shoulda, I coulda, if only I woulda…
To make matters worse, our drive to school is a whopping 45 minutes. Yep, that’s an hour and a half round trip. We’re talking 90 minutes, folks. I suppressed my annoyance (after all, it was her very first day) and vowed to write a post to help other first time school moms. Well, that wasn’t my first thought, but it did surface sometime during the multiple 45 minute road trips I made that day.
From what went right to what went wrong, below are my 10 tips for easy school mornings. If it helps, the first 7 of these are all things to prepare the night before.
(1) Lay out clothing, socks, shoes and even accessories the night before
While you’re at it, lay out YOUR own clothes too! That way, everyone can wake up and stumble into clean clothes before reaching full mental alertness.
(2) Make a morning to-do list specific to school related details
Whether using an electronic gadget or a handwritten note, state the obvious on that list. There’s no shame in reminding yourself of the details that seem like a no-brainer when your mind is charged and fully aware. In the morning rush, processing through those obvious tasks aren’t as clear – oh, ya know, like leaving that lovingly packed lunchbox at home.
I was so concerned about educating my daughter with her own little morning routine checklist (HERE) that I failed to notice my own need. Some mornings my mind is so fuzzy (okay, all mornings), I practically need a reminder list to actually put my child in the car along with all the other school gear. Maybe that’s an exaggeration but the point is, I’m not a morning person, I have limits that can be dealt with by making one simple reminder list.
If you’re lucky enough to be a cheery morning soul, then this bullet point still applies to you but at the opposite time. You might do best with an evening reminder list of what is necessary to do the night before to ensure a smooth school morning. My hubby fits into this category. I’ve noticed he’ll make a reminder list for himself of things to finish up before bedtime because he reaches a new level of sleepiness when 8pm rolls around. Everyone needs a gentle nudge from time to time, when the brain cells are slowing down.
(3) Put that list somewhere prominent
Or, if it’s an electronic list on your phone or tablet, then make an audible alarm to act as a reminder to review the list. I even suggest using a distinct sound specific to school mornings. Your brain will eventually associate the the distinct alarm noise with the routine list (like Pavlov’s dogs and their conditioned response).
For me, I’m more of a write-it-down-and-look-at-it-a-dozen-times kinda gal. I always love when my fellow paper & pen friends make mention here because I know I’m not alone. :) In our last house, I posted a reminder list (read HERE) that worked well for those purposes.
However, for school mornings, I’ve adopted a much more inclusive routine. I typed up a colorful list of regular items we take to school on a daily basis; lunchbox, backpack, homework folder, etc. Those things that will almost always be needed in the morning were listed out in whatever logical order made sense to me. I printed the list, complete with check-boxes and extra space at the bottom to write in “extras” that will occur. As typical for me, I also laminated it for re-usability.
Put it somewhere painfully obvious. Don’t let it blend in with all the other papers that accumulate or fall to the floor unnoticed. Find a spot relevant to your morning routine but very apparent. Printing/writing it on florescent paper also seems helpful.
(4) Pack lunches the night before as much as possible
If some items are best packed in the morning (like small freezer packs) put it on your morning to-do list.
Don’t pack lunches? Then make sure your child’s money card or purchased lunch details are completed properly for the week or month per school policy.
(5) Set two alarms
At least while you’re adjusting to the new wake time. Summertime is sleepy and dare I say, lazier than usual. Even if you get up regularly for work, getting children out the door for school coupled with surplus traffic flooding the streets requires a few minutes of earlier wake time.
We set two alarms for the first day of my daughter’s school and I couldn’t have been more thankful. Mine did NOT go off and my husband’s did. Guess who made the AM/PM mistake [again].
(6) Plan your breakfast(s) for the week
Experts aren’t lying, breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day. The human brain doesn’t just like glucose (that’s a form of sugar) to function, it requires glucose. Without getting all technical on you, the gist is that the brain does not have a fuel storage system to draw from when running low, it must have a constant and steady supply of glucose. That’s why, after a long night of fasting from food, a brain needs good protein and healthy carbs to refuel for a fresh start or “thinking supply” of glucose. I can’t stress the impact this will benefit your Little One heading off to a big day of learning!
Getting down from my glucose soapbox, I find it helpful to plan my breakfast menu for the week. On school days, I try to keep it simple. Your child’s brain doesn’t care if it’s gourmet, just healthy and basic will offer the nutrients needed.
(7) Pack school backpacks and other related items the night before
One of my favorite sayings is, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Packing that backpack is like preventing an avalanche of surprises. I put my mom through many mornings of “oh by the way, we have a huge project worth 75% of our grade due today and I need you to blah, blah, blah.” Knowing ahead of time what is required for the next day is half the battle. Especially when they’re little (still speaking to the newbie moms) and can’t read the details for themselves.
(8) Leave some room for extra morning snuggles or a cup of coffee
In other words, leave a few extra minutes to spare beyond what you expect. If you use them, then thank goodness you allotted the extra time. If you don’t and you’re running right on schedule with time to spare, then you have extra morning snuggles or playtime giggles to start your kiddo’s day off cheerfully.
(9) Get yourself dressed and ready first
If momma ain’t ready, ain’t nobody ready. Well, that ain’t exactly true. But, I’m almost always zippin’ around the house taking care of everyone except myself. Even the dog gets priority over my own hair being brushed. I’m lucky to have 5 peaceful minutes by the time I turn to myself. It’s amazing how much more cheery and energetic I am when I feel ready to face the day by having gotten myself actually “ready”. Plus, you want to be in all those first day pictures wearing something other than pajamas, right? :)
(10) Relax! And I’m not just saying that because I need a tenth bullet point!
I don’t think our children will fail school and become kindergarten drop-outs over a rushed morning or a forgotten permission slip (despite my opening italicized over-dramatization).
Busyness happens but so do random acts of kindness. School administration is understanding (unless you “forget” twenty times in a row). They will always find a way to cover the gaps. Back to my lunchbox blunder on my daughter’s first day of school, I’m sure if I never realized my mistake, someone would have covered her lunch needs. I know because she shared her lunch last year when a fellow preschooler forgot food. Kids share, teachers help, and if all else fails, moms drive 90 minutes round-trip to make a first day unforgettable… for both of us.
In the professional world, I’m a nurse by trade. But, around our house, I’m known as Mommy to our young daughter. My two worlds collided and began shaping into a blog. Useful Beautiful Home represents the hours I’ve dedicated to managing my household as efficiently as possible. I offer you motivation to keep your home healthy, organized, and welcoming. My goal is to share what I’ve implemented in my home to inspire you with fresh ideas and to encourage you to keep up the good work in yours! Learn more about me HERE or visit me at UsefulBeautifulHome.com.