Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Routines, Part Two: Our Chore Routines

As I said in my last post, I have been tweaking and updating our routines for this fall. I think of "our routine" as three routines, really. We have our daily routine, our chore routine, and our school routine. This post is about our most recent chore routine. Maybe not the most exciting thing in the world, but very necessary around here. 

Our daily routine includes three major chore times: morning, noon, and evening. I don't like chores to take up the whole day, and I don't like feeling as though I am never done.  Having a chore routine pinned to each mealtime helps us spread the workload throughout the day. And when the list is completed, so is that chore time. And that is a really nice feeling!

I slipped our finished chore chart inside a page protector, so we can use dry erase markers to cross things off. I love crossing things off, and the kids seem to enjoy it too. It is encouraging to have a clear visual of your progress. At chore time I put the chart on the kitchen counter and call everyone from wherever they are (probably hiding, to try to avoid work!). My hope is that eventually everyone will get used to referring to the chart to see what needs doing, rather than always asking me. Now whenever someone says "What should I do now?" or "Aren't we done yet??" I can say, "Check the list - is everything crossed off?"

We have been using our new chore system for about two weeks, and so far so good. We don't seem to be any quicker at chore time, but it feels more peaceful, and efficiency may come with time. I can hope!

Our chore chart has two parts: first, we have "morning", "noon", and "evening" chores. Then, we have chores specific to each day. The kids all have their own color on the chart, so they can see at a glance what they need to take care of.  Rose is pink, Grace is purple, etc. All other chores are in regular black ink, and everyone is expected to help out with them. I tried to photograph the chart, but it just wasn't coming out well. So just know that I do not do all of these chores by myself. The kids play a major role in keeping things running around here.

Morning Chores
  • Feed and water all animals (the kids rotate who does what)
  • Empty dishwasher & pick up kitchen
  • Set out vitamins/meds
  • Set out breakfast items
  • Quick tidy of downstairs room
  • Wipe down bathrooms
  • Sweep downstairs
  • Start laundry
  • Clean up breakfast
  • Tidy up bedrooms and make beds
  • Water plants as needed (once or twice a week)

Noon Chores
  • Check animal water
  • Collect eggs, clean and store, deliver kitchen scraps to chickens
  • Give goats a hay refill & check their mineral salt
  • Empty dishwasher
  • Make lunch
  • Feed puppy
  • Get mail and sort it
  • Work on laundry
  • Tidy house (just a quick tidy)
  • Check if anything needs prepping for dinner (starting crockpot, chopping vegetables, etc..)

Evening Chores
  • Feed and water all animals, check on bedding
  • Empty dishwasher
  • Check hummingbird feeders; refill as necessary
  • Get paper
  • Collect eggs, clean and store
  • Finish laundry
  • Tidy house
  • Put away laundry
  • Set table
  • Run vacuum as needed
  • File school papers
  • Meds (just a reminder, if any person or animal is currently on a prescription)

Day-Specific Chores

Most of our day-specific jobs are assigned to the kids, except for cleaning the rooms of the day, which is my responsibility. Please know that the room cleaning part frequently falls through the cracks! There is just not enough time in the day!

  • Empty hampers (everyone does their own)
  • Brush dog
  • Clean living areas
  • Look under furniture to find lost dog toys 

  • Clip nails (Yes I need a reminder for this, or some of the will kids end up with claws)
  • Check library records/renew books
  • Sweep back porch
  • Put away all items by staircase
  • Clean dining area and sunporch

  • Collect empty hangers from bedrooms (everyone does their own)
  • Fill up chicken and duck feeders
  • Brush cat
  • Brush dogs
  • Clean bathrooms and laundry room

  • Empty hampers
  • Strip sheets and remake beds (everyone does their own)
  • Clean master bedroom and library

  • Dust bedrooms (everyone does their own)
  • Clean kitchen

  • Vacuum kids' bedrooms (they do their own, I help Rose)
  • Make grocery list
  • Clean animal houses and areas
  • Cut grass
  • Vacuum car
  • Trash day

  • Sweep front porch 
  • Weed a flower bed, if time
  • Plan out week

So that is our current plan, being tweaked all the time, but it's working fairly well. We are pretty successful with our morning, noon, and evening chores and most of the daily chores. The thing I consistently have trouble fitting in is the "room of the day" cleaning - so things like dusting, washing floors, decluttering surfaces and whatnot don't happen quite as easily and often as I would like. Not sure there is anything to do about that right now, so I just squeeze in what I can.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Routines, Part One: Our Daily Routine

I spend some time each summer tweaking and updating our weekly routine, and this year was no different. In fact, this year we need to be more structured than usual because we have so much going on. I have come to the conclusion that we really need to have everything written out, and that we must be organized and purposeful about how we approach our day. I feel a bit misty-eyed for the days when we could just roll out of bed and go about the day haphazardly, but that is just not our reality right now, so routine it is! We actually have three sets of routines. This post is about our general routine, and my next two posts will share our chore routine and our homeschooling routine.

Obviously no single routine will work for all families, because every family is so different. This is what works for us right now, but next month or next year it will need tweaking again. We did not need this level of organization when the kids were younger, and we did not need it when the kids were less busy.

This year, I have four homeschoolers...second grade, fifth grade, seventh grade, and ninth grade. The kids have one activity each, but most of their activities meet twice a week. We usually participate in a weekly homeschool group, and probably get together with friends outside of the activities about twice a  month. We have a house and good-sized yard to maintain (or not), and we have goats, chickens, ducks, a cat, a dog, and a new puppy. We also live about 25 minutes away from pretty much everything, so that is a factor in how much time we (don't) have.

There are lots of things I do, but there are plenty of things I don't do, and that is what makes life manageable more than anything else.  I don't do much gardening right now and my vegetable garden is a total wreck. I don't do much yardwork or lawn husband cuts the grass and we try to have one or two weekends a year where everyone works to clean things up, but other than that we pretty much let things go. I generally take care of errands while the kids are at activities, but I don't do the grocery shopping (dh does). I don't spend any time on social media (I know, I'm weird, but it's just one of those things I chose to let go when time became an issue...I don't miss it at all.). I don't throw fancy birthday parties for my kids, and we often decline invitations if they don't fit in easily with the rest of our life, if we don't know the family well, or if they only include one child. We aren't big "playdate" people. We all enjoy cooking, but we save fancy things for special occasions.

 There are plenty of other things I don't do; those are just some off the top of my head. I would love to do some of the things on my "don't" list, but I need to be careful about how I spend my time. My tendency is to take on too much and wind up totally frazzled. I make time for homeschooling the kids, exercise and sleep, driving the kids around, my writing, basic household chores, and my own reading (which I do at night or during odd moments). I knit if we watch a movie, otherwise I don't. I try to keep meals as simple as I can, but we use a lot of fresh vegetables, which take time to prepare.  The older kids each have one night a week to cook dinner for us all, which helps a bit. 

Writing up this routine was a real eye-opener for me, because it forced me to consider how much time I really have in a day and how I want to use that time. It can actually be very freeing to realize that you don't have time for certain things! Having my routine to refer to keeps me on track throughout the day, but if we have an invitation to meet a friend or the weather is really nice, I am definitely okay with it getting messed up! While I enjoy having a routine, I have no intention of being a slave to it.

I use Excel for making up this routine; days of the week went across the top and half-hour time slots went down the left hand side. I used color coding to shade the boxes and to add a little interest.

The color coding doesn't really show up in the photo, but I used:

  • Gray for chores, personal care, exercise, meal prep, and meals.... the backbone of our routine
  • Light blue for time set aside for homeschooling
  • Green for classes and outside commitments - green for go! The text for outside commitments is bright red so I can't miss it
  • Purple for writing time

First I plugged in the green - all of our classes, lessons, group meetings, picking up the farm share...stuff that is fixed every week. Some of these are still a bit up in the air right now, but I just did the best I could. We have a busy year planned, but I am hoping that all of the kids' lessons will fit on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, with Friday for homeschool group and/or library trips. I am trying very hard to keep Monday and Wednesday free, because I find that I really need a couple of days each week to just stay home! I have also started trying to schedule any appointments on Tuesdays and Thursdays, to protect my two free days.

