Family Routines- What We Do After School


After School Routines

Yesterday I discussed how building and using a set morning routine can make your mornings much calmer.  Today I am going to talk about how to put into place a flexible afternoon routine that allows your kids some time to wind down after a big day at school before moving into all of the after school work and activities that follow.

Arriving Home….

After the kids have charged off of the bus, and blurted out about 15 things each that they couldn’t wait to share with me, we all hop into the car for the quick drive back up the street.  This can feel like a crazy time of day- everyone is loud, everyone is (usually) happy, and some are hungry, and some are pretty tired and worn out.  I try to herd everyone into the house, and allow them a few moments to drop their backpacks, grab a snack, and just chill out for a few minutes.  My good friend Lisa calls this time “snack and chat”- it’s a time for the kids to re-fuel and talk a little bit about their day.

Unpacking Backpacks

Once they’ve had a moment to relax a little, I will remind them to get their backpacks, and start the unloading process.  In the past I used to try to get them to do this as soon as we walked in the door, before they had their snack, but I learned that they weren’t ready to be helpful yet- they had worked hard to follow rules all day long and they need that few moments of winding down before they can really listen.

My kids pull all of their lunch bags and snack bags out of the backpacks, and put them on the kitchen counter near the sink (and ideally, it would be nice if I could convince them to actually unload all of the containers from these bags too, rather than just leaving them for me.  I need to work on that one!)  All folders and paperwork go on another section of the kitchen counter (so they don’t risk getting wet next to the sink), and then backpacks get hung up on a backpack stand that I keep next to our kitchen.  (I used to keep the kids backpacks on hooks in their coat closet, but I found that it is easier on all of us if the backpacks stay near the kitchen, and I save the closet hooks for their current in-season coat or jacket.)

Backpack Rack designed by Steve1 Family Routines  What We Do After School

Dealing With the School Paperwork

As they are unloading, I first focus on going through each child’s paperwork, which they have placed in my school papers inbox.  We will look through all of the paperwork together that comes home and we kind of take care of the “filing” as we go through it:

  • If it is school work that they completed at school, then we will review it quickly together, and then it goes into my “temporary holding bin” which is on the kitchen counter.(A little Mom-inside information on this bin.  I think of this as a stepping stone to the recycling bin. I generally toss school papers into the basket for a few weeks, and then empty the basket into the recycling bin once I know that a) the paperwork is truly no longer needed  and b) no little person is going to come looking for their drawing of the green froggie!)
  • If it is a permission slip that needs to be returned to school- it gets signed right now, and placed back into the child’s folder to go back to school.  If it is a reminder notice or a flyer for an upcoming event- I immediately note it in either my monthly calendar of my weekly planner.  If I need to keep the notice for the details it contains (directions, etc), then it goes on a clip on my blackboard in the kitchen- filed according to date- so the item on top is the item that is occurring first.  If I do not need to retain the notice, then it goes into my “paper basket” too.

kitchen paperwork wall Family Routines  What We Do After School

  • If it is a truly special piece of artwork or a really great writing piece that my child did, then I hang it up on the refrigerator for everyone to admire!
  • And if it is a homework assignment that we need to complete, it it placed on top of the folder, and stays on the kitchen counter.  Or if we are headed out to an after school activity for one of the other children, it might get placed on a clipboard so he or she can work on it while the sibling is doing their activity. But the folder stays on the counter, as a reminder to me and my child that we cannot pack it up in the backpack yet.
  • If no homework needs to go back to school, the folder is placed back into the backpack for the next day.  Although, before doing that, I usually check first to see if that child is buying a school lunch the next day, and if so, I will load the lunch money into the folder or backpack at that time.

For us this process can take around 15-20 minutes in total to go through each child’s folder with them.  For my older children who also use planners at school to record their homework assignments, we will review the planner too, and talk about how we will complete everything that needs to get done today.

Time for Homework

At this point (unless we are heading right back out the door), some of my children prefer to sit down at the kitchen table and just get all of their homework done.  So I make sure that I stay in the kitchen (usually I am emptying out lunch and snack bags and loading all of the plastic containers and water bottles into the dishwasher and running it before dinner) so that I am available to help them along, and review their work.  But some of my children would rather play for awhile first, and I think that should be okay too- as long as that child and I have agreed upon a time when they will come back to and work on their homework.

Getting Ready for An After School Activity

I want the kids to be as self-sufficient as possible when it comes to getting ready for whatever after school activity we have planned next.  So I have set up “kits” (mesh bins) for each activity for each child.  These bins are stacked up in the kids coat closet, and it is easy for them to pull them out and start getting themselves dressed and ready to go.  And actually, many days I will pull out these kits and add water bottles to them so they are waiting for the kids once they arrive.  The key to making this kit system work is to make sure that the mesh bins get re-loaded with the gear once the kids return, and the clean uniforms are returned to the kits after they have been washed.

I would love to hear some of your ideas on how you make your afternoons run smoothly.  Please leave a comment below!

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Amelia October 5, 2010 at 11:48 am

Do you miss the days when the after school routine included carrying three sleeping children from the car to the couch??


2 Sharon October 5, 2010 at 8:53 pm

Ahhh……. yes indeed….. the good old days…… now it is just me that would like to be on the couch, sleeping!


