Cleaning · Household · Laundry · Organization

Chore App and Chart

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Our family is all about everyone helping out around the house. If you live here, you help here. 🙂

Several months back, I was trying to figure out how to get a chore schedule up that wasn’t too permanent (I have wasted too many poster boards!), so we could try out a routine and see if we liked it. Ethan was still three then, and he was fully capable of helping with most of the things the big kids were expected to help with. So, I devised a little plan and chart (the picture above).

(I should mention my husband and I prefer a really clean home. Like, to the point where we will vacuum and clean after guests leave, regardless of how late. My husband has been known to mop the kitchen floor at 11:30 PM after our friends left because he realized at some point during their visit that the floor hadn’t been mopped in a few days. I refuse to complain about his mopping decisions because HE MOPS THE FLOOR AND LIKES IT. That is one less thing on my chore list, so I do not care what time of day he wants to mop!)

I took each of the items that get done fairly regularly and assigned them to someone a couple of times a week. The purple board is just a large magnetic board, and the letter rectangles are just cardstock that I cut out and attached a self-sticking magnet to. Easy peasy!

Since I went to all the trouble to make the chart, I wanted to be sure the kids were paying attention to it and completing their tasks. So, I took the smaller white board so they could mark off when they had completed tasks (and I could follow-up and make sure they actually got done!). The category “Jack” on the chore board is for our dog – I put Ethan in charge of him often to get his food and water filled up. And everyone around here can work our vacuums, so we all get a turn vacuuming different areas of the house.

We are a few months into using this chart and just a few things have changed, like cleaning the bathrooms more often. Iris and Lily now clean them on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. With seven people home 90% of the time, they just get messy quickly! I also changed Jack duty to a bigger variety of kids and moved Ethan into more of the kitchen and table cleaning duties. He is pretty handy with the small vacuum and crumbs in the kitchen!

I still fill in on the days no one is tending to the different areas. Laundry duty on the chore board does not mean they do a load of laundry, just that they are responsible to help me move loads from washer to dryer or fold and put items. Iris and Lily could probably do a couple of loads, but I just prefer to do it myself. I may or may not have lost a few clothing items to my husband’s laundry skills. 😦 I don’t mind laundry at all.

For myself, I used the Motivated Moms app (affiliate link – thanks for using it!) and I LOVE it! I started using it last year, and I find it to be the easiest way to keep track of everything. It has chores already programmed into it, but you can also add or remove tasks to suit you and your day! They have options for a light version of the app, a full version, and now on the website they even have printables! So many options that you are bound to find what works with your schedule. I highly recommend it!

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See how awesome that list is?? I still get to check off boxes, but it is all digital! I am a paper list person naturally, but the Motivated Moms app just really helps…I can take it anywhere I go because it is on my phone! I don’t have to worry about finding my paper list. Chores and tasks are a breeze when the app is keeping track, and I can just focus on my day and the task I am working on!

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What chart or app do you use for chores??

 

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Kitchen · Organization

Easy Peasy Lunch Drawers

It is not uncommon for me to hear of an efficient way of doing something, putting it on my checklist…and then never do it. 😉 I have read or seen many, many great ways to be efficient with housework or in the kitchen, and I have yet to try them out. BUT, I watched a video from one of my favorite homeschool moms a while back, and it was a complete lifesaver for days when I just wasn’t feeling it to make lunch.

During a certain time of the month or when life it just a bit crazy busy, it is a huge struggle/challenge/irritation for me to pause and get a lunch ready. We did the lunchbox thing for a while last school year, but, even then, I had to make room in the pantry or fridge for 5 lunch boxes and stay on top of whether or not they were packed each day, especially for the little ones. After a while, the novelty wore off, and it was just another work item added to my daily checklist (which already contained way too many items).

The video I watched was by a mom who just had her eighth baby, and she homeschools. It was just a simple, yet completely amazing, way to be efficient in the kitchen, give the kids options (but not a million options), and have them be a little more hands-on with their lunch. So, I decided to give it a whirl. I had to locate some storage containers from around the house, but I made sure I did NOT buy anything new. I did not want to spend money on this; I just wanted to try it out.

The idea is that lunch is broken down into categories, and the kids pick a certain number from each category to make a complete lunch. The categories we typically have are: main/protein item, fruit, cracker, dairy, veggies, dessert. Now, if I haven’t stayed on top of cutting veggies, sometimes we don’t have that category, but otherwise we have all of those. 😉

Here are some poor quality pics to explain: 😉

 

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This is where I got the phrase “lunch drawers”. I have a simple three-drawer storage unit on the pantry floor that holds my protein, fruit, and dessert categories. Sitting on top of it is a shallow plastic bin for crackers (but I didn’t get a pic of that because right now the cracker bin is holding bunch of clementines). Before each grocery shopping trip, I peek in these drawers to see what needs to be refilled. Nothing crazy expensive or time-consuming goes in here. It is all about EASY lunches.

