Back To School Conversation Guide

MarcilieBack to School, Responsibility4 Comments

Every Fall, about a week or two before my kids start school again, we have a “back to school conversation.” 

When my children were younger (up to around 4th or 5th grade), parents set bedtimes and wake times and then together with our kids, we brainstormed morning and bedtime routines and created routine charts to stay on track. Learn more about creating effective routine charts here: Bye-bye to morning, evening and homework battles with this one simple tool.

As my children grew older, however, I began to get some resistance to bed and wake times, and the visual routine chart lost some appeal. So, around middle school, setting bed and wake times became more of a conversation and we recorded the results of our conversation on a template (it’s still a routine chart, actually, but it lacks pictures now and we fill in the blanks together. Scroll down to see it and get a downloadable version.)

My children are much more likely to wake and get to bed on time when they’ve helped to think through what those times should be.

Here’s how it works…

I pose a series of questions to my children, listen for their answers, and then if we disagree, we discuss our different perspectives until we arrive at an agreement we can both live with. We’ve been doing it for several years now, so the conversation these past few years has been pretty short.

Here is the basic interview guide I use:


What time do you need to be at school?

What time do we need to leave for school to get there on time?

How much time do you need to get ready for school?

Given all that, what time do you need to wake up?


What extracurricular activities would you like to participate in this Fall?

What responsibilities are you willing to take on this Fall (I present some options)?

When will they get done?

When and where do you want to do your homework?


What time do you need to be in bed in order to get the amount of sleep you need? (Since we now know what time they need to wake up, this can often be a simple calculation based on American Association of Pediatrics recommendations).

How long does it take for you to get ready for bed (brush teeth, shower, etc.)?

Therefore, what time should you head up for your bedtime routine?

The Template we are working to fill in looks like this:

Template for a Smooth Transition Back To School 


Wake up time _________

Morning Activities

  • _______________
  • _______________
  • _______________
  • _______________

Leave house at ________________

Be to school by ________________


Afternoon jobs (what) ________________ (when) _____________

Music/other practice (when) ___________________

Homework (where) _____________________ (when) __________________

Other agreements _____________________


Head up for bedtime routine at (time) ______________

Bedtime Routine

  • _____________
  • _____________
  • _____________
  • _____________

Lights out by (time) __________

Download your Template here.

Here’s the output that we have posted up on the bulletin board in the kitchen:

Like what you’re reading? Subscribe to our monthly newsletter here.

Want more? Read on for a few of my favorite articles on going back to school:

4 Comments on “Back To School Conversation Guide”

  1. Love this idea!!! I was just struggling with this yesterday so very apropos. However, it seems as if your “download template” doesn’t work. Could you fix it? Thanks!!!

  2. Thx Marcilie for replying with the link. Doesn’t work for me in the article but the link in your comment works

    1. Thank you for bringing this to my attention! I’ve fixed it now in the article. I hope you find it helpful!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *