Helpful Hints for Back to School
About the Guest
Want to make this year's school year better than the last? Barbara Rainey gives moms and dads her best back-to-school advice regarding part-time jobs, homework, home-school balance, and being a light for Christ on campus.
Barbara RaineyAfter graduating from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Barbara joined the staff of Cru® in 1971. With her husband Dennis, whom she married in 1972, the Rainey’s cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry committed to helping marriages and families survive and thrive in our generation. Barbara is a frequent speaker and guest on FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s award-winning nationally-syndicated daily radio broadcast. She is the author or coauthor of...more
Want to make this year’s school year better than the last? Barbara Rainey gives moms and dads her best back-to-school advice regarding part-time jobs, homework, and being a light for Christ on campus.
Helpful Hints for Back to School
Bob: The new school year is just around the corner. That means your schedule is about to get very crowded. So, how do you make sure you keep the main things the main things? Here’s Barbara Rainey.
Barbara: Having dinner is a very worthy goal. How often can you accomplish that? Getting homework done has to be done. How are you going to accomplish that? Decide what those most important activities are, and try to schedule around those. Try to make those a priority in your schedule, knowing you won’t do it all the time, and then see where everything else can fit. If it can’t fit, then you have to start cutting.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, August 14th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Our goal today is to help you get ready for back to school.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
Dennis: Bob, do you remember the story that Barbara and I used to share, years and years ago, about one of our children? Do you remember who it was, Sweetheart, who was standing over the toilet and was saying [Falsetto voice], “Bye-bye, Froggy!”?
Dennis: [Falsetto voice] “Bye-bye—Bye-bye, Froggy!”
Barbara: It was a bean-bag Froggy.
Dennis: It was a bean bag—
Bob: Well good. I’m glad to hear that.
Dennis: —bean-bag Froggy—
Barbara: Yes. It wasn’t a real frog.
Dennis: —that she had dropped in the toilet.
Barbara: I don’t remember which one it was.
Dennis: I just remember going to the toilet, and he didn’t quite make it out all the way through the system. [Laughter] So, we rescued him. Unfortunately, the beans soaked up water—
Barbara: —absorbed water.
Dennis: —and Froggy perished in that experience. [Laughter]
Bob: You’re thinking about Froggy because we’ve heard, since last week—we talked, last week, about back to school and all that’s going on. You said something about parents sharing stories with us—
Dennis: I always wanted to do this.
Bob: —cell phones that have been—
Bob: Yes, that—however they perished.
Dennis: Teenagers who have dropped cell phones—
Barbara: Well, not just teenagers.
Dennis: Oh yes!
Bob: We had folks go to our Facebook® page, and they shared some stories. They shared some with the online transcripts at FamilyLifeToday.com. They also, by the way, shared some additional questions on the subject of back to school. So, we once again have Barbara joining us. Welcome back.
Barbara: Thank you, Bob.
Bob: And we’re going to tackle some of these questions related to how we get ready for the coming school year. One of the first questions was all about—not about classes, and not about clothes, or school supplies—it’s about that period of time from 3:30 until, I don’t know, 10:00 at night—that can be crammed up with all kinds of extra school activities / extracurricular activities—whether it’s sports, or music, or dance, or gymnastics. You had six kids.
Bob: That’s a lot of extracurricular. Did you have a way to handle what extracurricular was going to look like?
Barbara: Yes. We came up with a pretty simple rule. It provided some challenges, but we were very unified on this rule—and that was that our kids could only do one activity in a season. Now, sometimes, they—you know, seasons can be short. If they did—
Dennis: —they overlapped.
Barbara: Yes. So, if our boys did Little League in the spring/early summer, they might again do something in the winter. There are so many sports now for kids that are becoming year-round. You may play on the school team in the fall; but then you play on a traveling volleyball, or soccer team, or whatever—that makes it an almost year-long activity.
We just practically looked at our numbers. We had six; and we thought, “If all six of ours are doing one activity, that’s a lot of running around.”
Bob: Would adding a part-time job be an activity? Could they do a part-time job and be on the track team?
Barbara: It kind of depended.
