My Blog Adventure!

Welcome to my blog! It's high time this 46 year old ventures into blog world and joins the ranks of you intriguing bloggers. First off, you should know I love the Lord Jesus Christ with all my heart. I love His Creation, His Word, His forgiveness, His mercy, and His being the Savior of my life. He is my reason for living! After the Lord, my next love in life is my outdoor-lovin', prankster pullin', hard workin' man I've called my husband for 22 years and counting. My 3 sons - to whom this blog is dedicated - have the next piece of my heart, and they fill my world with laughter, love, and laundry. I am calling this MY BLOG ADVENTURE... so hop into blog world with me... let's get to encouraging one another... this could be fun!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Getting dc excited to do odd jobs around the house

Chore charts help with routine jobs around the house, but odd jobs are not routine and cannot really be planned for in a routine way.

I found a fun way to encourage my dc to take on odd jobs.  I take an envelope and write on the outside of it an odd job I'd like them to do.  I put a sticky note with some type of reward inside the envelope and seal it. I then hang it on the fridge in a magnetic clip.  I told the boys I will do this from time to time, and that I will not point it out to them, but rather let them take the initiative to watch for it and do the job as time allows.  They also must let everyone know it is hung and give them a chance to help, but if one person is ready to do it, and the other(s) don't want to, the person can do it without waiting for the others.  The others will not receive the reward then.  Also, a new envelope will not be hung until the one already hung is done.

I've done this about 1 month now, and it has worked incredibly well!  Everyone loves it.  The boys are always watching for a new envelope, and I am getting odd jobs done around the house promptly with great joy.

Here are some odd jobs that I've put on the envelope, and you will see they vary greatly in difficulty and time expended:
*clean out the toothpaste drawer
*wipe down the inside and outside of both of the front doors
*spray down the closet doors and wipe them clean
*go through all of the toys; make a pile to sell and put in a tote, a pile to throw and put in a trash bag (all broken or parts missing toys), and put all toys to keep neatly back in cubes on shelves;  if labels on cubes are incorrect throw them
*go through all of Emmett's Lakeshore games in the homeschooling cupboard, put stray pieces back in the right places, change out the ones he is tired of for new options from the basement
*go through all of the homeschooling cabinet's art supplies, test the markers, throw out anything that doesn't work / that is broken / or that is missing needed parts
*reshelve all of the free reading books you have finished and choose new ones for your rooms
*go through the outdoor toybox; throw broken things, pile things to sell we no longer use, and group things to keep together neatly so they fit well and easily into the toybox
*write Papa and Nana a thank you for taking you to the Christian quartet concert

Here are some of the rewards received written on the sticky note, and you will see they vary as well...
*one pack of gum, you can each chew 1 piece a day until they're gone
*dinner and a movie tonight - with popcorn!
*root beer floats
*a trip to Dairy Queen for cones
*$2 for Wyatt, $2 for Riley, $1 for Emmett to spend as you desire
*let's go to the Cars 2 movie!
*let's go to the Winnie the Pooh movie!
*let's go to the bakery for donuts!
*2 little Debbie treats for everyone who helped
*Let's have the cousins over to play!  I'll pick them up!
*If you included Emmett in helping with the chore, 3 jolly ranchers a piece.  If Emmett was not included,  1 jolly rancher a piece.
*If you did the chore on Monday, 5 tootsie rolls a piece.  If you did it on Tuesday, 3 tootsie rolls a piece. If it's done on Wed. or later in the week, 1 tootsie roll a piece.
*$10 each to Wyatt and Riley, $5 to Emmet to spend as you desire

Anyway - I just thought I'd share this, as it's been such fun and a great way to get some odd jobs done around the house, while rewarding the dc with things I probably would have done with them or given them eventually anyway!

In Christ,

Chores: Using the Summer to Train, So the School Year Goes Smoothly

Summer is a great time to train dc their chore routines.  One thing I have learned when it comes to chores is that a new chore chart each year - even if it has almost exactly the same chores on it - is always a welcome change.  While change is good in the "look" of the chore chart, small changes are better when it comes to who is doing which chores.  Real time - as in years - is needed for dc to learn to do chores well in a routine way.

