Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Power of Routines and Systems

Over the last two years our routine and schedule has changed so many times it's hard to keep track. But one thing that I've noticed in that time is how it takes time to get a routine down. Perhaps this is why our routine has changed: it takes time to find what works and what doesn't. And as we've gotten used to one part of the routine, we find ways to make it better, or find other items we need to add to the routine.

While I'm not perfect in my routines, I have a testimony about the importance of a routine. It is immensely helpful to not have to make the same decisions day in and day out. It helps keep arguments to a minimum: one a routine has become habit, the kids don't fight it as much. (I say "as much" because even things we've been doing forever, my kids still fight sometimes. It boggles my mind and drives me crazy. I'm all, "This is not new! You know we do school first.")

I guess it started for me with sleeping and eating. We have always been consistent in those because I feel those are two major factors in cranky kids. And I needed to know when I could be "off" mom-duty and when I needed to start cooking so the meal would be ready when Husband got home. I grew up in a family where dinner was ready when Dad got home. I don't know how Husband feels about this, but I just always try to have meals ready on time. However, Husband doesn't always get home at the same time, so eventually I decided meals would be no earlier than specific times to allow him to get home, if he leaves work on time. Now that meals are at certain times, I don't have to keep telling the kids "no" if Husband comes home late. I have a friend who does the opposite. She wants to teach her kids that the world doesn't revolve around them, so they do wait until Dad gets home before eating. However, with Husband's schedule, this just doesn't work for us. When I would wait for him, I would get frustrated that he wasn't home at a certain time. I decided to let go of my expectations and found a way that works for us.

As I prepared for our third child to be born, while I was finishing my degree online, I was worried about how I would do it all. I began doing the Fly Lady cleaning schedule. I began an evening and morning routine, from things that I was doing any way, but I made it more of a habit instead of deciding every night, "Should I load the dishwasher tonight?" and every morning, "Should I get dressed today or stay in pajamas?" These routines made my life run smoother. I worked dishes, laundry, and getting myself ready into my morning and evening routines.

From there it's been a slow process on getting other routines into place. I am terrible at making cleaning, meal planning, and exercising into routines. But homeschool has become more routine, as have play times and errands. But they seem to be constantly changing. I have found that instead of making a whole new schedule (which I did up until 2 years ago or so), if I add in one item to the end or beginning of an existing routine that I am more successful. For example, I added laundry to the night routine when the laundry in the morning would mess up bathtime and the afternoon wasn't an option because I kept forgetting. Kennedy now loads the washer after she helps the boys brush their teeth before bed. When I go to bed I switch it to the dryer. And the idea is to fold and put away laundry before we go upstairs in the morning.

Homeschool also became a routine in the morning. I was noticing that even on crazy mornings when I sleep in, or when I had to bathe all three kids, we were finished at about 10:00 a.m. This became routine when I decided that school would start at 10:00 a.m. It was time for our morning snack and that signaled the start to school. I had been wanting to add more religion to our school day and since I wanted a snack too, I couldn't begin our read-alouds right away. We now listen to scripture or religious lessons from an app while we have snack time, and then we move into reading aloud Story of the World and then into individual school time. Although, this week, the kids have started school earlier so they can go play outside. It's starting to look and feel like spring and they want to be out of the house. If we didn't live so close to main roads, we'd probably do school outside more. But the cars outside are just too noisy.

I feel like I got on a tangent. Basically, what I'm trying to say, is slowly get into routines. You'll start to find pockets of time where it just makes sense to have a routine. Commit to trying it out and if it doesn't work, tweak it or toss it. I'm still trying to find ways to work cleaning, meal planning, and exercising into my routines. Husband and I started a new routine this week to get up early together. We'll see if it sticks or if we find a better routine for our mornings.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Our Homeschool Philosophy

I finally nailed it down at the start of the school year.

I love to read and research and learn from others. It has led to me reading a lot of blogs and books on homeschooling philosophies. And I tended to "love" a philosophy one month only to not fully implement it and latch on to another a few months later.

I was reading another homeschooling book and starting to fall in love with it again. But I wanted this time to be different. I prayed and spent time thinking about my other "favorite" philosophies and what I liked in them all and didn't like.

My favorites have been Thomas Jefferson Education, The Well-Trained Mind, Unschooling, and Educating the Whole-Hearted Child. What do these all have in common?

I narrowed it down to a few main items that I can include in my homeschool without getting burned out but still feeling like we are doing enough, and doing enough of the right things.