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The protein drawer has some simple items, mostly peanut buttery things. I throw in the little peanut butter crackers from Aldi or small containers with a couple spoonfuls of peanut butter (that they scoop out with apples or crackers). I will also put in the breadsticks and cheese packets from Aldi – yes, I realize they are not protein items…oh well. Some other things we’ve had in there are snack size bags of peanuts or cashews (or both) or peanut butter scoops with chocolate chips tossed in. For peanut butter scoops, I use these small plastic containers I have that hold like 1/4 cup of food. I just scoop 2-3 spoonfuls of peanut butter in, put the lid on and toss them in the drawer. Not much to it. The kids can pick ONE item from this drawer.

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The fruit drawer holds a couple different things. We have had applesauce cups, snack bags of dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, cherries, pineapple, banana, whatever we have on hand), fruit strips from Aldi, and clementines. If I offer apples or bananas, those aren’t in the drawer; they just sit on the counter or shelf for the kids to pick up. They choose ONE item from this drawer.

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Our dessert drawer does not get used every day. I don’t offer dessert with every lunch because my boys go to naps shortly after lunch, and I would rather not load them up with sugar just before. Lately, as you can see in this pic, our dessert drawer has become a catch-all for dessert-like items. Typically, the only thing in there is pudding cups. Recently, I tossed in items we have in a candy/snack container that were being picked over – rice krispie treats kids got from AWANA, a few types of Halloween candy (mostly just Reese’s peanut butter cups and mini M&M packets), candy buttons, or small packages of cookies. The only thing I went out and purchased was the pudding, but I did find if I grab snack things the kids typically overlook in the candy bin they will get eaten out of the dessert drawer. There’s probably some psychological experiment to be done there, as to why they will eat it from one bin and not the other. Haha!

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The next area, the dairy choice, is in the fridge. I have a plastic pop can holder (like $2 at Aldi!) that I repurposed to hold yogurt tubes and string cheese. I like Aldi’s Moo Tubes for the kids; the sugar is lower than in other brands or even in some yogurt cups. I just dump in the yogurt and string cheese together (based on this picture, though, I need to get more string cheese). The kids can pick ONE dairy item. And, I apologize for this awful picture; I took it a few months ago. It looks like I have a million things stacked in here; I must have just gone grocery shopping.

I did not get a picture of the cracker or veggie bins. The cracker bin is filled with snack size baggies that have different kinds of crackers – Cheez-It types, saltine types, or even graham crackers. The kids choose ONE of those baggies, if they want; not all of them choose a cracker each day. For the veggies, I keep small baggies or containers of carrots, celery, broccoli, green peppers and/or cucumbers in the veggie drawer of the fridge. They can choose ONE OR TWO items to add to lunch. I also just let them grab the ranch bottle to use with their veggies. Because the veggies require some work on my part, I don’t always keep up with keeping cut veggies on hand….or, if I do, it is one or two choices and not all five. I have just been buying the baby carrots to be sure we have at least those during the really busy weeks. And, sometimes, I don’t even get them divided up – the kids will just open a bag of baby carrots and put a couple on each of their plates.

On a lunch drawer day, I will tell them kids to go grab some drawer items. They all know to choose one protein, one cracker, one fruit, and one dairy at the very least. On a good day, they can also grab a veggie and a dessert. Just depends on how much prep mom did or how she is feeling with regard to dessert. 😉

Even Ethan, who is 3 years old, can do the lunch drawers himself….and he loves it! He gets to choose his own lunch and do what the big kids are doing. My oldest two can fill all of their cups with water, and they can all seat themselves. The only part I need to help with is opening the applesauce cups or yogurt for the younger ones. It is a win-win: they feel like they made their own lunch, and I don’t have to be as hands-on with lunch. I have been doing lunch drawers on heavy cleaning or laundry days; after we finish schoolwork, I get to cleaning or doing laundry, and I don’t like to stop mid-task to get lunch together. If I can finish folding laundry or cleaning a bathroom while they choose their lunch items, everyone is happy.

I have heard of non-homeschooling moms using the drawers, too; their kids pack their lunches using choices from each drawer/bin. So, even if you don’t homeschool, this might be a fun, efficient option for your kids!

Do you have a tip that has revolutionized your lunch prep?? Please feel free to share!

Homeschool · Organization

The School Plan

Well hello there! It’s been a while!

I took a break from a lot of things to regroup and stay on track with our Summer homeschooling. And now it is August! I just cannot believe how fast that went!