This year, Wyatt passed on several of his chores to his 8 yo brother Riley.  Riley passed on several of his chores to his 4 1/2 yo brother Emmett.  Everyone was excited and happy about the change.  The olders because they were done with some old chores and got to learn some new ones, and the youngers because they'd grown up enough to do some of the older dc's chores.

When beginning to teach chores, each of our dc began with just 1-3 chores.  The first one they did well with was putting away the silverware (whichever older child is responsible for the cleaning out of the rest of the dishwasher first removes all knives and sharp kitchen utensils before setting the silverware basket on the counter for the little one to put away the silverware).  Emmett has been doing the silverware quite proudly for about a year.  He has now begun taking out the trash bags, tying them (with my help), and putting in new bags.  He fills the sink with warm, soapy water (we put the breakfast pans and dishes in here for a quick soak after breakfast) too.  He sets the table (we all set out whatever needs to go on the table on the counter, and he takes it from there and sets the whole table), and last, he dustbusts all of the edges of the floor of the kitchen.  He does this all in about 30 minutes and feels incredibly proud of himself most days.  Emmett's has 1 chore chart that he checks off with a dry erase marker each day.

Riley gave up the last 4 chores listed above this year, and took on the chores of cleaning the bathroom counters and mirrors and cleaning the toilets.  He does this with gusto, to prove he can do it as well as Wyatt did.  He also took over taking out the bathroom garbages and cleaning the bathroom tub and the showers.  Wyatt and he share a room, so they "deep clean" it on Sat. mornings together now.  The dc wear gloves to use the spray bottles and wash hands directly after cleaning.  Riley has 4 chore charts he rotates through, one for each week of the month.  He marks his chores off each day, and at the end of the week, the chart is erased, and the next chore chart for the next week is hung.

Wyatt gave up the above chores Riley took on, and took on the chores of washing the toilet seat covers and bathroom rugs.  He also took on the chores of exercising the dogs, giving them an afternoon treat, and cleaning up their droppings, as well as cleaning out their kennels, dog dishes, and water dishes on Sat..  One other new chore he took on is vacuuming and mopping the hardwood floors.  Wyatt has 4 chore charts he rotates through, one for each week of the month.  He marks his chores off each day, and at the end of the week, the chart is erased, and the next chore chart for the next week is hung.

All of the chore charts are velcroed on the wall by the fridge, and rotating chore charts have velcro on the back as well to be switched out easily each week.  Each child has a dry erase marker hung next to his chore chart for easy use of marking off chores as they are completed.  Each child earns 25 cents each day if every single box next to each chore is checked off by the end of the day.  They may spend this money on anything they choose. They often all 3 save up for something together.  This is motivating as it is their only spending money.

Many of these chores are on a rotating basis, and we have only 30 minutes for chores each morning, so they are kept to things that can be done within that time increment.  Keeping the chores routine and thinking carefully about the order they are in helps the dc to do them efficiently and quickly.  We turn on Christian praise music and all get busy together on our chores at the start of each day, so it's actually kind of a fun time together.  The chores after lunch and dinner are short, easy, and kept routine.  Everyone clears table, Wyatt wipes the table and all the counters, Riley sharks the whole kitchen, and I do the big dishes and load the dishwasher.  Emmett dustbusts, brings dishes to me, and puts away things in the fridge.  This helps cleanup go quickly, and everyone knows what they are to be doing, and they also know that they may not go off to do something else until the kitchen is completely cleaned.

My ultimate goal is by the time our dc leave our home and have to care for a home of their own, they will know how to take care of their home well.  Eventually, I'll add things such as taking care of the car, changing fire alarm batteries, cooking a meal each week, etc.  Anything that will prepare them to have life skills intact as they become an adult and take on adult responsibilities is game for the chore charts.

So, I'll link the charts here.  I decided it was helpful to make them colorful this year, to have columns of different colors so they can easily find each day's work, to provide white boxes for them to check off for each chore, and to laminate them.  As Emmett is too little to read, his chart has pictures.

I hope this can help another busy mom with how to train dc to do chores well!
In Christ,

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Flexible Summer Routine

Our dc are getting older, and with that maturity comes some ability to plan their days.  I could see somewhere between having things all planned out and having no plan it all would be the perfect summer routine for us.  First, I tried a schedule that was pretty well... scheduled.  It had open times within it, but when we tried it, I could see it was just not flexible enough.  Here is the schedule we tried first...

