Back to the Real World…a new school year.

It was the massive jolt that had to happen. The kids went back to school this week and the dreaded inevitable hit me like a Mac truck, as we switched from Holiday Mode to School Time looking and feeling like the zombie apocalyse.

Waking up at 7.00AM again was brutal. We’ve mastered the sleep-in over the break and while the kids went off on a few camps, I stayed put often staggering out of bed at lunch time, making the most of an empty diary.

While I’m sounding like a human sloth, I’ve actually spent much of the holidays trying to get the kids, house, bedrooms ready for the new school year. In keeping with my belief that we are reborn on January 1st each year, I knew it was entirely possible that we could pull off the seemingly miraculous. That can all be encapsulated in one simple word…ORGANIZED.

Unfortunately, being organized for school isn’t as easy as it seems. It’s not as simple as making sure they have their uniforms, shoes and socks all set out. Of course, they also need the laptop, pen, paper, books, backpack. But that’s not the end of the list either.

“Wait. There’s more!” Since we’re going back to school, I can’t throw in a set of steak knives. That said, school wouldn’t be school without a metaphorical knife in the back, more likely from a friend you’ve loved and trusted, rather than the proverbial bully. Most of us are also pretty good at shooting ourselves in the foot too.

Going back to school is also about a place for everything and everything in it’s place, which means a clean, neat and tidy bedroom…and kitchen table for many of us and some way of making sure the dog doesn’t eat the kids’ homework as well.

That’s just the stuff you need to get sorted before the kids have walked through the gate.


It’s only been a couple of days and all the gumph hasn’t come home yet. This has given me the chance to do what I fully intended to do two years ago when our son started high school. That is, draw up a grid showing the weeks of term on one side and the subjects on the other side. When I’d finished, I printed it out and suddenly my mind went blank. What was I supposed to do with it now? How were the kids supposed to use it? I had no idea. My mind went blank…an empty whiteboard with all of it’s circuits removed.

It was time to phone a friend.

I don’t know about you but how often to you come up with these wizz bang systems but don’t know how to implement them? How to convert dreams/plans into action?

I’m the master. A frequent visitor to organizing stationery shop Kiki K, I have all the tools to plan my week, menu, set goals, and even fly to the moon. Well, that is, if only I could ever get started.

Anyway, the subject grid is now sorted and we’ll write the big assignments and tests in there so we can trouble shoot and plan ahead instead of falling in a screaming heap, which has been our usual modus operandi. With both the kids in high school now, this planning will also help us identify times when they’re both going to be hitting the panic button and we can hopefully prevent a monumental meltdown x 2. After all, each of the kids isn’t living in isolation, but as part of a family and by getting the family machine well greased and in peak fitness, hopefully it will support them. Bring out their best. I feel it’s been holding them back in the past with four individuals coming and going and all sorts of unexpected hazards side swiping us while absorbed in something else.

Clock Sculpture Paris

This brings me onto what is a bit of a swear word around here…time management. How do you help them complete tasks in a timely manner? This has been a real struggle for me and this is what inevitable takes me into Kiki K.pomodoro timer


Recently, I was put onto a time management system called the Pomodoro Technique. This uses a tomato-shaped timer which you set for 22 minutes and then you focus on one task during this time. If you have an idea about soemthing else during this time, you jot it down on a post it note and keep going on the original task. When the time’s up, you can take a 5 minutes break. After four consecutive sessions, you can take a 20 minutes break. I spoke to my son’s teacher and she said that they basically do this and they call these 5 minutes breaks: “Brain breaks”. I also use a device called a Time Timer, which is a visual clock and shows how much time you have left in red and you can immediately see how much time you have left and can plan accordingly.

Yet, along with all this organization and the home study machine, we still need to have fun. We still need chaos, antics, laughter because we’re not machines.


For better or worse, our dogs are very good distractors, comedy and stress relief while also adding fuel to the fire. Today, Rosie one of our 6 month of Border Collie x Kelpie pups, helped herself to a fluoro pink highlighter out of the pen jar on the kitchen table and chewed the thing to death. There was literally a pool of pink ink on the kitchen floor and splashes of ink on her paws. She was a very naughty girl, but she looked so funny that I had to laugh and photograph the proof.