Barbara: I mean, yes. Our kids did part-time jobs too. All of our kids started working at Chick-fil-A® at 14—
Barbara: —which meant more driving for me because they weren’t driving at 14. So, I’m taking them to the mall for their job at Chick-fil-A. Part of the reason they all worked at Chick-fil-A—my daughter reminded me for this broadcast—she said: “Mom, I got a job at Chick-fil-A because I didn’t have enough allowance from you to buy my clothes. I wanted some cool clothes; so, I went to work at Chick-fil-A to earn extra money.” [Laughter]
Dennis: But even the jobs that our children did were not more than about ten hours a week.
Barbara: Yes. It was minimal.
Dennis: We did not overdo that because it was a 23-minute drive from our house, one way, to Chick-fil-A to make the drop-off. Then it was another 23 minutes back, one way, to pick them up.
Dennis: And plus, back then, Bob, there had been research done that even children who are straight-A students or who are good at sports, there is no drop-off—this is how I recall the statistic—there was no drop-off in performance, either academically or in sports, with a child who worked around ten hours a week. When you moved it up and a child was starting to work twenty hours a week or more, that proved to be a problem.
Bob: Well, here’s what I’m thinking: “There’s only so much time you have after school to get your homework done, to relax, to—
Bob: —“to eat; and then, in the middle of that, is—whatever sport / whatever job—everything else crammed into that.
It can be challenging—and especially for parents of three, four, five, six kids.”
Barbara: Multiple kids. Yes.
Bob: To keep all that juggled had to be a chore for you guys.
Barbara: Yes, it really was a juggling act, but we did our best to manage it so that we didn’t have too many kids doing too many activities. We just did our best. We had some overlap. We ate some meals in the car on the way to ball games or whatever—it’s just a part of it. But we also kept a goal of having dinner together, as a family, a certain number of nights a week. We just worked at that. If you don’t have a goal, you don’t achieve anything. So, if you have a goal that you’re going to eat together three nights a week and you don’t hit it, okay. You may have eaten together once around the table, but that’s better than none.
Look at all that you have, and figure out: “What are your priorities? What are your values, as a family?” Having dinner is a very worthy goal to have in your family. So, how often can you accomplish that? Getting homework done has to be done. How are you going to accomplish that?
Decide what those most important activities are, and try to schedule around those. Try to make those a priority in your schedule, knowing you won’t do it all the time; and then see where everything else can fit. If it can’t fit, then you have to start cutting.
Dennis: One of the things that was kind of in addition to extracurricular activities, sports, and academics that our children were going through—was we wanted our children to be a part of being an influence in their school for Christ. We started an outreach program called RSVP, which was an outreach to the school. We brought in speakers, we brought in magicians, we brought in bands—Christian bands to play, who gave their testimonies. We had some pretty cool talent come to our children’s junior high and high school. We charged the students a buck to attend. They got as many pieces of pizza, for the most part, that they could eat.
Some of the guys kind of stuffed their mouths a little too much, but anyway—
Barbara: And these were always evening activities—
Dennis: That’s right.
Barbara: —a couple times a semester.
Bob: And you guys did this, as parents?
Barbara: Well, yes. We helped our kids. It was our idea; but we gave it to them and said, “Do you want to do this?” So, they’re the ones that came up with the name. They’re the ones that decided how they wanted to do it because we wanted them to learn leadership skills, we wanted them to learn to reach out to their friends, and figure out the logistics of organizing an event—I mean, all of that stuff—ordering the pizza and figuring it all out. I mean, those are great lessons for them to learn. That was another thing that we were all involved in together.
Dennis: But in the process, our children learned about how to be an influence for Christ in the midst of a secular community. I think, as we send our kids off to school, that’s one of the lessons we’re trying to impart to them. It’s not just about education, although that is the primary reason kids go to school—it is about being educated—but it’s also about growing in your faith and using the platform of your school as an opportunity to share your faith in Christ with others.
Bob: Let me ask you, though, about the other half of the day. I’m talking about the hours between when the alarm went off and when they left for school.
