Episode 2 – The first week of school

Welcome to The Teacher Mama Podcast. I am your host, Roberta Kightlinger, and I am an educator, a wife, and a mama. Welcome. Explore. Like. Comment. And reach out with questions. You can reach us at theteachermama.education

Welcome to episode number two of The Teacher Mama Podcast. I am so excited you are here!

This week, on The Teacher Mama Podcast, I am going to talk about the first week of school. The first week of school looks very different this year for many of us. I’ll start off by providing a narrative around the first week of school here in this household. 

I am the mama of two beautiful children: Izzy, a kindergartener, and Zander, a 1.5 year old. They have drastically different learning styles and personalities. Some things went really well this week. And other things didn’t go quite as well as I had expected. 

What went well? The lessons and activities went really well. Izzy was engaged, and excited to share her learning with the other adults in the household. There was even a day when she asked if she even did her learning, because she just didn’t think she had done enough.

Another thing that went well was our brain break times. I know when my kids start getting crabby and needing breaks. I am sure you can tell when your kids need breaks too. These are the times I turned the TV on and utilized the multitude of amazing educational videos available on youtube. I’ll share some of our favorite youtube channels at the bottom of the transcript on my webpage. theteachermama.education/podcast

What didn’t go as well as I had expected? I figured Zander would play nicely while I facilitated his sister’s learning. Boy was I ever long. I quickly realized I needed to be intentional about the activities he was doing during learning times as well. He wanted 1:1 attention, just like his sister was getting. 

Funny story about this. Tuesday was our first day of school. Izzy was sitting at our shared desk working on writing her numbers. We had already done a few other things, and Zander had just had enough. During learning time he wasn’t playing on his own anymore, so I tried setting him up with a puzzle. That didn’t work. Set him up with dolls at the dollhouse. Not having it. Pulled his hotwheels cars and accessories down. Nope. He just wanted to be held, and do what his sister was doing. He wanted to climb up onto the desk and play with markers. (which is not what she was doing, but it was what he wanted to do) Zander and markers are not a good idea right now. I continued trying to distract him with other things, all at the same time as trying to teach a sleep deprived kindergartener. As you can expect, that was really stressful for me. And made the morning, just, not pleasant. 

 By the time Izzy was practicing writing her numbers, Zander had figured out his own plan to get 1:1 attention from me. He pointed to his diaper and made his noises that told me he needs a diaper change. So I picked him up. Cuddled him. Carried him into the bathroom and set him down on his changing table. The entire time I am talking with him and making him giggle by playing peek-a-boo. I get to the point when I am taking the diaper off, when I realize he didn’t need a diaper change!! He was completely dry! I said, “Baby boy, you don’t even need a diaper change!” And. He. Laughed. Laughed! Oh he knew he didn’t need a diaper change, he just wanted some 1:1 attention from his mama. And he knew how to get it. It wasn’t fair that his sissy was hogging all of my time!

This was my clue that I had to up my game. So day two through four: when Izzy had a writing activity, he had a writing activity. When Izzy was doing independent work, I was facilitating Zanders preschool level learning. I scheduled Izzy’s direct instruction times around Zanders nap time and the time I let him play his learning games on my tablet. This made a huge difference.  For a more detailed example; Izzy was working on writing the letters we had been working on, and Zander had a piece of paper with letters printed on the paper. They each sat at the desk, and they each had an erasable pen.

To Zander, it seemed like they were doing the same activity, but really Izzy was practicing writing her letters and he was practicing his fine motor skills. 

Lesson learned. I have to facilitate learning for both of my kids at the same time. And figure out a way to make that work. Otherwise, Zander just wants in. He wants to be included. And that 100% makes sense. 

I would love to hear your first week of school stories. Comment on this podcast by going to theteachermama.education/podcast/   Everyone who comments will be added to a drawing for 3 free tutoring sessions with me! Drawing will be done Friday, September 18, 2020. 

Let’s move into today’s topic. The first week of school. I am going to focus on routine. 

Back to school week typically means a new schedule and a new set of routines. For a lot of families, mornings are challenging. Someone doesn’t want to wake up on time, inevitably someone is crabby, someone can’t find their shoes, maybe someone woke up late and didn’t get breakfast. The list could continue on pretty much forever. And now we have some scenarios to add to our list: the internet doesn’t work, the computer isn’t loading the way it should, woke up late for virtual lesson time, or maybe someone forgot their mask. This list could continue on for a while too. 

