After 20 years of parenting, now 10 children, we’ve learned a little about the great importance of the after-school routine! Two years ago we were at our high, 8 children in school from preschool to senior year, with the challenge of new-born twins.
I’ve held this teaching close to my heart as a guide and I have found it to be a fantastic strategy to parenting, it is from a list of 10 ways moms can be more effective from Ezra T. Benson’s hallmark talk to mothers (It has meant the very most to me as we’ve approached the challenge of parenting with involved teenagers and a busy household!), so here it is:
Three keys to success when it comes to the after-school routine:
“First, take time to always be at the crossroads when your children are either coming or going–when they leave and return from school–when they leave and return from dates–when they bring friends home. Be there at the crossroads whether your children are six or sixteen. In Proverbs we read: “A child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (Proverbs 29:15). Among the greatest concerns in our society are the millions of latchkey children who come home daily to empty houses unsupervised by working parents.
Second, mothers, take time to be a real friend to your children. Listen to your children, really listen. Talk with them, laugh and joke with them, sing with them, play with them, cry with them, hug them, honestly praise them. Yes, regularly spend unrushed one-on-one time with each child. Be a real friend to your children.
Third, mothers, take time to read to your children. Starting from the cradle, read to your sons and daughters. Remember what the poet said, “You may have tangible wealth untold; Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I you can never be—I had a mother who read to me” (Strickland Gillilan, “The Reading Mother”). You will plant a love for good literature and a real love for the scriptures if you will read to your children regularly.”
Once you’ve made those 3 things part of your after-school routine, it’s your own particular style and organization, whatever works well for the phase of life your family is in or for your child’s individual needs. Here’s some examples of our after-school routine from our family life over the past several years:
*When our three oldest children were just beginning their school years and I had Mikela and Kate as little ones at home needing mom, I would try to plan ahead to be sure my schedule was cleared and ready for greeting the children after school. When possible we’d wait outside for the bus and just play on the grass together for a while when the children returned. With so many little ones we met the challenge of one-on-one time with mom by setting a timer for 15 min or so and each of the school children got an individual chance with mom to tell their stories of the day, share their artwork, talk about challenges, gets hugs, laughs, and kisses welcoming them home from mom. We’d rotate who was first because this seemed very important to them at the time. I would set up a play activity nearby for the rest the children or get them started on a simple project they could do on their own. Of course, their time wasn’t always uninterrupted and it wasn’t always 15 minutes, more or less when needed, but having the schedule in mind let me and my little one’s flexibly enjoy our time together after school, that is how I was there at the crossroads during that time period.
*In the past couple of years, the schedule has had less specified one on one time (perhaps I should do that again, the children loved it), but still includes my greatest effort to clear that part of the schedule and be there to welcome them home. Most often a snack is on the counter – this is a good strategy I’ve found for keeping the older children around long enough to mingle and hear a little about their day, read their countenances, hear the highs and lows. I try to just be available to help with homework, encourage the completion of their daily chore, and the practicing of piano or their instrument, listen to how their day went. It is a wonderful thing when everyone in the family simply knows what is expected. Our after-school routine of arriving home to Mom, a snack, some visiting time and then on to homework, chore, and practicing piano has been a blessing to the children and me.
Here I say this is the routine but it is much harder in real life than on paper to stick to it! My 6-yr-old tends to escape to play before chore or piano are done. She still needs asked, “what are you supposed to be doing?” to get through everything and many days I get distracted myself by the many other things going on so I don’t follow through! My just-turned 14-yr-old likes to disappear into her school-issued iPad and needs reminded of what we recently realized “homework and iPad after daily chore” (or it just never happens and a DAILY chore is SOOO GOOD for children, for Mom, for happiness, and helpfulness in the home! I’ve found if it’s once a week you get all sorts of complaints and it’s a real job to get your children to work! A daily chore, however light, reminds them of their responsibilities in family-life and makes them somehow much more willing to work overall, just makes them happier human beings!) Yes, it is harder in real-life than reading or writing on paper but the rewards of striving to stick to it and be there for your children are far greater than expected also!
*Lately our routine took a turn. The children would get off the bus-ride pale-faced with headaches, all of them from oldest to youngest, because of the screaming, yelling, swearing, overstuffed commotion on the school-bus. But after hearing from them about the latest ipad pornography being passed around the bus, which the girls turned their faces from and tried to close their ears to the comments, was the last straw. I emailed the school for help – it would be such a simple solution – a volunteer, or even paid parent, at the back of each bus monitoring the interactions, catching and reinforcing many positive actions to make them grow, stopping and redirecting inappropriate ones. If a child received more than 3 warnings they would be expected to arrange a different way home for a week or more. No bus driver trying to drive safely should be left to monitor a huge busload of tired, crazy school-aged children. But that hasn’t happened yet in schools across America, and so I started packing up 2-yr-olds, Adelynn and Sarah, and giving up an hour of my day to go collect my children from school (by the time I wait in the elementary school line and then swing to the middle school and high school it’s a full hour.) It has ended up being a treasure to be stuck in the car together after school. I get to ask questions, they get to share, all together, the ups and downs of the day, we laugh a lot, and get the precious gift of time together. It’s bonded all of us together more than ever. So while the laundry and housecleaning may be falling behind, our relationships keep pulling ahead and I will miss this time when my 16-yr-old starts driving the girls home from school soon. 🙂
But I will still be there at the crossroads, doing the best I can to be a supportive, loving, optimistic friend to my children, listening to their day, laughing and crying together, helping with homework and encouraging reading by doing it together as often as possible.
Just in writing this I’ve felt to be more dedicated than ever to improving the quality of this everyday routine. Choose one way you can improve your own after-school routine and I promise you’ll see improvement in your children’s well-beings as well!
from the mom 🙂
p.s. Here’s a video of happiness that my brother recorded a couple years ago of the children arriving home from school (Isaac was driving them home at the time and Isaac and Emily and Anna, our three oldest spent lots of time in the school’s show choir together.) Enjoy!