Cooking, Finances, Home and Family, Homemaking, Homeschooling, Organization

It’s summertime!

Okay.  I admit it.  Summer is NOT my favorite season of the year.  Heat is not my friend.  Pulling weeds is exhausting.  I’m not a huge fan of bugs.  Yet there is one thing that I do love about summer; it gives me a chance to regroup before the return of cold weather, canning season, and the next school year.  What do I do each summer that makes me smile?  It’s time to start making lists, so I grab a notebook and pencil, and inventory my life.

Closets get a good once-ever.  Out with the stained, ripped, ill-fitting, and simply-not-worn items (other than gardening clothes.  They don’t have to look impressive…or even respectable.  As long as they are modest, I’m good.).  I can fill in the gaps I create for minimal cost as I thrift.

Food storage is checked and straightened.  What do I have that needs to be used, or tossed? Which foods need restocking through canning, drying, sales, etc.?  Have our eating habits changed?  How does that affect what I should be storing?  I love seeing neatly faced shelves, and the knowledge that I can cook whatever strikes my fancy without an emergency shopping trip!

This is a great time to tidy, sort, and overhaul the school stuff.  Which items need to go to someone else?  What is so loved (translation: worn-out) I really ought to find an additional or replacement?  What have I not used because I forgot about it?  I also take time to move the contents of my games/learning activities shelves around.  It gives my grandchildren and others who visit a chance to rediscover old, forgotten favorites, and try new things.

I check the linen closet.  It contains not only my towels, wash clothes, and such, it is where I store the OTC meds, extra supplements, first aid and personal care products.  What needs to go on the case lot shopping list?  Having this closet stocked and things in an easy to find place before cold and flu season hits gives me great peace of mind!

As I sort, I am making mental and written lists of needs to look for as I shop, or items to add to the budget to minimize surprises later.

While this list seems overwhelming, remember it is best to eat an elephant one bite at a time!  Pick one shelf, one closet, one drawer, one category and sort that, then in a day or two, work on another one.  In a week or two, you can look back and surprise yourself with how much got done!  And don’t forget to involve the children!  They can empty shelves, take things to the trash, assist with decisions (depending on their age), and if they helped create the mess, they get to help sort it and put it away properly!  Work with one or two kids at a time, or dive in with everyone and when you’ve finished, go do something fun or eat something yummy to congratulate yourselves on a job well done!

By the time autumn rolls around, and I am ready to hunker down for the coming cold weather, the house is ready.

Happy sorting!

Home and Family, Homemaking

Three cheers for indoor plumbing!

It is cold outside. Not as cold as the mid-west and eastern parts of the United States right now, but cold enough. Days like today make me more grateful for  the simple things in life.  A working furnace.  A fully-stocked pantry.  Fuzzy socks.  And indoor plumbing.

I am currently enjoying a book about cooking and housekeeping in Britain during the 19th and early 20th centuries. While some of the procedures and methods sound almost reasonable, or even down-right quaint, much of what I am reading make me cringe!  And I feel more grateful for what I have-like indoor plumbing.  No need to choose between running out to the outhouse or using a chamber pot that I would get to clean out later.  Or worrying about having enough water inside that is fresh and potable.  Or needing to manually fill a large tub to climb into a hot bath to warm up, or soak my husband’s muscles-sore from a day’s labor.

I can run a bath, put in a load of laundry, turn on the dishwasher to clean up from a meal, fill the kettle from the tap for hot chocolate or mint tea, and even make a “pit stop” without the need to go outside or start with frigid water.

Yeah for the 21st century!

Cooking, Gardening, Home and Family, Homemaking, Organization

The right tools for the job

This evening, I was in the kitchen cooking dinner and happened to look around at the beehive of activity at my house.  I had both ovens going with food for dinner.  I was using various pans and Pyrex dishes for meal prep.  There was the immersion blender for mixing milk, and the spoons made of various materials for stainless steel and non-stick pans.  After we eat, the dishes will go into the dishwasher to get clean.

My husband and son-in-law were outside with the weed-whacker, mower, and tiller in use as they cleaned up the lawn, and prepped three grow-boxes for the corn and beans to be planted tonight.  Three loads of laundry are on the clothesline drying.

Downstairs were the washer and dryer helping me complete the days laundry.  (I don’t hang underwear, socks, towels, or wash cloths on the line.)  My daughter is teaching her five boys.  Some academics.  Some cleaning skills.  And sorting as she goes.

None of this would be possible without the correct tools for the job.  No tiller would mean a full day of amending and mixing soils before we can plant.  No immersion blender could result in lumpy milk.  Doing laundry with modern appliances just doesn’t bear thinking about at all.  And without the ability to plan and the correct supplies, raising and teaching children is tough!

We don’t have the “ideal” world of years gone by in which to rear a family, but we don’t have to go plow the “back forty” with a horse and plow either.  I will take the 21st century anytime!  I will use my curriculum, my scriptures, and lots of time talking with the young ones as I use the wonderful tools at my disposal!  We are so blessed!

