Want an update on how my new organizational binder is (or is not) helping me?

A few weeks ago, I started doing this radical thing called “write stuff down so I don’t forget” in a never-heard-of-before item called an “organizational binder.”

I know. I’m one of the first to do it. This type of thing has never been done before. No one has ever heard of it. Planners? Calendars? What even are these?

organizer 3

Sarcastic much, Laura?

You know what? You people who have been doing this list thing since you learned to write words? You just laugh all you want. I’ve always been a “write-it-down” rebel. I’ve never wanted to be tied down to any list. Lists stress me out – as if writing it down means that I’ve failed if for some reason I can’t cross it off at the end of the day. There were too many days I’d leave too many items unfinished and un-crossed off. Boo.

So instead I just kept my 40,000 item to-do list trapped in my head, swirling around, all day long. This is the main reason I’d stare blankly at my children when they’d ask about having friends over on Friday. In order to answer, the file cabinet in my brain had to pull out several drawers, and then the brain papers scattered, which means I provided several different facial expressions before I’d finally answer the can I have friends over on Friday question with put them in the pantry when you’re finished answer.

What? My kids are used to it.

But enough is enough, so finally a few weeks ago I began to get better about writing down the absolutes of my schedule. I printed all my favorite organization pages from the Homemaking Bundle and put them together in a cute binder. I didn’t want to hate my lists, so I did this instead:

  • If it has a day attached to it (such as Hannah’s reception, 2:00 Saturday, April 30) I write that down on the specific day. I’d already been doing some of that, because even I have understood the importance of writing those kinds of details on a calendar.
  • If it doesn’t have a day attached to it but is only an I hope to get this done sometime before Malachi graduates in 2023, I write it on a general list. After all, if I wrote it on Monday and didn’t accomplish it on Monday, then I’d be mad at my list and we’d be right back where we started.

You never knew I was so high maintenance did you?

organization update

How’s my new organizational binder treating me, you ask?

Splendid, I’d say. (Channeling my inner Mary Poppins there. Or was it Bert? Whatever. I’ll add look up who used the word splendid on my never ending to-do list. Oh, no, wait. I remember. It was Mr. Banks. Okay, moving on.)

As I begin each day, I write down the must-do’s and the hope-to-do’s in my binder – in separate sections. As they come to me, I jot down meal ideas on the meal planning page. As I think of recipes I want to try to invent and posts I want to write, I write them on a different list.

Now if my kids say, “Can I have friends over on Friday?” I look on the calendar and say, “Yes. We’re free.” This isn’t nearly as much fun as telling them to put their friends in the pantry, but it is more efficient.

Here’s the truth about my organizational binder that I finally recognize and why I can stop being a “write-it-down” rebel:

My planner doesn’t own me. 

I own my planner. 

So what if I write down an idea based on a plan I have for the day or the week, but other needs arise and I don’t get it all done? Who even cares? I only need to do what I do. Not getting all of it done isn’t a symptom of failure – it’s a reality of life.

Words on paper mean nothing (unless it’s the Bible or like a marriage certificate or something, but you know what I mean). But the simple act of writing down all the to-do’s and getting them out of my swirling head has truly been helpful. I shall continue this revolutionary idea of writing lists in planners.

Maybe you all should try it sometime. No pressure.

Are you a writer-downer? Or do you tell your kids to put their friends in the pantry? 

The Day I Gave Up and Decided to Make Lists (It’s Time for Laura to Get Organized)

Everyone thinks I’m organized.

People say to me, “If I was organized like you…” or “I’m sure the reason you get so much done everyday is because you’re so organized…” And I’m like, “Are you for real? Have you seen my closets?? My desk? The cabinet that holds my Pyrex?!”

cabinet_clean_out_2

I cleaned it once. In 2011.

You guys. I am not great at organizing. My cabinets are a crazy mess. My closet doors won’t close. I don’t know who (if anyone) has a soccer game tomorrow (though we probably have three). When someone asks, “Can you do such-and-such on Tuesday, May 3rd?” I say, “I have no idea. Can you ask me May 2nd?” Thinking beyond today is just about more than my brain can handle.

This hasn’t always been me. Back when I had more time (before I had kids? definitely before I started this blog) I used to write everything down and keep track of my schedule better. Ironically, the busier I have become, the less organized I am.

Shall we all say it together? “Laura, that doesn’t make any sense. Get it together!!!!!

