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, 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!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Homeschooling Books: Mobilized and Organized

Books, books everywhere!  Here's an easy way to mobilize and organize all those amazing books!  Have 2 cubes for each child's books.  One cube for only the books being used right now in the day to day, and one cube for the books that will be used later in the year.  As books are finished, trade them out for the new books as needed.  Each day, only one cube is needed for each child this way, and it can easily be moved from cupboard to table and back again.
Emmett's Cube for Now

Wyatt's Cube for Now
Riley's Cube for Now

Wyatt and Riley's Books for Later

There's also a picture of us getting ready for our homeschool year with Bigger Hearts at this link:
Organizing Books

Happy organizing!
In Christ,

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Charlotte Mason: Poetry Reading with Some Bling!

Though I enjoyed language arts back when I was in school, poetry was one thing I liked but never really loved.  I guess you could say I had kind of a "take it or leave it" feeling toward poetry.  HOD turned that kind of thinking around!  What began as a fledging kind of feeling of mediocre appreciation for poetry has blossomed into a LOVE of it - and what's better - my dc feel the same way!  In HOD, poetry begins from a young age within Beyond Little Hearts, and it keeps right on marching through time all the way through Resurrection to Reformation (it is planned in the new guide RevtoRev as well).  I think because of the way HOD has written it into the plans (by matching it with the history, by pairing it with short lessons on poetic devices, by sharing intriguing tidbits about a poet's life, by having dc use it for copywork slowly throughout the week, and by just encouraging enjoying reading the poems together in different ways) - because of all this - poetry is an unlikely well-loved subject in our house full of all boys that believe me, are ALL BOY.  Last year I gave the boys a microphone for Christmas, and it has morphed into the most desired way to "deliver" a poem - actually poem after poem, for even though the plans call for sharing ONE of the past poems studied that was a favorite, somehow everyone wants to do TWO... or THREE... or how ever many I'll allow.  I guess it's become our own poetry sharing time - what fun!  So, for those of you with a "take it or leave it" feeling toward poetry - give HOD a whirl - and if you do, why not do it up big by adding a microphone to the mix?  You may just find yourself taking a turn too!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Teaching Tip: Sticky Notes Make Editing Easy

I remember first reading about Charlotte Mason and loving her ideas - but then floundering as to how to really go about using them.  Heart of Dakota (HOD) just took that worry away.  The guidance given in the daily plans is general enough to keep Charlotte Mason's ideals of written narrations intact, but specific enough so I know how to help my dc grow in this skill from year to year.  We've used HOD's editing tips and seen a ton of growth in my ds's writing.  I like having him write his narrations in the history Student Notebooking pages HOD makes.  They are beautiful for one, but they also show his growth over time.  I've found an easy way to help my ds with his final editing of his narrations.  After he has edited his written narration as much as possible, I just take a sticky note and jot down any misspelled words or missing punctuation marks in the order they occur.  He then finds them in his writing, and fixes them.  This has been a quick way to edit that preserves the look of his piece.  He really likes it and is motivated to have as few things as possible to fix.  Here's a picture of this:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

All Recipes: Shakin' Up Breakfast

We are trying to eat healthier here these days, and it was easiest to start with breakfast.  Wednesdays are our "Shakin' It Up" days!  We started this a few months ago, and it's really been a hit for all of us.  We've really played with this recipe.  We've tried it with variations of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and bananas.  What fun!

In Christ,