This time of year is tough for us in our house. Summer school is done. The kids are SO over playing in the sprinkler and going to the library. Every day Axel says at breakfast, "School today tomorrow." Angela asks, "How many days until school starts?" about 37,245 times per day.
Here it is kids!!!
While the kids are going stir crazy, this is the time of year panic sets in for me. There is much to be done! I need to take inventory of all the kids' clothes. Who needs jeans? Who needs underwear? Do the winter coats still fit? There are school supplies to be purchased and an entire forest worth of trees worth of papers to be filled out! Every year I vow to stay organized through the entire year, but in reality I know it will all fall apart by about November. Still, I try.
I'm a bit envious of my homeschooling friends. They are all incredibly organized and keep their kids learning throughout the year, something I happen to suck at. But they also don't (usually) have to get kids out the door at precisely the right minute to catch that darned bus! I'm happy to say that last year we had only one missed bus. That means 539 buses were caught on time! Pretty amazing, I think, considering the lack of attention span of all the kids we have here!
This year my big goal is independence, and getting everyone out the door on time! Having four kids with Down syndrome, and Angela and Abel having severe ADHD, a functional schedule is crucial to successful, calm mornings. Having spent the last 27 years getting kids out the door, my kids who have ADHD have always proven to be the most difficult. If the morning is chaotic and unorganized my kids tend to get over stimulated which means I have to peel them off the ceiling to get them refocused, which slows us down tremendously. Here is how I have things set up. (And, if you are an adopting family, this is very helpful when you're traveling and have someone else staying at your house with your other kids!)
I have set things up in their room for them to be independent. On Sunday nights we go through the 5 day forecast on my weather app. We pick out an outfit for each day of the week, plus underwear and socks, and head upstairs.
In the bedrooms I have daily clothing stackers. These I labeled myself but you can find pre-labeled daily clothing organizers on Amazon and several other sites. (You can also find some neat daily organizers!) Notice this is visually pretty boring? For my kids who have ADHD and are easily distracted, having toys or other items to catch their eye when they’re supposed to be getting dressed can cause major interference to the almighty schedule.
Every morning my kids get up and grab their clothes for the day. This is an awesome time saver because there are fewer opportunities to get distracted during a hunt for socks, underwear, etc. This also worked very well when Dean and I went to Serbia for Abel's adoption. At the end of the week our caregivers needed only needed to wash those clothes and put them right back in the stackers for the next week.
The only problem we have run into with this system is when Angela decides what she picked out on Sunday doesn't match her mood for the day. I have the same feeling when I pack for a trip and think, "I might not feel like wearing this next week, so I'll bring a couple back-up outfits." She is a girl so I cut her some slack. LOL
While the kids are getting dressed in the mornings I'm in the kitchen getting breakfast and everyone's meds set out. On Sunday nights I put all the medications into dispensers for the entire week for each of the kids. That way on school mornings when I'm getting breakfast on the table I'm not messing with18 different pill bottles! Instead I only need to grab the dispenser for each kid and hand them out. (When I'm traveling I put out the meds for the entire duration of the trip.)
Breakfast is an organized affair. The kids come to the table as they're ready (Axel is always last because he is so.very.slow! He seems to spend a lot of time in LaLa land and has a tendency to get “lost” walking from one room to the next.) We talk about what is coming up for the day, mostly because Angela reminds me of everyone's schedule, because she knows every detail. Thank you God for combining Angela’s ADHD with OCD!
As each of the kids finish eating they head to the bathroom to get faces, teeth and hair done. It's pretty much an assembly line process! Sometimes Angela likes to help the other kids while I clean everyone's glasses and get Angela's hearing aids on.
When they're done in the bathroom the kids grab their stuff for school. I used to keep everything by the front entry but it just got to be too much. (Oh how I wish we had a mud room!) Instead their backpacks and jackets are kept in their rooms.
Shoes are kept in a holder in the entryway.
Next to the front door I keep the various schedules posted which includes everyone's bus times. This is particularly helpful when I have a caregiver getting kids off to school in the morning. I have the schedule written down to the exact minute, including when each kid needs to be walking out the door.
Axel is the most difficult to get out the door on time. He does not have ADHD. We aren’t sure if he has ADD or if 10 years in the institution just did that much damage. It is not usual for him to be doing something like putting on a sock, then notice a scrap of paper on the floor, and since he loves paper, well naturally he has to pick it up, turn it every which way, touch it to his face, and find a pocket to stick it in! So, for him we use a visual timer. This helps him keep focused on the task at hand, which is usually something like tying his shoes!
Probably the most difficult element of the school year for me to deal with is the paper. Oh My Heck, do schools go through a lot of paper! When the kids come home in the afternoon they remove all the crap papers from their backpack and deposit it into the basket. I'm supposed to go through this stuff every day, but by the end of the week it's obvious it doesn't actually happen. Instead the end of the island is covered with school papers and mail, while that cute little basket buried at the bottom. Papers + me = disaster.
So how does this system work? Well, I can get all my kids up, dressed, fed, clean and out the door in 50 minutes. Angela usually only takes about 30 minutes, and Axel needs to really be pushed to make that 50 minute mark. He needs more like 90 minutes but it's not happening. Asher and Abel are pretty speedy!
That's it. That’s all there is to it! Sounds easy, doesn't it? (insert sinister laugh here.) Getting four kids with Down syndrome out the door really isn’t a problem for me. Throw in the ADHD and some very big personalities into the mix it certainly can be a challenge. I have found keeping a pretty strict morning schedule is the best way to beat the morning clock and get every kid on the bus on time!
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