Wednesday, October 11, 2017

How to Destress School Day Mornings

You don’t have to start every school day with chaos. There are a few simple tips that can help you create a calm morning, even if you aren’t a morning person. These four factors need to be controlled so they don’t cause problems. Once they are tamed, both children and parents will actually enjoy school day mornings, instead of dreading them.

The first solution is simple and takes only a few minutes. Designate a time one hour before bedtime to organize clothing and backpacks. Every child and adult, (it’s always smart to set a good example) should pick out the clothing they intend to wear the next day. If possible, lay it out on a chair or dresser. If it’s too bulky, like a business suit, hang it from a hook in the closet or on the back of the bedroom door. This habit speeds up mornings because there are no decisions to be made. They were made the night before. An extra benefit from doing this is in case of a late night emergency. One night a few years ago, my neighbor’s condo was on fire, and the building was evacuated. I was the only one wearing shoes, socks, and a coat when we gathered downstairs. I had the only cell phone too. It was quick and easy for me to grab what I needed on my way out. Be sure backpacks and briefcases are fully loaded with the next day’s important papers and placed near the door usually used when leaving in the morning.

A second morning task can also be completed the evening before. When preparing dinner, put school lunches together. You’re in the kitchen anyway. Buy a set of plastic containers with dividers to hold school lunches (they’re fine for taking to work too). When you chop vegetables for dinner, place some of them in one section of each container.  Do the same for other foods being handled. If you have chicken for dinner, chicken sandwiches can be prepped for lunch. If you top baked potatoes with cheese, cut up some cubes for lunch. The berries you add to dessert can go into another spot in the containers. By the time dinner is served, lunch containers will be full and stacked in the fridge.

Just before bed, set the table for breakfast. This is a simple task which can be assigned to a school aged child. While this is happening, an older child or parent can prep any foods that can be made in advance, helping the morning run more smoothly. A simple, tasty and healthy breakfast is oatmeal, topped with nuts and berries. If a large batch of oatmeal is cooked on the weekend, it can be divided into portions after it has cooled, packed in waxed paper and frozen in plastic containers or bags. An even easier method is to buy individual servings of frozen oatmeal. This is much more expensive, but very convenient. Many other foods can be made well in advance which will also shorten cooking time in the morning. Once this becomes a habit, it’s almost mindless, but makes for a calm, pleasant morning for all.

The last routine is actually the most important, but unless started early in life, is a little difficult to turn into a habit. This is setting a reasonable bedtime for each family member based on age. This chart by Sleep Aid Resource is very handy. Decide what time each family member needs to get up in the morning (leaving time for breakfast) and count backwards. This is the time that individual needs to go to sleep each night, even on weekends or holidays. The body performs best when this practice is established. It also makes people less grumpy in the morning.

When these four suggestions are followed, school/work day mornings are less rushed and more pleasant. Pick one at a time, establish the routine and then tackle another. Once all four are habits, you’ll see mornings are much easier on every family member.

For more information, you’ll want my new book, Free College Awareness, coming soon from Griffin Publishing. How to avoid needing college loans; available soon to families of Pre-K through High School students.

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Photo credit: Google Images 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

How to Teach Time Management to High School Students

I learned time management by reading books by John Maxwell, Steven Covey and Benjamin Franklin. This skill has made a world of difference in my life. But I couldn’t expect my high school foreign language students to do what I did. So I simplified what I learned and created a short lesson.

I wanted my students to know how to manage their time, so they would be able to complete their homework assignments and projects. I ended my language lesson a little early one Friday and asked them to take out paper and pen.

I told students I wanted to help them have time for fun, while still finishing their school work. This got their attention. I explained during the two years I was in South Africa, I worked pretty much all the time. I knew I wanted to “get a life” when I came back to the US. To do so, I needed to identify my goals. I wrote my five goals on the board in front of my classroom.

1.   Spend more time with family and friends.
2.   Increase my level of fitness.
3.   Have fun.
4.   Buy a dog.
5.   Earn enough money to live comfortably.

I answered any questions they had and asked them to suggest something I might want or need to do during the coming weekend. As they shouted out suggestions, I wrote about fifteen of them on the board. They included chores like doing laundry, going shopping, cleaning the house, grading papers, and fun activities like going to the beach, going to the movies, etc.

I told students to put an “A” by the most important activity or chore, “B” by the next significant and “C” next to those not really important at all. They all said grading papers was most important. I asked them where that appeared on my list of goals. It may have been important to the school or to them, but work was low on my list, so it only received a “C”, the lowest of the three choices. They understood. It was a real eye opener for them. We went through all activities on the board until they all had letters next to them.

Then we ranked the items in each category by urgency, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc. So all items on the list were identified according to the time management grid: Important-Urgent, Important-Not Urgent, Not Important-Urgent, Not Important-Not Urgent.

This lesson helped them schedule their time by their priorities, not those of someone else. It may have been most important for them to do school work, since it would help them reach their college goals. But my goals were not theirs. My goal was to get a life. After this little exercise, they understood the first step in time management is always to identify long term and short term goals. When they did so, they finished more school work while experiencing less stress and having more fun.

For more information, you’ll want my new book, Free College Awareness, coming soon from Griffin Publishing. How to avoid needing college loans; available soon to families of Pre-K through High School students.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo credit: Google Images