5 ways to simplify the school week

spontaneous beach days will have to wait for the weekends

I would like to tell you that our first morning back at school was smooth, calm and hurried-free. But that would be a lie. This morning was one of those mornings; best to let go of it and drink coffee in the sun, instead.

The unpredictabilities of children are frustrating and fascinating and, well, normal. Che is a dreamer and isn’t particularly interested in organisation so I’ve really had to work on our school morning routine. Yesterday, before I left for yoga, I wrote down a list of chores with him over breakfast. Simple numbered sentences that he could read and follow, at his own pace. This boy of mine, he does everything in his own time and hurrying him often has an adverse affect. But he’s also at an age where he has responsibilities – and that includes getting to school on time. Lucky we both share a love of list making!

Let it be known that a simplified school week is still, at times, frenzied and tiring. Don’t set your hopes too high! Here’s five things that have made a difference to my experience as a school mum; simple tips that make things a little easier and smoother, even on the overwhelming days.

1. it’s Sunday evening – a little organisation goes a long way : perhaps it’s uncalled for to clean on Sundays but for me it ensures a fresh start to the school week. I spend about an hour on Sunday afternoons doing a quick, don’t-get-distracted clean. I start with a cup of tea in hand and go from room to room, often losing said tea in the process. School uniforms are readied, miscellany is put back in its rightful place, surfaces are cleared of clutter. Basically, I make space for the new week, and feel a little more prepared as a result.

2. create a list with your child and run through it a few times : school morning prep is much the same, every day. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy for your child to remember; especially if their current book is enthralling (“Just one more page, mum?”). I have really embraced the notion of handing over responsibility in the past few months, hence Che’s Sunday/school morning prep list (it’s stuck on his bedroom wall for easy reference). It includes:

  • find school hat and put it in school bag
  • find library books, put them in library bag, hang bag on hooks
  • polish school shoes and put them next to school bag
  • put reading folder in school bag
  • get dressed, socks included
  • brush teeth
3. get baking/cooking – there’s always fruit and vegies in the house but I have to be disciplined in regards to baking. I usually bake school treats on Sunday afternoon or Monday morning. I used to procrastinate about baking and tell myself I didn’t have enough time but if I apply my don’t-get-distracted method it doesn’t take much time at all – really! You have a spare 10 minutes to make Anzac biscuits, I know you do. Bill’s Banana Bread is another option (it makes two loaves and stays nice and moist for a good five days). On Thursday nights we have pizza so I can pack a slice or two for lunch on Fridays (we have these lunch boxes which I highly recommend).
4. go to bed at a reasonable time and get up early – there is a certain amount of discipline required for a simplified school week and that includes a strict bedtime and setting the alarm in the morning (unless you have the baby/toddler equivalent). Sometimes it doesn’t always work but on school nights I’m in bed by 10pm and up the next morning by 6:30 – a rested mum is more likely to be happy and patient on school mornings. My morning routine is always the same: shower – dressed – tea – breakfast prep – lunch making – encouragement of Che getting ready (and putting the book down!) – breakfast together –  Poet dressed – off to school. I try my best to stay off my phone and laptop before school; they are, after-all, the biggest distractions.
5. make an early dinner – I love early dinners, I love early bedtimes even more. Now that it’s dark at 5pm my 5:30-6 dinner is all the more justified. I keep dinner pretty simple on school nights; I aim to meal plan on the weekend and if all else fails, I make eggs on toast. Before Che settles into bed I make sure he’s got everything organised for the next day…a few minutes in the evening saves a lot of stress in the morning.

Feel free to share your tips for a simple school week…

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Showing 33 comments
  • Melissa@Julias Bookbag

    THE LIBRARY BOOKS. oh yes. my goodness we need to start doing this on Sunday!

  • Faye Larsen

    Thanks so much for this, it couldn't have come at a better time. My third child is due in a matter of days and my eldest daughter just started prep a few months ago so I am wondering how I will cope with a still new to us school routine and a newborn added into the mix! I will definitely be following some of these suggestions.

