Swap for Savings
Several families can hold a swap meet to trade their kids’ outgrown clothes and toys. Everything that comes from the swap meet is something you won’t have to buy at the store.
Plan for School Holidays
To make sure the children are supervised during holidays, plan ahead by getting a calendar from the school at the start of the year. Mark all the holidays and teachers’ training days on the home calendar or day planner. Look for an older child in the neighborhood who attends the same school district. Make arrangements with them to babysit on holidays and days the schools are closed because of snow.
Get Moving in the Morning
Have a clock in every room where family members are getting ready for work or school. Break down the getting-ready-for-school tasks into several activites and have a time allowed for finishing each one. The kids can be told by what time they need to be dressed, have their teeth brushed and faces washed, etc. Chronic stragglers may be threatened with having their video game time cut in the evening.
An idea: have an alarm clock for each family member, all tuned to the same radio station. By the time the last sleeper is supposed to get up, the house will be rockin’.
Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to tell children that parents have to answer to people too. Morning dawdling can have unwanted consequences; bosses do not appreciate employees who are late for work.
Home Alone
Children who are old enough to come home and stay by themselves after school should know several people they could call if an emergency occurs. There should be a plan for dealing with visitors and phone calls so that strangers do not discover there is no adult present. Children and parents should also agree on a place of refuge in case the house is unsafe to occupy for any reason.
Family Time
Weekday evenings can be hectic, but moms have learned that a short break after arriving home and before dinner is started can make the evening more pleasant. It gives the children time to re-connect and perhaps tell about their victories and set backs. Dinners can be simple, even monotonous if they include foods the kids will eat. New recipes can wait for the weekend; this cuts down on battles over trying to get children to sample new foods.
The meal may be more pleasant if you let the answering machine take care of phone calls and leave the TV off.
Another reason for leaving the TV off is to encourage the children to tackle (and finish!) homework sooner rather than later. Kids do need breaks from homework, though — every 20 or 30 minutes. Have a box filled with all the pencils and supplies that are needed to finish the homework.
School Money
An early morning race to an ATM or store to get money for the kids’ school expenses can be avoided by keeping some cash at home. If a fund is kept that is strictly for school needs and not raided for treats or wants, many unplanned trips can be avoided. The amount of money each child needs for school can be decided before bedtime. By not waiting until morning to hand out lunch money, parents save time in the mornings, and can run to an ATM to get cash before bedtime in case somebody forgot to mention a big upcoming expense.
Planning for the Next Day
Everything that is to be taken to school in the morning should be by the door before bedtime, except lunches. Reviewing needs for the coming day should be part of the before-bedtime routine.
A magic formula for getting children to bed at a reasonable time could not be discovered in time for this month’s article. Since children, like adults, are creatures of habit, having a predictable before-bedtime routine seems to help. Helpful routines can include a snack, a story, maybe time to talk, but no rough housing or uproar. It may help to talk about good things to look forward to in the coming day.

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