Works For Me: After School

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DCRmom at Musings of a Housewife wrote a few days ago about how hard it can be to balance a child’s after-school schedule.  I could relate to her concerns. There is precious little time from when they arrive home until bedtime, and I want to make that time as seamless as possible for them.  Here are some few tips that work for me (my kids are elementary-aged):

  • I try to be "ready" for them when they get off the bus.  I’m not on the phone, I’m not in the middle of a project, I’m just ready for them.
  • They grab a snack first thing, and they really want to "veg" a while before talking.  I don’t take this personally, and I don’t pump them for info about their day.  Yet. 
  • I let them watch 1-2 TV shows (depending on how much time we have).
  • While they’re watching TV, I go through their backpacks.  This gives me a better idea what went on during their day.
  • After the downtime we begin homework and discussions about what all happened that day.  One good conversation starter–"What was the best and worst part of your day?"
  • As much as possible, we schedule after-school activities on two days a week, maybe three in a pinch.  This way we’re not always dashing off to something–two or three days a week we can have a slower pace. 
  • I don’t let my kids have playdates with neighborhood kids during the week.  It’s just one more thing to try to manage.  (This thankfully isn’t a huge issue, since we don’t have a lot of kids in our neighborhood!)

I’d love to hear your tips for managing after-school chaos loveliness, if you have any. 

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42 thoughts on “Works For Me: After School

  1. Rebecca Mielke says:

    Sorry I forgot the parantheses. I don’t know if I should re-post just for that.
    Although we have homeschooled for a long time now, we didn’t always. Your ideas are really good. I never would have thought of going through the backpacks, but I can see it would be very helpful.
    The one about not being in the middle of something I try to do when my husband comes home. 🙂

  2. Carmen says:

    I like how you’re making it a priority to be ready for them when they get home. I homeschool, but I have to guard my activities so that I’m available for my children’s needs. I also have to be careful about scheduling our activities–we home school, not “van school”.
    #2 on your list! Wow! I’m uptown!
    I hope to get in on this modesty conversation, too–I’m so thrilled to see this being discussed!

  3. Shannon in Arizona says:

    Good idea! When my kids start school this is how I hope to manage it. I remember coming home from school and having to start homework it seemed right away…I was like mmmmmmm my brain is overloaded….and the not in the mood to talk thing that is cool too. I use to hate to talk right away because I had talked allll day….lol

  4. momrn2 says:

    Oh my goodness.. the idea of having them do something else while I go through their backpacks is great. I did not have that incorporated into “our schedule” but that is a great one. Since school only started today, I’d say it’s probably not too late to get into this habit! So simple… and yet could be a lifesaver for gleaning information I’m sure! Thanks!

  5. Susan says:

    I like the “being ready for them” – even though I homeschool, I could stand to be ready for them, instead of just pushing through to get things done!

  6. Jennifer, Snapshot says:

    Now I am only dealing with the schedule of one child, since the other one is younger, but we also limit activities, so we have only two commitments a week. I agree about the playdates, too. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but we are also “blessed” not to have kids within a short walk. In addition, she doesn’t get off the bus until almost 4pm, so there really isn’t time for that.
    Thanks, as always, for sharing insight into your methods and methodologies.

  7. DivaP says:

    Thank you for sharing your after-school ideas! Little P just started kindergarten and it’s nice to have ideas from Moms who’ve BTDT.

  8. Mom2fur says:

    One thing we always did was to tell kids they couldn’t go out on school nights–not even in high school. Some of their friends probably thought this was weird, but it was something we believed in. They could play all they wanted before dinner, but not after. (Most of their friends live right here, so there was no need for ‘play dates.’)

  9. Amelia says:

    My little one isn’t in school yet, but I use some of these same principles for when my husband comes home from work (like not being on the phone, being ready for him, giving him some downtime first, etc).

  10. Mom2fur says:

    I also have to put in a comment after reading Shannon’s comment. My kids have always done homework after dinner. I can’t understand these parents who make the kid do homework right after school–as if 6 or so straight hours of brain work isn’t hard enough. Oh, and my definition of ‘play date’ meant I had to drive to someone’s house and pick my kid up later–not that they just walk out the door and meet friends on the block. I’m talking a kid who’s old enough to walk to a friend’s house down the block on his own, of course, not a young child.
    Another rule I forgot about is that my son is not allowed to play video games on school days, either.

  11. Carol says:

    These tips worked great for me until this year. Now we have football 3 days/week and that blew a hole in my system. What’s working for me is to leave the football stuff to Dad. I still do piano lessons for both kids and dance for the girl and am still able to supervise homework and get dinner on the table.
    Scheduling downtime is vital!

  12. maria says:

    haven’t done a works for me wds, but i wanted to add something that is working well for me so far this year. our evenings are incredibly hectic. with one in hs, one in jr hi and one still in elementary,and everyone in a sport during most of the school year, i am all over the board.
    i have been planning meals a couple weeks in advance. shop for the bulk of it at once and retrieve the recipe the night before. it ends the “and what to make for dinner?” crunch and has made my week nights much less stressfull. now i need to figure out how to get the 8 yr old to sit still while we do homework.

