Lesson 1: Easy like Sunday morning
Panic, shouting, sweaty palms and running feet – is it a major catastrophe or just a regular school morning? If you’re looking to make those early starts go more smoothly, Jumeirah ‘power mum’ Anna Williams says the key is in the preparation.
‘I make sure all the girls’ uniforms are clean, ironed, and laid out for them the night before, including underwear and shoes,’ says Anna, mother of Michelle, Dora and Leah. ‘Finding out that all the socks are dirty is a real situation at 7.30am – but not so much at 7.30pm.’
‘Always make lunches the night before,’ recommends Anna, part-time copy writer and full-time kiddie soccer aficionado. If you don’t have the fridge space, it’s worth investing in a small additional refrigerator to avoid making lunches in the morning. And double check that you have everything you’ll need for breakfast – cereal, bread, juice and so on – before you go to bed. ‘There’s nothing worse than waking up and discovering there’s no milk,’ says Anna.
Anna suggests keeping your kids’ weekly schedules posted somewhere convenient. ‘Pack all their bags with homework, library books, signed forms, and sports or music gear together, then set them out, grouped by child, beside the door. That way, all you have to do is grab and go.’
Lesson 2: After-school structure
When author Sarah Ban Breathnach said that, ‘Striving and struggle precede success,’ she must have been talking about homework. Here’s how you can help.
Create a kitchen classroom
It’s a good idea to structure homework time into the family schedule. Have everyone sit around the dinner table and do homework together. Whether you’re working alongside them, cooking dinner, or simply reading a book, you’ll be close enough to answer any questions and to monitor what your kids are doing. You can redirect wandering attention and make sure those assignments get done.
Read their diary
Not their personal diary, of course, but their homework one. Many schools provide these day planners for students to use to record assignments, instructions and deadlines. You can use it to send messages back and forth to the teacher, and the child is ultimately responsible for making sure both you and the teacher see it.
Help, don’t hinder
A good teacher knows that getting the right answer from a student is all about asking the right questions. Rather than telling your child the answer, ask a series of questions that will lead them to make the discovery for themselves. Kids must be able to do the work for themselves.
Lesson 3: Box clever
Finding lunch box fillers that are good for your child and will keep them happy is not an easy task. We asked nutritionist and accredited practising dietitian Peta Picton what she’d advise, and here’s what she came up with:
• Plan what you’ll put in their lunch before you go to the supermarket, and make sure you buy enough to last the whole week.
• Get your kids involved in preparing their lunch, explaining why they’re having each item – milk gives you strong teeth, carrot sticks help your eyesight, and so on.
• If they’re new to the packed lunch experience, show them how to open their sandwiches, tinned fruit and cartons of juice.
• Choose foods that are easy to handle and quick to eat – children will be keen to get outside and play, and may not eat enough if it is taking too long.
• Keep lunches cool in insulated lunchboxes to avoid food poisoning.
• If your child tells you about a food their friend had, try buying it, as it’ll help expand their tastes.
And what should actually go in the lunchbox? Peta suggests striking a balance between the different food groups. ‘Be sure to include breads and cereals, fruit, vegetables, and moderate amounts of milk and meat or alternatives,’ she says.
Some examples include a cream cheese or tuna wrap with salad; carrot and cucumber sticks with houmous; fresh fruit cut into bite-size pieces or canned fruit – so long as it’s in juice rather than syrup; frozen yoghurt or milk (this will also keep the other foods cool); and for snacks, plain popcorn, dried fruit, or crackers with cheese spread. For more on food that’s good for young brains.