Everything that is worth doing is worth doing well, or so my dear mother always said. Whether it is a holiday celebration, a dinner for 2 or 6, a trip to the Bahamas or the preparing of a perfect soufflé, each endeavor demands forethought, planning and the execution of those plans to ensure success. Although some of us seem to do this naturally and effortlessly, closer inspection would probably reveal the secret to success: hard work and prior planning. When I was a young and naïve newlywed anticipating our first family holiday celebration, I fully expected the entire event to arrive, fully developed on the proverbial silver tray. Had it not always just appeared when I was growing up? Little did I realize at the time that many, many preparations had been done “behind the scenes” to make the event seem so effortless. While perhaps not on such a grand scale as a holiday celebration or a fine meal, your child’s successful arrival for school rates right up there with “you get what you plan for.” And it is definitely worth doing well because the child’s arrival defines the child’s day. Here are the ingredients for a successful arrival:
The Perfect Arrival
The night before:
- provide a nutritious evening meal free of harmful additives (videos, television, cell phones, computers …) accompanied by interested and interesting family members
- arrange the selection of next day’s clothing for easy access
- gather and place all necessary items the child will need for school in one prepared place that is used consistently (tote bag, lunch box, jacket, any notes or correspondence, a book to read while waiting in arrival line …)
- provide a soothing, unhurried bedtime preparation (bath, story-time, lights out …)
- ensure ample, undisturbed sleep for child and self
The next day:
- arise early enough to greet your child with genuine warmth
- assist only as needed as child dresses for school (no switching outfits, stick to the plan!)
- provide ample time for routine chores (making bed, grooming, assembling lunch …)
- provide a nutritious breakfast free of harmful additives (video, television, cell phone, computers, newspapers, magazines …) yet injected with authentic camaraderie (no eating in the car en route)
- provide ample time for your child to collect items from the pre-arranged storage space, all assembled neatly in appropriate containers (totes, lunchboxes …)
- provide ample time for child to put on outer wraps, outdoor shoes, and assist only as needed – the key is AMPLE TIME
- have a signal for load up time that is consistent and stick to it (“Wagons ho!” “Get ‘em up! Move ‘em out!”) Be sure your child knows that he is expected to be ready. We accept children in pajamas!
- have everyone assemble at a pre-designated place, make a quick survey to note that all is in readiness, lock up and load up
- A VERY IMPORTANT STEP: provide plenty of travel time for unhurried, unharrassed, safe travel
- arrive on time! You are not only getting to school on time (8:15 – 8:30 a.m.), you are building an awareness in your child of responsibility, reliability and respect for her school community and its expectations. You are also providing the tone for the child’s entire school day.
- pull into the appropriate line of cars, settle back, and wait patiently. Perhaps read quietly from the book you so wisely planned for the night before, or have quiet conversation about what you see about you.
- keep your child seated and belted in until assisted to leave the car
- say your brief goodbye to your child before the assistant opens the car door. Make it upbeat and cheerful – and very brief. Prolonged goodbyes and hand- holding serve to increase the child’s anxiety about separating from you. A brief, uplifting goodbye says, “I have every confidence in you and your school. You will have a fine day!” Children are amazingly intuitive about our true feelings.
- recognize that, if you have done all of the afore-mentioned items, the remainder of arrival is the work of the assistant and the child
- allow the assistant to accept your child, to include assisting her from her seat as necessary
- as soon as the assistant and child are safely clear of the car, drive away with complete confidence that you have worked hard to create an arrival that will start your child’s day off beautifully
- repeat daily because, as every Montessorian knows (parent as well as guide), repetition breeds perfection
Charlotte Kroger is the Consultant/Mentor for Children’s House Level at Austin Montessori School, Austin, Texas. Following her 14 years of leading Children’s House communities in both Oregon and Texas, she retired, only to return shortly after to her current role.