I have three kids with three very different personalities. And nothing makes this more obvious than when they are getting off the bus after school.
Alice is my talker. It’s like she has been holding things in to talk to me about all day at school. When she was younger, it would be things like:
“Mrs. A. hugged me today. And I saw Henry’s mom in the lunchroom. And on the playground we pretended to play school. And Ben’s favorite color is purple. And I LOVE library. And in spanish class…”
The topics are a little different now that she’s older, but she still likes to go on and on and on.
I love it.
My boys, however, tend to be the the exact opposite. I barely get a hello before one of them is storming in the house looking to stuff his face with ANYTHING that he can find. He’s too hungry to talk. Too hot to sit down. Too tired to hang up his backpack.
And the other is smart enough to know that if he really tries, he can grab the remote control first.
It’s usually a few hours, and some very carefully crafted questions, before I get to hear about my boys’ days at school.
Whether you have a kid that’s a talker like my Alice, or someone that is more likely to say “fine” in response to all of your questions like Miles (Or – better yet – “FEED ME!”), or a kid that just wants to zone out in front of the TV for the rest of his life (or until the bus comes to pick him up again), these questions will help you get even more information from your kids after school.
Not only will you have a better understanding of what their days are like when they’re away from you, they can also serve as great conversation-starters about other topics.
And if you can get your kids talking to you about the little stuff (like what happened at recess), they’ll come to you with the big stuff later one.
At least that’s my plan…
1. What did [INSERT TEACHER’S NAME / FRIEND’S NAME / PRINCIPAL’S NAME HERE] say today?
It’s one thing to ask “How was Mrs. Smith today?” or “How was Kevin today?” but when you ask what they SAID, your kids have to stop and really think about what they said. I find the answers I get are far longer and more detailed when I ask this question.
And it even works with my husband. I used to just ask him general questions and get annoyed when he neglected to tell me most things. Now I ask him what a specific co-worker said during the day, and I get much more specific answers.
2. What color were your teacher’s shoes today?
This may seem like a funny question, but without asking this, I would never know that my daughter’s teacher LOVES flip flops. She loves them so much that she (apparently) owns 20 pair – even a pair with Mickey Mouse on them. She has a flip flop tote bag that she carries her lunch in, and she even wears flips flops in the winter.
And my son – who used to not be able to tell me many details about anything – is now able to tell me the shoe color of every single teacher he comes into contact with throughout the day.
And my youngest not only knows the color of his teacher’s shoes, he can also tell me the color shoes of everyone we pass. (Read about his first day of kindergarten here.)
Random? A little. But I have to believe that asking them to notice details, and recall that information, will help them at some point in life. (And now I know to get Alice’s teacher a pair of flip flops for her teacher gift, right?)
3. Did anything scare you at school today?
I don’t ask this question every day, but I try to ask it at least once a week. It’s how I found out that they played a game last year where the kids all had to hide, and a police officer walked around the building. If he could see you, you lost. But if he couldn’t see you, then you won. (My son’s class won.)
It’s how I found out exactly where they go in the school for tornado drills. How often they have fire drills. And also how I learned that my son was terrified to climb the rope in gym class.
None of this information came out in our typical end of day talks about school. But it all came out when I asked this specific question.
4. What made you laugh today?
Oh my gosh – the fun answers I get to this question! Some days I get to hear about someone snorting milk out his nose at the lunch table. Other days I hear funny jokes (that I don’t always get) or I hear about something silly their teacher did in class.
Even if I don’t understand the joke or story, seeing their eyes light up and hearing the laughter in their voice always gets me laughing too. And I figure ANYTIME I can laugh with my kids is a good thing.
5. Who did you sit with at lunch? Who did you play with at recess?
I love hearing about my kids’ friends. If I start hearing the same name over and over, I know it might make sense to set up a playdate. If I ONLY hear the same names, then I might want to encourage them to include other kids as well.
6. Are any of your classmates having a hard time lately?
For the most part, I ask this question to start conversations about how we can help our friends and classmates if they’re having a rough time. Maybe we can write them a note, sit with them at lunch or loan them our best markers.
But it’s also how I learned that the mom of one of Miles’s classmates died. That was not a conversation I wanted to have with my son, but I’m so glad we had it.
Mastering Back to School Together
Back to school can be hectic, but it doesn’t have to be hard!
With three kids in school, I’ve learned a few things along the way that help to simplify the entire back-to-school process, while also keeping me sane.
And I’m sharing them all with you!
- The organizational systems we have in place
- The routines we use (and how we remember them)
- Why my kids haven’t missed the bus in three years
- How to have the best first day of school EVER
- How to put an end to homework battles
- How I get my kids talking (and talking and talking and talking) every day after school
- How we manage busy sports seasons without going insane
- The simple tech hack that EVERY parents needs to know
- And so much more!
Plus you can see how I made this amazing command center that keeps me crazy organized – using supplies from the Dollar Store!
Pretty great, huh?!?