Tuesday Topic: Tips for Calm School Mornings

First day of School 2014
First day of School 2014

Remember back in the “Before” when we did Tuesday Topics each week? It was one of my favorite parts of One Thankful Mom, and I know that many of you loved it to. I’m ready to get it rolling again and I’m so excited to hear from all of you.

This week’s Tuesday Topic is a good question for all of us as we approach the start of school.

What one (or more) tip can you give for calm school mornings?

Some kids are excited for school to start, others, not so much. Some kids are naturally organized, others, well, let’s just say I have some kids who really struggle with that.

For kids who attend school, it’s so important to send them off calm and filled with the knowledge of our love and support. One day last fall, I completely blew it with Kalkidan. I was irritated by something she did and I didn’t handle it well.  She was not feeling loved and secure as she went out the door, and I knew the responsibility was mine. All morning I wrestled with it, thinking about how I would talk with her when she got home, but my heart was not at peace.

I had to make it right with her, so I got in the car and drove to her school at lunchtime. The secretary called her to the office and she nervously approached me, wondering why I was there. We stepped outside the door and I asked her to forgive me for my harsh words and unkindness. Her face, the way she opened up to me, and the hug she gave me was priceless. I took her out for lunch and we spent time repairing the damage I had done.

I can’t tell you how thankful I am for that now.

For homeschoolers, if we don’t make a good start in the morning, school will drag on for hours and hours, and the feeling in the house will be less than sweet. I have plenty of experience with that as well. Homeschooling is dramatically better when mom and kids are calm and happy.

2010 Claire
2010 Claire

I would love to hear from you – even if you think your tip is so small that everyone else has already figured it out. 

If you have a Tuesday Topic you would like me to share with this great community of readers, please email it to me at lisa@onethankfulmom.com; if you put “Tuesday Topic” in the subject line it will help me be slightly more organized. You all are a deep well of wisdom and I love to see you support one another. Besides, you are a help to me!

Let’s revitalize Tuesday Topics and learn from one another. Please take a moment to leave a comment; I know you have something to say.

encourage one another,


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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Monique Mccardle
    August 18, 2015

    Mom getting out of a bed a good hour before the kids get up always makes for a calmer less rushed morning for us.

  2. Kirsten G.
    August 18, 2015

    I do some prep work the night before. I have the kids get their lunch kits out and we put in their snacks that don't need to be in the fridge. I finish packing lunches while they eat their breakfast. I also lay out clothes the night before. My kids wear uniforms to school, so they know they need to have a white shirt, blue pants and blue socks out. I find that taking the time the night before, even if I don't feel like it, really helps keep the morning running smoothly.

  3. shannon
    August 18, 2015

    i implemented a tip from molly piper a couple of years ago that has made a big difference in my morning attitude–leaving my bible open on the kitchen counter. that way it's open and ready for me to read while coffee is brewing, or while I absentmindedly scramble eggs or sit down to grab a bite. I am in a season of sleeplessness with 5 little kids and am looking forward to a new season with more in-depth study, but this is working well for me now.

    1. Jess P.
      August 18, 2015

      I am so doing this! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Heather
    August 18, 2015

    Packing the school bag, laying out the clothes, etc the night before helps a lot. However, since I am NOT a morning person, laying out my clothes and setting out breakfast stuff really makes the difference. It ranges from putting out bowls and cereal to programming the oven to come on early to preheat and premed sure all the dry ingredients for a baked pancake. Even better, I do the same for lunch packing. The less I need to address decisions in the morning, the more I can address the people.

    1. shannon
      August 19, 2015

      I will never buy another oven without delay start! I use it so often!!

  5. Laura
    August 18, 2015

    My trick was actually the day before when my kids came from school. I always asked, "Do you have anything I need to see or sign?" that way I had time to read or ask questions and deal with it or email a teacher. I am soooo not a morning person and neither were two of my children—in fact it was best to hardly say a word to my daughter when she was a teenager other than "Love you and have a good day". Now times have changed and she calls first thing in the morning with questions, and she is most of the way half way across the country driving to Denver to grad school.