  • jody

    We are big fans of early dinners here too! I've also found that getting Riley into the shower/bath as soon as he gets home – before he settles into an activity is easier and makes for a smoother evening. It's also a nice way for him to wind down after a long day. xx

  • Kristy Ryan

    Oh I love your 'the school series'. I found term 1 of kindergarten SO hard. I missed him, and so did his siblings. We only live 5min walk from school (I can see it from my front deck!), but always seem to be right on time. I find it so hard to disturb their play. We have no screens during the school week, but this term I have allowed a favourite 10min show in the mornings – if everyone has had breakfast and completely ready. It worked well this morning, but we'll see how we go for the rest of the term!

  • Pink Ronnie

    Okay, you have totally convinced me that I can make Anzac biscuits…!
    Ronnie xo
    p.s. Do you know if the biscuits will still taste good without coconut? (asks the complete amateur baker)

    • Jodi

      Because the recipe calls for 1 whole cup of coconut it will affect the taste and consistency if you omit it. Do you not like coconut? x

  • gabrielle

    Packing most of the lunchbox the night before helps us. I put the lunchboxes out on the table and have them choose what they want as far as snacks baking and fruit go that way in the morning I just have to add the sandwich option or yoghurt. Also there is time to talk about a balanced healthy lunch in a non stressed time if all they want to choosexis home baking

  • Craftysquirrel

    Che sounds very similar to my daughter, book included ! , I am going to try the list idea as it sounds like that make work for us too.

  • admin_chels

    While our little one is nowhere near school age yet, I feel like this list will help us, the adults, get a good start to the week. You've inspired me to start a real Sunday evening routine 🙂

  • hellomistermagpie.com

    These are all so true; my daughter started school last year and through trial and error we have realised many of the same things! I would really love to make some time for baking 🙂

  • aluminiumgirl

    I make school and work lunches each night when I'm making dinner. It works well.

  • Rachel

    Love these posts! A bit of inspiration for the every day. Thank you x

  • mia

    I just want to tell you that you are really my favorite blogger and such an inspiration to me:) Love from Norway

    • Jodi

      you are very sweet. thank you x

  • CB

    We also use lists- but for my younger boys I have used pictures (simple hand-drawn ones) to jog their memory as to what they should be doing to get ready for school. It works really well for the pre-reading ages and gives the scattier of them a chance to focus…a little!

  • Bee

    Hi Jodi Love your blog. my daughter is very much like your son in the mornings. I will try that plan to stick on her wall. I like your ideas for snacks. I always struggle with what to put in their lunch, what is a typical lunch box contents for you. also what about breakfasts and dinners, I would love a few tips. thanks Bee

  • Kirsten Lynn

    It's only preschool in our house and just two days a week. But I'm getting a bit of a taste for what is to come. I cut up my weekly fruit and veggie delivery on arrival, so I have little florets of broccoli and cubes of pumpkin in containers in the fridge ready to be popped into the steamer for the kids. It means I am not fussing around at dinner time with a baby under my arm and a preschooler asking for an apple/sandwich/kitchen sink "while I'm waiting for dinner". And I love the Springpad app for saving recipes – like Lunch Lady, the best! – so I can easily read them on my phone and not fiddle around looking for that recipe that I can't quite remember.

  • Cynthia

    When my boys were school age it really helped to have small glass jars pre-made for the week…in these I would mix dried fruit and nut medleys, cottage cheese, yogurt (with room to add fresh chopped fruit and a scatter of granola at the last minute). These really helped to round out the mix of whatever I had on hand for the daily lunch making. And much more economical than buying single serve items of a similar vein.

  • Mammasaurus

    I must say I find that spending half an hour each evening making the next days packed lunches and getting things tidied away and ready for the morning makes mornings so much easier x

  • Erin

    I have a kindergartner, a preschooler, and a brown bagger husband. 🙂 I like to make extra dinner and put it directly into their lunch containers while I am serving up dinner. It doesn't work for every dinner but I make sure a couple of our week night meals will make tasty lunches. A favorite right now is whole wheat pasta, pesto, green beans, and chicken.