We took off the month of June for outdoor fun in the sun and lots of playing. We eased back into schooling the first two weeks of July before taking a week off for our church’s Vacation Bible School. Then, we jumped right back in with a little bit heavier schedule. And here we are in August with an almost-back-to-normal school day. The schooling through the Summer went exceptionally well; I tried not to expect perfection or too much focus from the kiddos, and I think that helped. 😉

Last year, we dabbled in the Ambleside Online curriculum. I love how they lay everything out online and that it is heavy on the reading (group, individual, and LOTS of classics). This Summer, we completely immersed ourselves in the Ambleside curriculum and will continue that into the rest of the school year.

Ambleside is a Charlotte Mason-based curriculum (not completely Charlotte Mason, but they pull a lot from her principles and ideas for most of their curriculum). It relies a lot of books for the material. Many of the books are old, which is what I love. Obviously, some of the history and science have to be supplemented with more current things, but all of the children’s individual reading is older books. There aren’t any dumbed-down books. A lot of what my girls have been reading the months before Ambleside were books with no substance. I am sure they were enjoyable stories, but they weren’t challenging. And I was having to look over A LOT more of their modern choices because of content (boy/girl stuff, name-calling, witchcraft, etc). After becoming frustrated with a silly comic book that included a very sensual picture of a female character (thankfully Iris saw it before the younger kiddos and brought me the book), I decided I would “push” the older books more. For any school or free reading, I am selective on their choices. I still let them choose – but I give them the selection from which to choose. 🙂 Sure, it’s a little sneaky, but we are avoiding a lot of the less-challenging books and offering more books with morals and characters to model themselves after.

I thought it was maybe a bit silly at first to limit what they read. I mean, why not just let them read if they are WILLING to read? BUT, I kept coming back to that verse in I Corinthians 10:23 – “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” Just because they are reading books doesn’t mean those books are benefiting them. I wanted to be able to say what they’re reading was helping them read better or BE better. No offense to the author but Dear Dumb Diary isn’t really the kind of book I’d be proud to say my girls read (though they have…).

With that verse in mind, I have noticed a lot more of what we should be reading and trying to stick with it. (By the way, that verse is quite convicting for myself….not everything I read is beneficial either, and I have to be just as selective with MY reading!)

So, here we are in our school routine, and I think we have a handle on good books. Iris is reading The Borrowers for her free read; Lily is tackling The Peterkin Papers. Both books have bigger words than they are used to in their reading, but they both seem to be understanding and enjoying the stories! Addy and I are reading The Courage of Sarah Noble together; it is set back in early American times, and the words are definitely a challenge for her to understand. I am doing all the reading (she still struggles, but I wanted her to get a lot of these stories in!), but I have her narrate every few paragraphs so that I know she is following well.

Speaking of Narration – that’s a new(er) thing for us. I am very intentional about having the kids narrate because then I am completely aware of whether or not they are following/listening. If they can’t tell the story back to me, then we re-read it. This goes for all subjects – history, science, Shakespeare, Bible, and so on. I don’t want to be reading and no one listening! 🙂

For what we’re covering this year, I have Addy doing mostly Year 1 from Ambleside. She is moving along quickly, so we may be able to move up to Year 2 before the end of the school year. BUT, I am not pushing it. I am more concerned with her understanding and absorbing the info than just checking off the boxes! She is working through Level 1 in her math curriculum as well, and she is doing great – really catching on quickly! Iris and Lily are completing Year 4 with Ambleside. Iris is technically 5th grade, but Year 4 has many “heavy” books, and I don’t want to move her to Year 5 before she has a firm grasp on the older language used in the books. They are both doing Level 4 in their math curriculum as well, but I suspect they will whiz through that and both move to Level 5 before Spring! Again, though, not pushing it – understanding is much more important than a certain level. (I should mention – Year 4 with Ambleside includes Plutarch….having no clue who Plutarch was up until last year, I am not yet ready to dive into that his works. Perhaps in January we can revisit that and start reading. For now, Shakespeare and all the other subjects are keeping us quite busy!)

Below is our lineup for subjects we are covering. I have marked in parentheses the different looping groups they are in. I have looped several of the subjects because we just don’t need to cover new ground every single day in every single subject. Reviewing them every day might be fine, but some days we have a large project in another subject and we miss other subjects….and that is ok!

(And for those not familiar with “looping”, it is just taking a certain number of subjects and rotating them, rather than try and teach every subject every day. We don’t get to each subject every day in the loop, but we get to it each week however many times we get through the loop. I know some moms create the loop so they touch on some subjects more times than others in the same loop – like ordering Spelling, Grammar, Spelling, Writing, Spelling, Literature…3 times of spelling for 1 of grammar, writing and literature – but I think the 1:1 ratio is good for us now.)

In the morning, as a group, we have these items in a basket to complete together (I call it Morning Time….real creative, eh?):

  • Bible – story/passage/topic
  • Character Study/Review
  • Verse Memorization
  • Hymn Study (morning basket loop)
  • Picture Study (morning basket loop)
  • Composer Study(morning basket loop)
  • Map Drills (morning basket loop)
  • Poetry – Recite/Review
  • Shakespeare

Hymn, picture, composer, and map drills are rotated in on a loop. I don’t spend more than 30 minutes together with the Morning Time…so whichever of those four is rotated in for the day is probably the only one we will get to in order to complete the rest of the list. And we don’t cover a whole Shakespeare story, just a few pages to read and narrate. Shakespeare is heavy, and I don’t want to overwhelm the kids (or myself!!).

After the group time, the boys will go play or find something to do, while the 3 girls together will do Loop #1, Loop #2, and Dailies:

  • Nature Study (Loop #1)
  • Geography (Loop #1)
  • Science (Loop #1)
  • History (Loop #1)
  • Biography (Loop #1)
  • Spelling (Loop #2)
  • Grammar (Loop #2)
  • Writing (Loop #2)
  • Literature (Loop #2)
  • Math – done individually, with my help as they need it (daily)
  • Copywork – Iris and Lily typically have larger portions to copy than Addy (daily)

For Loops 1 and 2, we spend about 30 minutes on each loop. Whatever subjects we cover (one, two, or all!) during that time is fine. Wherever we stop is where we pick up the next day. So, if we only cover nature study one day in the 30 minutes, then the following day we start up with geography and carry on. The second 30 minute loop time on the first day might be able to cover spelling, grammar, and writing; so, the following day (when we start geography in loop 1), we would start at literature for loop 2’s session. Does that make sense??

Math and Copywork are daily items, so I did not loop them. I want them to learn/review math concepts every day, as well as become excellent in handwriting. And the time spent on those two subjects just depends on the math lesson – whether new or review – and how long the copywork is. I usually have the girls copy the same passage/poem for the week (4 days at least).

After all the morning subjects and loops are done, the kids all have free time. They can play outside, inside, have a snack (if we didn’t work one in already), or finish up any work they didn’t get to while we worked all morning. Lunch follows free time. Then nap time for the boys. I am hoping to work in a regular walk after lunch….but we haven’t gotten that far. Usually I get super lazy after we eat!

While the boys nap, I have the girls work on some independent Afternoon items (that require little or no attention from me, so I can read or do housework or work on the following week’s schedule):

  • Typing – Iris and Lily are using a free website (https://www.typing.com/) and are loving it. I haven’t been consistent with every day lessons on there, but now that it is August and we are back into a full day’s schedule, it will become a daily afternoon lesson.
  • Foreign Language – I am still figuring this one out. I like the free site DuoLingo but have not been disciplined enough to work it into the schedule. I would like all 3 girls to work on this each afternoon together. They are all very curious about speaking Spanish, since it is a part of their heritage. 🙂 I think they mostly just want to impress their Hispanic grandparents with some skills.
  • Free Read – these are the books I mentioned above, the ones they choose from a selection I give them. They can get through these as fast as they want, but I require them to at least read a chapter a day. And I have them narrate the chapter to me, even though I probably shouldn’t. I just want them to be in the habit of sharing what they read, so they understand the story.
  • Drawing/Handicraft – I have a list of handicrafts for them to choose from (soap carving, crochet, and a bunch more I found online!), and the plan is to incorporate the craftiness a few times a week. For drawing, it will usually fall on the days we do nature study. We typically draw whatever nature item/creature we are checking out; I search for a YouTube video on how to draw it, and we follow along. It has been pretty fun so far! I may or may not have my own Nature Journal that I draw in as well. 😉

At least once a week, after the boys are up from nap, we have a Tea Time. I was not sure how apt they would be to have tea in the afternoon, but all five kids seemingly love it! They ask for different flavors of tea, and we even do it English-style with cream and honey. Unless it is a flavor that would not go well with cream in it. But, we all get tea cups and saucers, a snack of some sort, and we sit together to eat and drink while I read some poetry (usually A Child’s Garden of Verses) or our group read-aloud book. We started The Water Babies but got off track and stopped reading it after just a few chapters (though I would like to eventually go back to it!). Now we are reading Old Yeller. I LOVE this book. I remember reading it once or twice as a child and then seeing the movie. We are only on the second chapter because our reading times have been rather short due to rambunctious boys, but we are all enjoying the story. The boys especially enjoyed the part when Little Arliss ran naked from the drinking water pool to the house! They laughed so hard at that part!

