I have three kids who are allergic to waking up for school. They are being raised by a mother who counts getting out of bed in the morning as one of her least favorite activities.
Mornings are hard at our house.
Our general distaste for wakefulness is compounded by the fact that I provide early morning childcare. On any given morning, I have between one and six extra kids in the house between the hours of 6 and 8 am. They’re good kids and I’m happy to watch them, but when you’ve got ten (TEN) kids eleven and under that you’re trying to rally to get ready for school, things can go haywire in a heartbeat.
Also, I don’t drink coffee.
So how do I cope? With planning, prayer, and Dr. Pepper. Here are my top pieces of advice.
1) Mornings Start the Night Before.
This is the biggest and second-most important piece of advice I have to give (the first is coming up in a minute). The best thing that you can do to make your morning run smoothly is to start before you go to bed the night before.
Bedtime is 8 pm at our house, and we start getting ready around 7. Our to-do list is 5 items long:
Each of my kids packs their own lunch, from the Kindergartener up to the 4th grader. I stock the house with easy to grab lunch ingredients, from fruit cups and personal sized oranges/apples, to a freezer full of homemade tacos, burritos, and pizza. If they want a sandwich, they make it themselves. Their lunches typically consist of a main dish, a fruit or vegetable, some kind of side and a small treat for dessert. If they want more than water to drink, they can throw in a juice box or chocolate milk.
Everyone functions better in an organized environment. I’ve found that when we wake up to a messy house, my own nerves fry easier, which makes me short-tempered and cranky. If there are toys and clutter everywhere, the kids can’t find things, they step on a toy or stub their toe, and emotions fray. To combat this, we do a quick pick up the night before as a family. This is not a deep clean by any means, just all six of us making sure the floors and tables are clear and all the clutter is put away.
Choose Clothes For Tomorrow
Sounds simple, but if we miss this step, the mornings drag. For some reason, it takes my kids 30 seconds to pick out their clothes in the evening, and half an hour in the morning. We set them outside of their bedroom (all our kids share one room). Then on the off-chance that their toddler brother is still sleeping, they can get dressed in my room without waking him up.
The kids do their homework directly after coming home from school, but it doesn’t always get put away. We do a quick check to make sure that their folders are ready to go so we don’t have to search for them in the morning. If there’s something special like a field trip, show and tell, or a piano lesson directly after school, we try to get all the necessary items in the backpacks so we don’t have to remember tomorrow.
Get Ready for Bed
The kids brush their teeth and get their pajamas on. Once this is done (and it’s usually the last item on the agenda), they can use the rest of their time before bed in a quiet activity of their choice, like a puzzle or reading. Our older girls are allowed to read in bed until 8:30, and then its lights out.
2) Start Your Morning with God
Here’s that most important piece of advice I was talking about earlier. If you begin your day on the right foot, the rest of the day is more likely to follow. Talk to God before you talk to anyone else. My morning prayers are simple: the Lord’s Prayer and the Morning Prayer of Metropolitan Philaret. I usually say them before I even get out of bed, since as soon as my feet hit the floor, I’m off running and typically forget to stop, even to pray. If I’m up before I have time to pray, I pray as soon as I have a quiet moment to do so.
3) Give Everyone Time to Wake Up
Nobody wakes up easily at my house. My oldest prefers to read in her bed for a few minutes before getting up, the other three all like to snuggle. Our pattern is for me to wake all the girls up, then Megan reads for a bit and the others pile into my bed with me. We cuddle (or fight over the warm spots as the case may be) for five minutes or so, and everyone is a little more awake and ready to face the day.
4) Focus On The Kids
Because my kids walk to school, I’m not required to get dressed to take them anywhere (or brush my hair, put in my contacts, etc.). I give my kids my focus until they’re out the door, then it’s my turn. A morning person (or one who doesn’t care for pajamas as much as I do) can flip this, and get up earlier than the kids to have themself ready before they wake up. I tried this once. It involved me looking at the clock, saying, “Nope,” and then hitting snooze. Every now and then, an early morning dentist appointment or something similar requires me to be up and ready to go at the same time as the kids. In that case, I get ready alongside them, but it does make our mornings a little more frazzled.
5) Plan Ahead for Breakfast
7:15 am is not the time to discover that you are out of milk. It doesn’t end well. We eat simple breakfasts: cereal, toaster waffles, etc. If we’re running late (it happens more often than I care to admit, and it’s usually my fault) and are out of time, I keep protein bars on hand. When I’m prepping my grocery lists, I make sure to inventory our breakfast foods and make sure we have enough to last until the next Costco run.
6) No Electronics. No Exceptions.
If it has a power button, it is off-limits before school. TV sucks my kids in, and they can’t tear their eyes away to pay attention to what needs to be done. I include all tablets in this ban as well, even if everyone is ready to go with time to spare. If they’re in the middle of a show and it has to be turned off to leave, I’ll have ten cranky kids on my hands. No thank you.
7) Allow Adequate Time to Get Ready
Getting a large group of kids ready for school in the dark winters of Alaska involves more snow gear than you can probably imagine. It takes time to get everything on, to make sure all kids have hats/gloves/scarves/etc. so they don’t freeze on the way to school. Our entryway is not huge, so when there’s eight kids wrestling into coats and snowpants, it gets nutty.
8) Send Them Out the Door with Love
There are mornings that my kids leave angry, because I made them zip up their coats when they didn’t want to (the horror!), or we ran out of milk, or someone said something unkind to them. When I am upset in the morning, it colors the rest of my day, and I know this is the same for kids. A hug, a kiss, an “I love you” and a “Have a great day” are what I want to arm my children with as they head out the door.
In the end, my goal every morning is to get everybody out the door in one piece, with a minimum of crankiness and extra work. These eight steps help me get there, and I hope they provide you with some inspiration too.
What are your favorite ways to streamline your morning?