Next I plugged in the gray - the backbone of our routine. I usually exercise, shower, and do a few chores before starting lessons, and the kids have chores as well. Around noon we have another chore time to take care of animals, switch over laundry, sort the mail, make lunch, and do a quick clean up. We also have an evening chore time to do more animal care, clean up the house, finish laundry, get dinner going, etc. Our chore routines are not simple with so many people helping and so many animals, so I made a separate chart just for chores. My hope is that this master list of chores will encourage everyone to work more independently and more quickly, without constantly asking what to do next.  Chore routines will be in a separate post.

Next up the blue - our lesson times. This year I have 8:00-2:30 set aside for our lessons, though Friday will be a shorter day. Our lesson time has it's own routine, which I will share another day. I listed "corrections" under our homeschool slot to remind myself to work on correcting the kids' papers as I have free time between lessons. Much better than having to deal with a pile at the end of the day.

And finally the purple - my writing time.  I try to set aside a few hours to write each week - sometimes for this blog, sometimes for other projects. My goal is ten hours per week; so far I have seven hours plugged in between our free afternoons and evenings when we are home - the kids play video games with their Dad some evenings and I use that time to write.

I'm going to share our general routine here, because I always find it helpful to see how other people set up their day...but please know that the times are very approximate...we are not slaves to the clock here. I do find it helpful to attach times to the routine at first, so I can judge how long things might take. It also helps me be more realistic about how much we can fit into each day.

General Routine

  • 6:30 a.m. Up, dress, breakfast, exercise, shower & dress, start chores when done (kids up by 7:30 for breakfast & chores).
  • 8:00 a.m. School starts with our math block - James will do his math on the computer first (I have three kids using Teaching Textbooks), while I finish up some basic chores and help Rose get ready.
  • 8:30 a.m. - My official time to jump in with the kids; homeschooling is in full swing. Minimizing distractions is key!
  • 12:00 p.m. - Time for noon chores...primarily making lunch.  As the kids reach a good stopping place, they are expected to help out. We usually have a lunchtime subject too; this year it will be Art of Argument.
  • 1:00-2:30 p.m.- Finish up homeschooling for the day, everyone help tidy up, any kids that didn't get a shower in the morning will take one once work is done (though I usually don't have my younger two shower every day).
  • 3:00-4:30 p.m. - Outside activities or my writing time followed by a little time to work on my to-do list. Any kids at home will have free time to do as they please.
  • 4:30 -5:45 p.m. - Dinner prep and evening chores if we are home, otherwise this gets pushed to later. The kids are expected to  help until the bulk of the work is done, and if it's not their night to cook they then have free time while I finish making dinner.
  • 6:00 p.m. - Dinner, followed by cleanup, video games with Dad, writing time for me, then dessert & bed for the kids. Two days a week dinner is at 7, because of activities. The kids are usually in their rooms by 9 at the latest, then we have an hour or so to read or watch television in relative peace. The older kids stay up and read in their room for awhile, but Rose is usually asleep by 9.

Of course, this all looks nice and tidy on paper; the reality will be different! But I try to think of the routine as something to strive towards, a way to make sure we are organizing our day efficiently for both work and play, and most importantly, an honest assessment of what can actually fit into each day.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Getting Ready

We are slowly getting things ready to jump into our fall routine. I thought we would begin lessons this week, but I was just not feeling ready. Then I planned on next Monday, but it turns out dh is taking a couple of days our official start date has been moved to September 2nd. We haven't started school that late in a long time, but this year it feels right to have a bit more summer.

In the meantime, we are...

Admiring a very sweet puppy...even though she gets us up at 3 a.m. and again at 6 a.m. That part of puppyhood I will not miss, but this....she sleeps between us on the couch every night after the kids have headed upstairs and she is so snuggly.....this, I love.

Getting creative with our farm share produce....which we are getting so much of! This past week we had edamame, red cabbage, cilantro and other herbs, onions, zucchini, cucumbers, lettuce, slicing tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, stir fry greens, corn, purple beans, and raspberries.