You get it together.

Whoa. My inner sassy teenager just came out.

Speaking of teenagers – mine are all in charge of keeping track of their own schedules. This is partly why I can check out when it comes to every single thing that needs to be done each day. My sons are the ones who have to tell me when they are reffing soccer, when they have a sports practice, when they have a deadline, and when they have to be somewhere for an activity or obligation. They keep track of their own schedules so that I don’t have to be their brain and mine too. I think we can all be thankful for this.

asa soccer 2015

Still though. Not being more organized has gotten me into trouble more than once, and here’s what I’ve decided most recently:

It would probably help my overloaded spaghetti brain situation if I were to get the to-do lists out of my head and down on paper instead. Maybe?

This is so obvious.

I think part of why I’ve shied away from paper organizational systems for so long is because none of them have worked well for me. They seem too boxy – too one-size-fits-all. Since my life doesn’t fit in a box (read: Laura isn’t normal) I’ve not appreciated specific “here’s how to do it” systems.

Ways I actually am organized:

  • I do plan meals pretty well.
  • I always have plenty of food on hand.
  • I have binders for my work related paperwork and keep very good track of income and expenses for tax purposes.
  • I make lists for my kids with their school work requirements. (Once. At the beginning of the school year. Then I adapt it as needed and print it off each week.)
  • I keep thorough transcripts for my high schoolers.

notebook 2

So sure. I’m organized in some ways – just not in all the ways. But in regard to all the ways I’m not organized – I can’t keep up any more so I’ve decided it’s time to try something new.

I came to this conclusion after a heart-felt discussion with my husband (read: Laura was overwhelmed and teary-eyed again). You know how I’ve told you that this teenager-filled season in my life is busier than ever and how the responsibilities are more intense and I keep trying to figure out what is wrong with me now that I’m not keeping up as well as I used to? Every few days it seems I have to overflow from the overload. I have the most long-suffering husband. How many times can he hear me say the same things over and over?

It was during our most recent Laura is overwhelmed same song second verse conversation that I concluded, “Why do I keep doing this? I love everything God is doing in our family and beyond. We’re in the middle of a lot and this is just what it is right now, isn’t it? From now until we get all the boys through school – I just need to buck up and go with it, don’t I? This is it. This is life right now.”

In other words, “I will be okay again sometime after the spring of 2023.”

I made myself an Organization Binder

Just after my conversation with Matt I thought, “Well, duh. I just got (and skipped over) an entire section of books and printables on Organization in the Homemaking Bundle. What if I actually looked at it?”

So I opened it, prayed over it (for real), and asked God to show me what might help make life more doable right now.” I went into it with an open and even eager mind. Just because organizational systems haven’t worked for me in the past doesn’t mean they can’t work for me now.

As God helped specific resources from these choices rise to the top for me, I printed out each page that I felt would benefit my organizational efforts. Then I put them all into a binder. I mean, if I’m going to get organized, I’d better start by putting all my stuff together in one place, right? Also – I should make it cute. Okay then.

organizer1

I colored it myself! 

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Once my binder was put together, I actually started writing stuff down. I made lists. I worked through worksheets. All-the-while, I prayed. I suppose that’s been one of my hang-ups with organizers. I don’t want to be tied down to a to-do list that I’ve created myself. I want to be Spirit led! But how about I ask the Spirit for guidance while I’m making to-do lists? It’s a win-win.

organizer 3

So yay me! I’m writing words on paper in a binder and it is making a difference. Too simple? Of course. I think the most profound changes begin with the most simple ideas. I’ve just been a little too stubborn to relent and do the obvious.

Yesterday I told you about this year’s Ultimate Homemaking Bundle and how it is incredibly worth the small investment. Today I’m telling you that along with that package comes so much more. Even the resources you see and think, “Meh, that’s not for me” might actually be exactly right for you if you ask God to show you what you need. (i.e. Laura is unorganized. She skipped the organization section without even a glance. That’s the section she needs most right now. Amen and amen.)

I encourage you to look into this with an open mind. I’m sure glad I did!

The links included are my affiliate links. 

So here we are. I love my life and all its crazy craziness. But the truth is that between homeschooling, keeping up with teenagers, working full time hours, feeding the family, keeping up (ha!) with housework, and being involved in ministries – if I don’t become at least a little more organized, I’m going to be in a constant state of overwhelm. Nobody needs to live that way (or live with someone like that). Phew.

