Organizing Our Days — Worth Their Weight in Gold

Today I am going to share what we do for our chore cards! It’s been a process we’ve been developing with our children over the last year, but my husband made this comment the other day, when I referred one of our children to their chore cards and he bounded off to do so: “Those things have been worth their weight in gold around here lately.” I was so tickled that he noticed, and it encouraged me to share! I thought if my husband’s observant eye saw a positive difference in our home, it was worth sharing with others. If you’re looking to make chores a valuable part of your child’s schooling, as well as mostly enjoyable and more efficient, I hope this post aids you in such a quest!

Tackling chores as a homeschooling family with young children can be challenging. Like, what should I assign them? How often? Do I need to supervise? How do I teach them, and when their chore skills are waning, how do I reinforce their best efforts again? How do I keep them on task?! I will not attempt to solve all these challenges of doing chores at home with children, but I will share what’s been a positive experience as we’ve worked through these challenges in real time.

It’s been several years since we tossed the chore chart in our home and I have never regretted it! It did not work for us even after moving the chart from the children’s bedrooms to the main living and back again. We didn’t put all the magnets up for each chore ’til that night some days, and often pieces went missing. It was too much of a chore keeping track of 90 pieces…

So, we simplified. We started by assigning one chore per child for the entire school year, plus their personal belongings and hygiene. This was revolutionary! Now as my children have gotten older, we’ve added to that, but I focused on teaching them to do one thing and to do it well. At first it was easy to keep track because they were each responsible for their own things and one other chore. If they wanted to keep their toys, they needed to put them away and take care of them. Chore assignments went as follows:

  • JR (age 6) DISHES: This chore required my oldest to set and clear the table, and help put away clean dishes out of the dishwasher, as well as collect dirty cups from around the house.
  • P (age 4) ENTRIES: This chore entailed keeping the boot trays and shoe cubbies organized and picked up, and delivering items to the appropriate rooms that often collected in the front and back doorway. We have a low rack for children’s coats. Hanging coats on the low rack was great fine motor for my 4-year-old at the time!
  • J (age 2) TOWELS: My littlest sat with me while I folded laundry daily, and I handed all towels to her to fold as well as put away in a bottom drawer in either the kitchen for kitchen towels or the bathroom for bathroom towels, and she usually identified correctly where each towel was to be used.

At the time, these three areas covered most of our daily chores, and the children helped me with other things as they needed to be addressed. As their skills progressed, they each moved on to greater responsibilities, and we spent time learning new chores in the summer as we transitioned to each new “school year.”

I’m all about streamlining the tasks I have to do day-in and day-out at home. The positive reinforcement we’ve experienced through developing this consistent habit of familiar chores has convinced me to continue attacking chores in this way!

Today my children are 4, 6, and 8, so their abilities have increased significantly over the past years. I wanted a system to remind them of their chores, but to also keep things simple and in line with my chart tossing commitment. I scoured Pinterest and YouTube and came to an idea similar to Chore Cards, established by the Maxwell family. I wanted to further simplify their chore system, so I stuck with my previous joy of one new chore per school year and made permanent chore cards for morning with evening reminders on the reverse.

These chore cards my oldest helped me laminate, and they hang on a lanyard either around their neck or on the door knob to their bedroom. They initially wear them around their necks while carrying out their chores in the morning so they can refer to them if need be. A month or so into the school year, they hang on their doorknobs full time because they’ve memorized their new responsibilities, but I can always refer them back to them if they seem to be steering off course during our morning chore time.

I tell you so far it has been the solution to efficiency in this area of our schooling. My children love the emoji stickers on my iPad, as they often get to text Daddy when he’s away on long shifts, so I used the emojis to add pictures to the chores for my non-readers. Plus, pictures just make to-do lists more fun!

The refining process for gold requires high heat. Training our children to execute the daily responsibilities in their little lives will cause heat and friction at times, but the process will be worth it if you keep the goal in mind. Raising up children who radiate the character of responsible, reliable, and helpful youth will be worth all the hours of patient dedication on your part. Blessings to you as you continue in training your children in the school of daily life!

