By Tracey Dowdy
I love the TV commercials that show a smiling family sitting around the breakfast table, laughing together as they drink freshly squeezed orange juice and politely eat their healthy breakfast in a sundrenched kitchen nook. All that’s missing is the unicorn the children will soon ride to school because for many parents and kids, that tableau is just as imaginary.
Getting everyone out the door in the morning may never be as blissful as the TV commercials but it doesn’t need to be an epic battle or mad dash for the bus. Getting organized the night before and having strategies in place that meet your family’s unique schedule and needs is simply a matter of planning. These apps can help start the day off right and wrap it up in a positive way at the end of the day.
The Night Before
I’ve written about family organizers before and Cozi (Free – iOS, Android, Amazon) is always at the top of my list. It’s invaluable for parents and caregivers juggling the family schedule and will help you keep track of everything from your appointments to your grocery list, so you never find yourself out of bread when it’s time to pack lunches or forget when that science project is due.
Choiceworks (iOS – $4.99) is a visually based calendar that enables younger kids or those with learning disabilities to grasp the concept of time. It’s designed to be used by caregivers and kids alike and, along with preloaded pictures and audio cues, users have the options to customize their calendar by uploading their own images and audio. It’s user friendly, easy to navigate and offers a countdown feature to help children learn planning strategies, e.g. “Three days until my book report is due,” so they can lean to manage their time.
In the Morning
Here Comes the Bus (Free – iOS, Android) has been implemented by many school districts to connect students, parents, and administrators with their GPS-equipped vehicles. Whether you’re live in a rural or suburban area, you can appreciate the value of not standing outside when the weather is less than ideal or knowing you have time to run back to the house to grab forgotten homework. Users can also get push notifications if there’s a schedule changes or when the ride is five minutes away from the bus stop. Plus, caregivers can simultaneously track multiple children on different busses.
Swiftime (Free – iOS) spares you the frustration of yelling the morning countdown – “Fifteen minutes til we’re out the door!” “Ten more minutes!” “Five minutes ‘til we leave!” – by counting down for you from 60 minutes. The app offers 12 different alarm sounds, updated weather information, tips on what to wear and users can receive push notifications even if the app isn’t running.
Once the kids are home from school, it’s time to tackle homework. myHomework help (Free – iOS, Android) uses a color coding system to organize classes, assignments, projects, and tests by tracking what’s due and when. The app syncs across all platforms and supports time, block and period-based schedules. It also sends homework reminders and allows users to connect to your teacher’s Teachers.io class and automatically download class information, assignments, files and announcements.
If like me you had to tap out after 8th grade math, Kahn Academy (Free – iOS) offers free online classes for almost any subject you can think off. Take advantage of lectures, quizzes and exercises with step-by step hints that will not only help you remember 10th grade algebra formulas so you can help with homework but can also help your student if there’s any area he’s struggling with and may need additional instruction. It’s like having your very own tutor on-demand.
Simple things like checking backpacks when they walk in the door after school, laying out clothes and packing lunches the night before, or setting your alarm so you have adequate time to accomplish the myriad of tasks to get your family out the door in the morning won’t mean there will be days you’re tempted to give up and dive back under the covers, but it can mean there’s fewer of them.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.