I am excited to work in the last couple items (handicraft, spanish, etc) and be “officially” into our school year. At first, coordinating the subjects into a decent schedule seemed overwhelming…and then it WAS overwhelming when I tried to use other people’s plans and schedules. Even though I know our home is different from every other homeschooling home, I still felt like I needed someone else’s plan. I finally gave up that idea and worked up my own plan. And so far, it is working! Go figure – our plan working best for our family. Haha! Also, I am not following each subject exactly as Ambleside shows. I have the same subjects but we adjust them to the best way for us to incorporate and learn them. Some, for us, will be a lot less in-depth than for other Ambleside families, while we may choose to go more in-depth for other subjects. But I know we are still giving the kids a very rich curriculum, much richer than what I know of the public schooling atmosphere. (I am not knocking the public school, but homeschooling allows us to get more involved in each subject when we want/need to…and we don’t have a classroom of 30 students. We just have a lot more flexibility for my kids’ learning styles, and I am so grateful!)

At some point I would love to have some pictures of our morning basket or of the kids doing a nature study or something, but I haven’t been very great with the camera lately. If I don’t try and do EVERYTHING, I feel a lot less stressed. So, if I don’t get pics on here that is ok. But, my goal is to eventually post some, to give you an idea of how our day works for us!

And I plan to share a bit more on loop scheduling and bullet journaling (this is a newer item for me, but I am LOVING it), details on working through our morning basket as a group, and many other things. I am feeling inspired and motivated to get back into blogging. It will probably be a lot less about food things and much more about homeschool. I have really fallen away from my uptightness with food, but that is a whole other post for a different day. For now, I am just rejoicing in our plan for homeschool and the start to a brand new year!!!

 

Chores · Cleaning · Kitchen · Organization

Morning and Evening Routines

Yesterday at our church moms’ group meeting, we had a guest speaker; she was a professional organizer. For me, this was like meeting a celebrity. 🙂 This woman wasn’t famous or anything, but organization is like…my thing. I love having a place for everything and putting everything in its place at the end of the day. So, I was thinking about what to share today and organization came to mind. I don’t mean the organization of rooms or closets, but I was thinking more about the organization of our days.

I was trying to search and find the last post I did on morning routines, and July 2013’s post about routines came up! It has been two and a half years since I talked about morning routines?! Obviously, it is time to chat about it again!

In case you ever missed it on here…I am definitely a left-brained gal. People ask me about cleaning, not creativity. 😉 I have two very creative daughters, bless their hearts. They, unfortunately have to go it alone with getting creative because this Mama really stinks at colors and fashion and “cool” stuff. Now, if they want to know how to unclog a drain or the best way to get a stain out of a shirt…I’m their girl! I can be a little creative when it comes to food, but I mostly just love recipes/instructions, routines, and logical things. Ha! Soooo, for the most part, I am boring. And I am cool with that.

But, I do want to share some helpful things for ALL moms, whether left-brained, right-brained, schedule-loving, free-thinking, or whatever. Because mornings and evenings can be the trickiest and toughest time of the day with kids. You just never now how they’re going to wake up – excited about the day or angry because they lost a stuffed animal in their bed. And we never know just how easy they’ll go down at night – sweet kisses… or “sweet sassy, get up again and I’m going to go bananas!”

Having the morning and evening planned out can help those crazy, challenging times run a little more smoothly. Or, at the very least, allow you to focus on that super needy child without worrying about the rest of the things to get done.

So, here are the things I do in the morning (usually almost in this exact order):

  1. Wake up and come straight downstairs to pour my coffee and sit to read my Bible. This is a new first item, since the beginning of January. I used to unload the dishwasher first, but I have found that (for me) if I do not sit with my coffee and Bible FIRST, I am most likely going to put it off most of the day….and my day will suck. Pardon the language there, but seriously. My day just does not start well, if I start rushing around to do a million things and have not relaxed myself with coffee and Bible.
  2. Pray with each child as they awake. Ok, this is an even newer item. Sally Clarkson shared in one (or several) of her podcasts that she got into the habit of blessing or praying with each child of hers as they got up each day and as they went to bed. She explained that it helped HER to start the day with the right attitude toward her kids. Well, since I really struggle to be pleasant in the mornings, I thought this was the PERFECT idea to help me curb my grouchiness. I have been trying to be consistent with it for about a week now, and boy-oh-boy does it make a difference. Of course, I am still trying to remember to do it each day. But I have seen how much my boys love it. I hold them close and whisper a prayer in their ear, just asking for God’s protection over them and for a good day for us. I have not yet tried this at night, as we usually pray with the kids by room (whoever shares a room gets prayed with together). I love the idea to pray with the kids as my first bit of interaction with them in the morning. I encourage you to try it. It is a little more difficult to grouch at them right after you just prayed over them!
  3. Unload the dishwasher and get out breakfast dishes. I dislike having clean dishes in the dishwasher throughout the day. We dirty dishes so fast, that I need to get them out of the sink and into the dishwasher right after each meal. Having an empty dishwasher before we start cooking breakfast serious calms me down. So, not only am I boring with my left-brainedness, I am apparently also weird. 😉
  4. Make breakfast and immediately clean up. This is along the same lines as unloading the dishwasher. I cannot stand to have dirty dishes lying about, and since we use so many dishes each meal I try to clean up as we cook or immediately after we eat.
  5. Check my Motivated Moms app for the daily to-do’s. I am absolutely still loving the Motivated Moms app, and I enjoy that the items to do are in the list and I don’t have to think about them much. I don’t have to write out my list or worry about what I have done or didn’t do….because they have the check boxes! I highly recommend this app/website for getting things done. You can always add anything specific to your day and work off the pre-loaded lists as well! Wonderful way to keep track of what needs to get done each day.

So, those are the things I do every morning. Some days do not go as I like, and I do have to move some of those around. Sickness the past few weeks did throw me off several days, but I tried hard to stick to the routine so we didn’t fall behind on anything….and so I still felt a little sane!

You might be wondering when I get my shower in, and I should mention I don’t usually shower until somewhere between 8:00 and 9:00 AM. Since we don’t typically have anywhere to be in the morning, I do a chunk of my housework before I shower (I mean, why shower if I am going to work up a sweat scrubbing counters and toilets??). And I only wash my hair every two or three days, so my showers are usually very short and easy to fit in wherever. If you need a shower early in the morning, obviously your routine would look a little different.

In the evening, I usually do the same set of tasks every night. I have identified the things that really help my mornings run smoothly if I do them at night. Like my morning routine, it just helps our household be less grouchy and keeps the mess/chaos to a minimum. In the evening, I:

  1. Clean up cookware and utensils used to make dinner as I am cooking. I may be a little over-the-top with this one, but as soon as I finish using an item to make dinner, I wash it or put it in the dishwasher. This helps keep my counter-tops clear and allows me to lay out the plates I need to fill with food. Another thing (a BIG thing) is that it gives us a lot less to clean up AFTER dinner. I don’t have a bunch of utensils or pans to wash after dinner. Usually, the one thing I have to wash is the main pan for the food (or baking dish, if a casserole).
  2. Load and run the dishwasher. As soon as we finish eating, we clear the table, load and run the dishwasher. I do not like to put it off….because I often forget later on! And then we wake up to it full of dirty dishes. One sure-fire way to start my day grouchy is to forget to run the dishwasher. 😉
  3. Set the coffeemaker. Our coffeemaker has a ‘delay brew’ setting, which I love. I set it all up to start at 5:00 AM, and all we have to do in the morning is pour it. It is heavenly. AND, it is one less thing that will delay my Bible time!
  4. Clean up all toys and clothes. We clean up toys and things on the floor several times throughout the day, but somehow these things find their way back to the floor after dinner. So, I encourage (or force) the kids to clean up all floors before bedtime – the main level as well as their rooms. I do not always succeed at having spotless floors in their rooms….for instance, if my eldest is reminded several times and I still find her dancing and singing in her room (instead of cleaning) before bed, I may just tell her to go to bed and do it before coming down in the morning. BUT, the living room and family room are all picked up every single night. It just makes me happy to see clean rooms before bed.
  5. Pray in each kid room before saying Goodnight. I love that we do this each night. We pray in the boys’ room (and then Ethan prays for Mom, Dad, and Buddy…we always have to remind him to pray for his sisters too.), then we pray with Iris (or she prays, if she wants to), and then we pray in Lily and Addy’s room. If we somehow forget to pray, Buddy will remind me as we are leaving their room. And Lily is always quick to call us back to pray if we forget. With all her eczema and sleeping challenges the last two years, I know praying with us is extremely comforting for her at night. So, I will always love doing it. It also ends the day pleasantly with each kid – no matter how naughty they were or how short-tempered I was, we can all just take a breath and pray. Of course, if we are chasing Ethan back into bed ten minutes later…well, the calmness might have worn off! But, at least we tried to put them to bed peacefully!!

Having set routines for morning and evening definitely allows my day to run more smoothly. With lots of people to feed and clothes and clean, it helps to not have to think about some things each day!

Do you have routines for morning or evening?! What do you love about your routines?

 

Homeschool · Organization

Finally Friday!