Tell me your status with being organized. Are you like me – organized in some ways but not others? Where do you shine? Where do you need a little extra guidance? 

P.S. Notice how I didn’t show you picture proof of how my closet doors don’t close. Be grateful.

One Last Day!

If you missed the Homemaking Bundle this spring, you can jump on it now as it’s back for one final opportunity. At midnight tonight, this collection of resources goes away forever. In the meantime, if you hurry you can get this entire package of 90+ goodies for just under $30!

Breakfast Organization (With Some Great Giveaways!)

At the mention of my family’s Oatmeal Rebellion, many of you piped in with your ideas for quick and easy breakfast ideas. You shared some great suggestions, which made me excited to mention some more. You can NOT have too many helpful breakfast ideas in your back pocket. Although I don’t really recommend keeping your actual breakfast in your back pocket. That would be a bad situation on so many levels.

While Sunday mornings are a bit crazy as we all try to get out the door looking halfway presentable…I’m going to also venture to say that every day can be hectic at breakfast time if we don’t have a plan. My kids are hungry from the moment they wake up. One of my boys would actually eat my leg if I didn’t shove an egg in his mouth as he rolls out of bed. He is that hungry. You’d think I didn’t just feed him four helpings of dinner the night before (and a snack before bed).

One of my best recommendations for us to keep our Breakfast Time Organized is to plan ahead. But my best, best recommendation is that if at all possible…make breakfast the night before

If I can, I bake our next day’s breakfast muffins or bagels or quick bread while I’m making dinner the night before. Or, I’ll start my pancakes or waffles to soaking. Or, I’ll mix up a Breakfast Casserole to have ready to bake the next morning.

It’s easy really…to make breakfast the night before while I’m cooking dinner. I’m already in the cooking mode. I’m already making a mess. Might as well make a bit of a bigger mess and get breakfast baked up too, right?

Then, after dinner, we get the whole kitchen clean (LOVE our Kitchen Chore Chart!) and put our breakfast on the table for the next morning (unless it needs to go into the fridge because leaving out a raw Breakfast Casserole would be about as bad as putting your breakfast in your back pocket).

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You’ll find links to all of my Bread and Breakfast recipes on this page, but I thought I’d highlight my favorite “make-ahead breakfasts” for you here:

Add some fruit or a smoothie or a quick scrambled egg to round out these meals! Planning ahead and cooking ahead can save money and help your family to eat much healthier too. It’s much better than letting my son eat my leg, is it not?

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Part of this complete breakfast (and part of these giveaways) are brought to you by Say Mmm.   Excited to hear more?

First, I encourage you to visit Organizing Junkie, who is sharing how she is using Say Mmm to create printable grocery lists. If you’re a blogger, you can link up your recipes and grocery lists with Say Mmm.  Organizing Junkie shares how.   I’ve shared about how I appreciate Say Mmm’s features for menu planning, grocery list making, recipe organization and more

Then, be sure to visit each of the following sites who are sharing their wonderful organizational strategies.

Are you ready to hear about the giveaways already? 

Thanks to Say Mmm, you have a chance to win one of four copies of Organizing Junkie’s book Clutter Rehab here at Heavenly Homemakers. Or, you could win one of three subscriptions to Say Mmm Plus (you can use Say Mmm for free, but subscribing to their Plus plan gives you even more great options!). And…I’ve thrown in three copies of my Do the Funky Kitchen ebook too, to help jump start you on your way to having an organized (and functional!) kitchen.

Leave a comment here for a chance to win one of these ten great prizes!

Plus, be sure to visit the above sites for additional chances to win!! If you visit all the sites and leave comments, you’ll have SO many more chances to win!!

This giveaway is now closed…thanks!

Kitchen Chore Chart – Free Download!

Well, I didn’t really know he was going to do this, but I thought it was awfully sweet that while I took the boys on a field trip last week, my husband Matt (did all the breakfast clean up and) wrote a guest post explaining our “Kitchen System“. The system was his idea after all, and it’s been working beautifully. So many of you asked about this system after I wrote about it last week…so here you go! Once it’s springtime again, I think I need Matt to write a guest post about how to build a raised garden bed, what do you think?

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My Heavenly Homemaker had too much of the cleaning responsibility in our kitchen falling on her. And I think she felt like the kitchen was falling on her sometimes. We have children ages 5 (he’ll tell you five and three quarters) through 13 right now. They should be doing more. Rarely will a child just magically hop in and do more. If you are blessed with one of those who jumps in and works hard, it is due to your parenting. BRAVO! If they need some help in this area, then likewise, it is up to your parenting. Laura and I recognized that our boys needed guidance in this area so we came up with a Kitchen Chore Chart aka The System

We spend a lot of time in the kitchen, making many messes and monumental masterpieces there, but Mom was usually stuck with the aftermath. Notice I said “was.”  We’ve moved from (after)math to music (to her ears). In our effort to conduct our family as an orchestra playing a work of art we are becoming more organized. Below is our plan for kitchen chores plus some other cleaning that we felt was being overlooked or needed to be systematized. Click on the link below to download:

Kitchen Chore Chart

Remake or tweak the chart to fit your context. Then FOLLOW THROUGH. Be the parent. I know this audience is overwhelmingly Moms, but Dads, get on board with the plan. Yes, literally mark your name/initials on the chart and work alongside your family. I have had fun and I have been firm also. You reap what you sow. So sow seeds that will reap dividends better than so-so. (I couldn’t resist.)

A few notes:

1) In the early, training days of implementation it will probably take you and the team longer to complete the tasks than if you just did it yourself, but after proper training, it will pay off.

2) We are rotating the duties every meal and changing the lineup a bit daily in hopes that it won’t get old and because each day is different.

3) Obviously, older kids can do some chores that younger ones aren’t capable of yet, but don’t forget to graduate the younger ones onto higher expectations. Right now our chart separates “Put away leftovers” from “Clear table/buffet” so that our youngest has a couple of different chores he can do or team up with someone else to do. In a year we’ll probably combine the two.

4) Ideally, the chart is updated for the following day at the end of the day so you aren’t scrambling, confused or arguing the next morning. Hmmm, does that sound like we have had that experience?

Field trip this morning that Mom and the boys went on,
so breakfast was a little out of the norm on this chart.

Many hands, even mini-hands, make light work…when trained and organized.
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Laura here…I will state again what Matt said in this post:  Download the Kitchen Chore Chart we’ve come up with to get an idea of what works for us, but be sure to revamp it to meet your needs! And just in case you were wondering, “Mo” stands for Mom and “Ma” stands for Malachi. And “D” stands for Dad because we couldn’t have another “Ma” that stood for Matt. Wow, this system is really complicated, huh? Okay, no, not really.

Our Home School Schedule(ish) for 2010-2011

I hold to our schedule lightly in order to keep myself sane. Well, close to sane as the case may be. I thought I’d try to share with you what our daily schedule sort of looks like….although it really isn’t a schedule. It’s hardly even an order of events. This will just be a little glimpse into what our days look like if we don’t have a field trip or a PE class or a leaky dishwasher or a hang nail.

(In case you’re interested, here’s a look at our schedule for 2009-2010 and our schedule for 2008-2009.)

And now for 2010-2011…

Our schedule has changed from year to year, but one thing has stayed the same:  We always read the Bible at breakfast. We LOVE starting our kids’ day like this. We are currently reading a chapter of Matthew together, then reading a section from Why Pray (Why Pray? is a GREAT read by the way!)  Our older boys also read their Bibles on their own each morning before they come downstairs for breakfast.

why_pray

After breakfast/Bible reading begins a general organized hubbub. If possible, I sit down with Justus and Elias right after breakfast and read History and work through Spelling words. (You can see a list of their books and curriculum here.)  Malachi (Kindergarten) heads off to play Legos or super heros or army guys or something else very manly. Asa begins his reading assignments for the day. He works on his own for most of the morning, making his way through his history books, literature and math. Once I’ve finished History and Spelling with Justus and Elias, they do their individual work (handwriting, math, phonics, vocabulary).

IF by chance all the boys are working on their own without trouble at this point of the morning (of course I am available to answer questions at any time), I will start some laundry, wash some dishes, have a conversation with my husband (joy!), cook something, or scrub some unidentified gooey substance from the kitchen floor.

If I can, I try to put a big, nice meal on the table for lunch. Matt often works evenings, so I want to send him off with a healthy meal. I am finding that having good pre-made food in the freezer is a HUGE help for me since I don’t always have time to cook a big meal from start to finish during school time. Pulling something from the freezer and throwing some veggies on the table with it has been a life saver!!