1. Reading

This is something I found common between them all. There was a huge focus on reading books. Some have different philosophies on when and how this happens. For Kennedy we started young and she loves it. Kingston seems a little slower. I'm trying my best to listen and watch my kids for signs of interest and readiness (similar to potty training, right?).

For me, reading is the foundation for everything else. Once a child can read, they can learn about anything else: music, science, history, technology, etc. So we work on gently teaching them to read.

The second part of reading was also encouraged in my research. As a family we plan to read and discuss books of all sorts. Right now we are reading Boy of the Painted Cave, Story of the World, and Harry Potter. The new part has been stopping mid-story to discuss a theme or anything going on in the story. When we started reading Harry Potter aloud I tried to plow through so that the story wouldn't get lost. Now that we are on year 5 and including other books in our read-alouds, I am stopping to talk about things with the kids. It's new and awkward for me, but I'm putting myself aside and doing it anyway.

2. Discussions

The second major "schooling" that I want to focus on is discussions. Like mentioned above, this is new and awkward for me. I am having to train myself to have discussions with my kids. But I feel that this is really what's going to prepare the kids to have conversations with others, to form opinions, to disagree not argue, and to be able to apply things they learn. By discussing books and ideas, they come alive and become part of us instead of just something we know. This is something I feel lacked in my own education. I knew a lot of general facts and stories, but getting deeper and applying ideas did not happen often. I want to change that for my kids' educations.

3. Free time to explore

Because our schooling basically consists of reading aloud and discussions, that leaves a lot of time open during the day and week. I love that. My kids are still young (only one is technically school-aged) and I feel a lot of the time when they play they are making their own discoveries. As they get older, this free time will allow them to really pursue a variety of passions. I want my kids exposed to a lot of fun things so they can begin exploring what they might enjoy doing as a career before that becomes a necessity. They can draw, build, play music, play sports. I don't plan on having many activities outside the home. We can create our own soccer field in the backyard, we have musical instruments in our "big kid" room, we just got 1000 Legos today. This free time really takes pressure off me to do everything with them and to plan our days to a T. But more importantly I feel that it allows them freedom to explore the things that they are interested through each season of life.

I have a sister who once loved fashion design. The next summer she baked and decorated cupcakes all summer long. She even did some for a wedding and a few parties. I always thought how fun it would be to let her not stop at summer's end when she went back to public school and didn't have the time any more to pursue her interests. I want my kids to pursue their interests, however fleeting, because that's where true education happens.

Ever since I nailed down our homeschool philosophy for our family, a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I no longer wonder if we are doing enough. I am able to check off one basic item: have we read aloud and discussed? Then that's enough for today. Through that we have incorporated some math, science, history. I should mention that right now a lot of math is done through games. We have a couple addition and money based games that we can play where she practices adding and using money. For the future I plan on getting more games for the elementary math subjects. Once she's old enough for algebra, I plan on having her teach herself or we will figure out something at that point.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Day In the Life: Homeschooling and Pregnant

I have loved reading about what other homeschool and large families' days look like. It seems our family is finally in a rhythm that I love so I feel more qualified now to give you a peek into our days. Maybe one day I'll make a time lapse GoPro video of our day, but for now I'm going to type it out.

In a nutshell:
7-8 a.m. (ish) Wake up, dressed, breakfast
After breakfast, do chores
Open/free time
11:30 lunch prep
12:15-1 Lunch
1-3 Nap/Quiet time
3-5 Open/free time
5-5:30 Dinner
5:30-6:55 Open/free time
6:55 Clean up
7:00 Family time, then bedtime
8-9 Kennedy goes to bed
7:30-10 Kenny and Kyra spend time together and finish household items for the day
10 p.m. Kyra goes to bed

We get up anywhere from 7 to 8 a.m. Being pregnant has made me more tired and I have decided my rest is more important than getting up before the kids. Many blogger-moms share the importance of getting up early and having time to shower, study scriptures, etc. But that doesn't work for me. I used to be a morning person but I've sacrificed my early mornings to spend time in the evening with my husband. It's what works for us. I get up roughly whenever the first kids wake up.

I started a routine for myself to get dressed and do my hair and makeup downstairs. This started when we had 3 foreign exchange boys stay upstairs. I moved my things downstairs to make room for them and actually like how it forced me to get ready right away. I also started having the kids go potty and get dressed before they go upstairs for the day. In the past we would just head upstairs and often would only change clothes after baths or when the kids get really dirty. Most outfits were worn 2 days in a row. Kingston still hates getting dressed in the morning, and some days I let it slide, but we are getting better at it. I also have Kennedy sort clean laundry in the morning while she's in the laundry room. (We have the kids' closet in the laundry room, I hope to post more about that later.) I am still trying to remember to put soap in the washer for Kennedy before I go upstairs.

Once everyone is upstairs we have breakfast. Since becoming pregnant I don't make pancakes as often as I did, so it's become cereal for everyone.

After breakfast Kennedy needs to start laundry (if I forgot to put soap in, I head downstairs and put that in so she can start the washer). I hope to also get to a post about our laundry system too, that I absolutely love and has allowed my 6 year old to do the family's laundry almost on her own. Kingston unloads the clean dishes from the dishwasher. Kestrel helps him (or not). Now that Kennedy and Kingston can do their chores mostly on their own, I am able to do my chores while they do theirs. I follow a modified FlyLady routine (again, I'll post about this another time).

Once chores are done, our morning chunk of time is open. This slot rarely looks the same from day to day. This morning we took baths and showers, took Kes to the doctor, and read from all three of our books that I read aloud to the kids (right now we're reading Boy of the Painted Cave, Story of the World, and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix). Other days we go shopping. Or to the library. Or the kids play. Or read. Or play starfall or BrainPopJr (we homeschool through My Tech High who gives us access to this one). Our mornings are open to follow what the kids want to do.

At 11:30 I start cooking the main meal of our day. Sometimes I already have had to do some prep work (like making dough or defrosting meat). My husband comes home for lunch and it tends to be the most consistent time that he's home so we do "dinner" at lunch. Most of our meals can be ready in 30 minutes.

At 12:15 we eat lunch. It takes about 45 minutes. Then I put Kes down for his nap. Ideally Kennedy wipes off the table after lunch but this is not consistent enough yet and often includes a lot of reminding and whining.

Kes naps for about 2 hours most days (sometimes more, sometimes less). And while I'm pregnant I often nap during this time as well (the duration changes with how tired I am). Kingston and Kennedy play or read or basically whatever during this time. It's another time of day where I don't plan specifics. If I need a nap then they know they can't bother me during that time. They are usually pretty good and I'm a light enough sleeper when I'm still on mom-duty that I wake if there's ever major problems.

We continue with no plans during the afternoon block as well. Sometimes we have friends over, or go visit with friends, but it's more playing once Kes wakes up.

At 5 I start thinking about dinner plans. Since we already had our big meal, our dinner usually consists of leftovers, boxed mac'n'cheese, ramen, sandwiches, or burritos. We make sure we try to sit at the table at 5:15 (enough time for my husband to get home from work if he's able to leave on time).

Dinner takes about a half hour to eat and clean. The evening hours are spent, again, in open/free time. I've started some evenings doing our read-alouds if we have missed some earlier in the day. It helps to get the kids calm for bed. Other times we have races or I send them downstairs to our new play room where they can get the last of their energy out in preparation for going to bed. Five minutes to 7 is clean up time (this is new but it has helped so much!). It's just a quick pick up of any toys in the main living spaces.

At 7 is our "family time." We sing a hymn, recite a scripture, and say a prayer. We rotate songs and scriptures monthly. Then everyone goes downstairs to brush teeth. The boys and I go in their room and I read some scriptures to them before tucking them in. (I should do a post on our room sharing arrangement and how that recently had to change.)

Kennedy is now old enough to stay up. She comes back upstairs to do her scripture reading and hangs out in the new "big kid room" reading or playing with legos. Her rules are that she needs to stay in there because I am "off-duty" at that point. I send her to bed between 8 and 9 (whenever I remember that she's still in there).

Kenny and I stay up and head to bed around 10:00. Before heading down we let the dog out one last time, lock up, and load the dishwasher to run overnight. We've started listening to a conference talk together before turning out the light.

I'll do a post about how we fit homeschool into this schedule, but this is basically how our days are set up.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Tevye Principle

While reading the book Leadership Education: Phases of Learning, I cam across a principle that I absolutely love and have started applying in my life with astronomical results.

In the book it mentions a Tevye principle that the wife applies when dealing with her husband. In the Fiddler on the Roof Tevye is very kind and warm to his wife, but his relationship with God is transparent. Rachel DeMille, one author of the book, goes to the Lord with areas she wishes her husband would improve and lets Him lead her husband to change, instead of her nagging him.

