These back-to-school tips will help the after school hours go so much smoother, guaranteed. Helping kids with homework doesn’t have to be so stressful, as long as you have a few mom hacks up your sleeve!
I don’t know about you, but homework is one of my least favorite parts of school.
We get home and total chaos ensues. Backpacks are everywhere, homework folders are spread all over the counter, there are forms and permission slips to fill out, some kids are already stuck on a math problem before we even walk in the door, etc. Add to that still needing to sit down and read with my youngest for his 20 minutes of reading each night, and also cycling 4 kids through piano practice, and I am kind of anxious just thinking about 3:00 today. Oh, and let’s not forget football, soccer, and gymnastics. So we get to squeeze all of this into anywhere from thirty minutes to five hours at the house, depending on the day.
So I thought I would share a few things that have made this process a little less stressful for us.
**This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click on a link and make a purchase, Melanie may make a small commission at no extra cost to you**
1 – First 5 Minutes
My most despised 5 minutes of the day are the first 5 minutes of walking in the door after school. I can’t tell you how many times I have said, “Dude! Put your shoes away!” or, “Lunch pails, lunch pails!” or, “WASH YOUR HANDS!” in the last 4 weeks since we started school (yes, we started in July. Don’t get me started on year-round school). There are 5 things I expect my kids to do during the first 5 minutes of walking through that door. They are common sense to me. But as the past 4 weeks have proven…not so much to kids 10 and under. So…yep! You guessed it! PRINTABLE TIME! This is what I expect my kids to do before anything else. And I want it done in THIS order.
- Put shoes away
- You need to have somewhere established to PUT their shoes.
- A shoe bench, a cubby, a bucket, a box, an over-the-door organizer…get something NOW. Even if you want a dreamy Pinterest picture in your home, and you’ve been holding out for that, grab the next box that you get from Amazon and make it your shoe box until your Pinterest dreams are realized.
- I have used them all. And I finally got my Pinterest dream (see #2). But I have also been at the box stage too. I should do a post on all the shoe solutions I have used through the years…
- Hang up backpack / coat
- In order to do this, you need a place to hang the backpacks. This could also be a whole separate post, but when it comes down to it, it just depends on your house and space and all of that…anyway, this is what ours looks like. My husband made this FROM SCRATCH. No joke. I told him what I wanted, and he just whipped this up. He’s pretty much amazing. Maybe one day I’ll get him to do a tutorial post on that, wink wink.
- Again…if you are holding out for something like this, that’s cool, but go get some cheap hooks to do the job in the meantime. These would work great, and I am a fan of the double hook because then each person has a hook for a backpack and another one for a hat or jacket!
- Put all papers for mom in a pile
- You need to establish a place for the kids to dump their papers, permission slips, etc. Lots of people use a basket. I just prefer them to make a pile on the shoe bench, because it forces me to go through them. I just know me, and I know that if they are tucked away neatly, I’ll forget about them with all the chaos going on. The more disorganized and in the way, the better. Because I can’t stand that, so it gets taken care of pronto.
- Put lunch bag away
- I have my kids put them on the FLOOR in front of the cupboard where we keep their lunch bags. Why the floor? Because those lunch bags have been unspeakable places. Like school lunchrooms and the ground in front of the classroom and the playground…I don’t want those germs on my counter! Are you kidding me? They go on the FLOOR.
- I have agreed to empty them for the kids. But it is their job to get them out and put them on the floor (if they don’t, then there is a good chance I will forget and we won’t have frozen ice packs the next morning)
- Just make sure you establish what is expected. If you want them to empty it and put ice packs in the freezer and dishes in the sink, etc, just make sure they know that.
- WASH HANDS
- Why is this last? Because everything until now has had gross school germs on them. So we take care of the germy things and then wash our hands.
That’s it. It’s not that hard, right? You’d be surprised…
So, here’s a PRINTABLE to help with those first 5 minutes! To get it, follow @HappyHomeHum on Instagram or Facebook *or both!) and share/pin this post. Then, click the image below to snag your own copy (in both the blue as well as a brightly colored version).
2 – Snacks If I am home while the kids are in school, it is really great to have snacks laid out and ready to go. However, this ends up only being one day a week if I am lucky since I work most of the time they are in school. But I am just throwing that out there as a suggestion to those who are able to do it. I used to skip this part because I didn’t know what the kids would want for their snack and I didn’t want to decide for them.
But then I tried offering three choices, and that seems to work like a charm. This way they don’t spend 20 minutes staring at the food in the pantry and fridge, complaining that nothing sounds good. If they have three options laying out on the counter when they walk in, it eliminates the stress of making a decision about what to eat for a snack, and it allows them to get started on the after school routine a lot quicker. If the snack options are refrigerated, just having it already planned out in my head, so I can put it out on the counter first thing after walking in the door, is just as good as having it laid out.