This kind of schedule worked great the previous years, but now that the boys are older, it's too regimented.

So, I took a different approach.  There were things I knew I wanted in their day, and then there were things I wanted them to be able to decide when and how long to do.  I got a folder, some velcro, and halved some index cards.

The things I wanted them to have in their day for sure I put on index cards first, and if I wanted them to be done a certain time, I wrote that on the card too.  Some things that fell into this category were a 45 minute playtime for each of the olders with our toddler (keeping this up in the summer sure helps the school year go well), life skills time (a time I'm working on training the boys in new chores and life skills for the next school year), a video for Emmett so the olders can have time just the 2 of them, an audio book time,  outdoor and indoor playtime, and a time to encourage others.  I also wanted the boys to rotate through some different things during their playtime with our toddler, like puzzles, lakeshore games, coloring, educational computer, playdough, books on tape, etc. So, I put these on smaller strips of paper too.  I put velcro on the back of each card and on the inside of the folder.  I stapled a ziplock back to the other side of the folder with "DONE" written above it.  

Each day, the boys get to choose an order for their day.  It has already been such a good learning experience!  They are learning to manage their time and work together.  We have figured out a few things.  First, Wyatt likes to tell everyone what to do - he's the oldest, and used to being in charge, so we had to have a talk about how everyone gets input in this.  Second, Emmett just wants to play with either Wyatt or Riley first.  Third, Riley just wants to play computer with Wyatt first.  So, everyone compromised except for Emmett, as he's the youngest.  They do a playtime with Emmett first.  Computer for Wyatt and Riley is second.  Wyatt pretty much picks the rest of the order of the day, and everyone is so happy!  

I just thought I'd share this in case it helps someone else with balancing summer and some sort of a routine!
In Christ,

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Organization: Homeschool Materials

Books, art supplies, paper, guides - there can be a lot of things to organize when it comes to homeschooling.  I finally have found a great way to go about organizing all of this stuff.  First, having all the materials in one large cabinet gives a one stop place for dc to gather everything at once, which helps eliminate wasted time within the day.  Second, having it right near where dc are homeschooling helps them be able to quickly get their things, and helps eliminate the dawdling that goes along with gathering things from different parts of the house where distractions can get dc off track.  Third, having doors is a must, as all these supplies just really do tend to look pretty messy pretty easily.  Fourth, if you need a copier for homeschooling, having it within the big cabinet is another real plus.  Fifth, if you use a computer for homeschooling, having a cabinet with a slideout place for a computer really saves space and is easy to use, as dc can just open the cabinet, slide out the computer, and pull up some chairs to use it.  

Lower sections of the cabinet provide great space for things little ones can grab out on their own and play with.  Higher sections provide good places for less used materials.  It is nice if the art supplies can be fairly mobile (as I mentioned in another post).  It is also nice if each child can have his/her own tub for school with just the necessary books for the day to pull out and use, as this also is quite mobile.  

I have finally been able to get a cabinet that is made of real wood and matches our other cabinets, but we used inexpensive particle board cabinets before this, and those worked well too, provided they were anchored to the wall for safety reasons.

NOW, doesn't this look better again!

I hope this helps someone else with their homeschooling supplies to organize!
In Christ, 

Organization: Taming the Toy Mess

Three boys have a lot of toys.  I bet your dc do too!  We have one tiny room that we used to use as a babyroom but have now converted to a playroom.  We made one wall, from floor to ceiling, a toyshelf wall.  This kept the floor space open for them to play in, and it also kept all the toys in one place.  

I just have to say - canvas cubes are amazing!  Because they are flexible and open at the top, they can fit SO MANY MORE toys in them.  All of the toys in this picture that are housed on one wall of canvas cubes and cupboards used to be in SEVEN separate bookshelves filled with plastic totes in our basement.  That's right, SEVEN!  We had Amazing Space come out and do this wall for us, but I think my dh could have easily done it if he'd seen how they do it.  If you have a handyman in the family or as a friend, I think this would be pretty easy to do.

We put a stepstool for the highest shelves in the playroom, and we put the older boys' toys on the top.  Only my oldest ds may use the stepstool.  We also left the shelving system open on the bottom, as we had an outlet we wanted to keep exposed and available for use.  