Bob: Did you get the kids? Were they on their own for getting themselves up?
Barbara: It was mostly—that was an age-related thing too. I mean, if they were younger, I would wake them up. But as they got older—I mean, even late elementary school—if they were prone to sleep in, then they had an alarm and had to start learning to get up on their own, and get going on their own, and—
Bob: And if they didn’t? If they overslept—missed the alarm / something happened—and now they’re up; but it’s 20 minutes after they were supposed to be at school—did you take them to school?
Barbara: Well, I didn’t leave them that late. I mean, if they weren’t up and downstairs pretty quickly, I was going and finding them, and bringing them down, and getting stressed—I’m sure. [Laughter]
Bob: I just remember when I was their age. I knew that the carpool was coming at 20 minutes till eight. I knew that meant I needed to be out of bed, starting my morning routine, at—
Bob: —7:20. [Laughter] I could do it in 20 minutes. [Laughter]
Barbara: Twenty minutes.
Bob: And that was with me grabbing something to eat as I headed out the door.
Bob: I had it down to a science because I wanted every last drop of sleep.
Barbara: —last drop of sleep.
Bob: Yes, exactly. I think I made my mom a little nervous; but I was always ready for the carpool when it came, even though it was sometimes down the stairs right at—
Barbara: —and out the door.
Bob: Yes, exactly.
Barbara: Yes. Well, we had one that really liked to sleep. She was not prone to get up; and she would rather skip breakfast, not have anything to eat, and just walk right out the door and get in the car. You know, I remember working with her for a long time because we, moms, know that breakfast is important and all that. Finally, I just thought: “You know what? If she’s hungry at ten o’ clock in the morning every day, maybe she’ll decide she needs to eat.” You can only push against the natural tendencies so long, and it just doesn’t profit.
Bob: We had a couple of children who regularly would not make the alarm—it either didn’t go off, mysteriously—
Dennis: Did they ever miss the ride?
Bob: Oh, they missed the ride, and—
Dennis: And what did you do then?
Bob: I remember Mary Ann was dealing with—yes, notice how I removed myself from the situation? [Laughter] I remember this was—we went back—
Dennis: He’s [Bob] still in bed! [Laughter]
Bob: —we went back and forth with this child. Sometimes, it would be taking you [child] to school. Sometimes: “You [child] have to figure out how you are going to get to school on your own; or you were going to miss that day of school.” Of course, that cuts two ways, because some kids are like, “Well, I wanted to miss this day of school anyway”; right?
Barbara: Yes, I know.
Dennis: Yes. Yes.
Bob: It was one of those challenging areas for us—to try to help our kids get this stuff managed. That’s where we had to start—not just saying, “Okay, you have to figure out how to get to school,”—but, “There’s a fine you have to pay.” I do remember Mary Ann say, “I will take you to school, but it’s a $5 taxi ride to get to school.”
So, you [child] had to come up with the five bucks if you wanted a ride to school. That would help clear your insomnia the next morning.
Barbara: That’s a great solution.
Dennis: Yes. Yes. Yes, unless the kids are real wealthy. [Laughter]
Bob: Ours weren’t. We did not have that issue! [Laughter]
Barbara: We didn’t either. [Laughter]
Bob: We didn’t have to worry about that with our kids.
Dennis: You have an oil well or something on the side. [Laughter]
Bob: What about the issue of bullying? Did your kids ever face real bullying?
I had an instance, when I was in junior high, where I was in the boys’ bathroom. A guy came up and said, “Give me your lunch money, or I’m going to beat you up.” I went home and told my parents about it. I remember my mom telling me that I should just stand my ground and not give them the lunch money. If he hits me, hit him back. The next time it happened, I just stood my ground. He didn’t hit me / I didn’t hit him back. We wound up becoming friends; alright? [Laughter]
Bob: But did your kids ever face anything like that, or did you have to coach them on any of this?
Barbara: I don’t remember really any bullies. Now, there may have been some that happened, but I don’t remember anybody in particular being bullied.
Bob: In this day and age, more bullying is happening, online, than is happening face to face.
Barbara: That’s right.
