On Your Mark, Get Set, Go To School!


I’m not going to sugar-coat it; getting your children up and out the door for school is a royal pain, especially when the parent also has to be at work in the morning and can’t do the “drop-off in the pj pants, sweatshirt, coffee cup in the non-driving hand” routine.

The cast of characters in my house are in eleventh, ninth and seventh grades, so I’ve been herding kids to school for a long time. Take it from a seasoned pro, there are a couple of tricks of the trade that can streamline the morning chaos.

The Night Before
1)  Pack lunches and fill water bottles.  Doing it when it’s late and you or the kids are tired beats racing to do it when it’s early and you or the kids are tired.  Hot lunch fanatics?  Put notes on your calendar to check the balance of your lunch account in myschoolbucks.com a couple of times a month to make sure you are not approaching the maximum $5 charge limit.  Better yet, set up an automatic payment plan which replenishes your account whenever it dips below $5.  If you pay for lunch with cash, make sure you have the correct amount in a baggie or wallet ready for your child.
2)  Pick out tomorrow’s outfit.  It also never hurts to have a backup in case your child wakes up in a mood and changes their mind when it’s time to get dressed.  That way, the potential ten-minute, “But I don’t want to wear THAT today!” discussion can hopefully be tackled in two seconds with an, “Okay, here you go, then!” at-hand solution.
3)  Check for any due library books, permission slips, homework to turn in, etc. and be sure they are all filed in the right kid’s backpack.
4)  Put the backpacks by the front door.  You’d think they’re too big to lose.  You’d be wrong.
5)  Have each kid put their shoes on top of their backpack.  Put a sock in each shoe.

The Morning of
6)  No electronics!.  One kid gets ready early and turns on YouTube or a video game, and you can forget about it.  Children who are ready early may read.
7)  Avoid open-ended dialogue at all costs:  NOT “What do you want for breakfast?”  Try, “Oatmeal or Waffles?”  Going through all the possibilities wastes lots of time and can make you cranky.  It’s important to have a default breakfast that they know they’ll always get if they don’t like the choices.  At our house, it is cereal.
8)  Stick to the either/or rule: “Blue jacket or red?”  “Pigtails or ponytails?” rather than, “Which jacket do you want?” or “How should we do your hair?”
9)  If your child takes any medication, make sure it is put out on the table so it can be taken with breakfast.  If you sometimes have to serve toast in the car while you drive to school because you missed that window for a sit-down breakfast, keep a bottle or two of water in the car to wash down any meds.  You do have back-up breakfast or energy bars stashed in your glove box, right?
10)  Monitor your child’s overall progress and help them stay focused on the tasks at hand.  Give everyone a ten- AND a five-minute warning before it’s time to go.
11)  Set the mood.  Be mellow even if you aren’t feeling it!  Discourage competitive racing in the morning, especially at the breakfast table.  Try to stay as calm and relaxed as possible, which hopefully will prevent upsetting and time-consuming blow-ups.  It is even more important to remain calm if you are running late.  Things take far longer when everyone is stressed out!

Bonus Tips!
12)  Check your watch, cell phone, or timepiece of choice against the school bell to see if it rings when your clock says it should.
13)  Before it’s time to get the kids up, get up and get yourself 100% ready to walk out the door.  This is the same principle as when you fly and the flight attendant stresses the value of placing your own oxygen mask on before assisting others.

Every family is different, so of course your morning may vary slightly…or drastically, but everyone can commiserate with the complexity of the morning routine.

Got excellent time and sanity saving tips?  Please share them in the comments below!


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