I bought the canvas cubes at Target.  I actually chose just 2 colors (red and blue), and bought one of each size I could find.  I used the different sized canvas cubes to measure how many of each I'd need by dumping in the toys from the plastic totes.  Then, I knew how many of each canvas cube to buy, and I knew how many shelves to make and how wide to make them.  I made a pile of the big things that wouldn't fit in cubes, and made two sections of shelves with doors to house those.  

I cut plastic nametag badges (from Office Max) in half and printed off the names of the toys on white cardstock.  I stuck the cardstock rectangles in the plastic nametag badges, and velcroed them to the front of each canvas cube.  

I liked this so well, that I did this with another unused, wasted space - a walkway to our attic stairs.  Here are some pictures of that area:

You can see that things look much neater behind closed doors!  I hope this can help someone else tame their toy mess!  

In Christ,

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Habits: Teaching Music Discernment to Our Children

I grew up with a love for music that I still have today.  Music can lift me up or help me through trying times.  It can fill me with joy, love, compassion, or empathy.  I sang in church with my family from a young age on up, and my dad was in a quartet singing Christian songs for many, many years.  My mother and sisters also enjoyed singing, and we all played instruments.  We were and are a family that loves music, and my family now enjoys music as well.

One thing I did not do for many years was think about the words of the songs I was listening to.  If I liked the sound of the music, the way it was sung, the beat of it, or the chorus, I might listen to that song over and over again, memorizing it but yet not really ever thinking about what the song meant.  I quickly realized when I had children that I needed to change this, as hearing children sing lyrics that are less than desirable immediately puts things into perspective.

I have liked a lot of different kinds of music in the past, but country music has always been my favorite.  In about the last 5 years, I began listening to Christian music almost solely, with some country music sprinkled in.  When my dh gave me an IPod for Christmas, I had so much fun choosing music to put on it.  This is when I first truly realized the magnitude of the words of the songs.  I ended up removing songs and deleting them.  Even just one line that is off seems wrong when sung again and again.  However, our family still likes country music along with Christian music, and my dh listens to country radio all the time with the boys.

I think I finally found a good way to teach music discernment to our children (and to us).  My IPod is for the family's use and sets on the IPod dock in the kitchen for all to use.  Anyone can suggest a song to be put on the IPod, but before I put the song on it, we Google the name of the song and "lyrics" for the song.  We read through the lyrics together line by line, and the minute I find something objectionable, we talk about it, and it may not go on the IPod.  It is becoming very clear to my sons that virtually every Christian song can go on the IPod, but many fewer country songs.  They are starting to realize that many country artists sing a mix of "good" songs and "not so good" songs.  They have stopped saying they really like so-and-so's music and instead say they really like a certain song.  They realize that they can't just assume because a country singer had one song that was okay, that any song by that artist will be okay.  They know they better check out the lyrics before they let a song become a favorite of theirs.  This has taken away the battle of what we listen to and what goes on the IPod.  It has also helped them listen to the words of songs very carefully before they deem it as worthy of learning well.  I just thought I'd share this as it has helped our family enjoy music but do so in a way that is more discerning.

In Christ,

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Chores: Laundry

Laundry is like the Lord's love... it's everlasting.  I used to do a little here and a little there, and it felt like I was eternally doing laundry.  We are a family of 5, which isn't that large of a family, but 4 of the 5 are male... and we live in the country...  and they're avid outdoorsmen in any given weather... and we have 2 labs that love to jump...  You get the picture! Imagine me with just my head peeking out of piles of laundry - not a pretty picture.   BUT, the good news is I do believe we finally have the laundry monster tamed here!

Two big laundry helps...
The first item is where we sort our laundry.  I have a label on each bar for what is sorted into each bin:  whites, colors, towels, and dress clothes.  The second item is a drying rack.  This is useful for many, many reasons, which I'll get into later.  Both of these items are in our laundry room.

The Laundry Routine:
Each of my sons has a clothes hamper in his room.  We do laundry 2 times a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  It is listed on their chore chart as a reminder, but they know first thing in the morning on Wednesdays and Saturdays, they take their laundry downstairs and sort it.  Each son is responsible for sorting their laundry.  We practice this when it is first a new skill.  My dh and I sort our laundry right into the bins rather than having a hamper in our bedroom, but that's because we have a small closet, and a hamper just takes up too much space.

I put a sticky note on the washing machine that says the settings dc should choose for each bin of clothes...
Colors:  Normal; Warm/Cold
Whites:  Normal; Hot/Cold
Towels/Bedding:  Heavy Duty; Warm/Warm
Dress Clothes:  Permanent Press; Cold/Cold

It is important to write down the exact wording of the settings, or they will be confused.

Then, we train each child the steps of putting the laundry in, adding the appropriate amount of detergent, following the sticky note to choose the proper settings, and pushing "start".  

I put a sticky note on the drying machine that says the settings dc should choose for each bin of clothes...
Colors:  Normal; High; Smooth out on drying rack
Whites:  Normal; High
Towels:  Heavy Duty; Maximum
Dress Clothes:  Permanent Press; Medium; Hang or smooth out on drying rack

Then, we train each child the steps of putting the laundry in, adding a dryer sheet, cleaning out the vent, following the sticky note to choose the proper settings, and pushing "start".  We all listen for the buzzer then, and try to respond promptly so clothes don't wrinkle.  If the laundry is still damp when the buzzer rings, we teach the dc to run the dryer for 15 minutes more.  Prompt response to the buzzer and use of the smoothing out/laying on drying rack has made it possible for us basically never having to iron clothes.  While laundry is still hot, I sort it.  Anything that can wrinkle (i.e. pj's, towels, washcloths, undergarments, etc.), I toss into an empty laundry basket.  Anything that I don't want wrinkled I snap, smooth, and lay flat on the drying rack, or in a pile on top of the dryer.  

We all keep the laundry going throughout the day.  At the end of the day when all the laundry is either in the basket or on the drying rack, one child folds the basket items, and the other child folds or hangs the drying rack items (after they've cooled).  The child that folds the laundry rack items places them on each child's "step" to be taken upstairs.  The child that folds the laundry basket items places the items on the person's bed to be put away by that person.  Usually my oldest son does the drying rack items, and my middle ds does the basket items, as they don't need to be folded all that neatly anyway.  My 4 yo has exuberantly joined in by asking to fold the washcloths.  So, he does that now and has also become the "runner"(the child who runs the folded laundry basket clothes upstairs and puts them on each person's bed).  

We do this all again on Saturday.  It has worked well.  Everyone helps, we always have clean clothes and towels, and we never iron.  On a side note, the drying rack is also wonderful for putting soiled wet washcloths or towels, wet swimsuits, damp mittens/hats/scarves, etc.  Then when these items are dry, they are sorted into the bins and washed on the planned laundry days.  We have tried many drying racks, but our very favorite has been this one because it is metal.  The wooden racks break under the weight of too many clothes.

I hope something here can help as you try to tackle laundry in your home!

In Christ,

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Organization: Menu Planning

I like to cook and bake, but the middle of a homeschooling day is not the time for elaborate, time consuming, gourmet cooking.  I have tried a LOT of different menus for breakfast and lunch over the years.  My favorite is a 2 week menu with a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack planned.  Every 6 months or so, I change out a few things for variety's sake.  The lunches are chosen with our dc's preferences in mind, as well as they are all things my dc can make themselves.  The dinners are chosen with my dh's and my preferences in mind, and we hope our dc expand their horizons and learn to like some new things this way.  I jot a few dessert ideas on the bottom of the menu in the blank bottom margin.  I make these whenever I have time.  Many times our dc's dessert during the day is 2 dark chocolate squares, as dark chocolate is quite healthy and easy to have on hand.  Low fat frozen yogurt with pecans, with bananas, with peaches, and/or with dark chocolate crumbled on top is also a dessert we have often that is quite healthy and requires little prep.

When I make the menu, I add anything to the grocery list we need for the breakfast/lunch/snack menus.  I use a pencil to jot in the dinner menu.  I usually  make 3 big dinners a week, with the other days being leftovers from those meals, and Sunday night being something very simple, like cereal or sandwiches.
I usually do our grocery shopping on Thursday afternoons, so I put salads and fresh fruit on the menu for supper sides for the weekends or Mondays usually.  HTH someone else with menu planning!

In Christ,

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Organization: Groceries and Errands

The realization I needed to get groceries usually hit me about when we were out of milk and eggs and bread.  Then I'd be off to the store in a flurry and get home to find out I hadn't gotten half of what I should have.  Errands would pile up too, and when I had a moment to race away, I couldn't even recall which errands I should be doing, much less what they even were.

One simple little piece of paper has changed all this for me.  Here it is...

I know.  It looks pretty simple.  In this task, I've found simple is better.  I've tried set grocery lists.  They just don't work.  Menu plans change.  Food gets eaten that I didn't think would (i.e. dh makes burgers with the beef I was going to use to make meatloaf).  A set grocery list just doesn't work in the day to day for us.

So, I hang this paper up on the fridge.  As we run out of things, we add them under the appropriate category by writing them on the paper.  My dc have this down pat.  In fact, when Wyatt's HOD plans let him know the next week he'd need 1 cup chopped pecans and powdered sugar, he didn't even talk to me about it.  He just put them on the list.  Everyone knows whoever is the last to use something needs to put it on the list, or those groceries will not get bought when they need to.  They also have realized they need to put some things on the list when less than half is left of them (i.e. ketchup and mustard).  

Likewise, each person is responsible for putting on the list items that pertain to their chores.  For example, Riley takes out the garbages.  When kitchen trash bags are beginning to run low, he has to write them on the list.  Wyatt cleans the bathroom counters and mirrors, when bathroom counter spray and window cleaner are close to running out, he adds them to the list.  My dh puts light bulbs on the list. The dc put batteries - and the size they need - on the list as they need them for toys.  Everyone knows what it's like not to have put their things on the list, for they realize it'll be another week before they get them, and they remember better the next time.

For example, Riley has had to use tiny Walmart bags in the tall kitchen garbages, and Wyatt has cleaned the mirrors with a hot washcloth.  I think it is important not to just run back to the store when items are forgotten.  We've run out of snacks before and had to skip snack time. These are just natural consequences for not remembering to put things on the list.  We all know what that's like, as we've all had this happen before.  It is a life skill to be learned, and better early than late.  Keep in mind, if I notice things that pertain specifically to the boys or to their chores are running out, I will happily remind them to put the things on the list.  It's not like I'm trying to have them forget things - but sometimes, I just don't notice things are running out as they are completely in charge of the chores they do.  I also don't spell things for them, as they can look right on the box or bottle or bag to copy the spelling.  I figure this is a good way to work on spelling too.

If they complain about something they needed running out, I ask, "Did you put it on the list?"  If they didn't, I just shrug my shoulders and say, "Well, you better now, or we probably won't have it next time around either."  Before I did this, I somehow was being blamed for every single little thing someone needed that I didn't get.  "Mom, didn't you get me clicky pencils?"  "Julie, didn't you get the 6o watt light bulbs?"  "Hey, where are my favorite chips?"  Now we all share the 'blame' for forgotten items.  It's much more of a family approach even though I am the only one physically getting the groceries.

I also put the errands I need to do under the "Errands" section.  For example, I might write "return shoes to Walmart", "pick up Walgreen's prescription", "drop off video", "get size 11 rubber boots for Emmett", "deposit checks at bank" etc.  If there is a coupon to take, I staple or paperclip it right to the paper, and I hang the whole thing on the fridge in a heavy duty clip magnet.  Then, when I have time to run errands, I grab the list and go.  I have everything I need right there and can leave without wondering what I need to do.  

The minute I get home, I transfer anything I didn't get done (either errand-wise, or grocery-wise) to a new blank sheet.  Works great!   Every 2 weeks I fill out a menu, and add those things to the list as well, but that I will share another time.  I hope this can help make getting groceries and running errands easier for some of you too, as well as enlist your dh and dc in helping stay on top of what's needed!

In Christ,

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Habits: Training the Tiny Tot to Play Solo

My 4 yo is used to having his older brothers as playmates, and I have recently realized the need for him to learn to play independently for at least a bit of time (this realization came when my other 2 sons were hunting with my hubby, and Emmett and I were home alone with him looking to me to be the entertainer... all day... every minute... from sunup to sundown.)

So, now I am training him to have a 30 minute independent playtime each day.  Do you know what has made a tremendous difference?  A tiny table.  With a tiny work surface.  And a tiny chair.