Home and Family, Homemaking, Homeschooling

Living with integrity

While talking through character study with my eldest grandson this morning, we discussed the difference between dishonesty and integrity.  At seven years old, he seemed to have a handle on dishonesty with no problem.  Stealing, lying, telling half-truths, etc. are dishonest behaviors and we shouldn’t indulge in them.  Integrity took a bit more explanation.  Not committing any of the aforementioned offenses is obviously part of living with integrity, but it goes further than that.  We talked about the need to be true to yourself and others, choosing to walk away rather than participate in activities that you know are wrong, and doing your best.  He seemed to “get it.”  And now his grandma is thinking… and thinking…

What does living with integrity mean in my life?  What does it look like?  This is what I decided living with integrity means to me:

  • Being true to myself, the Lord, and my priorities.  If I can’t get to everything on my list, I need to focus on the most important, and trust Him with the rest.
  • Trying to be wise.  If my health, time, or finances won’t stretch that far, admit it.  Walk away.  Move on.
  • Recognizing what each day allows.  Some nights I can put on a full roast chicken/mashed potatoes/biscuits/salad dinner.  Some nights we have box mac-n-cheese and bottled fruit.  Other nights we may just grab take-out.  Trying to create a masterpiece for each meal is just not reasonable.  We are either too busy, too stretched, or too much in need of “down time.”  This goes for getting dressed everyday including doing my hair and a full-face of make-up, having a spotlessly clean house, perfectly done laundry, flawlessly weeded garden, or even an articulately written post.  I need to do be content with what I can actually do at the time.
  • Allowing others the same.  I can’t expect perfection of those around me.  If I am letting go of that expectation for myself, I have to afford them the same courtesy.  Some days are just not the best.  If the children are having an off day, or are not feeling tip-top, let things go a bit.  Do a crossword for spelling.  Don’t ask for perfection in their math assignment.  Let the unmade bed go a bit longer (they may need to crawl back into it at some point).  If my husband had a crazy day at work, I need to lighten up on the “honey-do’s” and let him read the sports page, etc.
  • Honesty matters.  I can only do what I can do.  I believe what I believe.  I am not obligated to negotiate any of that to make someone else happy.
  • False modesty is akin to lying.  If you are good at something, be good at it!  I can cook a mean pot of spaghetti, and my bread is yummy!  I love assembling curriculum and helping others teach their children, and they come to my home for that, so it must be worth their time.  On the other hand, I am hopeless with a needle or playing sports.  Those are things I joy in as I watch my children participate.  My daughter, her husband, and oldest boy all knit and/or crochet.  My other children are gifted artists, athletes, and designers.  I do what I do.  They are good at so many other things!  And we all love to play with words!
  • Gratitude is vital.  I have no integrity if I refuse to see the amazing blessings and tender mercies that shower down each day!  I have a good man for a husband, loving and contributing children with great priorities, and the cutest grandchildren ever! (They really are!) 166766_10200951243442301_2055576302_n IMG_6477    I live a comfortable home, in a stunning part of the country, in a great nation, and have friends and faith to get me through the challenges of life.   Denying or letting go of any of that is a betrayal of all I know and love.

I can’t live each day with full excellence or perfection.  There is too much about me and my life that is human or challenging.  But “til I die I will not remove mine integrity from me.”  (Job 27:5)

Homeschooling

Routines vs. schedules, part 2

When my children were at home, I think everyone’s favorite part of the academic day was “group time.”  We would gather for our morning devotional, pledge, and work on as much together as differing ages and such would allow.  Here is a very general outline of what it entailed.

Group time:

Poetry-No big plan.  Just pulled a book of the shelf and read one or two poems.  Sometimes they were nonsense; sometimes they were a more serious work.  Nothing morbid/too deep for early learners.  Not everyone will love poetry, but everyone should be given the chance to hear it.

History reading-A passage from whichever book we are currently using.  This was often accompanied by a book with great illustrations/photographs to help the visual learners.  Often they would color a picture as I read.  (Dover coloring books-doverpublishing.com-were great resources for this.)

Character or ethics study-We would discuss manners, courtesy, heroes, or whatever Mom felt she needed to address in a non-confrontational format.  Sometimes I would use a picture book or fable.  Sometimes we would pull things from the scriptures or history.  A VITAL part of our school day!

Drill-3×5 cards are a must for the way we schooled.  Classical education requires foundational concepts be memorized, and flashcards are one of the easiest ways to do that!  States/capitols, presidents, phonograms, Latin and Greek roots, scientific facts, you name it.  Younger children often memorize more quickly than older ones, so this can be a great time for them to shine!

Memorization work-Poetry, scriptures, music, quotes.  Fill their bucket with the words and images of those who can help them in good times or bad.  What will they sing as they watch the sunrise over the mountain for the first time?  Whose words will come to them as they face the next mountain?

