Back To School: The Schedule, Kids’ Edition

Last week was our first full week with the fall schedule (that means girls at school and Michael at daycare). It felt like a full-out sprint.

I am working hard to help myself and help my children with the transition back to fall. It’s been rocky so far. Lots of deep breaths on my part. My goal is to have a routine that the children can stick to. It needs to be simple and flexible.

One of my worries in general is that due to work and school and homework and activities and so on, that our kids are turning into little worker bees instead of little kids.

Flora has a test or quiz nearly every day of the week — math, English, spelling (a pretest and a test), science (every other week), and so on. It worries me, and I don’t want to pass my anxiety onto Flora. Not that she can’t do the work, she can — she’s very smart. But that The Work will just be the goal, instead of actual learning, and taking joy in learning.

Kate I am less worried about. She’s in full-day kindergarten, but she only has a page of homework once or twice a week. She usually comes home singing the songs they learn in her classroom. She is having a blast.

And Michael! Well, here’s a good thing: he transitioned very well back into his daycare. To date, he has not cried when I’ve dropped him off in the morning. He seems to be excited to see the toys and the care givers and other kids.

Here’s the crappy thing: He’s not getting enough rest. He’s sleeping between 10 and 11 hours at night (I try to get him in bed at 7:30 every night); during the day, he’s gone from 2 to 3 hour naps to 1 1/2 hour naps (if we’re lucky, 2). Evenings with him are very difficult — tantrums, meltdowns, clinginess. And he’s TIRED. He’s rubbing his eyes by 6 p.m. some nights.

Evenings in general are very difficult right now. I am the sole Parent On Duty, Monday through Thursday. What I need, especially from Flora and to a lesser extent from Kate, is some self-sufficiency and self-motivation. To help, I have a schedule to help them develop new habits.

We’re still learning it. I have told the girls that until they develop these good habits, there is no night time television. I have tried to be firm and consistent. I try not to yell.

I have held firm on television. I sometimes yell in frustration. But I’m trying.

Here’s the general outline:

When we get home, they have to get their stuff out of the car.
Once in the house, Flora should go to the dining room to start her homework. Kate needs to go to another room to play, or do her homework quietly with Flora. I give everyone a snack if they want.
While I make dinner, Kate has to occupy herself, Michael has to play or eat his snack, Flora should do her homework. Mileage varies so far.
Then we have dinner, clear the table. Sometimes the girls have a quick chore (putting their clean clothes away, running the vacuum). Then bath, books, bed. The end.

Here are the problems so far: Flora has a very difficult time focusing on her homework at home. She does fine in school because everyone is doing the same thing at the same time. But at home, her brother and sister are playing (or having a meltdown — I’m looking at you, Michael), and she is constantly distracted from her work. I am trying to make dinner. Kate has a very hard time leaving Flora alone.

What should be 15-20 minutes of homework a night gets stretched to an hour, sometimes more. Flora is constantly interrupting herself to get a drink, get a snack, complain about something, whinge about Kate. I am constantly chasing Kate away from the dining room or kitchen. Michael, feeling neglected (and probably hungry and tired) throws a fit.

I’m an awesome mom, by the way.

To date, since full-time school has started, the children have not had a night time show (not counting Fridays. They can do whatever the hell they want on Fridays, I honestly don’t care as long as no blood is shed). We do not get outside time at all. We really don’t get much downtime in the evenings in general, actually. I feel like it’s a full-out sprint (again) from picking up the children to bedtime.

And, frankly, I don’t know if there’s a damn thing I can do about it.

Are my expectations too high? Should I just give into the sprint until the weekends? Any ideas? Or should I just suck this up for the next nine months? (*sob*)

More later this week on MY schedule, and what I’m trying to do to help myself.

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21 thoughts on “Back To School: The Schedule, Kids’ Edition

  1. Where is she between school and home? Some sort of aftercare? Can she try to do homework there? I went to a babysitter after school until 4th grade and was expected to do my homework there before my mom picked me up (unless I had a question or something, and then I could save that for help from my parents). So home time in the evening was just that.

    • Yes, she and Kate are in extended day at the school. She *should* do her homework there, I’ve told her. She forgets. I’m hoping daily reminders will get her to remember. I wonder if she has a buddy there she could sit down with and do it. I’ll ask her. I tell her to save questions or things she needs help with for at home/after dinner.

      • It seems weird that they don’t have a scheduled quiet/homework time there, that all the kids do their homework or read quietly if they don’t have any. That would probably help her focus since she does her work fine in a classroom setting, you know? Maybe you can be That Mom and ask for it.

  2. It’s only been a week, so give it time. You’ll all adjust and find your rhythm (this is the voice of experience talking!). It usually takes us about a month, but since your kids are younger, it may take a bit longer. I know… sounds like forever.

    The good news is that at the age mine are at, we’re sliding into something that feels familiar. Except for Thursdays, but I’ll figure that out. It’s only until next June, and then it’ll change again.

    • I know it needs time. I’m just posting it because writing it out helps me. 🙂 Also, I am curious as to whether my expectations are too high or if other people with experience (like you!) have other strategies. I am just going to keep going day-by-day, and then see where we are in a month.

      Thursday are going to kill me, too. More on that later when I talk about my schedule.

