By Michelle Rash
It’s hard to believe we’ve got almost 2 months of school under our belts! The schools here start during the beginning of August, typically and end in May (depending on winter weather!) Like most families, getting back into the school year routine can take a bit of time and the weeks are definitely more hectic! If you’re wondering what a “typical” day looks like for us, I have to tell you, there is no “typical!” But I’ll do my best to walk you through some things that the school year entails for us and our kids.
Between the 2 cottages, we have kids in 5 different schools! Our mornings begin early as our kids leave for school in 4 different “waves.” Our first group of kids are up and out the door by 6:50 to catch their ride to school. Then we have a group that leaves at 7, another one at 7:40 and the last one at 7:45. Before they catch their rides, we get them up and make sure they get changed and ready for the day, straighten up their rooms and eat a quick snack. They all have the option to get breakfast at school, too. For the most part, things run pretty smoothly and everyone gets to where they need to go without a hitch!
DURING THE SCHOOL DAY
You might be curious about what house parents do all day while the kids are at school. The answer to that depends on the day! Most days, at least one of our kids has some kind of appointment to attend. This might be a doctor appointment, dentist appointment, counseling, court hearing or family visitation. Some days, there are multiple appointments and with the travel time and all, this can take up most of the day. Once a month, we have an All-Staff meeting and a Direct Care meeting. These are times for us to connect as a team – pray, learn and plan together. On the rare occasion that we don’t have appointments or meetings, we also have other things to get done while the kids are at school, such as cleaning, menu planning, grocery shopping, dinner prep, running errands, making phone calls and doing the paperwork, to name a few! There are the occasional things that come up, like snow days, a sick kiddo home from school, or someone getting suspended from school. In those cases, we improvise and make changes to our schedules as needed. In the midst of all that, we try to take a little time out of the day for some self-care when we can. That might mean taking a nap or hitting up the gym – we all have different outlets!
Just as the kids leave for school in “waves,” they get home from school in “waves” as well. Our first ones get home around 3:15. From there, it’s 4, 4:15 and 4:30. And then the rest is chaos! The ones that have homework settle in at the table to do their work while the house parents bounce from helping them to fixing dinner. Sometimes, there are also appointments and visits going on around this time, so one of the house parents or another staff member is in and out. Then it’s free time/play time until dinner. Once dinner is ready, we all eat together, just like a normal family. Meal time is an important part of the day for us. Not only do our boys like food, but we like having that time to sit with them and talk about the day and whatever else is going on. We top off our meal with family devotions. After dinner, everyone attends to their chores. Each kid, from the youngest to the oldest is assigned a chore. These can change and they have the opportunity to earn allowance.
Typically, after dinner and chores are done, we have some sort of evening activity. And…you guessed it…this varies depending on the day. Some nights, this will be attending youth group. Other nights, it is just relaxing at home and having some free/down time. Sometimes we go to the wellness center and use the gym or the pool. We might play outside. We may go for a walk, play board games, watch a movie or any number of seasonal activities. And then it’s the bedtime routine. Those that are assigned evening showers take turns getting their showers in and then get ready for bed. For our younger ones, we read them a story, pray with them and tuck them in around 8:30. Our older ones get to stay up a bit later and go to bed around 9:45. After everyone is in bed, the house parents wrap things up for the night. It might be picking up the common areas or finishing up the daily paperwork and office tasks. And then the house parents go to bed. Sometimes, this doesn’t always happen. Just like for any other parent, sometimes you have a sick kiddo, or one who is struggling with something and needs some extra attention and encouragement. Things come up and the schedule doesn’t always stay intact!
So, as you can see, there is no “typical” day in the life of a house parent. The weekends are a different story, one we’ll save for another time. There’s no “typical” there, either. But that’s ok – it keeps things interesting and we wouldn’t have it any other way!