After School Chaos and the Homework Cart

I wrote this last September (as a response to another mother's question on the Power of Moms website). Not sure why I didn't post it then, but maybe it will be helpful to someone now.

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I once read on a mother's blog that 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm was sacred in their family. They limited their out-of-home activities during those hours and tried to spend most of that time together at home. But we have things like piano, swimming, Activity Days, and PTA meetings that fall within those hours. . . and Steve isn't even home from work. . . So while it was an interesting idea and a worthy goal for some families, it's a bit different for us.

Instead, I look at those hours (and let's be honest, it's more like 3:00 pm to 9:00 pm) as my big game/competition/race. Those are the most crucial hours of the day for me. And for things to run smoothly with my four kids (9, 7, 4, 3), I really do have to gear up and be prepared. And then I have to be vigilant and stay on top of things until they are all in bed.

Things that work for us:

Try putting your younger children either down for a nap or in their room for quiet time while you are dealing with the after school craziness. It makes a big difference in my family and is just about the only way I can give my older kids the attention they need.

Sliced apples and popcorn are the standby for our after school snack. Quick, healthy, and relatively inexpensive.

Once in a while it works out to fit in a spontaneous trip to the park, but in general, there isn't extra time to play with friends, etc. (Even when my daughter and niece are simultaneously begging me, "Pleeeeease?")

Make lists or use an online program (we like myjobchart.com) so the older children know exactly what they need to accomplish for the evening.

Another thing that has made my life easier is our "homework cart". We bought a Sterilite 7-drawer rolling cart. (You can find them at stores for more like thirty-five bucks. . . no idea why they are so expensive on amazon.) The top four drawers are filled with supplies: scissors, tape, the stapler, pencil sharpener, pens, pencils, crayons, etc. and then each child has their own drawer to put things like homework, library books, etc. The cart gets rolled out from the laundry room and put next to the kitchen table for homework, and then everything gets put away and the cart is rolled back when homework is finished. It seems to keep the homework clutter from taking over our entire house and provides "a place for everything".

When I find spelling words, papers, or permission slips throughout the house, I put them away in the homework cart. Then, when my daughter is panicked as she's headed out the door for school in the morning asking, "Where's my reading log?" I know there are only two places to check: her backpack or the homework cart.

. . . . .

I love our homework cart. It's one of those simple things that makes my life so much easier.

A couple weeks ago, I would have added a desperate plea for someone to please write a post for me about putting kids to bed. But it turns out that three kids is a whole lot easier than four, so now I am doing just fine. 


Natalie B. said...

Emily, Love this! I have one that sits in the laundry room off the kitchen but it only has five drawers for their papers. This is way better, and the wheels...fabulous. Love new ideas to make life smoother. Also, my kids also love popcorn, so I will make sure I am stocked up on that and apples. Great ideas! What do your kids like on popcorn?

Gloria said...

Great idea!