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!


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.


Three Steps to Organize Your Homeschool

Hanging File Folders

Organization is of utmost importance when homeschooling. In fact, getting organized for the school year will help both the child and the parent stay on task better. If you find yourself or your child getting frustrated, it may be because you need to organize a little better. As a mom, caregiver, wife, and entrepreneur, I have to stay ahead in order to make sure that schooling is prioritized in our home. Here are three tips that help me and my family stay on track the most.

Weekly Folders

Before the school year started I planned out the first semester. Early on, I realized that I didn’t want my business to affect information and lessons my children were taught. I also knew that I would have a lot on my plate that could change at any moment. Therefore, I went through my lesson plans and printed everything that I could, related to the subjects I planned to teach during the entire semester. I separated each folder by week. For instance our first semester is weeks 1-18. The hanging file folder system gives my kids an opportunity to go to their folder and then choose which assignments they will complete first.

Weekly folders for homeschool organization

Daily Folders

After my daughter’s choose their assignments, they put them in daily folders. The daily folders help provide more autonomy. Monday through Thursday they can choose their morning work, and then on Thursday I look at what has or has not been completed yet.

The beauty of this method is that my kids feel like they have a choice regarding what they study. It also helps prevent them from having to wait for me to explain everything daily. In the mornings after we have devotion, they can get started on their folder work on their own. Then, after an hour or so, I teach a new lesson or help explain information that they need help with. In addition, the folder work is a great addition for our portfolio and helps reinforce different lessons.

An Area for Completed Work

Having a completed work area is hugely important in my home, mainly because our state requires us to keep a school portfolio for our children/students. The completed work area helps my kids know exactly where to put their work so I can grade it in a timely manner. It also helps them be more responsible with their own papers, and keeps papers from getting lost around the house.

After four years of homeschooling, this is the system that has worked best for me and my two daughters. 1 Corinthians 14:40 says, “Let all things be done decently and in order.” When you’re homeschooling life can be overwhelming at times, so finding a way to stay organized can help keep the entire family in a better mood. While all three may not work for your family, the cool thing about homeschooling is that you have the freedom to tweak and use the tips that work for you, and ignore those that don’t.

Planning for Success!

As you read today’s blog post title, you might be thinking, “Ah, yes, the old adage, ‘Failure to plan is a plan for failure,’ by Benjamin Franklin.” Today we won’t be talking about academic success, but rather the ability to plan our homes to have a successful homeschool environment.

As our family has grown, and we’ve added more children to our homeschool, my time has become more limited! Sometimes I think homeschooling hasn’t been my children’s journey, but my journey as I mature as a mother. Growing up, I don’t remember my mom ever having a plan for meals, chores, or any schedule for my brother and me. She just winged it! But, she also wasn’t a Christian, didn’t raise five children, and certainly didn’t homeschool.

In order for our home to excel in creating a loving, Christ-like homeschool environment, the basic necessities of family life need to be planned. Today I am going to share with you five basic and yet vital steps that are helpful in creating an orderly homeschool and home environment. (Note: These practical steps are in addition to the standards of morning and evening worship, and daily personal devotions.)

With four growing sons, and a very selective daughter, food is on their minds and stomachs more than on mine! How can we keep a healthy, plant-based diet and yet not spend so much time in the kitchen?

1. Meal Planning: Every week, usually on Saturday night or Sunday afternoon, I plan out every meal for the following week. Some plan for the month, others for the pay period, but what works best for me is weekly. I usually plan at least one soup night, one rice night, one casserole night, etc. You get the general idea.

Once I have the food scheduled for the week, carefully selecting meals that fit the day’s activities, I can rest knowing I don’t have to think about what to make next. If I am making something that uses dry beans, I can have them cooking ahead of time. If there are meals that require overnight soaking, I can do so. A point worth mentioning is how to record your meal menu. I’ve used various methods, including paper and pencil, apps, weekly homeschool planner, and my phone’s “Note” section. It doesn’t matter — just write it down in a place you can find it!

Besides meals at our house, there are other anchor points, tasks that must be completed daily in order to have a well-functioning home. Clean clothing is a basic necessity for our family, so the second most vital point in our plan for success is having a set routine for laundry. With seven people in the home, including a potty-training toddler, we go through quite a bit of laundry. I cannot spend one or two days doing it all; my septic tank can’t handle that!

2. Daily Laundry Routine: Every morning, each room’s dirty laundry hamper is brought to the laundry room, where it is sorted by the respective child into whites, darks, and denim. One child is responsible for emptying the dryer, and another for starting a load, during the morning chore time. Mom is responsible for moving it throughout the day, like during break time. Every morning and evening chore time, each child is responsible for folding an entire load of laundry. Each child and parent has their own clean laundry basket, so as soon as it is folded, it is placed into that person’s clean basket. Once a day, the laundry is put away into drawers.

You might have noticed that we have designated chore time. Before we start school, chores are to be completed, then after school ends and before dinner, we have another set of chores. Because I have learned that some children like to sneak away during work time, I have preassigned the chores to be done by specific children. If the dishes aren’t unloaded and put away, I know exactly who is responsible. I have also provided a physical prompt for them to remember it is chore time.

3. Chore Routine: In order for me to spend time with my children during school, I need to make sure the cleanliness tasks are accomplished. Although I would like to say our home is very clean, the truth is, we are home all day long, every day. Kids make messes! Knowing that, at least twice a day, chores are being completed to clean the home, I can rest and be still. It will get done, eventually! If you would like to know more about our chore system, I highly recommend “Managers of Their Chores,” by Teri Maxwell. It is purposeful, logical, and practical!
Managers of Their Chores, by Titus 2 Ministries and Teri Maxwell

Another principal that I’ve had to accept and not murmur about is the correction phase to school. Many smaller homeschools may not have to have a parent guiding and correcting, but as I manage four grades and a toddler, I’m not so fast at grading anymore. Frankly, when my older kids were younger, we were so hands on that we rarely took tests, etc. Now that my oldest two are in middle school, I’ve begun to have tests more often, and expect assignments to be written and completed.

4. School Prep and Correction Time: Because I expect my older children to work more independently, I write down their assignments for the following school day in their school planner. I make it very clear what needs to be corrected or redone, and what new tasks need to be completed. This is also a time I can thoroughly look at their work to understand their deficiencies. For example, if a child gets half of a math worksheet incorrect, is it the new concept being taught, or old concepts not showing proficiency?

Although I try to make our homeschool a happy, loving place, there will be times that it might be frustrating, challenging, and not what I would expect. My last point in planning for success is to truly believe that my expectations won’t be met every single day.

5. Surrender Thy Will: Our school is for God’s glory, for the bringing up of His children for His kingdom. Yes, I wish to provide character training for my children — diligence, integrity, and positive attitude — but I also want to provide grace, love, and joy. My children will disappoint me, because they aren’t perfect! And, it is no poor reflection upon my Christianity or character, if my child takes longer to grasp a skill, an attitude, or a desire. I need to be at the feet of Christ daily, with our homeschool in heart, to surrender what I think is most important. I need to consult the Greatest Teacher every day!

When we can plan our home to succeed so that Mama is not burned out, feeling overwhelmed by the daily tasks at hand; if we can accept our role and responsibility to the homeschool, even after the school day has ended; and we can surrender our own expectations, but day by day keep turning to him for His will and grace, we can set ourselves up to have a happy, successful homeschool.

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!