Literature reading-Picture books.  Chapter books.  Great literature is sometimes best shared as a family.  Some books we read for fun (see blog on our favorite read-aloud books).  Some we read as part of our academic studies-and for fun.  If your children have a hard time sitting still as you read, try allowing them to color, or build with legos, or dance.  If they are kinesthetic, they will learn more that way!

Hands-on activities-If you are going to make a mess, you may as well involve everyone!  Try to have something for each child to do so that they can all contribute.

Whatever Mom wants to throw into the mix-The above list is in no way comprehensive.  Add life skills, other academics, or whatever you feel would benefit your own children.  After all, you are the Mom!

Once group time was over, everyone needed to finish their individual lists.  I have included the subjects I assigned for each level.  (For more information on learning levels, check the archives on this blog.)

Individual work for discovery learners:

Penmanship/copy work

Oral narration

Basic grammar study

Spelling

Hands-on math and science

Science collections

Reading-with Mom or individually

Learning games

Art or music

Scripture study

History, math or science bio

Chores with an older helper

Individual work for analysis learners:

Penmanship book with quotes or poetry

Narration

Outlining

Hands-on activities

Reading for history, science, literature, etc.

Grammar study

Logic study

Vocabulary/syntax study

Current events

Mathematics

Art or music

Scripture study

Latin or other language study

Chores

Individual work for application learners:

Upper level mathematics

Continuing logic study

Writing, writing, and more writing

Reading, reading, and more reading

Prep for the SAT/ACT

Great literature

Primary source history

Real-life experience

Chores

Home and Family, Homeschooling

Routines vs. schedules

“How did you schedule your day?” seems to be a burning question for many people, and is asked often whenever I teach at a convention or support group, or check my email.

Rule #1- I didn’t have a schedule.  I had a routine.  Having a schedule sounds too much like a public school (9:00- math, 9:30-reading, etc.), and set me up for failure.  That didn’t mean my days were a free-for-all.  I chose to be in charge, rather than the clock calling the shots.

Here is how things often looked when I had four kids at home.  This is a very general idea, and does not take into account appointments or classes that did work on a schedule.  You get the idea.

8:00-9:00: Everyone up and tidying bedrooms (Getting dressed was often optional.  I do some of my best work in my pajamas!).

Breakfast together around 9:30.

Group time for the family came next.  This included our morning devotional, pledge, and any academic studies we could do as a group.  This time together might take as few as 30 minutes, or could last for two to three hours.  It varied by the day and was generally influenced by whether or not a great discussion was started.  (Beware of allowing a “need” to keep to a schedule interfere with addressing those things your children are interested in delving into in greater detail.  If you need to adjust some of your curriculum for a new, burning interest-by all means, adjust!)

Individual school lists were started when group time was over.  Anything on their lists not covered during our time as a group needed to be completed by them individually.  Each child had their own list.  Some would finish before lunch, some after-depending on their ages, and how motivated they were that day.  It was also often determined by how long we took during group time.

School time was scheduled four days a week.  (We would study history two days, and science the other two.  Other subjects were done each day.)We found you could cover a great deal of ground in four good solid days of studies.  I could then use the other days to shop, deal with doctor appointments, work on gardening, canning or other food preservation projects, sort, or catch up on whatever else I needed to do.

That was the daily routine-most of the time.  Some days called for something else.  Wednesday mornings were story time at the local library. Friday was our shopping day.  Sunday involved church, family time, and a complete change of pace.

I found that this routine worked well for us because life is full of changes, twists, turns, and unplanned events.  Having a routine helped to allow for those changes without feeling derailed.  On days when the kids were sick, we read more books and watched a bit more educational television. When it was just too lovely outside to remain indoors, we packed a picnic lunch and had a day of nature study, or worked on the garden, or went to the zoo.  First snowfall of the season?  Time to brush off the shovels, build a snowman, and then learn to make cocoa.  Learning to be flexible helped us accomplish the highest priorities, and still retain a bit of sanity.  Too much rigidity can be maddening!

If life threw a major curve-ball, we tried incorporate it into what we are doing.  As I have schooled my own over the last two decades, we faced unemployment, heart surgeries, military deployments, moves, miscarriages, and other real life events.  When they happened, we went through them as a family.  No job?  We all found ways to save money and contribute (economics and life skills).  Child in the hospital?  We studied the heart, and learned about convalescent care (biology and health).  Grandma and Grandpa moving into a new home allowed us to serve, and to work on our organizational skills.  Remember- life’s challenges are opportunities to show your children how to keep going in spite of what is happening around you.  They are not an excuse to fall apart or derail family goals.  Major emergencies (heart attacks, appendicitis, etc.) may require we drop and run, and then regroup in a few days.  If you can view all of these things as learning experiences and preparation for life, it can enhance your time with your children, rather than overwhelming you.

And on those days when it is all just too much, give yourself permission to break out the games,  bake cookies, and enjoy the day!