Dennis: Well, one of the things that did happen, though—and this is a subtle form of bullying—it’s not as frontal as cyber-bullying or something that’s really hurtful or harmful in a personal way—but our daughter, Ashley, described going to school and taking a stand for her faith and taking a stand for her standards, as one who was standing on a wall, with people pulling at her, trying to pull her off of the wall, with the wind blowing.
Dennis: She described herself like a steel pole in concrete, standing in the wind, and her friends being like reeds, blowing in the wind.
Dennis: I think that’s a form of bullying that is occurring today around Christian beliefs, where we need to prepare our kids to know how to stand firm in the winds and not be a reed, or know what to do when they fail.
Bob: It’s back to the theme of courage that you talked about a lot last week. We have to teach our kids how to be courageous as they head off to school.
Dennis: That’s right. One of the things that Barbara has done is—she’s put together a number of books that are called Growing Together. The one I’m holding is Growing Together in Courage. There are three other—Growing Together in Gratitude, Growing Together in Forgiveness, and Growing Together in Truth.
This one—about growing together in courage—I think is really relevant today with what kids [have] to face in the culture. As parents, we need to be the ones that train them to do that. A good story—not just a good story—these are exceptional stories that parents can read and interact with their children.
Barbara: It’s a real easy way to have a conversation with your children. It doesn’t matter what their ages are. You can read these to a five-year-old or a six-year-old; and you can read them out loud to your kids, who are sixteen and seventeen because I think stories of people’s lives can be inspirational at any age.
It’s a whole lot easier to read a story about someone who made a courageous decision than it is to get in your kid’s face and say, “You need to be courageous,” when they don’t really even know how to describe being courageous.
I think giving a living illustration that they can imagine by listening to somebody’s story is a better way for them to understand what it means to be courageous when you’re facing a bully, or to be courageous when someone is calling you a liar, or to be courageous when someone is challenging what you believe about God. If you have a story in mind and you’ve heard about how someone else did it, it’s easier, then, to know how to respond yourself.
Bob: If our listeners are interested, we have copies of the book, Growing Together in Courage, in the FamilyLife Today Resource Center. They can go, online, to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link that says, “GO DEEPER,” and find out how to get a copy of the book. Read it at the dinner table as you get ready for back to school.
But let me ask you to apply it.
Here’s something that was written on Facebook—somebody said: “My son has been bullied at school in the past; and I have a real fear, every day, when I drop him off that he’s going to get hurt.”
Bob: “It’s worse at the start of the school year because of the unknown. I’ve tried to teach him about wisdom—about hanging around with the right group of friends. My husband wants to teach him to fight back. What do you recommend?”
Barbara: And see, I think it’s a combination of both. I think it’s helping them understand what it means to be courageous / helping them understand what it means to stand your ground and to not give in—to what somebody is pressuring you to do, or suggesting you do, or threatening you with—and then it is knowing how to fight back if you have to fight back. I think it’s a good combination. I think it’s a great place for moms and dads to talk about it together and give a unified approach because it’s not one over the other.
Dennis: I think where most of the bullying occurs, though, is over the Internet and late at night on phones. I had a leader of a Christian school tell me that one of the biggest challenges parents in his school were facing is that of phone calls that our occurring after midnight on cell phones—and cyber-bullying of boys and girls around sex—boys of boys / girls of girls. A pack of girls can really turn on another girl and can make life extremely miserable and completely tear her down.
I think here’s where parents have to really talk to their children in advance about, “What do you do if…” and maybe role-play some of these issues in advance to talk to your children about, “How do you handle that?”
Barbara: The other thing parents can do is you take your phones away. Our daughter just started doing that with her kids. At night—there’s a basket in the kitchen. The two older kids, who have phones—the phones don’t go upstairs to the bedroom with them.
The phones go in the basket when they go upstairs. You know, so much of this is allowing your kids to be exposed to things over and over again that they don’t need to hear. They don’t have the maturity to see through this stuff—to see it for what it is—so they take it personally.
One great solution is just to not let your kids even possess their phones in their bedrooms because then they’re not going to be on them at night. They need to be sleeping at midnight so they can do what they need to do at school the next day.