❤️Allison

Organizing our Days: Cursive Class

This year we have been focusing on language in our home school, as I understand that to be the foundation of all learning. I have three ages at home, and my desire is to teach in a style that we can all learn together instead of me teaching three separate children at different points in the day. Cursive class is my effort to teach reading and writing to my children as a group, all being at different stages of this skill.

My oldest started reading at a young age of 5 and a half. He is very self-driven and, although we worked on it some together, he picked it up quickly with little instruction. His first reader was the Bible! That was his great motivation because he had his own Bible and enjoyed looking up the Bible verses for Daddy to read during family worship, and soon he had the books of the Bible memorized. Next he wanted to read the verses himself! He had taught himself to sight-read Genesis and Deuteronomy and Matthew and Revelation, etc. I moved forward with teaching him to read by sight words from the Bible and our nature studies, but as my son grew older I noticed he wouldn’t sound out bigger words he didn’t know?!

When we discovered Spell to Write and Read over a year ago, I was so excited! I loved the idea of teaching the phonograms to my children, and I was already learning too! This process of teaching my children to read by “thinking to spell” was revolutionary to me. I dedicated time to studying the phonograms and method of teaching myself before I finally dove in to what we now call “Cursive Class” in our home.

I chose to teach my children cursive as they learned to “spell to read and write” for multiple reasons which I won’t go into detail in this post. Basically, my oldest who’d been writing for some time seemed to not be progressing with his handwriting skills, and often was still struggling with letter facing and progression. My younger son is a different learner, and I knew he needed something to aide him in his letter development. So, we switched to writing everything in cursive, even me. That was almost a year ago and I haven’t looked back! It truly is faster for my own purposes, and the children have no problem understanding which way a letter faces or how it develops as they write out their letters and words. Plus, their handwriting is developing so beautiful!

Cursive is our first sit-down class of the school day, because our minds are fresh after our morning routine. All three of my children participate, and we have prayer for school and dive in. I recently purchased some tracing cards for my younger two to make class more multi sensory for them.

My oldest has a cursive journal he brings out during this time, and we go through our single letter phonograms as a group. Sometimes I’ll have my youngest, who’s 4, hold up the flashcards, and I’ll call them out as she echoes the sounds each letter makes. My oldest says the sounds and writes out the phonograms in cursive in his journal. My middle child traces the letters as he also says the sounds each phonogram makes. This is such a simple exercise and takes approximately 15 minutes start to finish, but it has been the sole thing to improve handwriting and phonogram retention in my home so far. My oldest is already spelling better, and he’s sounding out those bigger words he doesn’t know! So, it accomplished my goals with him. We go on later in the morning to work on his spelling lists, just the two of us.

This class has another purpose behind it for my younger two children. It’s not a forced repertoire to make them learn to read, but very natural and fun, so as they desire to pick up God’s Word themselves and have their own reading experience, they too will have the foundations to start down that path of greater understanding and application.

My middle child is 6 and has recently expressed interest in learning to read on his own. I encouraged him to learn his letter sounds (phonograms), and that reading will happen after he develops that skill first. He enthusiastically chimes in during cursive. I know he will be a slower learner when it comes to reading on his own, but this method is so strong that he will progress quickly when he’s ready, and I’m excited for his experience in accomplishing his goal.

My youngest is exposed daily to reading through our frequent read alouds as well as participating in cursive with her brothers. She is eager to “teach” (with me) and quiz her big brothers on their letters. Repeated exposure is one of the biggest themes I have gathered from true education methods. It is how Jesus taught the multitudes as well as his own disciples during their short time together on earth.

So, I hope my 15 minutes of Cursive Class inspires you to take small snippets of your day to regularly expose your children to the foundations of reading, which is the foundation of all learning.

Blessings,
Allison

Organizing Our Days: Inside Our Read Aloud Basket

Last month I wrote about the part-reading plays in our homeschool. This month, I am excited to share the inside scoop on what we call our Read Aloud Basket. It’s basically a drop box for our read aloud subjects which I keep centrally located on our dining room buffet. We often read at the table while coloring or on the couch, but we have also grabbed a book to read on the trampoline outside, or in the car while running errands (my oldest reads during those times).
My Read Aloud Basket is similar to what many have coined a Morning Basket, but we use ours throughout the day. It’s a place to store our subjects that are important to me and that we cover collectively as a family.

That being said, it’s important to me to regularly expose my children to poetry, and this is the first book I’ll cover in our basket. I’ve grown to love the challenge reading poetry requires. Our ears and minds learn to hear what the author is saying, and we have enjoyed trying to express ourselves through rhymes. The poems we are currently enjoying are Lessons from Nature: Poems for Boys and Girls, by John Bunyan, the same author as Pilgrims Progress. We read one or two at the dinner table, after a meal, while waiting for the last child to finish eating.

Another table reader we often read during breakfast is The Family Book of Manners, by Hermine Hartley (every meal we have some that take longer than others and I like to stay seated til everyone’s done). This book is great fun, and we practice our manners right there at the table. It’s a great way to start our days with our best foot forward before we ever leave the breakfast table.

Another important topic I like to cover together is health. There are so many resources for health, and currently we are reading the First Book in Physiology and Hygiene, by J.H. Kellogg. It contains short lessons with questions to answer, and we do this while dinner is heating up, along with review our Scripture verses or character goals that we’ve chosen with our character trait of the week.

I keep our family prayer journal in our Read Aloud Basket along with our family Bible lessons we use each morning for family worship. It’s a simple spiral bound notebook and we also write our goals for the week in there to pray over each day. We use the family Bible lessons for evening worship in review. I also keep an Uncle Arthur’s Bible Stories book to read sometime during the week with my little ones as it helps cement our Bible lesson each week for them.

A favorite in our Read Aloud Basket is our chapter books! These mostly consist of missionary stories, but at present we are rereading Stories of the Pilgrims, by Margaret B. Pumphrey. We usually have one going, but we currently have a second chapter book that we read only when Daddy is available. These chapter books we read in the evening after everyone is ready for bed and evening chores are done. We have evening worship and finish our day with as many chapters as we can squeeze in before lights out!

Other books I’ve thrown in our Read Aloud Basket but that we don’t cover daily include What We Believe for Kids, by Jerry D. Thomas, and Guide’s Greatest Sabbath Stories or Sabbath Readings for the Home. These are books we enjoy for early Friday evenings as we welcome the Sabbath.

Lastly, I want to share my family worship binder which I keep in our Read Aloud Basket to help me stay on track throughout the day…

It’s a simple one-inch, three-ring binder with dividers in it for our worship topics. The topics consist of scheduling (our daily time log), Scriptures (a list of our quarterly memory verses), character (our Character First lesson), hymns/songs, and resources (loose papers I want to read the children)/future reading List. This binder is so essential to keeping me together and helping our day start right and stay on track. I can’t emphasize enough how important a schedule and family worship are to the success of our day.

Reading aloud has become a big success in covering topics that were not otherwise regularly implemented in our home. I hope this peek into how our Read Aloud Basket weaves important subjects throughout our day has inspired you. I’d love to hear about the subjects that are important to your family and how you tackle them collectively, whether through reading or another venue.

Blessings, Allison

Organizing Our Days: The Part Reading Plays


Fall is my favorite time of year. The changing colors, a cozy sweater, a good book, a warm cup of tea: These things make me happy! So naturally, I am excited to share my love of reading with my children, and this season is the perfect time to spend more time reading together.

I started reading to my oldest right out of the womb. You could say I was reading to him before he was even born, since it has been proven our children hear our voices while they are still in utero. In the first few months of his life, I would read my own books out loud. Usually these were devotional or parenting books that I was squeezing in now that I held this precious bundle in my arms with so little experience under my belt.

I don’t remember how old he was when we started reading picture books to him, but I do remember that as time progressed he was able to sit for longer periods of time as I read more to him. Now he is one of the readers in our home, and reading is a big part of our family’s day.

I spent a lot of time praying over our schedule and working the layout to be one that enabled us to teach each other throughout the day. This means my oldest spends up to 30 minutes reading and teaching his younger brother, and then my middle son has the opportunity to instruct and work with his little sister. These are fun and hands-on learning opportunities! I am learning from my children throughout the day, and I see them eager to learn as they have opportunities to learn from and teach each other.

We clock in more than three hours of purposeful reading on a daily basis! It’s lovely and not forced at all. The children all have personal devotions in the morning (15-20 minutes).  During our morning family worship, we take turns singing hymns and reading Scripture (20-40 minutes). In the late morning we begin school with cookbook reading (dinner preparations), applied math concepts, and character stories (30 minutes). We continue this pattern during our nature walk as we bring along a blanket and our nature lesson for the day (15 minutes). After our walk, we curl up on the couch and my son reads from his third grade True Education reader (15 minutes), then I follow with something from our Read Aloud Basket (15 minutes). We follow this with quiet time, and my older two can look at books or read/color during this time (15 minutes). In the evenings, we read from our Read Aloud Basket again for the longest period of read aloud time (30-45 minutes). This has become my favorite time of day, which says a lot because I’m a morning person and I have really struggled to find joy in the evenings when my energy is waning.

I hope this post encourages you to incorporate more time reading into your day in ways that can nurture a love for good books in your children. My next post I will be sharing more of an inside look to our Read Aloud Basket.

In the meantime, here is my favorite inspiration as we developed our Read Aloud Basket which we use throughout the day: http://www.theunlikelyhomeschool.com/search?q=Morning+basket

How often do you read with your children throughout the day? Please share your favorite read-alouds that your family could read again and again in the comments below.

Blessings,

Allison

 

Organizing Our Days: Beautiful Benefits of Scheduling

I shared last month my excitement to persevere as we broke the summer mold with our new schedule for the school year. My family was excited by this challenge as well, because, as I was planning and praying over our activity worksheets in preparation for the new schedule, I was sharing all the benefits we were going to reap from said schedule. Our schedule was to be our personal assistant and would give us a time for everything “under the sun” which God is requiring of us and we hope/want/need to accomplish. It was important for me to help them see the joys of scheduling, which enabled them to endure as we jumped into a new schedule with both feet!

We chose to mostly schedule in half-hour blocks, and I’m taking an approach to our days by dividing them up into three larger blocks of learning with breaks in between to be outdoors, to move our bodies after sitting, and to rest our bodies as well as our minds. I also chose the half-blocks because we have young children in our homeschool, and they benefited from a change in focus after 30 minutes. What fun and active days we are having! And, with our schedule posted for all to see, I don’t get lost but accomplish so much on a regular basis. That’s worth sharing about!


I want to preface with what a schedule is not! This helped me in my development of a balanced day. A schedule is not a burden or a taskmaster, but rather a schedule is a friend and our personal assistant. When you tie activities to specific times, you won’t waste precious time. This makes a schedule a recipe for your day, a recipe for success!

Benefits of Scheduling:

  • Children have purpose throughout their days, which means less time for finding themselves in trouble (doing what they aren’t supposed to be doing) or bickering.
  • A schedule that the family learns and carries out regularly covers for us when Mom is sick or away for the day. The children learn how to carry out the day, and thus don’t always rely on Mom alone to be told what to do.
  • This brings me to the aspect of a schedule being a stress relief to Mom. How many times when you’ve functioned on routine or rhythm in your days have you had little ones asking, “What are we doing next?” “Mama can I play now?” or “What are we doing now?” When we keep a mental flow to our day, our mind is always working to assess what needs to be done now or next and what is most important. The schedule lays it out for you so you can point the children there and encourage them to persevere until their scheduled “free” time. Soon they stop asking because they already know! I tell you, this was my biggest relief in scheduling.
  • Lastly, I want to share that a schedule helps us accomplish our priorities. When we have a schedule, we have prayed over and allotted time for the things God is asking of us. We can say no with confidence to those things that come up that we feel we might need to squeeze in but don’t know where. I have allotted time in my day as well to do things I’ve always wanted to do, like sew! We are doing sewing one to two days a week this school year, because we hoped to last year but never were able to accomplish that priority. A schedule gives us the allotment of time to accomplish our priorities, because we give time to each task and thus don’t waste time we can be using for these exact priorities.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” I love verses 9-11: “What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

Remember God’s burden is the one that we want, not our own. And, the Bible has something awesome to say about His burden, which is “light.” It says in the above verses that God has made this requirement beautiful! A schedule for your family that you allow God to design will bring your family many benefits!

What do you experience as a benefit for scheduling in your homeschool?

Pray for beauty in our home schools this year as we schedule our lives after God’s plan!

Blessings,
Allison