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Finding a good after-school routine

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I once said that if I ever found a successful post-kindergarten routine, I would shout it from the rooftops. Well here I am! Shouting! On rooftops!
We've gone through a great many phases of change from the start of kindergarten until now. At the beginning of the school year, they were so, so, SO tired when they got home, they didn't know what to do with themselves. I didn't know what to do with them. Sometimes their tired translated into them being too rowdy, which always resulted in someone getting hurt. Sometimes it translated into them wanting to do nothing but stare blankly at the TV. Playing was too hard, eating a snack was too laborious, and don't even ASK us to flush the toilet, Mom. We've had a hard day of coloring and ABCs.

Truth be told, the day is long for them. We get up at 6:30 in order to get them to school by 7:45, out at 2:40, all with no nap or rest time. It's rough on the 5-6 year old set.


My girls are each given a folder on Monday with the week's homework inside, along with a little instruction sheet telling us what worksheet and/or reading to do on which day. Sometimes we deviate from the schedule; if one really wants to do a certain worksheet one day, no biggie.

So here's what we tried, along with why it did or did not work for us, with two kindergarteners. What works for you and your family may be totally different, and that's cool. But if you have kids who are new to school and you find yourself struggling with the afternoon routine and homework, this might give you some options.

Okay. You've picked up the kids from school. You walk in the door. Now what?

First things first, they take off their shoes and socks and hang up their backpacks. Now it's time to choose your own adventure.

Routine #1: Grab a snack, because lunch was at 11:15 and they are starving. Famished even. WITHERING AWAY BEFORE YOUR VERY EYES. Then it's off for some play time, because you figure they've been cooped up in a structured classroom environment all day, so they need a little time to cut loose. After a little playtime, have them sit at the table for homework time.

Why it didn't work: This may work for older kids who are a little more, ahem, responsible? But for my girls, it meant intense play time that soon went south. Someone always got hurt. Plus it was really hard to bring them back down to a more eardrum-appropriate level when we needed to move on to homework.


Routine #2: Grab a snack. Talk about their day, getting a run down of approximately 6 minutes worth of their 7 hour school day. Head to the living room for a 30 minute show to provide some much needed down time after a long day of activity. After the show, turn off the TV and head to the table for homework time.

Why it didn't work: Once they settled in to watch TV, it was very difficult - surprise, surprise! - for them to transition back to learning mode without getting grumpy.


Routine #3: Grab a snack. Have free playtime until dinner. After dinner, it's straight to homework. This plan is great if you have and need a spouse or partner there to help with the work or to distract other children.

Why it didn't work: I'll admit, this was never an option for us. Dinner is around 6, and after that it's usually a little bit of playtime, then bath, then bed around 7:30. I just can't imagine trying to squeeze homework in there. They usually have the hyper-tireds by this time anyway.


Routine #4: aka THE WINNER! Grab a snack. If you haven't figured it out by now, this is ALWAYS the first option. Always. After hanging up backpacks and shedding footwear (at least in our house), guide them straight to the kitchen and let them face plant into a Costco-sized bag of Pirate's Booty.

After snack, it's straight to homework. They always ask to either go jump on the trampoline, watch a show, or play on their tablets, but it's just too difficult to get them to transition back to homework mode after they've gotten a sweet taste of freedom. Most of the time, there is little to no resistance, and they get right to it, my eager little learners.


Sometimes we deviate from this plan if we have an after school play date or errand to run. Since their assignments are fairly short, it's not hard to make it up the next day or do it quickly after dinner.

Since my girls are not reading completely on their own yet, I have to help them quite a bit with their work. And since they are in separate classes, they don't often have the same homework, meaning I have to help them one at a time. That means that I have to find something for one to do while the other does her homework, and vice versa. On a really good day, they will sit and draw or color quietly while the other works. On a SUPER day, one of them has a worksheet that needs minimal help from me, like cutting and pasting, and we are done super quickly.

Once homework is finished, they can do whatever they want, give or take some screen time restrictions. However, every day is different. Some days they will literally play on the trampoline or in the backyard until dinner time. Some days it's a mix of outside and inside play time or drawing. Other days I can tell that they are tired and ornery beyond repair, and I let them veg for longer than usual. Because it beats having to break up fights or listening to whining for 3 hours.

This routine seems to be the norm for other parents of young kids that I've seen around. But do what works best for your kids and your family. Then you can relish in your totally awesome after school parenting abilities.


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