Bob: Let me squeeze in one more question, here, that came off the internet. This is about homework.
Bob: All kids have it. Do we monitor that, and—
Dennis: Kind of sounds like a disease—[Laughter]—“All kids have it.”
Bob: Did you try to supervise and monitor: “Are you getting your homework done? How much do you have tonight?” Or did you just leave it up to the child to handle his or her own homework?
Barbara: I probably asked the question way too many times because I—like a lot of parents, I really wanted my kids to do well. I wanted them to succeed. When you don’t get your homework done, you’re just setting yourself up for failure at some different level. I know our daughter has done a really good job of letting her son, who doesn’t like to do homework, not do his homework and suffer the natural consequences.
I think it’s a combination of coaching them—helping them understand that: “If you don’t do your homework, you’re not going to make a good grade on the test; and therefore, your grades are going to suffer,”—and helping them see the long-range objective: “If you want to go to college, you have to be thinking about that when you’re a freshman and a sophomore, not when you’re a senior.”
It’s coaching, it’s helping, it’s finding the best time of day for them to do it—whether it’s right after school, or do they need to have a break and do it right after dinner? It’s also letting some natural consequences take effect, too, because, when they don’t do it and they find out that it really would have been better if they had done their homework, they’re going to be a whole lot more likely to do it.
Dennis: I know a dad who is the father of a seventh-grade boy. This is not the only area where the young lad is kind of struggling. He spent a good amount of time in the principal’s office—and not working there to help the principal out—but to visit with him just repeatedly about behavior in class. Boy, this sounds really, really tough; but this dad just said, “You know, we’re going to redo seventh grade till you get this right.” You know, at some point, if they don’t pass, then they don’t pass.
Dennis: Circumstances were such that this father could do this without it crushing the young man’s identity—he switched schools in the process. I think the point for parents—it’s back to an earlier topic that we talked about—these are days that demand parents be very, very courageous.
They need to be men and women of faith, who know what their boundaries are / what they stand for. If you don’t know what you believe, then don’t be ashamed of asking others for help. This is a great opportunity to tie into a local church that will provide some godly counsel.
Bob: Yes. Well, and as you recommended, it’s a good idea for you to prepare yourself for what’s ahead by thinking about how we can fulfill our assignment, as moms and dads. As you said earlier, it’s also a good idea for us to be pointing, not just one another in the right direction, but pointing our kids in the right direction as well. The series of books that you’ve written, Barbara, that include stories of courage, and of gratitude, and truth, and forgiveness—these are character qualities that we can plant in our children’s hearts as we read these stories that you’ve written in your Growing Together series of books.
If our listeners are interested in more information about any of these books, or about all four of them together, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link that says, “GO DEEPER,” in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. There’s information about the books from Barbara Rainey. You can order those books from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order the books by phone—1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
As we wrap up this week, we want to say, “Thank you,” to those of you who make FamilyLife Today possible. We are listener-supported. More than 65 percent of the revenue we need to operate this ministry comes from people, like you, who believe in what we’re doing and who show your support, either as Legacy Partners, giving each month, or as folks who, from time to time, will make a donation in support of this ministry. We’re grateful any time we hear from you.
Thank you for standing with us in this important work.
If you can help with a donation today, we’d like to express our thanks by sending you a book by Dennis and Barbara Rainey that’s all about praying together, as a couple. It’s called Two Hearts Praying as One. It’s our thank-you gift when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link in the upper right-hand corner of the screen that says, “I CARE.” Make an online donation; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY—make a donation over the phone. Or you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO
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And by the way, if the donation you make today is the first donation you’ve made during 2015, we’ll add a special thank-you gift when you get in touch with us to donate today. We will send you a prayer card that’s designed to equip you on how to pray for your family during particularly challenging times. So, we hope to hear from you.
And we hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend in church, and I hope you can join us back on Monday. David Platt is going to be here. We’re going to talk about ways in which the church and the culture are colliding and how we, as followers of Christ, need to represent Him in the middle of that collision. I hope you can tune in for that conversation.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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