Last year I had two kids in school, and keeping their stuff in order and getting out the door on time every day was a huge challenge. We didn't get any tardies, but we definitely cut it close on several occasions. I knew that with five kids in school this year, things had to be different in order to make it work. Here are the tricks we've put into place to help
1. When the kids come home from school at 3:15, Daddy stops working and joins us at the table for snack and debrief about the school day. It is a real gift to be able to have him working from home. He suspends his work day from 3:15 until after the kids are in bed. Then he works a couple of hours at night. He also gets up early to work if he needs to.
2. Homework comes before playtime. Snapper and Pepper are independent with their homework. That frees me up to help Piper and Bubbles with theirs.
3. I do crock pot meals as often as possible so I don't have to give up a chunk of my afternoon to cooking.
4. Snapper has swim team every evening and the rest of the crew are starting gymnastics in two weeks. Fortunately, that's only one evening per week, and it is at the same time as Snapper's swim practice. We keep sports bags on hooks by the front door.
1. Take individual lunch orders in the evening. I made a lunch order form template. They choose one item from each of four categories: Main course (pb&j, turkey sandwich, cold quesadilla, salad, cheese and crackers, tuna sandwich), Side (Pringles, Cheez-its, Goldfish, Carrots with Ranch dressing), Protein (hard boiled egg, yogurt, cheese cubes, string cheese), and Fruit (applesauce, apple, banana, grapes).
2. While the kids do their after dinner chores (load/unload dishwasher, wipe counter and table, sweep kitchen, tidy bedrooms and bathrooms, pick up their trails, etc.), I pack lunches and run the vacuum. We always go to bed with a tidy house and an empty sink.
3. On the back of the lunch order form, they mark what color uniform shirt and what uniform bottom they want for the next day.
4. While they're getting their pajamas on and brushing teeth, I lay out their clothes on the table in their room.
5. Each child is responsible for having their backpack loaded and by the door before they go to bed. If it is not ready in the morning, they pay a fine or do an extra chore.
6. The girls pre-select their hairstyle and lay out hair accessories with their clothes before bed.
1. Matt gets up early to cook breakfast. Snapper takes ADHD medication that affects her appetite during the day, so she needs a substantial breakfast to carry her through the day when she doesn't feel hungry. Also, there are 5 hours between breakfast and lunch for Snapper and Bubbles, so they both need to eat more than cereal.
2. I get up 15 minutes ahead of the kids, put ice packs in lunch boxes, and put lunch boxes in backpacks by the front door. I also set the table.
3. When the kids' alarm goes off, they get up, use the bathroom, and come straight to the breakfast table in their pajamas. While they eat, Daddy does devotions with them. They are quiet and calm in the morning, having just rolled out of bed. They enjoy the peaceful breakfast and Bible time--it puts them in a good frame of mind for the day. Another perk--if they spill on their jammies, I can just throw them in the laundry. One less opportunity to get food on the uniforms is good!
4. After they clear their places, everyone goes back to get dressed and brush teeth. I cycle through the girls, doing their hair. Bubbles chews her hair, so she needs a hairstyle that keeps her long bangs well out of her face. That almost always involves French braiding. Piper needs her hair back too, because it is so thick and heavy and it makes her hot.
5. Everyone does a once-over of their bedroom before Sunny goes to bed at 7:30.
6. 30 minutes prior to each child's bedtime, the child goes and takes a shower. Then they can relax and snuggle with us before they go to bed.
I've found that having a set routine, and being orderly about how we do everything makes a big difference in the kids' stress level. They know what to expect. The routine is clear and consistent. There are no surprises, and Bubbles, Piper & Sunny don't have any food stress. All these efforts--though they cut into my "personal" time (what's personal time when you have 5 kids?)--are like oil to an engine. Absolutely necessary, and well worth the effort.
I hope this will help someone!