3 – Homework Space
Having a dedicated homework space is key. I really wish we had a playroom or an extra room for homework, but we don’t. So the kitchen counter is our homework station.
This means I need to have a clean kitchen when we walk in the door from school. If there are still breakfast dishes all over, the kids can’t really get started on their snack and homework, until I clear it off and wipe the syrup off the counter.
For the daily written assignments, the kids usually all sit at the counter. I am there for them to ask questions, to time them on their timed assignments, etc.
If they don’t need help and they need to focus in a quiet place, they go to a bedroom that has a desk. Again, this desk needs to be cleared off and ready to use.
4 – Homework Caddy
This is something I did new this year, and I LOVE IT! I think I love it more than the kids do. Instead of them running back and forth 50 times to get a pencil, and then an eraser, and then to the sharpener to sharpen their pencil, and then back for some tape or glue, and then back for a Sharpie, it is ALL IN ONE PLACE. We call it the homework caddy.
I just used things I had in my house so I didn’t have to spend any money.
I had this cute little tin-looking caddy thing already, that was an impulse purchase about a year ago, and I still haven’t found a good use for it. Talk about perfect!
PS – I absolutely LOVE THIS PENCIL SHARPENER! It is super compact but super powerful, and it’s battery operated, so it doesn’t have to plug into the wall.
I feel like unless the caddy is perfectly divided into the perfect sizes of spaces for what you want, you need some sort of cup or jar to keep things like pencils and markers standing up straight. I went with what I had, and that was a bunch of plastic cups. Tacky, I know, but with a solid caddy, you can’t see the cups, and I went with free. So…it works! And I still think it looks awesome.
If you wanted to be a bit classier you could use mason jars. But I actually like these plastic cups because they have a wider mouth than the smaller mason jars do, so you can fit more stuff in the cups. But they provide a little more control than letting everything loose in the individual compartments.
So for this step, you need some sort of caddy, and then depending on the shape and size of the compartments, you will want something to keep everything together within each compartment of the caddy. This caddy is a lot like mine. It is not the exact one, but it looks similar. However, it is not long enough to fit a ruler like mine is, just a heads up. Here is a 2-pack, so you could have a caddy in the kitchen and a caddy in a designated homework room.
5 – Create a Rotation
I have 4, sometimes 5, kids here after school. They all need to:
- eat a snack
- have on-call help with their homework as questions come up
- have me check their homework
- read for 20 minutes (one of which needs me to do that with him)
- practice piano for 20 minutes
If we don’t have some sort of plan or rotation in place, you can imagine how this goes. Everyone is asking me questions at the same time, no one can focus because I’m always talking to SOMEONE in the room, and after an hour or two, we have 5 kids ready to practice piano, but only one piano.
So…I created a simple rotation chart to give everyone their own designated time for each general task.
Everyone does their “5 in 5.” Then they all come to the counter for a snack (while they are doing their 5 things, I am getting the 3 snack options out).
We eat a snack together and get any more talking out that we didn’t get out in the car on the way home.
Then one kid stays at the counter to do homework that they may need my help with, one kid goes to work independently in the only room in our house that has a desk, another kid goes to another room to do their reading, and another kid hops on the piano.
After 20 minutes, we rotate.
Reading and piano are 20 minutes long, so that’s why we do 20-minute rotations. Depending on the kid, 20 minutes is not enough time to get homework done independently and/or with my help. But we improvise.
Sometimes we swap out the piano and reading kids, and let the two kids working on homework stay and do another rotation where they are. Sometimes the independent homework kid has no homework, so they get their reading done in that room instead. It just evolves. This is why I don’t have a solid rotation schedule. We have to be flexible with it. If there is someone who has absolutely no homework, then they start with piano practice that day. It just varies from day to day.
Having said that, having a flexible rotation is KEY to everyone getting the attention they need, and having the equipment they need to get their things done.
To make your own Homework Rotation Chart, print out the free printable, cut the blank name strips off the bottom, fill in the names of your kids, and tape each name strip to a clothespin.
It’s really THAT simple!
So there you have it! My 5 hacks to hopefully help your after-school hours go more smoothly. Be sure to pin this post for later!
FREE PRINTABLE HOMEWORK ROTATION CHART- So mom can focus on one kid at a time! This is brilliant! I love how this is easy to use, it’s flexible, and it allows each kid one-on-one mom time for help with homework. For your printable, subscribe to my email list and follow @HappyHomeHum on Instagram and Facebook. Then, click here to get your own copy today! (In both blue and the as-pictured bright colors.)
Comment below what things YOU do to help minimize chaos after school. And let me know if you try any of these tips!
By the way, if you are finding it hard to keep track of everything now that school has started, I highly recommend making yourself a DIY Giant Whiteboard Calendar. It has pretty much saved our lives.
Thanks for sharing these amazing ideas, Melanie! I just printed my 5 in 5 sheet and I can’t wait to hang it up!