  13. Pass the Torch says:

    Shannon, I think it’s really smart to be organized like this with your schedule. Yesterday was our kids’ first day back to school and already I’m remembering why I wanted the schoolyear to end last spring! As they get older, it seems there’s just so much more to manage — and they certainly can’t do it on their own. I never understood that until my kids started school.
    Last year I tried to make them finish their homework before Dad got home from work, because he often had to leave again in the evening. This year he has a new job and will be home more in the evenings. I’m going to let the kids decide when they want to tackle homework. I’m hoping to make a schedule and keep to it, but not sure what it will be for a few more days.
    Thanks for your ideas!
    Kelly Home of Pass the Torch Tuesday

  14. Katherine@Raising Five says:

    We try to finish most homework before dinner – but we eat late, so it gives some downtime. As the kids get older, there are more “project” type homework activities that require planning WAY ahead. I am trying not to micromanage those so they can learn to do it themselves, but it is hard not to get in there and rescue them when they’ve “forgotten” about something. Can you tell what kind of morning I had??
    Thanks for hostessing again!

  15. Homeschool Mama says:

    What a great way to show the kids that they are the most important thing in your day. I remember the days of the school folder. It was my favorite day of the week, sifting through all the schoolwork and letters.
    I read the guidelines after I posted, and I think the only thing I didn’t do was a direct link. I figured out how to do it and I’ll do it the right way next week.
    Now, I’m off to learn!

  16. Shalee says:

    This is a great way to teach them acceptance and patience. Sometimes I am just not ready for the millions of questions that come my way when I walk into the door.
    Since I work outside the home, I try to schedule nothing(!) for the evenings. Yes that means my kids don’t participate in lots of things, but I’d rather have time with them than without.

  17. kelli says:

    Great post!
    We gave up asking “What did you do today”, oh, the third day of first grade or so, in favor of “So, what new thing did you learn today”.
    Now, in middle school, there is nary a day that they can’t come up with something to tell us and ut keeps them thinking how great learning can be.

  18. nikko says:

    I’ve already given up with the “What did you do today?”, too. ;o) I try “What game did you play in PE?” or “Who did you sit by at lunch?” instead. I also think they need that downtime immediately after school.
    Great ideas!

  19. Susan says:

    I don’t have kids yet but that doesnt’ mean i still don’t schedule downtime for myself. I try to be available to my husband and he does the same. i also try to limit my time on computer and television to ensure that our house is kept in order. This is hard for me but I hope, pray that these habits I am forming today will help me when we start a family. Thank you for the great advice

  20. Barbara H. says:

    Good tips! I also used to try to avoid having to run errands after picking the kids up from school. Sometimes it just can’t be helped. But I always felt bad about having to cart them around when they just wanted to go home and crash. My youngest has a pretty good attitude about it, but my middle son would moan and groan. 🙂
    I like the idea of not being in the middle of something when they first come home.
    I also learned to ask specific questions rather than just the general “How was your day?” Sometimes I’d ask on the way home, but often we’d have those kinds of conversations at dinnertime.

  21. Barb says:

    Our kids were involved in a lot of extracurricular activities and unfortunately we didn’t get to pick the schedule so we spent a lot of time working around that. But we did have a “no company on school nights” rule. Play dates and sleepovers were strictly for weekends. And that worked really well for us.

  22. Beck says:

    Great tips! We’re still navigating how our after school time is going to be, but we seem to have a lot of the same priorities as you.

  23. Hayley says:

    sorry, i didn’t mean to post the same thing 3 times!!! i tired to do one with a corrected link, but each time i closed out of the site it just changed to match the prior ones. anyway, sorry about that! didn’t mean to junk up the process!!

  24. Jen says:

    I didn’t make our kids do home work right right away either. Down time is necessary. I did go through and make sure they had everything they needed to DO the homework before it got to late, and you’d better beleive we went back to the school more than once! LOL

  25. Peg says:

    I enjoy WFMW, and found your blog through one of the participants. When my children were home, we saved the best/worst part of your day for the dinner table, and we ALL had to participate — adults included. My daughter has grown up and is now a teacher, she tells me that hearing about Mom and Dad’s days’ helped her to realize that it wasn’t always easy being an adult. She learned to empathize and she says that it helped her understand that her teenager problems were not the end of the world.
    I wish you and your family well and I’ll continue reading from time to time.

  26. Kristine says:

    This is also a great post from this teacher’s point of view. Just a few days ago I spent a good amount of time giving my middle schoolers tips on how to manage their time after school. I gave them many suggestions, but the biggest one is, “Do what works for YOU and YOUR family.” Some students like to finish their homework as soon as possible, while others do need that time to chill out. Plus, some of them have family responsibilities, and even worse, family obstacles (like too many kids not enough quiet space for study) so I suggested that they talk with their parents about how they can get their homework done. I’m happy to see this tip because I have also given this little talk to high schoolers–and sometimes even their parents. Forming family habits now is a much better plan!

  27. Peggy says:

    I’ve had some ideas, but discarded them as possible WFMW ideas because they seemed so everyday. Then I realized – it’s the everyday in MY life that might inspire someone else! It was a real light-bulb moment.

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