Before having kids, I’d always heard of people talking about soccer moms—those harried suburban women with a mini-van full of kids having to run back and forth transporting them from practices to games.
I wasn’t sure that would ever by me. But now, after having kids of my own, I’m not a soccer mom. Instead, I’m a softball mom and, at one point, when my son was playing, also a baseball mom.
Peak season in the springtime usually meant practice and/or games 2-3 days a week. That was busy enough but when you pull in games on the weekends, you can see your life getting chaotic and out of control.
So, on any given day, you have to pick up the kids from school, have them scarf down a quick snack, start on their homework, go to practice, get back home, cook them dinner, feed them, and then they have to shower, finish their homework and maybe, just maybe, you can get them to bed at a decent hour.
So, how do we help our children do all of this? The first thing you’re going to need is a giant calendar.
I know, apps work well, too. But for a lot of people, having a big physical calendar is still the best way to go so you can physically see it without opening your phone and going down the rabbit-hole of technology distractions.
List all the events you have as soon as you get the schedule. Put up the practice dates, games, and other school events and see if there’s going to be any time left for other events. You don’t want to over schedule yourself and burn out even more!
Include one very specific thing for you and your family—some quality family time.
Make sure that at least once a week you’re taking a break from all the insanity and spending time without any sports. Watch a movie. Have a quiet dinner together. Do whatever you can but enjoy yourself with your kids.
And lastly, remember that the crockpot can be your friend. You don’t have to kill yourself cooking on top of all the running around and shuttling that you have to do. A slow cooker can help you set up a nutritious meal without having to spend hours slaving behind the steering wheel and over the stove.
Even before our kids are born, we start imagining just how much they can accomplish and how we want to help them get there. One of the biggest “legs up” you can give your children is with daily reading.
Don’t believe me? A recent educational survey showed that if your child reads 20 minutes a day, they will be exposed to almost 2 million words by sixth grade and will score better than 90% of his or her classmates on standardized tests.
Reading should be organic and fluid, so it’s important to work in every opportunity to get a little reading time in. Here’s how you can do just that:
Reading doesn’t have to be from a book
Many people think 20 minutes of daily reading as plopping your child down with a copy of the Cat in the Hat. But that isn’t the only way to get in reading time.
When you’re riding around town, have your child sound out the words on street signs, banners, and advertisements. This will go slowly at first, so be sure to help them out. But as your child builds fluency, you can go faster expecting them to read more and more as you drive.
Also, don’t underestimate the power of comic books to attract hesitant readers. Educators have recently discovered that graphic novels can be a great way of promoting reading, even in the upper grades.
On a final note, television can be a good way to sneak in reading time. Just turn off the volume and turn on the close captioning and they can read along with the TV show (and some of those cartoon shows are a lot less annoying with the sound off).
Get audiobooks and apps
As an early reader, it’s important for your child to hear stories read aloud as they read along with the book. The most obvious form of this is when you sit down with your child at night to read a bedtime story.
But there are other ways for you to get this time in. Some adults may have fond memories of reading along with storybooks and audio tapes as a child.
Now, you can access many of these from sources like Audible. The energetic narrators will engage your child. For younger children, you can help them with word acquisition and phonics. Apps are available, such as Homer and Reading Magic, which can do just that. Finally, check out your local library and look for audio reading kits and books on CD.
Library play date
Speaking of the library, it’s important that you introduce your child to this wonderful place so it can become a fixture in their lives. Take your child to the library for a play date and let them explore the books. Pick one out they would like to take home for the week.
A good rule of thumb is to let your child pick one for themselves while you pick one for him or her based on your preferences. Be sure to get a book for yourself. Seeing that you value reading in your own life is a great way to encourage reading.
While you’re at the library, check out the schedule of activities and be sure to stop by regularly for story time—another great way to sneak in some reading.
Prepare to enjoy the benefits of your child reading
If reading becomes a chore, then your plan to help your child is going to backfire and they will see reading as work. Take time to subtly work in the reading without them realizing it and you have a chance to give them an advantage in today’s highly competitive world.