Back to School Advice for Parents



Philly students at public and charter schools returned to school before Labor Day this year. Back to school is not only an adjustment for most students; it’s also a transition time for city parents, too.

How do you oversee your kids’ homework and weekly schedule of activities? I asked two city parents how they manage this in addition to their work schedule.

Laura, a working mom of three living in Fishtown, agrees that adjusting to the back to school mayhem is sometimes just as difficult for parents, as it is for the kids. One thing she has learned from experience is to slowly get back into a routine, in an attempt to minimize the chaos. “My kids prefer to finish their homework as soon as possible, in order to relax and wind down in the evenings. This works well, as I prepare dinner while they get their homework out of the way,” says Laura. “We all sit in the kitchen together so that they can ask questions while I cook. By the time they are finished their homework, it is time to eat.”

Laura says they make it a priority to eat together as a family as often as possible. This is when the five squeeze in a majority of their “together” time. It is not an easy task, as they have to forego some activities, events, etc., but to them, it is crucial, so they just make it happen.

This leads to a second piece of advice, which is to limit extracurricular activities. Laura has three highly active children whose desires to participate in different activities, clubs and sports changes all the time. “We signed up for cheerleading and my daughter suddenly developed a strong desire to also take up sewing. I learned early in the game, that it is wise to limit the amount of activities they are each allowed to participate in to one per child per school year,” says Laura.

In families with multiple children, it is almost impossible to fit more than three activities into the weekly routine. Laura thinks there is just not enough time. More importantly, kids need down time and moms need their sanity.

Limit your children’s activities to what is manageable

I agree that you have to limit your children’s activities as there is only so much time in a day and week. My youngest loves gymnastics yet now that she is on a year-long travel team, she does not have time to participate in both sports.

It’s also important to have some support system in your neighborhood especially if your family is not local. Over the summer, I asked two local moms to pick up my kids from summer camp so I could travel north to visit a family member who was in the hospital. Since I’ve known these two moms for years now, I could trust my kids with them until my husband could pick them up. This eased my stress given my relative’s health condition and not being nearby to help.

One thing is for certain – you can’t be in two places at once. So this year, when my kids have two games at the same time, I am confident I can text another parent to drive them to and from the game if need be. Utilize carpools when possible. I’ve had a weekly carpool with another Mom for four years now. I drop her daughter at CCD and she drives my oldest home. Over the course of a year, this saves a tremendous amount of time. For working parents, especially those who are self-employed, time is money.

Establish a routine and stick with it

Tricia is a working mom with two kids in the Bella Vista area. It’s often tough for her to stay on top of all their activities as well as her own obligations. In order to maintain some semblance of order in her household, here are some tasks that she does to help:

Night before:

  • School bags are packed
  • Uniforms/outfits are picked out
  • Any part of lunches that can be prepped ahead of time are
  • Showers

Daily:

  • Tricia has a write on/wipe off calendar and assigns a different color marker for each family member. All activities and appointments are written on this board.
  • School bags and lunch boxes go in the same place after school.
  • Papers she has to sign/read are placed on her placemat on the dinner table.
  • Homework is to be completed before dinner unless an activity has them out of the house.
  • No TV or toys in the morning until each kid is completely ready for school.
  • They set timers for the kids to know when they need to leave.
  • The crock pot/instant pot is a huge help with meals.

Weekly:

  • School uniform laundry is done once a week to ensure we have enough for the week.
  • They have enough uniform components to get them through the week without having to do laundry more than once.
  • Meals are tentatively planned over the weekend and food shopping occurs on Sunday nights – completed by Dad.
  • One food shop for perishables one day a week occurs as well.
  • One night a week they do “fend for yourself” for dinner– either leftovers or something quick (smoothies, grilled cheese, cheese and crackers, mac and cheese).

Since Tricia is the keeper of the appointments, laundry person, meal planner and prep person and organizer, she finds that she has to have a routine and stick with it. “Regardless of my craziness, I try to keep the kids on the schedule regarding dinner, reading and bed time. To stream line our bedtime routine both kids go up at the same time,” she adds. “My little guy gets stories while my older daughter gets herself and her uniform ready. Once my little guy is in bed I read to my older; once we are finished she reads to herself while I get lunches and my own work stuff ready. Then it’s off to bed for her. I try to get as much stuff checked off our list the evening before.”

Erin Flynn Jay is a Philadelphia writer and mom of two daughters who blogs at Mastering The Mommy Track, where this article first appeared.

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