While we’re eating lunch, Matt works with us on memory verses.  Have I ever written about how we do “repeat afters”?  Why have I not ever written about how we do “repeat afters”?  I’ll put that on my list. It’s so simple, yet so effective.

While we’re doing “repeat afters”, I stuff my lunch down. Then, while the boys are still eating (because eating is an art form for them), I will read from our latest science book, then from our latest “read-aloud” book. They generally finish eating while I’m reading, but we all just sit around the table enjoying the books. I LOVE reading during meal times!!!

After lunch, before the boys scatter…we’ll do a quick grammar lesson (Grammar Ace) or art lesson (Mark Kistler’s Draw Squad).   After that, I sit with Asa and help him finish his History, Spelling and Science lessons. This has been a really great time with my teenager! While I’m doing this with Asa, Justus and Elias set the timer for 25 minutes and sit down in a quiet room to read. Malachi has gone back to his Legos again.

Somewhere in there, we send Matt off to work (or soccer practice, depending on the day). Then finally, I call Malachi in to do his school work. I don’t do every subject with him every day. I don’t find it necessary. The main thing is that he gets it all done eventually…and he’s getting some one-on-one time with Mama.

Now keep in mind that this order of events is how an “ideal” day looks. I’m actually finding that by staying very laid back about our schedule has helped all of us stay stress-free during the day! Sometimes we’re still finishing up some of our lessons at 8 pm. Sometimes we don’t get everything finished and have to carry our work over to the next day. 

I have given up assigning a “time schedule” to our days. I pretty much HATED having a schedule that said, “Science 9:00-9:30; History 9:30-10:00…”  We could NEVER stick to a schedule like that (read here if you want to know why) and it always made me a Frantic Freaked-Out Mama. NO ONE wants to do school work with a Frantic Freaked-Out Mama!  Not even me.

I think that the main point is to just get everything done (mostly) and to keep the most important things the most important things. I don’t want my kids to remember school days with a Frantic Freaked-Out Mama. I want them to remember “repeat afters” and reading with Mama while they eat lunch and snuggling on the couch to learn about Abraham Lincoln.

We get it all done somehow…so it doesn’t really matter what time the clock says, does it?

Here are some other posts you may be interested in reading about how we used to accomplish “school” when we had littler guys and  babies in the house!

Homeschool Hubbub: Flexibility is Good

Interested to know what a perfect day looks like at our house while we follow the awesome organized schedule I have set up for us? Yeah, me too. I’ll be sure to let you know what that looks like just as soon as we have one of those.

Want to know what a real day looks like at our house? Now that I can tell you about. Messy, loud, fun, frustrating, silly, scattered, satisfying…those are the kinds of days we usually have. Schedule? Yes we have one…just because we have to have SOMETHING to go by so that we can accomplish SOMETHING. But if I were to force us each day to stick to the exact schedule…I would make all of our lives miserable. Especially my own. 

I’ve learned through these past eight years of homeschooling to keep our days flexible. To write down what I’d like a school day to look like and then to follow the plan loosely. Because just about the time I finally get all of my children in the room at the same time, settle them comfortably into their spots on the couches with pillows, wait for all of them to look up expectantly at me so that I can begin reading an enlightening chapter from our latest history book…someone is going to have to go to the bathroom

And while that someone is in the bathroom, another someone will remember that he forgot his pencil but on his way to go get it he will see the Lego man on the steps that he had been missing and then he will accusingly ask which of his other brothers left the Lego man on the stairs when clearly Lego men are not allowed out of the Lego room because this is how we lose Lego people and the other brothers (the ones that are not in the bathroom) will run to see which Lego man it is and then they will all go to the Lego room, forget all about history and start to build a space ship. 

In the meantime, the phone will ring with a call I can’t ignore and by the time I can corral them all back into the living room for history a good forty-five minutes will have passed and we’ll all finally get settled back down again…just in time for someone else to need to go to the bathroom

These are the days of our lives.

I work very hard to keep our school days free of outside appointments, and I almost never answer the phone while we’re schooling…but sometimes things can come up that are out of my control. We have to roll with it. (No, boys!  I did not say that you could roll and wrestle all over the art materials which are on the floor…I meant roll with the schedule! Get off the sketchbooks!!!)

Somehow our children are learning in spite of all of the “life” that is going on around us. 

