- Kitti McKay
Streamline the School Year
Good for you! Thanks to your smart August planning, school started with the kids’ closets decluttered, new outfits bought and put away, and the clothes organized so that getting ready in the morning would no longer be a hair-pulling experience. Not only that but their school supplies and work area are now systematized so that there’s no more “MOM!!! Where’s my pink marker???” (like it’s your fault that it slid under the sofa…)
Now, what about the day-to-day streamlining to get you through the next 10 months of classes, school projects, soccer practices, recitals, etc, etc? If the ghosts of school years past make you want to curl up into a fetal position, relax! With a little forethought, you and the family will breeze through this year with a minimum of frustration! Here are two key ways to help streamline and organize your busy life.
When it comes to feeding your family, a combination of planning, preparation and routine will be your best friend all year round. Research tells us that young brains in particular need nutrition at regular intervals throughout the day to maintain optimum performance. Starting with some sort of breakfast is essential, and I don’t care what Tony the Tiger tells you, filling your face with sugar at any time isn’t gr-r-r-eat! But I digress...
Depending on your morning family dynamic, decide with your kids on an easy, nutritious breakfast routine (e.g oatmeal or whole-grain cereal with various toppings, or a hearty bread with peanut butter), and stick to it.
Gone are the days of the brown paper bag or the plastic lunch “bin” which reduces your carefully crafted sandwich to a limp wafer of its former self: today’s containers have portion cups and stackable inserts which, when used creatively, can provide your child (or even you!) with a nutritious lunch. The sandwich stays protected and there’s room for tasty add-ons like salad, legumes, a mini-yogurt, fruit, you name it!
With varying schedules, dinner can get a little haphazard, but my colleagues and I agree that if you generally have a variation of the same thing on the same night (e.g. Wednesday is pasta night, Thursday is burger night), it reduces decision fatigue at a time of day when you’re already getting worn out and wondering where the corkscrew is.
Keep an open mind as to how your dinner leftovers can be cleverly utilized for future lunches and dinners: spaghetti can be a welcome change from the traditional sandwich at lunch!
With most households juggling two working parents and one to four active children, the key to juggling today’s frenetic lifestyle is simple: write it down! Calendars instantly provide a sense of calm and control, and planning is an important life skill that cannot be learned too early.
The most streamlined results that I have seen result from a large family calendar, preferably color-coded. Each family member (you too, Dad!) can pick a colored marker and write the upcoming month’s events on it. Keep it in a central location like the kitchen, and you’ll find that you can easily handle schedule conflicts as they happen.
A surprising advantage to a central calendar is the accountability factor; homework assignments, soccer practices, and the like are less likely to be missed when it’s in print for all to see.
I highly recommend dedicating a smaller wall calendar to mealtimes, especially dinner; not only does this take the guesswork for all concerned, but the kids can feel helpful by defrosting an item, prepping a salad, etc. A meal calendar also aids in grocery shopping: if you know that Wednesday is pasta night but there’s not a jar of Ragu to be seen, you’ll either improvise, put it on the shopping list, or both!
Until you get used to it, all of this planning may feel like a tedious effort compared to running on the fly, but when you compare that to the time lost in daily decision-making and missed appointments, I think that you’ll find it to be an effort well invested!