  6. Emily B
    August 18, 2015

    With our three adopted kiddos (we also have three bio kiddos), food is the biggest source of stress for us in the morning. We circumvent this by having a weekly breakfast schedule. We have the same rotation of meals every week, which removes all stress from eating. Mondays: Pancakes, scrambled eggs, fruit. Tuesdays: Oatmeal and smoothies. Wednesdays: French toast and sausage and fruit. Thursdays: Ham, egg, and cheese sandwiches and orange juice. Fridays: Cold cereal and yogurt. Saturdays: Waffles and bacon. Sundays: Bagels and cream cheese and applesauce. The schedule is posted in the kitchen, and we religiously stick to it. We always make peanut butter toast and a glass of milk an option for anyone who doesn't want what's on the menu that day.
    Clothing used to be a struggle. Now, when I do laundry, I put complete outfits in ziploc bags when I do laundry. Pants, shirt, undies, and socks. When it's time to get dressed, the kids can choose whatever bag they want to wear that day. It adds a little bit of time when I do laundry, but it is 100% worth it.
    Hair was also challenge for a while. I've finally found a simple fix. After showers, I put leave-in conditioner in their wet hair and braid it. In the morning, we take out the braid and it is easy to brush. On nights when we don't get the shower in. I don't brush the hair in the morning because hair tantrums start us off on an awful foot. I just put it in a messy bun, use a brush to smooth the top, stick a hair bow on to help it, and leave it at that. Everything fixes itself with the next shower. It just isn't worth the upset.
    My kids eat school lunch, but if there's something on the menu they don't like, they are free to pack a lunch. I keep the fridge and pantry stocked to avoid melt-downs. I let them pack their own lunches, but have a few guidelines. Two proteins, a fruit, a veggie, and a treat. Protein options are meat or peanut butter sandwiches, a tuna salad lunch kit, cheese, cottage cheese, hummus, yogurt, hard boiled eggs, beef jerky, nuts, or if they want, I'll make them black bean dip. I always have fresh fruit and unsweetened applesauce cups. They love carrots, cucumbers, and some of them like broccoli and bell peppers. I have small plastic containers if they want to take Ranch dressing. Treats include Cheez-its, goldfish crackers, Pringles, yogurt covered raisins, chocolate covered almonds, and sometimes I'll let them take fun-size candies. We've found the Bento box lunch boxes to be the best option. They love to make their own choices, and packing their own lunches removes that food stress.
    At the end of homework every afternoon, I check folders, sign planners, and help the kids pack their backpacks for the next morning. Then they hang their backpacks on their bedposts, so all they have to do in the morning is grab the backpack.
    It all takes some advance planning and being consistent with my shopping and laundry, but the consequences are far weightier than any inconvenience.

    1. Sharon
      August 18, 2015

      I love your breakfast suggestions, thank you!

      1. Karen Twombly
        August 19, 2015

        You're my hero…

  7. Jess P.
    August 18, 2015

    This may be obvious, but…laminated checklist of what needs to happen – brush teeth, get dressed, brush hair, shoes, pack backpack, medicine, etc. My son is in 2nd grade now and has trouble focusing, so he can check things off as he goes and we can non-threateningly ask him what's left to do on his list. (The other three kids are still little, but will get their own personalized list when it's time.) Also – my husband makes breakfast for the kids. He has it ready when they get up. (I get up early to exercise). Having a supportive and available husband is such a help! To minimize conflicts and distractions, the littles (ages 4, 3, 2) get put in their car seats as soon as they're ready with a book or toy. That allows me to get ready and help my son when he's having a hard time on his own. (The car is in an attached garage, so I know that's not possible for everyone.)

  8. Teresa
    August 19, 2015

    I try to have worship music playing in the kitchen (usually just a pandora station on my phone), especially on days when a child has a test or presentation they may be anxious about.