I also went for a swim at the beach this week and it was so therapeutic just to feel the stress fall off my shoulders and drift far out to sea. Phew! What a relief.

A relief and a reminder that it’s all too easy to get too wound up and perfectionistic about all of this. Being organized is good, but it needs to serve a purpose and there comes a point where you have done enough and it’s time to let go. Step back. How far back, I guess depends on how the kids respond. However, experience to date, has shown the need to keep checking back in and knowing when those deadlines are coming up, even if it;s only to prevent a serious bout of gastro, asthma or the like leading to extended absences and avoidance.

It could also be helpful to reflect on our own less than perfect school days and give the kids a breather. They’re not 40 or 50 something and tackling their high school days for the second time. Rather, they’re teenagers on their first way through who also need to learn from their mistaks and find their own way through. By doing everything for them, it removes responsibility, and doesn’t allow them to think for themselves, which could well have greater long term consequences than a few late assignments.

So, as you can see navigating your way through the whole parent teen study thing is riddled with contradictions, but defintiely worth thinking about and not simply going with the flow to give your children the best chance of doing their best.

I would love to hear any tips you might have as either a parent, teacher or student which may be beneficial.

xx Rowena


7 thoughts on “Back to the Real World…a new school year.

  1. Rowena Post author

    I guess that is the real world, isn’t it!! Bought them a bag of bones later in the day and have had word to the walkers. More exercise required. That said, the pink ink made for great photo fodder.
    Hope yo have a great week, Monika. Weekend is almost over here.
    xx Ro

  2. gaiainaction

    Gosh how reading your words brought me back to when my daughter attended school many years ago Rowena! You have got it altogether all right and a very humorous approach too. Wishing you the very best and the kids with the new school year too!
    Kind regards

  3. teachezwell

    Terrific post, Rowena! I couldn’t have said it better. I laughed like crazy at your pup, while I felt such empathy for your management issues. I would HATE that tomato timer and toss it in the garbage, but I do teach in increments with frequent brain breaks. Cool!

  4. Rowena Post author

    I sensed the tomato timer was a bit of a gimick to promote his books. Have you heard of the time timer? I’ve used it on and off and have found it very helpful. Before I used that, I had the unconscious idea that time was elastic. I used to put my watch forward five minutes and then subtract it anyway and the visual aspect of it, showed me that when the time’s up, the time’s up. I’ve used it with my violin practice where I want to know how much time I have at a quick glance and I don’t have to stare at the clock. It also made me think about breaking up my 30 minutes into the number of pieces I had and then again into the onces which needed more work. Quite a smart little device really. I don’t know whether you picked up from my blog that I was diagnosed with hydrocephalus in my 20s and had a shunt put in. Prior to that, I’d done Honours in History and had always been an academic type. Learned to read when I was 4. It was very strange. Within 6 months of my diagnosis, I deteriorated very rapidly and basically became someone else living the life of one of Oliver Sacks patients. I largely recovered after getting a shunt but developed an autoimmune disease and had chemo to treat it 5 years ago which mucked up my sense of time completely. I realized that I couldn’t blae that after a year and I had to compensate and stuck timers, alarms, clocks all over the house. Managing school notes was a nightmare. Last year, I managed to qualify for our national disability scheme and I’ve been having fortnightly OT ever since and had workers to initially help me set my calendar up on my phone and I still maintain paper ones and I’m doing well. Most people who are working, use all these tools to remember anyway so perhaps I was expecting too much of myself in the first place. As you can see, I’ve been on an “interesting” journey and I hope something of that could help others while also getting back on my feet myself. I will be looking for paid work this year so that’s my next hurdle. With your work with special needs kids, I thought you’d appreciate knowing a bit of my story.
    Best wishes,

  5. teachezwell

    Wow. That is truly amazing, Rowena. I am so impressed by your resilience and courage. What a tough life you’ve had and yet you are so funny; I’d never guess you’ve faced so many challenges. I definitely need to read more of your posts! Thank you for sharing your story!

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