From Overwhelm to Confidence: Setting Practical Expectations for the New School Year
The start of the new school year is upon us. The long lazy, days of summer are ending. It is time to shift away from our night owl, vampire tendencies and become functioning members of society again. I have a confession. My house is not ready for this change, and it is going to be painful. We are setting our expectations now to avoid feeling overwhelmed and start things off on the right foot. These are the practical expectations in my house.
Whose Job Is It Anyway?
Picture it-one in high school, one in middle school, and one in elementary school. My children are in three completely different stages of life. We are in three different buildings with two separate start times and end times, and thirteen teachers between them. We need set expectations for the morning routine. The high school and middle school kids need to decide when they are setting their alarms and when mom comes in as the backup alarm. Everyone must decide whether to eat school lunch or bring lunch from home. The schedule is set for walking out the door with backpack in hand. Our timing is tight to ensure everyone is in class before the bell rings. Defining our routine now will make for less chaos later.
What are the High School Expectations?
School expectations can be tricky. Not every student will achieve straight A’s and perfect attendance. I have specific expectations for each child based on their individual needs. The high school kid needs to focus on independence. She needs to take ownership of her schedule and how all her classes, extracurriculars, and assignments fit together into the seven days of the week. In the past, falling behind on projects caused immense stress and anxiety. Once she falls down the cliff into overwhelm, it is impossible to climb back out. The emphasis is on her owning it. Finding everything online and giving her a schedule will not help in the long run.
What are the Middle School Expectations?
I will be the first to tell you perfect attendance is silly. Sometimes you should not be in school. Kids should stay home when sick, and an occasional mental health day is not out of the question. But my middle kid needs to work on consistent attendance. Struggling with chronic migraines and attendance is difficult. She has migraines on certain days and requires medication and sleep. But the question is, “Can we go in later?” In another scenario, she is tired, and has a headache, but it is not a migraine. She tends to want to stay comfortable in bed. We must work harder this year and push ourselves to function on uncomfortable days.
What are Elementary School Expectations?
For my elementary school kid, things are simpler. He needs to show up every day and put in 100% effort. That seems like an easy decision, but at his age and stage that is all I require. If he is a slow and careful worker, is that a good thing? Not necessarily. He often gets paralyzed in his pursuit of perfection. I want him to focus on effort, not perfection. His best is good enough! I will be proud and ready with hugs and high-fives if he puts in his all.
Home has Expectations, too
These kids would check out at 3 p.m. if left to their own devices. Like clocking out from life, they will insist there is nothing else they can do now that school is over. Sorry, my friends, I still have a few things that need to be done at home. A few chores, some reading, and practicing our instruments are within their grasp even considering there will be homework, practice, dance class, etc. I am not a slave driver, by any means. I empathize and want to give them time to unwind after a full day. Each child will get a short, age-appropriate things to-do list. It will be displayed on their bedroom door and is required to be done by 7 p.m. Writing it down is new for me. We will see how it works.
Confidence Instead of Chaos
Taking a few moments to plan our expectations will lead to less chaos in the new school year. Changes can be overwhelming. The first month of school involves new teachers, students and buildings with many moving parts. A few practical expectations will keep everyone calm and focused as we venture into the newness together. Good luck everyone! May your first month of school be calm and chaos-free.