I find a lot of things I wish my husband did differently. And for the first seven years of our marriage I would try to encourage (read: nag) him into changing for the better. And then something miraculous happened.

I have always felt that we needed to attend the temple monthly as a couple but life had gotten in the way of us making it a priority. I had the yearning again the beginning of May. I prayed for it and then forgot about it. At the beginning of June, my husband brought up his desire that we make the temple a bigger priority and visit monthly. A month is not a long time to have to wait for an answer to prayer.

And since reading Rachel's "Tevye Principle" I have tried it with so many different things. I want my husband to embrace Thomas Jefferson Education (TJEd) and be more of a reader in our family. I want my husband to be more spiritual as I find myself progressing spiritually. And in all cases it has happened. Not overnight, although it is starting to feel like he's changing and improving so much.

I am gaining a testimony of turning over my "problems" and irritations to God and letting Him fix things that I truly have no control over. I am understanding more what it means to pray for someone and to focus on fixing myself and not others. This principle has truly made a difference in my life and has improved my marriage in ways I didn't think even needed improving.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Christian vs. Mormon

I am a big Duggar fan. Well, not a big fan, but I enjoy watching the show with my kids and learning from them things I would like to incorporate into my life.

I also read a lot of other parenting blogs/books from Christian moms. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and I have a firm testimony that this is the full truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the earth. However, in coming to know (a little bit) about other Christian families, I feel that they have a closer relationship with Christ than I do. I know the truth, but they are living it.

Often, I wish I could be friends with these Christian moms that I only read about and share with them what I believe. I believe all that they believe, but I have a hard time living it as well as they do. I know basic scripture stories, have read through the scriptures cover-to-cover multiple times, but still I do not embed scripture into my everyday life. I try to, but in reading I feel like a huge failure in this part of my life.

And yet I profess to have the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But these women and their families are more Christian in the way they live than I am, even after making sacred covenants.

And I feel that other LDS moms (at least the ones I know personally) are in my same boat and that these Christian moms out-shine them as well. Why is that? How can they do so well what I should be doing based on the truth and light I have received?

But I have noticed an increase in spirituality within my home just in the last couple weeks. This is due in part to my own personal scripture study, scripture study/discussion and prayer with my husband, and a general desire for increase. So maybe it's not as hopeless as I thought to get to the point where I shine the light of Christ in my own life.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Zen Moment

I once heard about the word Zen and it was used to describe feeling completely myself and in the moment.

Today I had a Zen moment. I was chopping broccoli for dinner. I realized in that moment that I felt completely at home and myself when I was being a homemaker. It's the job title I often give myself. And when I'm training my kids, or chopping broccoli, I feel accomplished and as though I'm doing a good work in the world.

What about you? When have you had a Zen moment?

Monday, June 8, 2015

How I'm Changing My Mornings (and how I'm getting my baby to sleep through the night)

I am a morning person and find that scripture study happens better first thing in the morning. And I felt that by forcing myself to do it first thing in the morning, I wouldn't get as distracted by facebook, emails, and the internet: I had to read before I could do those.

I used to get up whenever and just do my scriptures then. I would allow my kids to play freely. I was all about sleeping in, especially when pregnancy or a newborn made me exhausted.

Now that Baby Bird is sleeping mostly through the night, I'm trying to get up early. Some mornings he was waking up about 6 a.m. to feed and by getting up after feeding him, before the other kids, was so refreshing. And then he went back to waking at 3 a.m. and then sleeping past 6 a.m. and suddenly I was frustrated. If he slept in, I wanted to take advantage of that and was missing my refreshing mornings.

So I've been working on not feeding him at 3 a.m. and he's been waiting for two days thus far, until 5:30 a.m. which is close enough to my goal for now. I have been doing this by giving him his pacifier when he wakes instead of feeding him. His bed is close enough to mine that I can reach over while laying down to put the pacifier in. Sometimes it takes quite a few (like 5) times of putting the pacifier in before he goes back to sleep. But it's worked thus far and having a baby who's mostly sleeping through the night is awesome.

I'm considering putting him in the room with the kids soon and we'll see how that goes.

Today is day one of getting up early again. I've decided that by making it my choice to get up early because of the refreshment I feel, I'm not missing my sleep as much. And I'm trying to have more faith that the Lord will help me through the day, no matter how much sleep I get (although I try to be in bed by ten, and that happens most nights).