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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Get Organized for School Before It Starts

Fall for these Type-A tricks to get your school routine humming.
By Keri Foy   

Reviving school routines is an act moms of school-age children have come to both love and hate.

But with a new school year on the horizon, don’t fall into inefficient rituals when it comes to getting your offspring out the door with homework done and lunches packed. Take cues from Jenna O’Dwyer, self-proclaimed Type A and mom to Mason (8) and Michael (5).

School Ritual #1: Making lunches and snacks
“It’s easier to prepare as much as possible beforehand,” Jenna says. Mason, who is autistic, has also been diagnosed with ADHD. “We can just grab lunches and go so he can focus on other things like getting on his clothes and shoes.”

On Sunday afternoons, you’ll find Jenna busily crafting well-thought-out sandwiches for her boys. “I used to do it at night,” she says. “But I’d rather spend an hour on Sunday and be done. It’s a chance for me to reset and get organized for the week.”

Here’s Jenna’s weekly sandwich menu:
  • Monday: Turkey with mayo. “I use whole wheat bread because it holds up better than white,” Jenna says.
  • Tuesday: Bologna. Jenna uses leakproof Ziploc containers. 
  • Wednesday: Homemade Lunchable – cubed or diced lunchmeat with crackers and cheese. 
  • Thursday: Hummus with turkey. For this, Jenna uses whole-wheat tortillas.
  • Friday: Peanut butter and jelly. Jenna also suggests making and freezing PB&Js. 
To accompany the sandwiches, Jenna suggests yogurt drinks, applesauce pouches, cheese sticks, and produce such as carrots, celery, and berries.

“I wait until the morning to throw in a juice box and a baggie of pretzels,” Jenna says. “If you refrigerate pretzels, they’ll get soggy.” In the winter, she also buys canned pineapple and drains it to add to their lunches.

As for snacks, Jenna’s a fan of breakfast or granola bars, which she usually buys at Aldi.

School Ritual #2: Breakfast
Mini cereal containers help the boys take charge of their mornings. The cereal is already portioned out and in an easily accessible spot. Mason and Michael just need to pour the milk. Jenna is also a fan of pre-made breakfasts. Think French toast, waffles, banana muffins, and pancakes easily popped in the microwave. Her breakfast go-tos help her family be happier in the mornings, Jenna says.

School Ritual #3: The After-School Drop
Does your child waltz in from school and everything comes off in one pile, even though there are wall hooks at eye level where she could hang everything? Jenna averts this daily disaster by settling into a quick post-school routine.

“When they come in, I immediately go through their backpacks and read any communication from the school,” she says. Mason gets a homework sheet, which she leaves out for later. Mason and Michael clean out their lunch boxes and put them away. Jenna adds tomorrow’s snack in the backpacks right away so they won’t have to remember it in the morning.

School Ritual #4: Homework
The boys are allowed 30 minutes of downtime before homework begins. They can watch TV, play video games, or go outside to play with friends.

While Jenna preps dinner, Mason knocks out his homework in the kitchen, where she’s there to help if needed. As soon as he’s done, the homework goes straight into the backpack, which is hung on a hook by the back door.

While we’re not all Type A’s, any parent can pick and choose from Jenna’s routine and adapt it to his/her own life. Even a small change will help. “Instead of making PB&Js, buy Uncrustables to get you ahead of the game,” Jenna suggests. The goal, Jenna says, is to “not do chores all the time and spend more time with the kids.”


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