children • education • parents
relationships • marriage • the elderly


Seven Back-To-School Habits for Your Family

October 4, 2018 by

As a new school year gathers momentum, my husband and I remind each other that it’s a good time to take stock of the day-to-day life of our family. This isn’t about introspective self-analysis – what parent has time for that! – but about facing the reality that the bucolic pace of summer is over, and we’re going to have to pick up our game if we hope to rise to the challenge of the new season.

For every family, grace, forgiveness, disruptions, and imperfections have to be welcomed in large doses every day. Nevertheless, a little structure provides security, so here are a couple of habits we’ve adopted in our almost two decades of being in the parenting trenches. These have worked well for us as we reset the summer-to-school clock and look to create routines and rhythms to help with school, study, and sport:

boy with baseball cap doing homework outside

  1. Eat together at least once a day. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a light snack or a proper meal. What’s important is to set time aside each day to really and truly gather around food, look into each other’s eyes, communicate and talk (no books, devices, or other distractions allowed for kids or parents). It’s amazing how much you hear – from unresolved disputes and life questions to “Did you know that a parrot fish chews up coral from the Great Barrier Reef and poos out over a ton of sand each year?”
  2. Assign regular chores. In order to help the household keep going, assign chores that work with the kids’ ages, abilities, and schedules. We used to change up the chores from day to day but have found everything actually happens better if they stay the same from week to week (for a reasonable stretch of time). Whether it’s making breakfast on a certain day, taking out the trash, or feeding the pets, chores are a great way to reinforce ownership of the household as well as daily responsibility and routine.
  3. Establish homework and sport practice routines. “Why procrastinate if you can put it off until later?” is a tired quip my husband often trots out for our sons. But he’s the first to make sure we’ve got designated times in place for homework each day, and that the boys each have an appropriate, quiet place for it. That way the week’s homework doesn’t all mount up and cramp our weekend plans too much. Same goes for budgeting time for sports training.
  4. Leave the kids notes or messages of love and encouragement. When work or other commitments take you away from home, leaving notes, snacks, or other tokens of love and encouragement are always appreciated. It’s a surprise point of connection for the kids when you’re gone and reinforces your love, support, and belief in them.
  5. Make Friday night special. Set aside at least one night on the weekend when everyone is committed to being at home. Our family tradition is “Friday Fire” – we leave the homework and celebrate the week that’s past and look forward to the weekend. We gather around food and fire and friendship (we often invite neighbors to join in) and feel the frustrations of the week fade away.
  6. Leave time for goodnight. I learned this one from my parents: whether it’s a hug, or actually sitting on your child’s bed for a backrub, song, or prayer, making time for a goodnight gently bookends the day. It’s also a chance to ask forgiveness for that impatient outburst, reassure about the test or sports tryout tomorrow, and to always, always underscore “I love you.”
  7. Speak a blessing over your kids. A wise and believing mother told me years ago that her last act of parenting at the end of every day was to stand in the doorway of the kids’ room after they were in bed and speak a blessing over them. I accept that this may not be everyone’s style, and I remember thinking it was a bit too “religious” for my liking, when she told me this. But in my own way I’ve adopted the habit, and I’ve found that especially when the kids are going through a rough time, asking even a whispered blessing over them at the end of the day is a powerful and positive action. Whether they’re asleep or not and whether they want it or not, this blessing will be the last spoken words they hear for the day.

No family is perfect, thankfully, so here, for good measure, are my top three ways to resist the urge to nag: cook together, hug often, and dance in the kitchen.

Wishing you and your kids a fabulous school term!

Follow Norann on Twitter at @NorannV.


About the author

Norann Voll portrait

Norann Voll

Norann Voll lived in New York’s Hudson Valley until moving to the Danthonia Bruderhof in New South Wales, Australia in 2002...

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  • Thank you for sharing that precious memory, Auntie Rachel. I can still hear Grandma Gladys' voice singing all those evening lullabies, too. She always made a point of visiting me when I was unwell. all the best, Norann

    Norann Voll
  • Thank you, Mike, I'm so glad these ideas were helpful! all the best, Norann

    Norann Voll
  • Great ideas! Will pass it on to my daughter. Thanks

    Mike Mathewson
  • My mother your grandmother Gladys would sit on my bed many nights and sing with her glorious voice. A precious memory.Had a nice visite with my brother Jonny. Be well. Rachel

    Rachel Burger