Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Five Tips To Help Families Ease Into School


 
School has been back in session for 36 hours. Although I was resistant to the return of structure and routine, I can already see how it will serve our family well.
We let it all go during the summer.

But with the return of school, I dust off some disciplines we’ve implemented to help us manage the stress of school and love each other well in the process.
Since I’m fairly certain we started school before everyone under the sun, I thought I’d share these disciplines here for you to consider as you plan for your family’s first day. You are in my prayers as you embark upon a new journey this school year!

1.      Start Each Morning With Family Devotion
We started doing family devotions after breakfast when our kids were little. That worked for years, but when all our kids began school, our devotions became less hit and more miss. For an entire year, I beat my head against the wall, wondering why we couldn’t get this right.

And then I heard a speaker talk about putting God first. Not a unique idea, but I had considered “after getting ready and after eating breakfast” to be close enough. The problem was that these activities always took more time than we budgeted, and devotion time was snuffed out.
A simple shift of the schedule changed everything.

Now, we do our devotional before we do anything else. We rarely miss! Not only does our time with the Lord bless us in the moment, but also our mornings are more peaceful, our days run more smoothly! And guess what? Everything else miraculously gets done.
2.         Do Everything Possible The Night Before

Learning the beauty and wisdom of margin has been a theme for our family the last four years. If we don’t have margin, we don’t have room to be flexible, and seemingly small things can become not so small.
If this is true for life in general, then it’s also true for families on school mornings! If we wait until the morning to pack lunches and gather belongings, then we leave no space for the unexpected, like:

“I forgot that I’m supposed to bring cookies for the band party today!”
If we’ve prepped the night before, however, there’s space for us to tackle these issues with grace and composure. Our kids know they earn the freedom to play after school by taking care of their responsibilities ahead of time.

3.      Follow An Afternoon Checklist
To help us execute Tip No. 2, we follow an afternoon checklist, which hangs on our refrigerator. It’s not Pinterest worthy (I broke up with Pinterest long ago…OK, let’s be honest…I never dated Pinterest in the first place), but it’s functional. And it saves me at least 50 million words a day. A request to go outside and play is met with a gesture towards the checklist, and everyone knows exactly what I mean:

When it’s done.
This has helped set expectations, reduce conflict, and allow the kids to take responsibility for their tasks.

4.      Create A Meal Plan
I love to cook! But last Spring, I fell into a rut. To dig me out, I discovered Prep Dish.

Prep Dish provides a menu of gluten-free and paleo meals to save time and money. Along with the menu, Prep Dish sends a printable grocery list and instructions for prep day. Two hours in the kitchen yields meals for a week that get from oven to table in minutes, with little mess!
With the help of Prep Dish, I put healthy, home-cooked meals on the table again and simplified our evening routine. In addition, we were stretching our taste buds, using ingredients outside my home-cook comfort zone.

Who knew my kids liked lamb and bok choy?
Whether it’s Prep Dish, Hello Fresh, or your own slow cooker rotation, developing a meal plan will save your family money and time, improve your health, and make evenings more enjoyable.

5.      Create Space For Downtime
We’ve implemented each tip referenced in this post with one goal in mind:

To create a life-giving home environment that includes sufficient measures of work, play,
and family time.
This is easier in the summer, much harder during the school year. Because there are days when I pick the kids up from school, drive straight to activities, and pull into our driveway near bedtime.

We do the best we can on those days.
But on slower days, these tips help us manage our home more intentionally. The result is that we have some measure of downtime to enjoy each other’s company and take deep breaths. We don’t always nail it, but we’re trying!

My prayer is that these tips might bless your family as you embark upon a new school year too!

 

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