Are your mornings rushed and stressful before leaving for co-op? Do you have problems finding that one shoe for a child, and it takes an extra 15-minutes to find it? If this describes your life, you might enjoy, “The Shoe Song.” It is a funny song written by Jennifer Fullweiler and a friend; it expresses what it’s like as a parent to try and leave the house with children. To help you leave your home more easily on a co-op morning, please read on for some ideas! The key is setting realistic expectations of your children and planning ahead.
In all honesty, it is often a challenge for us to get out the door for co-op! I have wonderful visions that someday, I will be able to say, “Children, it is time to leave the house,” and within 5-minutes, we will all leave gracefully with everything we need. Wouldn’t that be lovely? With children ages 3, 6, and 7, we are not there yet, but we are making progress. For a funny video on leaving the house with kids, you might like this (there are a few crass words which is not my style, but if you overlook it as a grown-up can, you might have a few good laughs).
Part of Catholic Schoolhouse, as a classical approach, is to focus on virtues. One important virtue is responsibility. I think we can all agree that our children could grow in this virtue…and hey, just being honest, I can, too! Why do I bring this up when I am writing about leaving for co-op with less stress? If you can responsibly teach your children more responsibility for preparing their belongings for co-op, you will be able to leave for co-op will less stress! The ideas below will also help teach skills that can helpful for leaving for commitment outside of the house (e.g., dance lessons, soccer practice, library time, mass, or adoration).
Overall, you are teaching your children the important habit to plan ahead and think, “What will I need to prepare before leaving the house?”
Here are some ideas for routines that might help you get out the door on time. Please know that these are just starting points–you will quickly see if any of them can apply to the ages and personalities of children in your family. I truly respect and honor whatever you think is best!
The Day Before Co-Op:
- Assign a child to make sure that all water bottles are clean. If they are not, the child washes them.
- Assign a child to take out all of the lunch boxes/bags. The child should make sure they are clean, and that there is one for each person.
- Make a list for each child, who is mature enough, to make his/her own lunch. Include on the list what you expect to be int he lunch, or pull out all of the supplies allowed into the lunch. As needed, you will double check it for completeness (e.g., protein, fruit, vegetable, grain, etc.).
- Make a checklist for each child to check his/her backpack to have the necessary materials (e.g., binder, recorder, art smock). For children who cannot read, make a picture check-list or tell them verbally what is needed.
- Have your children pick out their outfits and show them to you, if needed, to make sure they are suitable and clean. Wash any clothes that are needed to be washed.
- Have your children place their coat, backpack, shoes (both of them!), etc. in a designated spot in preparation for co-op.
The Morning of the Co-Op
1. Assign 1-2 children to fill all of the water bottles, or assign each child to fill his/her own water bottle. Make sure someone puts water bottles into backpacks.
2. Expect each child, who is strong enough, to carry his/her backpack to the van, including with his/her freshly filled water bottle and lunch.
It certainly takes awhile to teach children these skills, but it’s well worth the effort. If you can teach them to know what is expected, you will not have to nag them before leaving the house on time.
Overtime, don’t forget to teach the younger children some of the tasks that the older children are doing. If you have your 4th grader pack all of the lunches this year, next year your current 3rd grader could also help. Maybe this year your preschooler is not ready to prepare his boots the night before, but as a kindergartner next year, it would be reasonable to ask him to find them. For my family, my 2nd grader is really amazing at preparing things the day before. It’s easier to let her do some of the things that my kindergartner could do because she’s faster, but I have to remind myself that if my kindergartner were the oldest, I would be asking him to do more.
If I keep letting my 2nd grader do most “kid tasks” for all of the children (e.g., line up shoes, check coats, etc.), soon my kindergartner and 3-year-old will not have the opportunity to grow in responsibility.
You’re the best judge of what skills each of your children could “learn next” to grow in the virtue of responsibility when it comes time to leaving the house. It’s well worth the investment of time and training.
- What do you find helps you leave the house on-time for co-op?
- What responsibilities do you assign to your children in anticipation of leaving for your co-op? Or do you find it easiest to do all of it?