We are finishing up another goofy week. A fourth kiddo ended up sick late Monday night. This stomach bug is just so crazy – coming and going every 5-7 days with a different child. Only one kid left untouched! Praying he does not succumb, but if he does I hope it is short-lived like the other kids.

Next week, we have the week off from school! Could not be more excited! We pushed it pretty hard the past 4 weeks, so we have definitely earned some down time. Today’s school is just little bits from different subjects. The older girls took a Spelling test, did a little big of Grammar work (narrative paragraphs), and math facts review (multiplication). As a group, we’ll read our fun book, our missionary biography book, and we will review our brief science study on energy.

I heard about a really neat show on Netflix called Street Genius. The kids have been watching it quite a bit this week! The host explores different aspects of science and does cool experiments. We watched him explore potential and kinetic energy, and the girls seemed very interested. I found some free information and printouts on TeachersPayTeachers, and we studied it for a while yesterday. To help us remember the difference between potential and kinetic, we made a marshmallow catapult out of popsicle sticks. 🙂 I was very excited to engage all five kids in the experiment, and they could all tell me about energy by the time we were done! SCORE! A lot of the information we printed out said it was for high school level, but I read through it and found it was pretty easy to understand. I just skipped over all the formulas for energy and velocity and whatnot; we can address all those down the road, once the girls have done more difficult math equations. But, the definitions and the STEM activity of the catapult (which said 3rd-5th grade level) was easy to understand. Even Ethan, at 3 years old, was following.

Buddy has suddenly become interested (I am REALLY interested) in reading and writing. Iris took it upon herself to help him learn to form letters, and I started Hooked on Phonics with him. A friend from church so graciously allowed me to look through her Kindergarten level language arts curriculum (she had several different ones!), and I think the Hooked on Phonics will be great for Buddy. It isn’t the cassette version but rather than different readers and reading comprehension questions. I did the first lesson with him yesterday, and he picked up on it quickly.

My plans for next week are to prep for the following week’s school work. I have most of the info already in my Evernote app (LOVE using it!), so I just need to gather my materials and run to the library for things we don’t have yet. Arthur got called into work today, so I will have to take the kids with me…..I haven’t yet worked up the energy to do that! Ha! Such a challenge these days!!

And that is about it for us this week. It was a packed week of school, but we did miss a couple playdates/appointments because of illness. We did stay home more than I planned, but it worked out wonderfully to finish up schoolwork. God always knows best….and I can see how we needed to be home more than I had planned. Worked out perfect!

Sunday is Friend Day at church, so we are excited to see lots of visitors. And we are praying that those we invited will decide to come! That is about it for weekend plans…and I am totally fine with it!

HAPPY FRIDAY!

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established”

Proverbs 16:3

How did your week go?? Any big plans for the weekend?!

Chores · Cleaning · Household · Laundry · Organization

Routine for Clean and a REVIEW!

 

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(Photo courtesy of blog.blacknight.com)

 

*Affiliate Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.*

I am tough to please when it comes to cleaning routines. I prefer to have a paper list of things to clean/complete, so I can physically check them off. Paper gets annoying, though, as I do not like clutter….and paper makes for serious clutter.

Technology is so not my thing, but I really love an app I found for a daily checklist. It is customizable and, even though it’s digital, I can still check things off! It’s a win-win, really!

The app is called Motivated Moms, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. I purchased the $1.99 version to test it out. I get two months’ worth of daily checklists to try, but I see how much I like it already and know the full year’s subscription would be perfect for me.

The app allows me to assign tasks to different rooms or people. I have my Quiet Time on the checklist, as well as our group reading time and a variety of other home and school items. It even reminds me of little things I forget to do like regularly restock toilet paper in the kids’ bathroom! (I tend to forget to check on that….and only remember when I hear a little voice yelling “MOM! There’s no toilet paper for me!”)

This week, it reminded me to clean out my toaster. MY TOASTER! I haven’t cleaned that thing since my youngest was born…3 years ago. I almost didn’t do it, but my need to check things off won and I emptied all the crumbs out of the toaster. It was disgusting! I even scrubbed the top and sides of it. The thing looks brand new now! And I would not have ever remembered to clean it had it not been for this app.

The Motivated Mom app is available for iPod/iPad/iPhone, as well as for Android. It comes with a ton of pre-loaded tasks, and they can be sorted by room. That is how I prefer, so I can see what needs to be done in each area of the house that day. As I complete them, I just click the box and it checks it off and moves it to the bottom of the list. Laundry and Feed Pets are on the lists every day, which is great because we have to do both every single day!

