My son started high school last month. Which is weird for me because it seems like just yesterday, he was going to kindergarten. The transition to high school, with it's early morning wake-ups and increased amounts of homework, has been pretty smooth. And I think that he, and I, have handled it pretty well.
One of the biggest changes? The kid is taking the bus for the first time ever and he's actually enjoying it. He gets picked up at 6:35 am at the end of our block and is greeted by a handful of his friends. And I assume they do what high school freshman boys do when they get together: tell fart jokes, talk about whose NFL team is better and which teachers are unfair. A ninth grade boy's version of bliss.
Another big change? He cares about how he looks. Waking up early to take a shower even though he took one the night before. Getting more specific taste in his apparel. Caring about the scent of his deodorant. Hmm. Not ready to go there yet.
But after a month of practice, I've learned what's makes the daily high school experience go more smoothly. We don't have it completely down yet because its a work in progress but here are six tips that are making a difference:
1. Nutrition is key. And breakfast has taken on a whole new importance. I can almost picture my kid's body digesting the breakfasts I've been getting up at 5:25 am to prepare for him. Yeah, some mornings he'll be pouring a bowl of cereal but so far, most mornings, it's been protein and carbs: eggs, bacon, grits, fruit, milk and orange juice.
2. Sleep is a necessity. A 14 year-old boy, with all that's going on in his body, needs to sleep. I think he grows while he's sleeping. (I'm a little freaked out by having a 14 year-old who is now 6 inches taller than me and shows no signs of slowing down.) But with an early wake-up time, it's hard for him to get enough. He's not ready to go to bed at 9:00. So we've been aiming for him to be in bed reading at 9:30. No electronics and no TV. Lights out at 10:00. I don't think that 7.5 hours is enough but he tries to catch up a little on the weekends.
3. Time management is imperative. These first few months of high school, I'm viewing myself as my son's assistant. I'm making sure that he has plenty of time to get his homework done. No over-scheduling of week-day activities. And, just as important, I help him get organized for the next day before he goes to bed. No morning scrambling to pack-up. I'm not over involved but if he's not organized, I get a little nauseous. Happily, he's starting to do these things on his own now. And I'm going back to the sidelines.
4. Set aside relaxed time to be together. I'm trying to cook more this year and luckily, my 12 year-old daughter wants to be a part of helping with that. We sit down to dinner as a family at least a few nights a week. With my kids' soccer practices being on different nights, we always have somewhere to go. But there's something wonderful about having that 30 minutes at the table. Until they start bickering.
5. Managing stress is essential. I know what stresses my kid out: feeling like he has too much to do. Yet, he only likes to look ahead a few days at a time. Unfortunately, the magnitude of his assignments, and his block class schedule, make that ineffective. I helped him come up with a system to set up a week's worth of assignments and then figure out what needs to be done and when. It makes him less stressed to see it all out in front of him.
6. Getting physical helps. My kid needs to do something physical every day to get the ya-yas out, whether it's just shooting hoops for 30 minutes with some kids in the neighborhood or the twice a week soccer practice for our town's rec league. Unfortunately, the practice time is from 8:30 to 9:30. At night. He falls asleep very quickly those nights.
All this will change and evolve as the year progresses but so far, so good. It helps that he's self motivated and a good student. Now if I could just figure out a way to get him and his sister to stop fighting.