  3. Can you put Michael to bed earlier? That would eliminate one part of the noise/distraction and help with his need of more sleep. I remember being that tyrant parent putting the kids to bed at 630 (and always on daycare days). It grew later of course as they grew older, but even now they are at least IN bed by 8.

    I agree with the above, they both need to do their homework at aftercare. Questions regarding homework can be asked while you are making dinner? At the kitchen table? Or can Flora help with Kate’s questions? I know you are laughing at that suggestion, but I often pull the “we are a family and help each other” line.

    • Oh, TMT, we get home between 5:30 and 6 p.m. We’re hardly done with dinner by 6:30. And honestly, even though I usually get him to bed by 7:30, he stays up talking and singing in his crib up to 30 minutes. If I tried to get him in there any earlier, he’d riot on me.
      I am going to have to look into aftercare, to see if there’s a structure in place for homework time. Which *will* make me That Mom, but I need to be. Last night, they actually did their homework directly and quickly, so I’m hoping these habit will stick.

  4. I can see why it would be hard to do homework in aftercare, since she would need some time to unwind from her school day, too! What if you cooked one bigger meal on Monday and Wednesday and ate it twice? That’s what I was doing when I was teaching and it was really nice to come home and not have to do anything but microwave a few days a week. Of course, then you’re effed about leftovers and still have to make lunches every day.

    • I’ll talk more about this when I write about my schedule, but yes, cooking more and leftovers are part of the rotation. Maybe I do need to make it two days rather than one. Good idea!

  5. For what it’s worth, I think you should stick with what you’re doing. There’s nothing wrong with setting rules and expectations and then sticking to them. It’s not like the problem will just go away when they get older. The distractions will only become more compelling.

    Stand your ground. So sayeth Another Childless Douche.

  6. wow. keep up with the deep breathing! A couple questions…
    do you think Flora would be motivated by a reward (such as TV) after she finishes her homework? I know you are nixing tv for now, but it may help motivate her to stay focused. Plus needs conditions…no whining, no fighting with Kate.

    Keeping Kate occupied? Have to think about that one. can she set the table, or help entertain Michael? Or if not that, would she play in her room (i.e., NOT bother Flora?)

    shortening the cooking process may help. any option for Flora to do homework after dinner?

    can your ILs help? even just a night or two a week?

    give it time. and pray. and breathe deeply. hugs 🙂

    • If last night is any indication, Flora (and Kate) is motivated by computer time. So I’m going to keep that in my back pocket. Also last night Kate occupied herself by making “tickets” of some sort. She won’t play upstairs alone. Kate dreads being alone right now. My ILs can’t help — my MIL helps my SIL, who is in school, a lot right now. Thanks, dear! I know it’ll get better!

  7. I have issues with the amount of homework. Last year, my then-third grader had 1 to 2 hours of HW two or three nights a week, with 2 to 3 hours most Thursdays b/c of three or four Friday tests. In second grade, my kid had hardly any HW. The diocesan guidelines (as well as other studies/entities) state that kids should average about 10 minutes per grade level. Here’s hoping 4th grade is the year for us!

    Is there is a way to see that Flora does either HW or exercise at after-care, and leave it up to her so she feels some responsibility/ownership (and work with the caregivers)? If she got to play/release some energy, she might be more calm or motivated (it usually works for us), and if her HW is done, well, then that problem is solved. Maybe Kate could work on a family chart or something while Flora is doing HW, which could also solve two problems, at least while your family is getting into a routine. I bet things will start to feel more comfortable and less hectic in another week or two.

    (Oh, and I have no suggestions for Michael because I have been out of baby/toddler mode for so long.)

    Good luck!

    • To be fair, Flora does have homework that should only take 20 minutes. So I don’t have a problem with the amount. It’s just getting her to do it. Kate’s HW usually only takes about 5 minutes. Also with Flora, I feel like I should be reviewing things with her more (especially spelling words). But with short evenings and 3 kids, it just doesn’t happen most of the time.

      Thank you for your thoughts! I am going to have to talk to the school about extended day, see what they do there.

  8. Like Bluz, I have no right to offer advice. I only have awe and respect for you. Hopefully, you’ll settle into an easier routine as days turn into weeks and months. But, yikes, my blood pressure went up just reading that. Big props and cheers from the peanut gallery.

  9. First, you *are* an awesome mom.

    The evening sprint is hard. I’m not to the homework stage, but maybe either setting up a desk in a room where the door can close or getting noise reducing headphones might help?

    As for recreational time, something I did for a while but haven’t kept up with was premaking some cold meals so that we could go to the playground after work (even though we get home around 5:45 and the girl goes to bed by 7). Hearty salads are the obvious option. We also had some of our “European” meals where we just had fruit, cheese, bread and nuts. Some nights the kids would get yogurt with peanut butter and banana for dinner, and the grown-ups make dinner together after the kids are asleep. (We call those our stay in date nights.)

    Whatever you do the schedules are going to be hard, so my main suggestion is to do the best you can and enjoy your weekends.

    • Cold meals are actually a fantastic idea. At some point, there will be evening activities.

      Thanks, and thanks. I figure that caring about this stuff, even trying to give my children a sense of routine, makes me pretty decent as a mom. 🙂

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