  • ick and ooo

    We have a big calendar with a column for each of us (there are 5)…so the children can see what is happening each day – e.g. library, music etc…It takes awhile to get into the routine of school – hat, bag, shoes, socks etc…but I have found two things really helpful for getting everyone ready:

    Having a set time (ten minutes before you need to leave) where all the children need to be ready – if not – in the afternoon they will forgo privileges. They speed along now and find they have extra time to read and do the things they like while I am still running around!
    Second is having a sock draw near the door. This is a drawer where I throw all the childrens socks in after a wash/dry. That way they always know where to go rather than spending what seems like hours looking for matching socks (as no matter what I do we always seem to have odd socks).

    We also have a rule no books at the table due to accidents with milk and juice and sometimes honey…ick!

    It seems so simple to us but if you talk to any mother you realise how long it takes to find that school rhythm.

  • The Wholefood Mama

    Great post Jodi. One tip I would add is to allow 10 minutes more for everything than you think you will need in the morning. It took me almost the whole first year of River's school life to work out why we were frenzied in the morning getting to school on time, it was because in my mind River would do said task at precisely the moment I asked him to. This wasn't the case, he runs on his own time as most children do and hurry is not part of their vocabulary. So, I used to aim to leave the house at 8.40am (we live very close to school) it took me a year to realise that it takes anywhere from 10-15 minutes from the time I say 'let's go' to actually get out the door. By giving my 'let's go' call at 8.30am we haven't been late once since, this is a big feat! Oh, and River just stores his school hat in his bag it never leaves his bag that way there is no time wasted looking for it. xx

  • dans mon tipi vanessa

    Dear Jodi,
    I'm living at the other side of the world but I'm facing the same research of school and life rhythm.
    Thank you for your blog which is always so inspiring.
    I love practising simplicity with your help.

  • Sarah

    Being organised makes so much difference, we all cope much better with a calm, stress free morning.

  • Six Little Hearts

    I would love an early dinner but my Husband commutes and we wait for him. I bake everyday when the kids get home from school (I have 6 of them). It's just too expensive to buy everything.

  • Jodi Gibson

    I need to work on going to bed earlier, makes it so much easier to cope if you're not tired and grumpy yourself!

  • Reply

    Great ideas here, it certainly does help for the week ahead!

  • Renee Wilson

    All good advice. I'm trying to get into the habit of baking and cooking in bulk to make it a bit easier throughout the week. I'm starting my new regime this weekend 🙂

  • Elisha Ross

    Mum used to make us get all the breakfast stuff out on the table the night before, except for the fridge stuff. We would all have to have our uniforms and school bags out ready as well. Nothing worse than trying to find stuff minutes before you have to walk out the door. Bed times were always the same regardless. I love the baking tips and you are so right, it doesn't take much time once you start. There was an awesome strategy on an abs doc about kids with autism that could work for any kid who loves rewards and is really needing a kick up the pants to get going in the morning. This was to set timers to mark the end of when something needed to have been done by. Alarm to get up and kick it all off, a timer to have had breakfast by, a timer to get dressed and brush teeth etc. The kid got stickers for each one they got and most days this particular boy had 20-30 mins to play before they had to leave to go to school. The stickers then add up to bigger rewards that you and the child can decide later on.

  • Reply

    This is actually an awesome list of ideas and you've inspired me to make concrete the things I already knew. Thank you!

    Let's face it, beginning Monday with a reasonably ordered house and food prepared for the week ahead is just smart. Why do we make excuses not to get organised?

    It may be possible I need to quit blogging….eeep!

  • Kaz @ Melting Moments

    Fantastic tips! I love the lunchboxes. I don't have school ages kids but thanks for the inspiration to get a little more organised.

  • Reply

    Thanks for this post Jodi, I need some ideas to make our week go a little more smoothly! I've just made the Bills Banana Bread recipe and it is divine, I think my daughter and I have just demolished half a loaf for lunch as it was still warm and so delicious we had to keep on going back for another slice!

  • Nicki

    My son starts school in the fall, and I'm starting to think about how our routine will change. Thanks for the tips!

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