Organization key to getting on-time start for school day

Thanks in large part to effective communication established in their children's early school days, along with now having ambitious, active teenagers, there are no sleepyheads in the family of Bellingham's Darin and Kelly Nolan.

Everyone gets up early and on time, especially during the school year. Darin (no relation to this writer) teaches physical education at health at Bellingham High School and Kelly is a substitute teacher for Bellingham Public Schools. Nick, 16, is a junior at BHS and Zach, 15, is a sophomore.

Question: Kelly, any problems with sleeping in?

Kelly: If you say "golf!" (a sport they love), there's no problem. There are days these guys need to sleep, but they're so responsible and driven, they're really good about getting up on their own when they need to.

Darin: We're often out the door before our guys. Kelly and I are up between 5:30 and 6 a.m. and we're out the door by 7. But we would try to have somebody here until they began high school. Nick especially had to get up early when he was a freshman because he rode to school with me.

Q: Kelly, did you face a lot of challenges when the boys were in elementary school?

A: I volunteered at lot at that time, so we had to be more organized than now. I'm not as organized as I used to be before we had the kids. I'd say we're now middle-of-the-road organized. But the boys went to a great school they really liked, Silver Beach, and they were good about getting up early. We grateful that they've always been responsible. The kids have been so helpful in making family life successful.

We had a special table for books, papers and so on. Their backpacks were ready the night before.

Q: Kelly, what's your big tip for parents of young schoolchildren?

Kelly: The biggest thing we tried to do in the mornings is to minimize the chaos! I was fortunate enough to not have to work fulltime. We have always tried to make it a point so you're not always leaving the house in a flurry. Our biggest focus has been to keep a calm, chaos-free environment. But you know, there has been more than one time that I've brought (forgotten) things to school!

(As for the rest of the day), I'd say get a crock pot because you can make several meals. And I confess -- we've done a lot of pizza.

You have to teach children independence, to let them do things for themselves. If you do everything for them, they're not going to learn. So give them some ownership.

Darin: We're very open as a family, all four of us. You need to talk about how you feel; it's when communication breaks down that you have problems.

Kelly: Kids change as they grow, so it's good to be reasonable and flexible. If anything, that's what we've really learned. Just have a reasonable approach and try for a balance.