School supplies… new clothes… and of course, the latest Skechers styles for school! As we prep our kids for BTS, we thought we’d get some tips from one of our favorite moms: Brooke Burke-Charvet. The busy Skechers ambassador, fitness guru, entrepreneur and mom of four tells us how she manages the BTS frenzy with her big brood, and what it takes to juggle school with everything else on her plate.
The new school year is here! Do you have any tips on how to prep for the chaos that surrounds back to school?
I think it’s important to get really organized. You have to try to gradually get your children back into a routine – including bedtimes. I like to do a lot of shopping online. Of course, I have all of the Skechers lined up for fall! I also set goals during the summer so the kids aren’t cramming and trying to develop new habits in the chaos of back to school; they read a couple chapters a day from easy, age-appropriate books. I think one of the keys is finding material that children can respond to, that they’re personally interested in. We also make it family time – I get into bed and read at night while my children are reading beside me, which makes it more enjoyable.
How do you make sure that your kids balance their activities with their schoolwork?
I’ve learned to listen to each child and make adjustments along the way. My son plays soccer, baseball and basketball and he’s able to manage that – but he’s going into third grade, so it’s a little bit easier at that stage in life. My nine-year-old’s a dancer, and there have been semesters in her life where she’s had to put her practice on hold to keep up with schoolwork. With my teenagers, it’s a matter of the homework and school load, and finding that balance with extracurricular wishes. I don’t ever like to have my kids overly stimulated. I like to figure out what’s just enough for them so they can manage their school load. It’s really about finding that sweet spot of balance for each child, and it’s different for all of them.
Any tricks that you use at home to keep the kids organized?
One of the great things that I learned from an elementary school teacher and have used since my older daughter was in second grade is a homework box. It’s great for young kids, and it’s really simple. You get a box and you put all of the school supplies in there, everything from glue to scissors to crayons to pencils and markers – anything a child needs at that particular age. So when they sit down to do their homework, they pull out the box, have all their supplies, and they’re not getting up five times. There are no distractions. And it’s been so helpful. It encourages them to be self-sufficient and get organized.
I also just painted my daughter’s wall with whiteboard paint so that she can write out all of her schedules – we painted a certain area and she’s got dry erase markers so she can schedule and add little reminders, which eliminate all the post-it notes.
As a working mom, I use a weekly tear-away calendar pad that I love – it’s basically a big seven-day calendar because I feel like with monthly calendars, you can’t fit in much stuff. On Sunday night, I map out everyone’s schedule for the week: times, school, drop off, pick up, who’s doing what – it’s usually me when I can, but without that visual list, the household cannot run properly.
On Saturday night, I tear the last week off, throw it away and start a new week. It’s a tear-away pad that stays at home, but it’s big enough that I can organize everything on there.
You’re a fitness icon for a lot of women. Do you share your love of fitness with your kids?
Yes, I really do believe in family fitness. And I try to lead by example. My oldest daughter is a varsity cheerleader which takes up a lot of time, but it gives her a sense of loyalty and leadership at school, so that’s really great. Two of my daughters dance. My son plays every sport. My nine-year-old rides horses. It’s really about figuring out what’s enough, what’s too much – and introducing them to a lot of different things.
You come up with simple but fantastic ways to stay organized.
One of my favorites is that I set the breakfast table at night before I go to bed. It helps because with tired kids, nobody can make a decision in the morning, and we’re all rushing. I set it up at night and figure out what everybody wants – that way, I know they’re starting their day out right with a great breakfast. Some days it might be a smoothie on the road when we’re on the go, so I’m at least getting some nutrition in – but on a good day when the table’s set the night before and I know what everybody wants, it’s one less thing for me to do. I can get up a little earlier and get them set up.
Speaking of food, how do you pack healthy school lunches?
It’s really tricky. I try to pack the good part of the lunch boxes the night before. I do healthy snacks, but also let them have something enjoyable, because every kid wants something yummy that someone else is packing. I have a snack drawer with packaged goods because you can only do so much, it has to be convenient – so maybe it’s healthy chips, a protein bar, granola bar, popcorn, seaweed – but it’s easy stuff they can grab. They get one of those, and they choose a fruit.
Some days, I make chicken fried rice, a sandwich on whole wheat bread, or even chicken taquitos that I heat up in the morning and put in heat-saving containers. Every mom knows that half the stuff comes home anyway. Don’t throw it away, bring it home! If it comes home, I know you didn’t dig it. If you throw it away and your bag comes home empty, I’m clueless as to what you do and don’t want. I think the most valuable thing to being successful as a parent is communication: talking, tweaking and listening. We don’t get the information we need unless we ask the right questions.
I also have a little snack bag or cooler in my car for drinks and snacks. Every mom knows you pick up a starving child from school – I don’t care what they’ve eaten or what you’ve packed for them, they are cranky and they are hungry. Hangry is one of my favorite terms… there is nothing worse than a hangry mom and a hangry child! So I always have something like popcorn, nuts, a bar. And drinks like a cold ice tea or a lemonade to hydrate them.
How do you connect with your kids after a long day at school?
One of the things I’ve learned about raising older kids: you pick them up, you haven’t seen them all day, you’re dying for a conversation, you ask them a bunch of questions, and you get completely shut down or blown off. I used to wonder, what’s up with that? I’ve learned to pick up my older children, not say a whole lot and let them decompress. Like, hi – how was your day. Stop, listen, wait. The truth is that teenagers need a moment to let go of the stress of their day. And when my daughter has decompressed for a moment, she’ll engage. Just hitting the pause button and being patient and being more open to listening than drilling is really helpful.
With little ones, we use dinner as a time to connect. We’ll play a little game like “tell me the worst part of your day and the best part of your day.” Because if you just say “What did you do at school?” it’s so vague. If I can tap into specific questions with my kids later in the day, they love to share something crazy, something quirky, something terrible, something amazing. They love that. And that really inspires conversation. So creative questions help get our dialogue going.
Huge thanks to Brooke Burke-Charvet for all of her great advice! What techniques do you use to get your kids back to school?