Hey, it would appear that “life” is what they need to be learning about anyway.

Well, I’m so glad I worked that into the schedule. ;)

Oh Look. My Closet Has a Floor.

Our closet has some major issues. It has a big sloped ceiling (because it is under a set of stairs). It has lots of stuff in it and it is used mainly by little boys who don’t like to put their stuff where it goes. 

A few weeks ago, I actually heard my closet having a panic attack. After weeks of wintertime apparel being thrown haphazardly all over its floor and after being chosen time after time as “the best hiding spot” in Hide-And-Go-Seek and after the unfortunate “where are the tennis balls I KNOW I put them somewhere in the back with the golf clubs last summer” incident…

Well, if I had to suffer this kind of treatment all winter long, by February I’d look terrible and suffer a panic attack too.

closetbeforesmAlmost looks worse than my hair when I walk the five yards from my front door
to the mailbox on a 45 mile per hour windy day in March, doesn’t it?
 

At least there are some possible solutions for organizing the closet. My hair on a windy day? Well…let’s just stick with attainable goals shall we?

I started by cleaning out all of the unused contents of the closet. There are six people who share this closet and four of them are boy children who like to play in snow…but do we really need nine pairs of snow boots? And can anyone actually fit into these little baby sized boots anymore? And why do we have so many coats? I am SO thankful for hand-me-downs, but how about we only keep the coats that currently fit someone and put the other sizes into tubs in the attic? (Although those coats will have to be taken to the attic by my brave and fearless husband because I’m still suffering bird-in-the-face trauma).

So, paring down to one coat and pair of boots (and one pair of gloves and one hat and one scarf) per person…plus some snow suits and roller blades and heelies…

The tubs in our closet now look like this:

closet11smI realize it doesn’t look like much of an improvement…but trust me…it is. 
Big fat coats and snow suits take up an incredible amount of space. Multiply coats, snowsuits and boots by my four children and two entire tubs are full.

Why, you might ask, are you putting all of these items in tubs? Did we or did we not recommend hooks??? 

Yes, you did indeed recommend hooks, but I actually have very little wall space in my closet because of the sloped ceiling. I do have a few hooks, but they are quite high. And any other wall space that might sport a hook is directly behind where the big coats hang. Hooks, unfortunately aren’t working for me as a solution this time. 

My two big rubbermaid tubs fit nicely into the sloped space. The kids (after being gently reminded and then lovingly threatened with losing prized lego possessions) now remember to NEVER AGAIN put their coats on the floor, but to ALWAYS put their coats and boots in the correct tubs under the slope.

closet2smSee, coats in one tub and boots, roller blades in the other tub…gloves and hats in the crate. 
Daddy’s boots get to go on the floor,
because he’s the daddy and Mommy said it was okay.

Since the hooks are a little bit too high for the little guys, I assigned one hook to our oldest/tallest son (who would never dream of putting his coat on the floor in the first place). I’m using the other hooks for my shopping bags so that they don’t get mixed in with the kid’s boots.

closet4sm

closet1sm

And there you go.

Are you impressed? Probably not. Tubs and crates are really not that exciting. Someone who utilized some really adorable and trendy looking storage containers should totally win this challenge

But after several weeks of not seeing the floor of my closet and being incredibly frustrated with my children every time I need a shopping bag and have to dig for five minutes under muddy snow boots…I’m pretty stinkin’ excited.

Oh and also, I haven’t heard any panicky sounds coming from my closet for days. In fact, if I listen very closely I actually hear the occasional, “aaahhhh.”

This post is linked to Organizing Your Way.

A Day in the Life…sort of

Ever since I wrote this post about our homeschool schedule and promised to do a “Day in the Life” post…I’ve been TRYING to take pictures of a day in our life.

Wow…I didn’t realize how tricky that job would be. The days of our lives are um…eventful. Especially during soccer season. I had a hard time taking a picture journal of one entire day.

Long story short…I couldn’t make it happen. SO…instead I decided to use all the pictures I’ve taken in the past several days of our lives to give you a feel for what our days look like. You’ll see that they really don’t look very much like this schedule…ever. That’s okay…that’s the beauty of homeschooling and being flexible and letting go of the idea that everything will be blissful and perfect and charming when you are a parent.  (That was me doing a little self talk…telling myself that it’s okay to let some things go and realize that not everything will be blissful and perfect and charming as I parent my children.)

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Here are all the boys eating pancakes for breakfast. Even though our days can look quite different when it comes to the schedule…we always work to make time for our Breakfast/Bible Reading time. 

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After breakfast we try to do some of our “together” work. On Mondays and Wednesdays this is usually the time we work on our Geography Packets. On this particular day, the boys were learning more about the natural resources in each state. Guess what? Nebraska produces a lot of corn. Bet you never knew that, huh? :)

malachieliascoloringsm
I let the boys choose a quiet activity while I read History to them. Of course…the day I took this picutre they decided to color. Probably because I had mentioned in this post that my boys almost NEVER sit quietly and color. Had to prove me wrong, didn’t they?

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Next, the boys work on some of their individual work. Here, Elias is working on his handwriting. This can take anywhere from five to twenty mintues.  Five if I don’t remind him that the point of working in a handwriting book is to LEARN TO WRITE NEATLY. Twenty if he uses his handwriting book to learn to write neatly. ehem

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Elias (2nd grade) usually needs help with his math…so here we are working on it. A special thanks to photographer Justus. And I suppose after looking at this picture it’s apparent that I don’t usually take the time to do anything with my hair on a typical school day? Yeah, it’s not in the schedule.

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I actually got some Pre-K time with Malachi on this day. I sort of sat in the middle between Elias and Malachi and worked with both of them at the same time. 

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Asa hides out in an upstairs bedroom to work on his math. We found that it cuts his math time in half if he’s alone in an upstairs room vs. if he’s down in the kitchen where there are always lots of distractions.  

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One day after Justus finished his independent work…he mixed up cookies for a post-season soccer party he was to have with his team. The party wasn’t until the weekend, but we talked about how busy our upcoming weekend was going to be and decided to make them mid-week and freeze them. MAYBE he’s learning to plan ahead? Maybe.

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Sometime in the afternoon everyone sits down for reading time. From the quality of this picture…it kind of looks like I make everyone read in the dark, doesn’t it? 

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Elias was sitting across the room and I couldn’t get all of the readers in one picture. This cutie is going to town with chapter books this year!

 

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By the time school was over one of the days last week, Malachi had managed to empty the contents of two (or three) toy bins. Here he is (ever so cheerfully) picking up 300 toys. sigh

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I think this picture sums up our days quite nicely. I took this last Wednesday right before I tried to cook dinner in this mess. It was our last 70 degree day before we knew it was going to get cold. SO…I left the dishes and the rest of our school work and all afternoon we worked outside to pull in all of our peppers and tomatoes and okra and potatoes. Oh, and we went and picked apples at someone’s farm too. After working for HOURS outside, then bringing it all in…here’s what the kitchen looked like. Shew!

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This picture with Malachi and the produce is much cuter than the whole messy kitchen picture. See…that box there is tomatoes. We picked three bags of apples…three buckets of peppers. Somehow the potatoes didn’t make it into the pic. Just when I thought I was done canning for the year…woohoo more applesauce and salsa! :)

Some of you have asked how long our school day takes. Every day is different. Sometimes reading History takes ten minutes…sometimes it takes an hour. Usually we are finished by 2:30 or so (if we start about 9ish). That’s with taking a lunch break and a short play break. Often it depends on how focused the boys are on their independent work.   

And there you have it. A day (or so) in our lives. Although there were lots of things I didn’t show you like  lunch and dinner and evening and cleaning up and answering the phone and going to soccer games and sliding down the stairs on sleeping bags…

 Really, you should all just come for a visit. 

Would Someone Please Hand Me a Schedule?

We finished our “scheduled” schooling right about the end of April. In the weeks since we finished, I’ve been pretty laid back about having any kind of routine. I think it’s nice after having nine months of order to kick back and just do whatever, whenever.

The weather has been absolutely gorgeous. We sleep in…we play outside…we work in the garden…

But somehow, the lack of routine doesn’t set well with me after a few weeks. I don’t feel quite as productive. I don’t want the boys to get into a “what? you want me to actually do a chore?” mode. I don’t want the summer to go by and find that we didn’t really accomplish anything. 

I need a schedule. I need some routine. I need productiveness. So, pardon me while I kind of think out loud here as I try to create some sort of organization for our summertime. It may not be pretty. Feel free to tune me out.