Emmett just seems to be able to take on the tiny table better than a big area.  Plus, he makes a tinier mess.  We set the timer for 30 minutes.  He can change out what he is doing whenever he wants, but he must pick up the thing he is done with first before choosing another thing.  He also gets his afternoon snack when the timer rings (after he's picked up what he played with).

He still sometimes is unsure what to do, and sometimes it seems like this is more a getting out and putting away time than a real "playing time".  But, he is coming along!  I'll be glad the next time the boys go hunting... who knows, maybe he'll be up to a morning independent playtime and an evening independent playtime by then!  (A mother can dream, right?!?)

In Christ,

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Habits: Chore Charts

I've tried many chore charts over the years... Motivated Moms... MOH... and countless others.  I've had the best success with just making my own.  I began by jotting down the things that really need to be done to make our house an enjoyable environment to live in.  Then I decided how often we need to have those things done, and who I could train to do each job.  I am shooting for the middle here - I do not need a spotless house, but I do need a clean, organized house.  I also realized I need certain things to be done before we start school for my own peace of mind (i.e. bathroom counters must be clean, there can't be dishes in the sink, trash must be taken out, etc.).

I began small.  I thoroughly trained each child to do one chore at a time.  I showed them carefully what was expected, and I had them practice the chore with me overseeing it.  I then put the chores on a chart for each of our dc.  I tried laminating the charts, but that didn't work.  They needed to check off each chore daily.  I also needed some chores to be done daily, some weekly, and some monthly.  So, I went to making 1 chore chart for each of our dc for each week of each month.  Each first week of the month, our dc do their Chore Chart 1.  Each second week of the month, our dc do their Chore Chart 2, third week... Chore Chart 3, fourth week... Chore Chart 4.  I also broke the chores up into morning, afternoon, and evening.  It takes our dc about 15-20 minutes to do their morning chores.  We turn on some happy praise music, and everyone is singing, whistling, and working.  (I have my chores I am working on then as well, but they are so varied and change so much as needs arise that a specific "chart" has not worked for me.)  For my sons, chores have been added each summer, and we have now done this long enough that my oldest ds's chores became my middle ds's chores, and even some of my middle ds's chores have become my youngest ds's chores.

Just know the chore charts I am sharing here LOOK overwhelming, but they are not.  They are the result of many years of summer training of chores.  They are also the result of some research on my part... really just trying things, jotting down what needs to be done, and seeing what worked for us.  What works for us is daily checkoffs, even if some or most of the chores are the same every day.  I cannot tell you how freeing it is not to have to TALK about what chores our dc should be doing anymore!  Because I have put real time into training our dc to do new chores each summer, they truly can do them happily and successfully.  They also keep the same chores for around 3 years, and add a few new ones each summer, until the younger brother begins to take over the older brother's chores one by one.  Training our dc in these important areas of general cleaning and upkeep of a house little by little helps them learn life skills that will be useful their entire lives.  This is a bit by bit way of me being able to do this, and it helps me out as I am a busy mom just like all of you!

One last thing, as dc get older, their chores can and probably should reflect increased responsibility.  They really like this!  Why have my oldest ds unloading the dishwasher when my middle ds can do it very well?  My oldest ds is an avid outdoorsman, like his father, and so many of his chores this year have been outdoors.  I often look out my kitchen window and see him playing with the dogs, breathing in the morning air, watching a sunrise, and just enjoying God's Creation for a moment before coming in.  The boys enjoy their chores for the most part, and they have learned to be quick with them.  Yes, there are still chores they don't love, but then that is true in all of life - excellent preparation for being a Dad someday!  

In Christ,

Habits: Body Check and Room Check Charts

Personal hygiene and children don't always naturally go hand in hand, not to mention these needs change as dc grow and mature.  Making simple, personalized "Body Check" charts for each of the boys has helped each of them become more responsible in this area.  I laminated them and hung them in their bathroom.  Each morning they check their chart off after they've completed it.  This has helped us not have to "talk about it" each day, and it has also established the routine of good hygiene habits.  We've kept the same charts for several years now, but I did recently add one for our just turned 4 yo (he wanted his own chart too).  

Likewise the "Room Check" charts have helped each of the boys know what is expected of them as far as keeping their rooms neat and clean.  We laminated the "Room Check" charts as well, and we hung them on their bedroom doors.  They can complete both their body check and room check charts in about 20 minutes or so, and the routine of doing this each morning helps everyone get down to breakfast on time (which means homeschooling usually starts on time too).  