  9. Maureen Reagan Shear
    August 19, 2015

    I have a hanging sweater organizer in each child's closet. When they/I do laundry each weekend, 1 complete outfit (including undergarments, socks, and accessories), goes into each cubby (there are 5). If they choose to not do this before bed on Sunday, then I do it for the week. I check the organizers with them Sunday for appropriateness and completeness and have discussions then. I also make sure if there is a school spirit or crazy sock day, the correct clothing is in the correct cubby. Monday they HAVE to wear the top cubby, Tuesday the next, exc. I've found this eliminates so many heated arguments (both children and I seem to be calmer about discussions about what to wear if there is no time crunch) and "mom I NEED x clothing and I can't find/isn't clean". It took a couple weeks of being firm of not allowing them to change their mind in the morning (now sudden weather changes dictating different clothing I struggled, 1 child can roll with changes in the morning, the other I started putting a warm and cool option in each cubby, with specific guidelines of when each is worn)

  10. sophie
    August 19, 2015

    Excuse my ignorance but why are school mornings not calm?
    How is it different than other moments and activities?

    I put the kids' school work for the week on the table Sunday night before I go to bed.
    I also put some easy to eat fruit and snacks on the table.
    The children are to be up by 8.
    They know they have to start some homework before eating.
    When some of it is done, they sit outside in the sun together and eat.
    They come back in and continue until they feel they have accomplished enough for that day considering that all has to be done by Saturday lunch.
    I review their work as it is done.

    We "do school" all year. Six days a week. Mostly mornings. If they want some time off, they do some work ahead of time and we mark on the calendar how many days ahead they are.

    School work is part of the routine and routine seems to work well. Everyone knows what to expect.
    From what I have noticed, people start-stop, start-stop (copying the school model) because "they need a break". Why not reorganize things to make it pleasant or at least not a struggle?

    I must tell you that I don't believe in "vacation" either. Vacation from what?
    Again, if something does not work for the family, I prefer to change it rather than eagerly wait for a vacation.

    My 2 bits.

  11. KMT
    August 21, 2015

    I'm with you, Sophie, but this last week gave us a new twist. We also school all year 'round and often on Saturday if we don't have anything planned. My girls don't know how to fill their days so schooling gives them something to do.

    This last week, one of my daughters started public school. I've had to drive her there and pick her up since the bus isn't arranged yet. On top of this, I'm just getting used to her new special need diagnosis and the fact that homeschooling wasn't working for her and I needed to try public school. One of my daycare clients gave me a hard time about "only having a 10 minute window" to drop off her child, never mind that I'd be back in 15 minutes and she'd been late to work every single day before that and on time when she needed to be here before I left. So, this week we've been having busy, rushed mornings. I can't imagine this on a daily basis.

    Usually, the girls get up before I do, get their beds made, potty, teeth, face, hair, clothes and physical therapy exercises done. We often have one who doesn't do her PT, so occasionally, I get up earlier to check and make sure she's doing it. She doesn't know when this will be, so it keeps her on her toes. I only need 10 minutes to get ready. I'm a no-frills mom.

    I get my youngest up or have my oldest do it, and get her ready. Then the girls eat their breakfast – hot or cold cereal and fruit. I feed the cats, open my door to my daycare kids.

    My girls finish up their PT in our PT room. I settle the daycare kids. We have our first school lesson.

    My advice to moms for smooth mornings: Kids in bed by 8pm, 9pm at the latest! Breakfast should be simple and already decided so no choices are being made in the morning. If you have small kids, get up and get yourself ready first. Backpacks should already be at the door, packed, from the afternoon before.

    Simply put:

    Have everything possible ready the afternoon before.
    Get up in plenty of time to do what you need.
    Keep things simple. Very simple.
    Kids can help – they should help. They're backpacks should be ready after their homework is finished the day before.
    If you homeschool and still find things are not smooth, one afternoon, put your kids on their beds in the jammies and start a timer. Have them get up, get dressed – do all that you want them to do in the morning – and see how long it takes. Add 10 minutes. That's how long it should take them in the morning to get ready, then make sure they know what they are supposed to start with. I have my kids start with silent reading or math on the computer. They can do a puzzle, watch TV if you allow that, whatever, but it needs to be the same every day so the kids know what to do.


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