3 Anneliese November 8, 2010 at 5:27 pm


I just found your blog while searching for after school routines. What great ideas! I only have 2 children, but we also do the “lunch box on the counter” at our house…

One thing we always do that really helps save time is the minute we walk in the door from school (or anywhere), all shoes are removed and placed on a small square of carpet right behind the front door. That way, we are not tracking dirt/leaves into the house (that will then need to be cleaned up), and we are not frantically searching for lost shoes in the morning while getting ready for school.


4 Elaine March 17, 2011 at 10:44 pm


I appreciate your info. My house seems so crazy when I come home w/ the five kids from school. Four of the five are in elementary/middle school and then I have a three yr old. Half want a snack/; one is doing homework and demanding help before I am even in the house w/ the three yr old. And the other two are fighting; already! It is my least favorite part of the day; especially on a day when all five have been at school- I want to send them right back.

Some days some of my crew empty their lunch boxes; and then the others well it doesn’t happen. I guess my problem is lack of consistency. I start out every school yr w/ a plan for after school routine and it always goes to hell in a handbasket.


5 Londi Murray November 17, 2011 at 12:13 pm

I love your blog!! I have 4 children 10 yrs & under in the house & a 20 yr old out. I’m trying to get more organized, so Im not running aroung like a frantic, stressed out person…which is usually how it is now :) I love the idea of the mesh bins- seems like we are always trying to find unforms, etc. could you post a picture, or tell me where you got them? thanks!!!


6 Sharon
Twitter: sharonmomof6
November 18, 2011 at 10:59 pm

Oh wow- I so wish that I could find that deal on bins again! I stumbled across it at some website about 5 years ago- and I was able to buy a box of 36 bins for less than $70. Now they aren’t the best quality- but at that price, I couldn’t pass it up! I have found nicer ones (for more money) at Target and at the Container Store, and they have remained in great shape holding toys, balls, and other assorted kids treasures over the years! I couldn’t live without my bins!


7 Anonymous November 21, 2011 at 10:57 am

thanks! i will check there!!!


8 Erica Filpi April 27, 2012 at 5:07 pm

After school routine in our house includes computer time. My daughter gets off the bus, we jump into the car and drive back to her school to grab her brothers (Tae doesn’t want to stop riding her bus, and since the bus drives by my house anyway I allow it, however we live too close to the school for the boys to take a bus so they are walkers). We grab the boys, and drive back home. The four of us attempt to get in the house without the dogs escaping *L*.

From 2:40-3 everyone grabs snacks. 3-4 Tae uses the computer and I help Tony with his homework. From 4-5 Tony uses the computer and I help Taelin with her homework. At some point between 3-5 I also help Davan. From 5-6 or 6-7 Davan uses the computer. While I am helping the kids do their homework I am also checking their folders. While making dinner unneeded papers go into the recycling bin, pictures/work goes in a pile until I can discreetly place it into the recycling bin (I made the mistake of getting busted once, hooboy).


9 Sharon
Twitter: sharonmomof6
April 28, 2012 at 1:48 pm

I love hearing how other people deal with the after-school routine. Sometimes it feels mind boggling how many hours a night (and a week) I spend sitting next to the kids and helping out with homework!


10 Lori@Mothering-Matters
Twitter: Mother_Matters
August 29, 2012 at 10:10 am

Sounds like my house! Ae you sure we are not related? :) the only difference . . My kids all come home at different times. Last year we had 5 kids in 5 schools, but this year it’s only 4 schools, AND my oldest is driving now, so that frees up an hour in my afternoons to help the younger kids, get dinner ready, etc!
Thanks for sharing.
I like your black board. I have a similar area on the wall with a calendar, papers and whiteboard . . By its not as nicely organized as yours! I might have to make it look nicer after seeing yours!
Lori@Mothering-Matters recently posted..First Mammogram . . . How to turn melons into pancakes.


11 Sharon
Twitter: sharonmomof6
August 31, 2012 at 7:18 am

Hi Lori!
We must be related organization-ally! 5 kids in 5 schools? That might make me insane…. you really do need to be super-organized to keep all of those schedules straight!


12 Lori@Mothering Matters
Twitter: Mother_Matters
August 31, 2012 at 7:49 am

Yes – all my moms who homeschool tell me “Lori – why don’t you homeschool? It would be much easier than dealing with your schedule and all those teachers!” Last year – i would have agreed – especially with our morning and afternoon schedules. The morning schedule stunk – as we had kids getting on the bus at 7:20 and later – but the latest bus didn’t come till 8:45! It dragged out my mornings and I felt like I got nothing done from 6:30 till 9am other than drag kids out of bed and get them out the door. This year will be much better – with everyone out the door around the same time! YAY! And in the afternoon – like I said, i will gain an extra hour not having to go pick up my son from school! :)

As for being organized – my hubby laughed one time when I told him my church’s MOPS group had invited me to speak on organization. I think he was comparing me to my sister who is almost OCD organized! :) I’m organized in a chaotic kind of way sometimes. I tend to be a “piler” vs a “filer” (I’m very visual! If I file things away – I can end up losing them) – but I am learning how to file more (and purger more) and maintain my “piles” in a more pleasing way. . . . then realize that not everyone is the same – and it’s ok for me to naturally be a piler vs a filer. It’s funny -because I never thought of myself as organized (living with with the queen bee of organization growing up) – but I find that having so many kids – you do it to survive and stay sane! :)
Lori@Mothering Matters recently posted..Fun Friday: How to make Ice Cubes & Bill Cosby


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