Giovanna Fletcher may run a well-oiled machine for her family's school run - but that doesn't mean that the kids can't let their hair down in the car! The podcast host and her musician husband Tom Fletcher share school run duties between themselves, taking turns to take sons Buzz, eight, Buddy, six, and their youngest Max, aged three, to school.
In honour of our Back to School digital issue guest-edited by Alesha Dixon, we caught up with Giovanna to find out how she stays organised, why she thinks patience is key, and the tips she has for parents doing the school run for the first time…
Our typical school run goes something like this…
The one thing I do even before the day of the school run starts is get everything prepped the night before. Literally everything, as much as I can do: all their uniforms are out, if it's a day that might be hot or might be cold I put shorts and trousers out so they can have a choice in the mornings so we've not got any disagreements about what they're getting into.
I'll have all their bags ready, their P.E kits or their music books, whatever they need for that day. All the water bottles are ready to be filled, along with the snacks, and the Tupperware is ready to be filled just to eliminate some of the craziness before it arrives - that is the biggest thing that has got me through getting out the door by 8am. Literally, I've got a little rail by the front door that is for their school coats, blazers, their school bags - they've just got to run and dash.
Giovanna gets everything ready the night before so the kids are ready to go
How we cope when things don't go to plan…
In the morning, they might have woken up in a slightly cranky mood. They might not like the type of cereal that you have or the way you might have cut their toast. So many things can cause meltdowns.
I mean, I always forget things. Don't get me wrong. There are times where - the WhatsApp group - I've not checked it until after I've left the school gates and then I've been like "No!" but as much as possible, I try to stay on top of it. That's the best thing. I leave myself post-it notes and little lists and also just to try and remember the various things that they all need at different times.
To make the school run fun, we...
The Fletchers always try to make the most of their mornings together
We play games, so, you know, I spy type games but for us it's definitely music. Whatever they're into at the time, whether that's putting on Green Day or putting on Sing 2 and just letting them have a little bit of a release before they go in.
I know lots of people who are able to walk to school or use scooters and I'm so jealous of that! I think it would be quite nice although travelling back with three scooters on my back - maybe that wouldn't be quite so fun.
I remember years ago, talking to Marina Fogle about the school drop off and pick up - your child is in your car with you. They can't be anywhere else, they're not focusing on anything else, and it is quite a nice time to have those little snippets of conversation that might go off anywhere, or if they want to ask you questions.
So I love it when they fire out a bit of a curveball question so we can chew on that for a little bit on the way to school!
The playlist the family listens to when travelling…
The kids are huge fans of rock - and of course they love their dad's band, McFly
It varies from things like Sing 2 - I love things like that - or even Kidz Bop, it just makes music much more accessible to kids and they love the fact that kids are singing it. It gives them a broader look at music that's out there that is brilliant, like songs by U2 and a whole mixture of stuff. But then they also like rock bands.
They love their Green Day, their Weezer, they went to the Hella Mega Tour which was Green Day, Weezer and Fall Out Boy so currently they're loving them. They love a bit of Aerosmith, AC/DC. So it's quite a rock car journey, but then Max will throw in Paw Patrol every now and then!
If we're really lucky, they'll let us listen to the radio. So we listen to Virgin, we get a bit of Chris Evans talking mixed in with great music, but it depends what mood they're in. It is quite nice because we could give them all devices and let them listen to their own music, but it's quite nice to have them all singing along together in the back, it's really quite sweet.
To motivate the kids if they're having a bad day, we…
It's really, really tricky, but ultimately it's about going at their pace. I think sometimes we have the energy, as adults, of: "We've got to be at this place, we've got to go, go, go, go, go!"
For the Fletchers, patience and communication are key
But I would say it is a case of slowing things down and realising that it's not the end of the world. Just focus on that child who might be having a bit of a meltdown at that moment and don't let your own desire to get everywhere on time win. It is hard if you ever turn up late because your child's had a meltdown.
But that's life and I think especially for the little ones, who are starting school this year, it's a brand new environment that they're going into. It's a new way of life, it is a very different thing to expect them to be somewhere five days a week.
So, go at their pace as much as possible, and try not to get stressed with your own expectations.
If I could give any advice to parents starting the school run this September, it would be…
Prep all the way. I would say organisation is key and a WhatsApp group, although I know some people hate a WhatsApp group. However, I do think that they are really, really useful when it comes to organisation with sorting things out and getting the kids out to school, it really helps.
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