I know mornings are stressful. So let’s talk tips and tricks for making our mornings less stressful and more productive. 

My first tip for you is to prepare as much as possible the night before. Set out clothes or workout clothes in an easily accessible location for yourself and each member of the family. Make sure backpacks, purses, lunches, shoes, are all packed and ready to be used. Set an intention for your morning. I will be happy. Or I will wake up feeling refreshed. I will sleep well and wake up calm and ready for the day. These are just a few examples. 

Also, Set a glass of water next to your bed to drink right away when you wake up in the morning. And maybe the most important tip that I can give you to prepare you for your morning is to is write down your morning routine.

I want to talk about this morning routine for a little bit. There are some really great resources for creating the best morning routine for you that I will link in the transcript of this podcast. These resources helped me create my own morning routine which I will share in just a minute. 

Those of you that know me can pretty safely say you know I am not a morning person. I would much rather stay up late into the night and sleep late into the morning. This way of life just isn’t possible with two kids and a job. I have had to train myself to go to bed at a good time and wake up earlier than I want. For a long time I would wake up with just enough time to get what I needed done before needing to leave for the day. This would cause me a lot of stress, especially when I lost track of time, or hit snooze one too many times, or I had a crabby kid in the morning who didn’t want to put on their shoes… The rest of my day felt rushed and I felt anxious and frazzled. 

I knew we needed a change.  Enter research mode. I listened to podcasts, read books, and searched the internet. After trying a lot of other people’s morning routines I decided to jot down a list of the things that worked for me. What did I want to make sure to get done before my kids woke up? 

My list included quiet time where I meditate or read scripture. I wanted to set my intention for the day and work on shifting my mindset towards positivity by writing an affirmation or two for the day. This affirmation I frequently re-read throughout my day as a reminder to be positive. I needed time to email my husband and go over our families schedule for the day. I needed time for exercise, personal development, and journaling in my gratitude journal. And then if there is time before my kids wake up I can start work for the day by checking messages and writing my daily to-do list. 

These things are important for me to get done in the morning. And it is important that they get done before my kids wake up. Because if they are awake, I am not able to focus on the things I have just listed off. Because they are needing my attention. Maybe it would be different when they are a bit older and more independent. But right now in this season of our life, I have to get these things done when they are sleeping.

So I had a list of things. Great. It seemed overwhelming just looking at my long list. But then I decided to add how long I thought each activity would take. 

Quiet time: 10-15 minutes

Affirmations: 5 minutes

Email husband: 5 minutes

Exercise: 30 minutes

Personal Development: 15-30 minutes

Journaling in my gratitude journal: 5-15 minutes

Work: 10 minutes to infinite minutes

Okay, so at the very least I needed 80 minutes to myself before my kids woke up, plus a few minutes to eat yogurt and get my work-out clothes on. So let’s say 1 hour 30 minutes minimum and 2 hours at a sort of maximum. My kids wake up around 6:30 daily, so if I want to get everything done and start my day off by filling my tank up with the things I enjoy and want to accomplish I need to get up at 4:30am. 

Just what my night owl brain wanted to hear. But here is what surprises me. I don’t mind waking up early when I get to do my routine. My morning. My things. I am happiest when I get to set a calm and productive tone to our day. 

Forcing myself to wake up before my kids and getting some quiet “me time” before the chaos of the day has honestly been a game changer for my family. I am calmer and ready to tackle our morning when I wake up early and follow my routine. 

This all got me to thinking. If it is important for adults to wake up and do all the things to help our brains be more productive and positive, how am I letting my kids start their morning? What kind of routine should they have to ensure a more productive and happier day? Being the life-longer learner that I am, I decided to run some experiments on my kids. 

Some days I let them just sort of do their usual thing. Turn on cartoons in the kitchen and eat breakfast. Other days I tried various other activities to kick start their morning. Like: exercise, or meditating, or reading books After some trial and error, this is what we have found works at this stage of their lives.

We start with some family snuggles on the couch. Which has been incredibly important for my babies. They love that cuddle time. Izzy could cuddle with me all day, any time of the day, it doesn’t matter – she loves to cuddle. Zander: we either cuddle right away in the morning, or I have lost my opportunity because he is too busy the rest of the day. He doesn’t want to slow down enough for cuddling. It is right away in the morning. Or not at all. So I take that. And I cuddle him in the morning because those baby snuggles are the best and I know they won’t last forever. So for right now, that is an important part of our morning routine. We take that time to snuggle in the morning.

