Tuesday, September 11, 2012

change is good =)

For the first time in my homeschooling career, I feel like I'm in a good groove. Schoolwork and housework are going fairly smoothly (considering my circumstances of 2 kindergarteners, a preschooler, and an infant, lol).  We're following somewhat of a schedule now, which was painful for me to begin, but it’s working out well for us!

I’ve always been a “go with the flow” kinda’ gal when it comes to schooling (and housework). If everyone was in a good mood, we’d do some fun school stuff. If not, we’d wait till later. Sometimes specific school activities would be in the morning, sometimes evening. That’s how we operated for preschool…it was a blast, much of our learning was through our natural environment and woven into our days.  NOW, we’re doing kindergarten. Unfortunately, it can’t be as laid back (maybe we can reevaluate again after everyone is reading? Haha). I’m teaching two boys how to read, write, and do math.  YIKES!!!!!  I needed some structure and a plan, STAT!  I used to be amazed by the scheduled people in my life and couldn’t even begin to wrap my mind around the steps involved to get to that final product….a structured day.

There’s this book, “Managers of Their Homes”, by the Maxwells, which does just that...it helps you to create a schedule by using many small steps which help you evaluate your time and goals. After many days of evaluating my time and my goals for my household (including school, chores, personal time, etc), I FINALLY came up with a schedule. To be honest, I think I got more out of the “process” than the final schedule itself. I discovered patterns in my day that could make things flow more smoothly. So here are a few examples of some changes we’ve made…keep in mind that every household is different, this is just what worked for us. =)

#1 I am waking up before everyone else to start my day off with the Lord…even if I stay in the bed, I try to get in some reading and prayer before everyone wakes up. For 5 years now, I’ve stayed in the bed till I hear the pitter patter of little feet coming to crawl in bed with me. That can be anywhere from 700-830. I used to always say “I wish I could get up earlier…I could accomplish so much more…but I need my sleep.”  BLAH BLAH BLAH.  I was going to start getting up at 6am so I could have time to read, get dressed,  AND do some housework, but because of some chore training (discussed later), it wasn’t necessary to get up so early. So far, it’s working out well. By starting my day off in the Word, I can tell a HUGE difference in how I conduct myself throughout the day. And because of my attitude, I can tell a difference in the kiddos as well.

#2  Chore training: I must say that caring for 4 kids 5 and under keeps me busy. There are always dishes to wash, laundry to put away, things to be picked up, meals/snacks to prepare, etc. Before you know it, the day is gone. So many things are left undone, and I’m left feeling defeated. These days were becoming more and more common, to the point that I was getting down in the dumps. I felt helpless. But while reading the book I mentioned above, I realized that I was skipping an important step in my day: chore TRAINING.  I don’t expect my children to do major chores, but they’re never too young to start assuming some responsibility for their messes.

Ssoooo, we started with my biggest pet peeves: shoes and dirty dishes.  As soon as they walk through the door, I remind them to put their shoes in the shoe basket. Eventually, this will become a habit. But reminding them BEFORE the shoes are missing all over the house saves me some stress. I despise looking for shoes when we’re getting ready to go somewhere and I’m certain I can’t be the only mother alive who has threatened to make their kids go somewhere barefoot. LOL.

As for dishes, part of the solution was to keep the dishwasher emptied after dishes were clean. So we load our dishes into the dishwasher throughout the day. I remind the kids after each meal to put their dishes  and trash where they belong. At the end of the day, I wipe down the counters, the kids wipe down the table, and I turn on the dishwasher. It gets unloaded in the morning when I get up…sometimes I do it, and sometimes I have the kiddos do it. Doing this has saved me a tremendous amount of stress…a messy kitchen brings me down. Keeping the dirty dishes in the dishwasher throughout the day and wiping down the counters when a mess is made has made me a happier mama. J That means I don’t have to stare at a messy, embarrassing kitchen every day. The kids are taking responsibility for their dirty dishes so it’s a win-win situation. J

#3 Laundry….i’m back to putting away at least one load a day. This keeps me caught up, there are no piles of laundry messing up the house and stressing me out every time I walk by them. It only takes 10 or 15 minutes tops to do the laundry if it’s just one load (and the kids help)…such a small segment of time is much easier to find than an hour devoted to a MOUNTAIN of clothes. Speaking of small segments of time…

#4 I am the type of person who likes to start a task and see it through till completion. With 4 kids 5 and under, 3 of which are being homeschooled, I don’t have large chunks of time to work with. It took a lot of effort for me to fight my natural instincts on this one. I would purposely not work on something because I knew I didn’t have the time to see it through to the end. So the whole day would pass and it would feel like I didn’t get anything accomplished…yuck. Now, I have finally discovered the value behind those 5 and 10 minute breaks that just happen to fall into my lap. Rather than calling someone, checking email, reading, or whatever else floats my boat at the moment, I try to work towards my daily goals. If I devote 5 minutes to the bathroom here and there, it will likely be clean by the end of the day. If I wait on that huge chunk of time to arrive for me to clean the whole thing at once, it will never get cleaned.

#5 When scheduling school, I try to do the main subjects in the morning. If they’re not taken care of before lunch, we might as well leave it for the next day. No one’s head is in the game beyond noon.  Through working on my schedule with the book I mentioned in the beginning, I realized a pattern…my kids do best right after they’ve inhaled some sort of food and right after expelling a bunch of energy. Ssooo, we fell into a nice routine after noticing this pattern. We eat breakfast, school, break, snack, school, break, eat lunch, and then we’re done. Any unfinished work is done after *dinner*, one on one with me while Joe keeps an eye on the other kiddos. As long as they’ve either just ate something or just expelled some energy playing, I am pretty much guaranteed to have their attention.  Let me just say that this isn’t how it happens every day, but this is the ultimate goal. LOL J

I am very thankful for that book, and also thankful to Amanda for letting me borrow it. She’s helped me out so much in this large family/homeschooling journey. J 

Now my current goal is learning how to homeschool with more of a meek and quiet spirit.  The Lord is working with me on this continually, and with much prayer, I have come a long way. I want to be the same with my children always…regardless of where I am, public, at home, church, on the phone, in the middle of schooling, etc. Think about it, are you always as meek and quiet at home with your children as you are in the store? Unfortunately, I’m not…but thank God I serve a loving Savior who will forgive me and whom I can lean on for the strength to press on. I fall short daily, but the important thing is that I recognize my flaws and am continually working to better serve Him through all aspects of my life.

All of these things are just that…THINGS. As Christians, we must use every aspect of our lives to serve our Lord.  For me, the changes I’ve made have been guided by Him. I must allow my roles as a wife, mother, teacher, and homemaker to reflect my faith. 
Proverbs 31: 25-28 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.  
Titus 2: 3-5  The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.