School Morning Organization

Last year I was a first-time mom.  4 kids in tow, yelling to get shoes, homework, lunch etc, rushing out the door barely making it for the bell.  Pulling my daughter’s hand as I ran to get her in her school lineup at the back of the yard.  Kisses and hugs, then collapsing back into the van that the most stressful part of my day was over and I could go home and make my coffee and chill out for a few minutes!

Not this year.

This post probably contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

I realized this summer how much I loved my cozy mornings on the couch with the kids, waking up at ease, enjoying a hot (ok warm, what mom with 4 kids under 5 gets to drink hot coffee?) no set schedule, nowhere to be. Now if you think I am about to go all homeschool mom on you with this post, then you are wrong my friend.
You see I love my kids dearly, and I truly never thought I would be that mom…. you know the one who CANNOT wait until school is back in session?  But I AM!  Last year I literally sobbed that I was sending my oldest off to school.  This year I was all like is labour day over yet?
OK not all of me couldn’t wait til they are back in school.  There was something I was dreading.  The rush.  I could chalk it up to being a first-time school mom but let’s be honest.  I am a self-proclaimed non-morning person.  I used to joke with my clients not to book a hair appointment before 10 am.  #kiddingnotkidding
However, I have found the value in learning to become a morning person, and I vowed to be a different mom in the mornings this year.  I don’t want my kids going off to school with my yelling in the back of their minds, feeling rushed and giving them a negative start to their day.  For one it’s not fair to those precious children of mine, and also I have not one, but two little ones off to school this year.  I knew that if I didn’t make major changes then I am going to be signing them in at the attendance office, making them get late slips, while I am in pajamas with morning breath and a screaming baby on my hip.  Not cute mamas.  Not cute.
So I resolved to make a change and I got to practice this when I enrolled my daughters in camp for a week this year.

The Secret to Stress Free School Mornings

The secret is called the POWER HOUR.  I use the power hour mindset all the time when cleaning or organizing, so why not carry it out to be organized for school mornings?

Essentially, when you set a time frame to a job that needs to be done, it boosts your productivity.  9 times out of 10 you will find you complete all tasks you set out to finish in that hour (or less).

For our family, the best time to do this is as soon as they get home from school (after a quick rest/screen time break.)This time is used to prepare for the next school day.  I tried it out as our last thing before bedtime routine but found the kids were too tired to really help, and part of this power hour is empowering your kids to be productive, and prepare for themselves.  Also, it helps to keep them focused and motivated as they know they cannot play, or watch tv until the power hour is complete.

How to make the Power Hour a success

Now being in a big family means chaos no matter what, but one of the ways I survive and thrive in this big clan is checklists and schedules.  My kids have checklists for responsibilities and I did it tasks.  I use a daily, weekly, and monthly cleaning schedule and checklist.  The kids have a bedtime checklist, and labels on their toys bins.  Now they have a Preparing for School Power Hour Checklist too! All these lists might seem like I am running a boot camp, not a family, but just having these written down and in a place you can easily access makes the world of difference in running an efficient household,  teaching your kids about responsibilities, becoming independent, and having stress free school mornings!
If you are struggling in any of these areas I highly recommend a schedule and/or checklist.  Once the routine becomes established you can ditch the lists because it just becomes part of something you do.  You naturally before more effective at handling life’s boring stuff, so you can truly enjoy time with your family.
My biggest fault as a mom is yelling.  I grew up in that kind of environment, and decreasing yelling (because let’s be honest, sometimes moms just need to yell) is something I am actively pursuing and praying for.  I want a more peaceful way of parenting.  This list is a tool for me to help with that, and be more patient and kind to my kids in the mornings, which to be honest I sucked at last year!   My girls are 5 and 4 now, and I am seeing all my negatives show up in their behaviours and I want this to change!

So here it is; my tried and true Power Hour Checklist for stress free school mornings.

  1. Pack Your Lunch – Water Bottle, Sandwich or Leftovers in thermos, Fruit, Veggie, Yogurt or Cheese, Granola Bar/Muffin/Cookie – My kids get a morning snack, lunch, and afternoon snack.  The fruit and yogurt/cheese is for AM snack.  Sandwich and cut veggies for lunch, and their healthy muffin, granola or cookie for afternoon snack.  You know your kid best and how much they eat in a day.  I help them with their sandwiches.  I pre cut veggies at the beginning of the week and put them in ziplock bags in a basket in the fridge, in another basket, there is cheese and yogurt, and another cut up fruit, or they grab a piece from the fruit bowl.  In the cupboard they can reach, I also have a basket of granola bars, or wrapped homemade healthy cookies, and or muffins.  They know to grab one thing from each of the 3 baskets and their lunch is ready!
  2. Pack Your BackPack – For us this means their communication book, homework that we complete together prior to power hour, library book, any permission forms, or money, and anything else they will need for that next day.  Doing homework first ensures everything is ready to go! I should mention, when they get home from school they are expected to bring their backpacks and homework up to the table, put their lunch box and water bottle by the sink, and give me any forms right away so nothing gets forgotten. At the end of the power hour they hang their refilled backpacks by the door, so all they need to add is their lunchbox and water bottle in the morning.
  3. Set out tomorrows clothing (including appropriate footwear by the door)  Also in the winter we ensure that snow pants, coat, hats, scarves and mittens are all hanging in their place ready to go.  Nothing worse than not being able to find a mitten as you are about to head out the door.  By our front door, I have separate hooks and baskets, one for each kid.  I used to keep all shoes together, all hats together and hang coats in the closet but having a designated spot for each kid helps to ensure things don’t get lost, and they can easily locate the item themselves.
  4. Get Breakfast Ready on the counter.  Set out cup, bowl/plate, utensils and a piece of fruit.  We usually stick to cereal or oatmeal (also set out box of cereal) and a piece of fruit on school days,  but occasionally they will have toaster waffles or I will whip up some scrambled eggs and toast.

In the morning they know to get up and have their breakfast, brush their teeth, get dressed, brush their hair (then I finish the brushing and ponytail or braid it)  Then they put their lunch in their bags and they are all set!  Once this is all done they know we have time to read, snuggle and watch a few minutes of a show.  I can even drink my coffee, all before we head to school.

 The final moments before the bell

Knowing that their outdoor gear is all set up with nothing missing 2-8 minutes before we have to leave I say “get your shoes/coats on” and we either walk to school or jump in the car and I drop them off in the cold months.  I also set 2 timers on my phone.  One, for “get out the door ready for school time”, and the second for  “we need to leave the house time”.  When the kids hear the timers they know what to do and what it means so I don’t have to yell!  Most kids love a little competition so knowing there is a second alarm coming helps them not to doddle at the front door!
I hope you find implementing some of these things will make your mornings go off without a hitch, for a stress free school morning!
What tips do you have?