Izzy repeats an affirmation for the day and we take some time to sit in silence and breathe. Practice our calming breathing. We then go over the mornings schedule. We then go into the kitchen and listen to audiobooks as they eat their breakfast. There are so many read-alouds of pictures books available out there we will never run out. And both of my kids absolutely love reading books in the morning. While they are eating breakfast and reading or listening to books, I am doing the dishes, or starting laundry, or whatever else needs to get done. 

After breakfast the kids do some sort of exercise or movement activity. Sometimes the exercise is timing them as they run from one end of the house to the other and back a few times. Other times we are outside going on a walk. Some of their favorites are when I incorporate locomotor skills such as: running, jumping, walking backwards, skipping, hopping, crawling, etc. We clear an area indoors or outdoors and they spend some time doing whichever locomotor activity I shout out. So we could spend as little as one minute on exercise, or to as long as I can hold their attention. And of course it depends upon how much time you have. How much time do you have before the day begins? But there is a lot of flexibility there.

They have a blast. We get to spend some time together. Quality time together. And the rest of our day has less crabbies, whining, and sibling fights. 

I think the most important take-away from this podcast is every family’s morning routine will look different. My routine may not work for literally anyone else. But it works for us. I highly encourage you to do some reading up on morning routines yourself. Write down what is important for you to get done in the morning and find a way to make it happen. Your routine won’t be perfect over-night, it will take practice. And that is okay. Practice. Make your mornings your mornings. Take control of your day right away when you wake up. 

I will be completely honest, I recorded this podcast and I am adding this little snippet later, before posting. I woke up this morning-well-tried to wake up this morning at my 4:30am alarm, and decided “you know what I am not getting up because I didn’t sleep most of the night”. I am going to sleep. I didn’t get to sleep because my kids struggled. I was hoping my kids would sleep in, and they did, which is unusual. But they slept in. I slept in. And then we started our morning routine. Yes I lost out on my morning routine. But I needed that sleep. Tomorrow I will get back on the morning routine train and continue on. It is okay to miss every once in a while. That is something I had to learn. I had to learn not to feel guilty when I don’t follow my plan. When I miss a day of my routine. Or I miss a day of exercise. Those are all things that would make me feel guilty and I have really had to work learning that it is okay. It is okay. Just try again tomorrow. 

Follow the Teacher Mama’s website to get exclusive access to printables. The printables available from today’s podcast will include simple daily schedules for both adults and children. Feel free to print them out and try these out for yourselves. The printable intended for adults includes: a weekly blank planner page, a daily schedule, spot to write out your morning and evening routines, and a spot for to-do lists. The printable intended for children includes visual cues for morning and evening routines, and a daily blank schedule with blank clocks you can fill in to add an element of learning. I have found when my daughter knows what time things are happening, even if she doesn’t fully understand time yet, she handles the transitions far better.

To get your printables go to theteachermama.education/printables. After you subscribe to The Teacher Mama, you will get exclusive access to these printable schedules.

Find this image and click “Follow” You will then be prompted to add your email. If you have already subscribed, the printable will show up in your inbox soon!

*Reminder* Follow the link in the podcast description to this podcasts transcript. Add a comment telling us about your first week back to school stories! Remember, one lucky person will earn 3 free tutoring sessions with me! 

Also, please follow TheTeacherMama on instragram and facebook. I will be sharing activities and stories about our own school journey throughout the week. And join us back here next week for another The Teacher Mama Podcast.

Thanks so much for listening! Happy learning!

Morning Routine Resources

  • “The Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod. This book is a fantastic personal development choice if you are looking to level up your mornings!
  • Listen to “the Do Your Crap” podcast by Micah Folsom https://www.micahfolsomfit.com/master-your-morning-routine/
    • Micah’s episode called Master Your Morning Routine is one I have listened to over and over again. Thanks Micah for helping me master my morning!

Our Favorite YouTube Channels for Brain Breaks

Cosmic Kids Super Yoga! A fast paced yoga sequence set up like a video game. Kids absolutely love the set of Super Yoga videos!

Jack Hartmann has so many learning video’s available. He has just about every topic. This particular is one of my past kindergarteners favorites.

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