While I do love being able to add custom tasks to the lists and choosing how often they appear (daily, weekly, etc), the only “negative” thing on the customizing is that the pre-loaded tasks’ names and frequency cannot be edited. So, for instance, the unload/run dishwasher task was pre-loaded. I prefer to have them as two separate things (since I have to unload in the morning and then run it at night). Ok, so it is not really a negative; I am just very particular and like to check off as many items as possible! I realize I have a problem. 🙂

To change it, I hid the pre-loaded item and just added two custom tasks- “unload dishwasher” and “run dishwasher.” And my need to check things off is satisfied with each. 🙂 It took a whole 45 seconds to add the two items, so I am not at all complaining!

The custom task adding is great, though! You can choose the name, when it’s due, if it repeats (and when), who the task is assigned to, and what room it belongs in. This is like heaven for an organizing freak like myself!! You can set appointments on there, if you want and just had a due date and not have it repeat.

It really is a great app and a test run for two months at only $1.99 is amazing! $8 for a year’s worth of tasks isn’t bad. Sure, it is more than a typical app (and you have to renew it after a year for another $8), but it is a daily use app and if you break down the cost….$8 divided by 365 days? That’s only $.02 a day!

I highly recommend trying at least the $1.99 version to see for yourself. They do offer a Motivated Moms Lite version for $.99, which covers one month of tasks. Whichever one you try, I am pretty certain you will find it useful and convenient!

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Do any of you use this app?! What do you think about it??

 

Homeschool · Kitchen · Organization

Fantastic Lunches!

I have always been happy to not have to pack lunches the night before a school day, since we just eat here 99.9% of the time. No making sandwiches and stuffing into baggies. No remembering to load up lunch boxes in the morning. Yes, I was happy to think less every evening and morning.

BUT, lunch time has been such a hassle lately. Everyone is SO done with school by then (and by done, I mean with their attitudes…not always done with actual work!). Usually the boys have started teasing each other. Someone has cried. OK, like five of us have cried by lunch time. And my patience is GONE!

I read a guest post by Sherry Hayes over at Free Homeschool Deals (LOVE that site/blog!) about using lunch boxes in your home school. I laughed at first because this woman has 15 children, so of course she should use lunch boxes to cut down on lunch prep! And then the more I thought about it, the more I really understood how awesome her idea was. Imagine the time I could save if the lunches were made THE NIGHT BEFORE!

I remember my mother making our lunches the night before and our brown bags or lunch boxes sat on the counter all ready to pack with whatever refrigerated item(s) first thing in the morning, so we could quickly get out the door. I ALSO remember when we were old enough to make our own sandwiches and she’d encourage us to get it ready the night before…and then we didn’t, and we were scrambling around in the morning trying to throw our lunch together. I ended up with lots of cheese and mayo sandwiches, I am sure of it! 🙂 Good thing I liked them.

This past Monday, I finally decided to give lunch boxes a try. There was one problem…We don’t own any lunch boxes! The kids always ask for some during all the beginning of the school year sales, and I always shut that down. Ten dollars (if you’re lucky) a lunchbox….no way! I’d rather save my $50 and order some good pizza for dinner! Even without actual lunch boxes, I was able to find some food storage containers big enough to pack a little lunch in. I should have made this on Sunday night, but since Sunday nights are rough around here I waited til Monday morning to put this together.

My boys watched while I made 5 sandwiches (some PB&J, some just J, some PB&honey), put some little crackers in baggies, some nuts and dried fruits, some yogurt or cottage cheese in smaller containers, and even 5 mini candy bars left over from Halloween. I mean, you can’t have a lunchbox without a dessert!

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This is Ethan’s lunch. He snuck a nibble of his bread before I could package the sandwich. 🙂 The small container has his cottage cheese. So fun!

The kids were so excited to eat how “regular” schoolkids do. They grabbed their box and their water bottle from the fridge and sat to eat and chat. I made a comment about no talking badly about their teacher during lunch. And as soon as I walked away, one of the girls said, “Our teacher is so lame.” 😉 Even little Ethan had a good time with his lunchbox. He thought he was hot stuff, sitting there opening everything up like the big kids.

That post was super helpful with ideas for what to put in the boxes. On Wednesday, we had our first day this week of leftovers from dinner. It was chicken taco soup. I packed the boxes with everything but the soup and just warmed that on the stove, dishing it out as they sat and opened their boxes. Easy peasy! It really has made lunchtime smoother. No arguing about who is having what, no order taking. Everyone knows it is already packaged, and they are still excited (granted, it has only been five days!) to see what I’ve packed them. I have started packing them at night because it makes more sense, especially for mornings like yesterday when we had our mom group at church at 9:30, and I was responsible to bring a food dish. I was so glad to have lunch already figured out, and the kids were able to just sit right down and eat when we got home at noon!

It was a fun experiment this week, and I think we’ll keep it as a regular thing. Guess I don’t have to have 15 kids to need a time-saving idea!