The raspberries got put to use on one of our new favorite desserts. We make a batch of brownies (from a mix), toss some chocolate chips on top, put the pan back in the oven for the chocolate to melt enough to spread, then put fresh raspberries on top. Very popular around here.

Making mixes....last week it was just Christopher and I at home each day, since everyone else had a camp week, so we took time to make up some baking mixes. We made batches of biscuit mix, waffle mix, muffin mix, cornbread mix, and cake mix.

We started out storing the mixes in mason jars, because they are pretty, but soon discovered that zip-top bags hold more and are more practical. I love to bake, but it's hard to fit it in when things get busy, so I am excited to have these in my pantry!

Organizing books...our house is a disaster area right now of books and other things waiting to be organized for the new year. I have several boxes full of books to donate and I am hoping to get some new shelves up in a few weeks...but right now things are a bit of a mess. Rainbow Resource box day was fun though! We got a bunch of books to read for BookShark, our language arts and Latin curriculum, and a stack of art supplies.

Some of the books we will be reading for Sonlight's Core B and BookShark's American History 2 and World History 2....

Some art supplies for Artistic Pursuits. We are trying out a couple levels of that program this year.

That's all for now! I have been working on a few posts about our new fall routines and will hopefully get them up in the next few days.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Last Minute Changes

 I have been working on updating our curriculum page, because I made a few last-minute changes while ordering materials for our new school year. I always seem to make these last minute changes, usually when I realize I have too much planned and need to streamline a few things.

This is what I changed.

For Rose - It isn't really a change, but I forgot to mention that she and I will be continuing with our Five in a Row studies this year, probably still taking two weeks or so to "row" each book. You can see the books we have already rowed here. Our first book of the new year will be Night of the Moonjellies, which I was very sad to see is out of print.  For math, I decided not to continue with Miquon because it has just been too much of a struggle with her. Instead, I ordered Teaching Textbooks 3. She is only second grade, but I feel like TT runs behind other programs (James started TT5 in 4th grade), so I am hoping it will be okay. Teaching Textbooks has been a real lifesaver around here for my non-math-loving kids. The last change I made was to add in Artistic Pursuits for her. We already own K-3 Book 1, so we will alternate projects from that book with Mark Kistler lessons.

For James and Christopher - No big changes, but I plan to give them the option of alternating Mark Kistler with Artistic Pursuits ( I have Book 1 of the grade 4-6 books). For music, they will listen to Music Masters CD's because we own several and have never used them.

For Grace - I decided to have her study Art of Argument with Christopher instead of doing her own logic program. Much easier for me! Even though The Well-Trained Mind recommends AoA for younger kids than Grace, Classical Academic Press says it's for middle and high school students, so I'm going to go with that. I chose to drop Bravewriter's Help for High School (though it does look good) in favor of having her try Writing Strands 5, which looks much easier to use. I also decided to skip a separate art history program in favor of having her do Artistic Pursuits (which includes a bit of art history). She will also listen to the Music Master's CD's.

You can see exactly what I plan to use with the kids for the 2015-2016 school year on my curriculum page.

Monday, August 17, 2015


Planning for next school year is officially underway, though finding time to do it as the kids head into another busy summer week has been difficult.

 My master list:

1. Make up a calendar to follow - done!

2. Finish deciding all curriculum and place orders - done!

3. Decide how often each subject will be done - done!

4.  Purchase supplies - this year we need new pencils, folders, notebooks and notebook paper, binders, and some art supplies - done!

5. Come up with a routine for our day, including what subjects to focus on each day and how school work can fit into the rest of our life - in progress-

6.  Sign up for extracurriculars and fit those into our routine, add all dates (practices, special events, first and last days, etc...) to calendar - in progress-

7.  Clean off shelves and restock with this year's books.

8. Set up a crate for our math block and our language art block. I'm trying out a different daily routine with these subjects, more on that soon.

9. Make up weekly checklists for the first week.

10. Start! I am planning to start our new year next Monday, but we'll see how it goes.