Projects I want to get done (with the boys help) this summer:

  • Clean out the house and have a yard sale. (Guard your favorite action figures carefully…I’m in a “get rid of stuff” mood.)
  • Clean up our storage room.
  • Organize books in the school room.
  • Paint the bathroom trim. (oh, I am so not looking forward to this one…)
  • Paint our porch (?) (four boys with paint brushes? I don’t know)
  • Teach Malachi to write his name. (more on this another time)

Projects I’m working on for Heavenly Homemakers:

  • Gardening and Canning ebook (really, really want to have this one finished soon…I’m pretty sure it’s going to happen) :)
  • Early Learners curriculum/ebook (really, really want to have this one finished soon…don’t think it’s going to happen)  :(
  • Oh so many more ebooks started and half finished
  • Continue with Eat More Fruits and Veggies Challenge
  • Catch up on emails and answering questions (does this ever really happen? That’s okay, bring on the emails!)

Stuff we need to work on every day:

  • Keep up with the garden. (I won’t let the weeds get out of control…I won’t let the weeds get out of control..I won’t let the weeds…..)
  • Keep up with the housework.
  • Read the Bible and work on memory work.

Activities we can be involved in:

  • Library summer reading program (definitely doing)
  • Wessels Farm Life programs (local farm holding special classes for kids…teaching history…checking into)
  • Science Museum summer classes (checking into)
  • Wednesday dollar movie at the theater (every once in a while when there’s a good movie we want to see)
  • Farmer’s Market (not selling baked goods this year…just selling shaved ice!)

Okay, here’s what I think we’ll do:

  • Wake up whenever (hopefully I’ll wake up an hour or two before the boys so I can get computer work done) (actually, as it gets hotter, I’ll need to work in the garden during the earlier morning hours instead of working on the computer)
  • Eat breakfast/read Bible together
  • Do some daily chores before we start playing (we as in the boys part of we)
  • Boys play/Mom does more housework…probably in the kitchen…or we all work in the garden together
  • Lunch
  • Work on projects mentioned above with boys
  • Boys play/Mom works on HHM projects
  • Mom exercises on mini-trampoline (gotta put that into the schedule because I won’t make myself do it otherwise)
  • Dinner
  • Straighten up the house
  • Play or help Daddy with chores he needs help with/more garden work
  • Bedtime (whenever that is)

Okay, well thank you for putting up with that. Even though it’s a loose schedule, I feel better now. 

What do your summers look like? Do you try to keep a schedule?

The Great Closet Clean-out

The boys have been begging. I finally said yes. 

We finally pulled out all of our clothes and did the great switch from winter to summer clothes (leaving some sweats and jeans and sweatshirts in the closet just in case because packing all the warm clothes away is a sure way to make it snow).

Here’s what happens at our house:

I clean out and organize the boys’ closets twice a year. In the meantime…we receive boxes and bags of hand-me-downs. When this occurs…do I carefully sort and organize the clothing we receive? 

Nope. I throw them into the back of a closet until unti the next biannual closet clean-out.

Why, you ask? Because I’m lazy like that. Because our clothing bins are in the attic making them hard to get to. Because we don’t need the clothes yet. Because I don’t want to. Because the clothes we receive are likely not to fit anyone yet anyway. And because organizing clothing twice a year for four growing boys is plenty for me.

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This is what my camera captured when I turned on the flash then stuck
it into the back of the closet. That pile was several feet high.

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We pulled it all out and it looked like this.

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I asked Matt to bring our clothing containers down from the attic and the boys started pulling out all of their favorite shirts…and talking at once…and asking me loud questions like “will this shirt fit me this year?” and “oh can I have this one?”. Malachi was crawling all over me and into my well ordered piles and into the containers. It was a fun organizational moment.  The kind that makes me want to not let them help me. But…I know they love helping me with this job, so I kept myself from screaming for Calgon to take me far, far away and let them go a little nuts for a while. 

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Two days and several hours later…the bottom of the closet is storing only sleeping bags. (Someone needs to take a broom to that floor.)

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The clothing bins are now ready to go live in the attic again until the next time I feel like we need a little family insanity.

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And…I was able to take a very full container of clothes to the clothing giveaway at church we hosted over the weekend.

What’s it like at your house when you sort through clothes during the changes of seasons? Have any closets that you need to clean out? (My boys would be happy to come and help you.)

You can go visit Tammy’s Recipes for more “Pile Clean Up” motivation.