Homeschooling: Check out our week with HOD!

Our 3 sons are growing so much with their work in HOD, and I am one happy, content mama because of it!  Check out our week with HOD in pictures and words at this link...
Our Weekly HOD Check-In

I hope you all had a good week too!
In Christ,

Habits: Earning Priveleges

We are near the close of our school year, and it is always this time of year that I notice our dc are becoming lax in their chores (usually because I have become lax in checking them).  We don't allow the dc to watch much television, so being able to watch a children's video, or being able to do computer, are things our dc look forward to doing when they can.

So, rather than just allowing the dc to play computer for around 30-45 minutes each day as I had been doing during these long winter months, I decided to have them begin to view computer time and video watching time as a privilege to be earned each day.

I have simple charts the boys are to follow each day.  Each child has a body check, a room check, and a chore chart to work through each day.  I decided to award up to 10 minutes for each of these (which results in a maximum amount of 30 minutes of time), as well as up to 10 minutes for cheerful / excellent / complete work in school, and up to 5 minutes for "extra effort" (which is my way of encouraging our dc to "see work on their own").  On a very good day then, they could earn at most 45 minutes of computer time or video watching time (they can choose which they want to do each day), which is what they were doing anyway before without earning it.

We are only 4 days into this, but I cannot tell you the difference in their attitude and work effort toward these things!  They feel proud of their work and what it is "earning" them, and I am so happy with the change.  It DOES require me to jot down the time they earned, but this is worth it as the results have been amazing!  Here are the little forms I made for each of the dc....

I cut these apart and stapled them together in a packet of 5 for Monday through Friday for each child.  I had to laugh as today is Saturday, and they brought me the little packet and told me they were ready for me to check their charts!  They also informed me they had cleaned the whole playroom and picked up and vacuumed the living room in order to earn their "extra effort" minutes - they also brought me a cup of coffee.  They asked if they could earn extra "extra effort" minutes this way as there would not be "school" minutes awarded since it was Saturday.  I didn't even intend to do this on the weekends, but why not?  As I am sipping my coffee right now sitting in a clean living room with my dc happily earning their computer privileges - I am thinking, why not on the weekends too?

This can work in many ways and can be tailored to fit your needs and goals as a family.  First, just start by figuring out what needs to be done in the home as far as chores/habits.  Then after clearly teaching how to do these chores/habits, "prized privileges" can be identified.  These privileges can then be earned by completing the chores/habits you've taught.  I hope this concept of "earning privileges" can help some other busy moms too!

In Christ,

Habits: Keeping House with Children's Help

As homeschool moms, we are home with our children more, and this naturally results in more of a mess being created, more often.  Enlisting our children's help with chores is not only necessary, it has the side benefit of teaching them some important life skills too.

One of the very best cleaning tools we've invested in is "The Shark".  It is a lightweight cordless vacuum that works well on hardwood floors and area rugs.  It runs on battery power for 50 minutes, which we've never exceeded.  Because it is lightweight and cordless, the children can safely use it.  We "shark" the kitchen after every meal.  It has made our kitchen floors look so clean!  We also often shark the entry and the bathrooms, as well as the area rugs once a week or so.  I put this chore on my 8 yo's chore chart, and he goes to town with that shark.  Having clean floors with such small effort has lifted a burden off my shoulders!  The only drawback to the Shark is it does not get right up to the edge where the floor meets the wall. For that, we use a dustbuster, or we have one child swiffer the edge and have another child follow with the Shark.  Our Shark is 4 years old, duct-taped in the middle, but still running strong, even after a TON of use.  Here's a link in case this would ease your burden of cleaning floors and area rugs too:

In Christ,

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Homeschooling: Sturdy Paper... just the right size!

I used to use copy paper for those wonderful HOD notebooking assignments.  I liked the size more than anything, as copy paper slides nicely into clear page protectors, and that makes for one neat 3 ring binder portfolio at the end of each school year for each child.  Plus, copy paper is inexpensive.  This year, I found something so much better!  It is the same size as copy paper, so it still slides into clear sheet protectors, it still even works in printers, but it is cardstock, so it holds up so much better, and it is still inexpensive.  We are in the last few months of our school year, and for my 3 sons it has lasted all year!