In this CCE Corner, we return to the lessons we’ve learned about thriving in a classical Christian school. In this lesson, we move from the philosophical to the practical with some age-old advice.
Lesson 8. A place for everything and everything in its place; a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heaves: managing your stuff and your time.
Our CCE Corner lessons have been about habits that help students succeed not only in school, but also in life. Lesson 8 is largely about teaching children how to show up at the right place, on time, and well-prepared. Trinitas gives parents tips at the beginning of the school year about managing stuff and time. They include the following.
Lay out your uniform the night before. (We even suggest that the little ones put their belts in their pants, especially on PE days.) Pack backpacks, locate water bottles, and prep a healthy breakfast and lunch the night before. Set the alarm ten minutes earlier than you want to. Use a traffic app. The idea is to find ways to avoid stressful scrambling in the morning or a phone call from school that an assignment was left in the living room. Tell yourself, “Homework isn’t finished until the backpack is re-packed.”
Find a system of binders and notebooks and planners your child can (and will) use. It may be a good idea to go through the system and the backpack together periodically.
Help your child create a consistent and calm study environment. Beware of the bedroom! Beware of the internet (it can be turned off) and the phone (it can be put in the hall)! Clear away any and all distractions. Classical music or other music without words can sometimes be helpful.
With regard to time management, help your child break larger assignments into smaller chunks and do a bit of work and review over several days instead of all at once. Teach him or her to use a planner.
Plan ahead. What afternoons or evenings are typically busy for your family? After too many short tempers and tears on Monday nights, we realized that life went more smoothly if our children finished their Tuesday composition assignments over the weekend. Since, we try to keep Sundays no-homework days, Saturdays became a little busier. But the Sunday Sabbath and happier Mondays were worth it. And, our children learned (mostly) how to look ahead, anticipate, and schedule their time well.
So, what about stress over homework? First ask a few basic questions. Is your child well-rested? Well-fed? In a quiet place? Taking adequate breaks (without screens)? Getting enough exercise and outdoor time? Has she left the work for the last minute? Is he stressed about some other thing in his life? If despite good faith efforts, you’re regularly having stress-filled evenings, then, with humility, charity, and a “we’re on the same team” attitude, talk with the teacher. Maybe adjustments can be made for your child. Maybe they’re needed for the class. Trinitas has adjusted workloads over the years (up and down).
You may also need to consider an adjustment to your child’s schedule. “A season for every activity” includes breaks. Avoid over-scheduling. Just because it works on paper doesn’t mean it works! Going from one activity to another requires time to transition physically and mentally. Kids need playtime, downtime, and family time (adults do too). Note: If playing soccer isn’t something your child enjoys, it’s just another scheduled chore, not playtime. Don’t be afraid to change course. Our son was struggling some the year Greek was added to Latin and logic and the already challenging lit and comp assignments. We decided we needed to free up his schedule a bit. He was happy to take a break from piano. We agreed to piano as long as he took a break from tennis too. It was temporary, just long enough to get back on top of his school work.
Underlying these ideas is the necessity of observation and communication. What things are going well and what not-so-well? There isn’t a “formula” for success, but with careful observing, thoughtful listening, creative thinking, some discipline (i.e., repetition, repetition, repetition), and encouraging follow-up, you can help your child grow in independence, character, and confidence while developing good habits for managing his or her stuff and time.*
All of this should set your child and your family up to thrive, right? But, what if you don’t? In the next CCEC, we’ll talk about what to do in the face of fear, frustration, or failure.
*If your child is struggling significantly with these sorts of skills, you may find helpful ideas in the following books: That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week: Helping Disorganized and Distracted Boys Succeed in School and Life by Ana Homayoun or Late, Lost, and Unprepared: A Parents Guide to Helping Children with Executive Functioning by Joyce Cooper Kahn, Ph.D. and Laurie Dietzel, Ph.D.