Routines are the key to success!

A parent recently told me that she had not liked school and was always in trouble.

She then made the thoughtful comment that the teacher who was most successful for her was the one who was strict, and gave the children in the class very clear boundaries and routines. Most children respond well to a predictable life!

Once children start school their lives become very busy. There is the world-wind of school, and a whole other life at home.  It can save a parent’s sanity to have a few everyday routines and some organisation at home. This helps a child bridge school and home.

• Have a calendar on the fridge at your child’s level clearly marking the days of the week, and school events happening on those days. For example: Monday, Library, Wednesday Gym. If a child gets into the routine of checking this calendar every day, she will be reminded to put her library book in her bag on Monday etc.

• Have the library bag in a set place, ie, on a hook in the bedroom, so that it is easy to build up a routine of putting the book back in the bag, ready for the following week. 

• A jobs list! One of my greatest regrets is that once I started work I did not get my children to make their beds the moment they got up in the morning. Once they were teenagers it was too late, and their rooms became like Cyclone Tracey! 

• If your child seems disorganised, how about a simple laminated list of two or three jobs that need to be done, and can be ticked off before school. After all, research shows one of the keys to success in adult life is being organised.

• Have a different space for formal school activities, and messy activities. If your child has a space to paint or use glue and other markers, perhaps on an outside table or on the deck this should be well away from the homework area. This is also helpful if you have older children who need to do homework and projects that could be damaged or spoilt.

• Children need to have a space where school readers, library and homework books can be kept safely. Occasionally children who come to me for Reading Recovery are worried about taking a book home because they have younger brothers or sisters who many tear or mess up the book. Children need to know that the book will be kept in a safe place, ie on a shelf out of reach … and not forgotten by everyone until the big clean up at the end of the term!

• Provide low shelves and see-through containers to store things for school, pens, pencils, textas, glue.

• In the area for messy activities use unbreakable plates and containers, and have some paper towels, and old shirts that can be slipped on easily to avoid worrying about school uniforms and clean clothes.

• The messy area may be a good spot to display children’s artwork and projects from school. Have a family gathering to show off some of the work your children have done. A clothes line temporarily strung around the room or some cleaned pizza boxes could be used as frames for the project or artwork.

• If you have time, mark and label your child’s comments on projects and artwork brought home from school Stick it on the back of the piece, and later, you and your child will enjoy looking at it.

• One of the best ways to practice reading and writing, is for a child to write or type his own sentence, and read the sentence back to an adult or another child. These sentences can be put together with drawings to make a book. If there are pieces of paper, textas, pencils or crayons handy and your child can reach them without help, he can be encouraged to write down what is happening around him, for example, while making a cake.

• Some soft cushions and a low bookshelf make an ideal space for children to sit down quietly and read or draw. Just as a kitchen is designed to help us prepare for and eat food, so a space for reading and learning will help a child get into the routine of reading and learning. Try to take time in a busy day to sit with her and read a story or listen to her read a story.

• Have a routine time of day to do reading and homework. Some parents tell me that the morning works well for them, they make sandwiches and breakfast, while their child reads the book from school. Mornings were absolute chaos in our house, but the evening was a time we all enjoyed a reading ritual. 

• As they learn to read each child in the family needs to be able to read their own book, sometimes without the eagle eye of an older brother or sister ready to swoop on any word they do not know! On the other hand an older child may still want to be heard and have some personal time, regardless of how well she is reading.

• Bedtime routines are vitally important for children in primary school. Children need to go to bed at the same time on school nights, and this should be at a reasonable time regardless of what is on TV and how much he wants to stay and watch the movie! Some children can hardly keep their eyes open at school on Mondays.

by Geraldine Mackey