Homeschooling as a Single Parent, Part 2: Preparing for Sabbath While Going it Alone

I think one of the hardest challenges I had as a single parent was trying to get all the kids ready for church, arrive in time, and still maintain some type of spiritual awareness. I have to confess that I failed on that last point many times.

It’s hard being a single parent no matter what school choice you make. It’s harder when you are going it alone as a homeschooling parent. You have hardly any free time to just focus on the house or even have “me” time. Then there is the issue of Sabbath and trying to get things ready so the house is ready, Sabbath lunch is prepared, the kids are up and dressed, you are out of the door on time, AND you are spiritually ready to be fed by the pastor that morning.

As I type those words, I can just feel the old feelings coming up in my body, and the thoughts of “that’s impossible” resonate in my mind.

Let me assure you that it is possible. It is not easy, but it is possible.

Many times I have read posts of parents trying to schedule each moment in the school day; yet on Sabbath, the schedule falls to the wayside. In my opinion, the Sabbath is one day when a schedule needs to be followed as much as possible in order to maintain some semblance of order when you are going it alone.

Today, I want to share with you some ideas I’ve garnered over the years on how to maintain a Sabbath rest while dealing with all the challenges of single parenting.

One of the most helpful things someone suggested to me when my kids were young was to make sure I had Sabbath clothes clean and ready on Sunday rather than waking up on Saturday morning with a child yelling they had nothing to wear that was clean. So, Sunday was laundry day. When the children are older, they can become responsible for their own laundry. I assigned days for each child where they would wash their own clothes, once they reached the tween years.

So, once the clothes are washed, dried, and put away (yes, instead of on the couch), each child can pick out their outfit and have it ready on the hanger. Shoes are nearby also.

Weekly housework can be divided up so that most of everything is done by Thursday rather than waiting until Friday. Wait, isn’t Friday Preparation Day? Yes, and unless you want to run yourself ragged trying to get everything done, it’s best to assign chores so that throughout the week, everything is taken care of. The only thing left on Friday should be meal prep for Sabbath, getting things together for the next morning’s rush, and even planning a Sabbath afternoon activity.

If your children are walking, they can be doing chores, even if it is just picking up their own toys. By the time they are teenagers, they would benefit from having learned how to run the whole house on their own. Believe me! I graduated without knowing how to do this. I made sure my children learned. They will be much better off in the long run; plus, it relieves stress and responsibility from you.

For meal planning, the older ones can take turns deciding menus and even cooking the meal. This is good life preparation. It also helps develop good habits for when they are on their own. Sabbath afternoon plans can also be planned by the younger ones. This also teaches life skills. Plus, it gives them ownership in the family. They also learn more about what’s appropriate and what’s not. It also lessens the stress on the parent.

If you need help in getting the house chores done before Friday, FlyLady is a great resource. Donna Young’s site also has some good resources on home management, along with homeschooling. There are also chore lists available to help parents know which chores are appropriate for what age.

Clothes are done. Chores are finished. The house is ready for Sabbath. The menu is planned and prepared. Activity is planned. Now, for the finishing touches of actually going into the Sabbath hours.

We had evening and morning worship in our home. On Friday evening, it would be nice if some special activities could be planned. Perhaps even a special Friday evening meal could be made. Candles could be used. Songs sung. Favorite verses recited. Blessings of the week shared.

Some meal ideas could be potato bar, pizza night, popcorn and smoothies, or whatever is a family favorite. We loved haystacks. It was easy to fix and easy to clean up. Some families will use disposables on Sabbath to save time in clean up. Other families will use the special china on Sabbath. You determine yourself what is most important. Just develop a nice family evening that can be fun and relaxing, while helping you turn your thoughts to God in a special way.

Since the clothes were made ready last Sunday, Fridays can be time to grab baths, perhaps before supper so that evening worship is calm and relaxing. Saturday morning, try to get up early enough yourself so you can have time for your own personal devotion time. I know I would often skip this on Sabbath, thinking I would still have spiritual food at the church service. The problem is that it would lead me where I was not focused on God so much as the things I needed to get done in time.

Always get the kids down to bed on time on Friday so that Saturday morning is easier with a full night’s rest. If you have little kids, be sure to have their Sabbath bags ready on Friday so they are ready to grab as you walk out the door. You can even have the bags in the car when you get the car ready for Sabbath. If you have a diaper bag, that can be ready and in the car already. Snacks, if used, can also be done on Friday.

I am one who feels like if I am not at least 10 minutes early, I am late. It would create stress on me, trying to get the kids up and out the door on time. Give yourself time for those last-minute happenings. We can plan and schedule, but life happens. Build in a time cushion. It’s important for children to learn to be to church on time. Teach them by example. On the other hand, it is also important for them to learn that when we mess up or something happens, it is up to us to show them how to cope with stress. Breathe, pray, ask for forgiveness (if needed), and move on. I hope that the event doesn’t cause yelling and scolding. This can lead to everyone in the home losing Sabbath blessings. Instead, the young ones can learn so many spiritual blessings even in these times.

Once at church, breathe, relax — no matter how things were that morning — and let God bless you. Be sure to enjoy the interaction of your church family. This is a good time to allow those adoptive grandparents to step in and help with the kids. If you do not have to, please do not volunteer for children’s Sabbath School. With you homeschooling and being a single parent, it is good for the children to have other godly adults speak into their lives. Plus, it gives you a chance to soak in spiritual support from other adults.

Sabbath does not have to be the hardest day of the week. It can be the blessing God intends it to be. It takes planning and consistency. It takes asking God for the strength and wisdom each day, especially on the Sabbath.

As you finish the Sabbath hours, it can include family worship, a fun family meal like pizza and popcorn, along with a family activity. We would rotate between board games and family movies. It’s a good time to thank God for the day’s blessings.

 

Dirty Hands and a Clean Heart

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Moms don’t need New Year’s resolutions. There’s already enough on the to-do list. We are barraged by the tedious and annoying on a regular basis, and as a mom of three (ages two, four, and six), I am no exception. Whether it’s the six loads of laundry, the dishes that never end, or the continual fight for the blue cup, we tend to pass our days merely surviving under a load of work that is undone and re-done every hour. An online friend posted the other day that moms should add to their to-do list one thing, every day, that cannot be undone! I love it and I hope to take it to heart, but the tedious stuff still needs to be dealt with.

We all know that when we clean or cook with our kids, that small tasks take three times longer and patience can stretch thin. However, I have noticed that if I go with my natural inclination and do it all myself, that while I’m cleaning/cooking, the kids spend their time making new messes (or old ones that I just cleaned up) or fighting. When I go it alone for the sake of time and sanity, my kids not only lose out on precious domestic skills, but also the character development that comes from helping, laboring, and working together as a team…plus it usually takes just as long because I have to keep stopping to discipline them.

Homeschooling is a wholistic experience, one that includes home economics and hygiene. These particular lessons are important and character-building. So, I’ll share with you a few of my ideas for young children, ones that have made the tedious in life more bearable and, dare I say, sometimes even fun.

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Each responsibility/chore is a printed picture, “laminated” with wide clear tape, and glued to a piece of business card magnet. The kids enjoy changing their magnets every morning.

Their Friday cleaning choices are based on trucks! The enthusiasm for choosing their truck has lasted more than a year. They can be…

  • the Crane (pick up and put away any toys or clothes on the floor).
  • the Street Sweeper (sweep, mop, or vacuum all floors).
  • the Garbage Truck (empty all waste baskets, take out trash and compost).

They also help with the laundry. Long ago I stopped sorting their laundry by type and color. Each child has their own laundry basket, and everything of theirs goes into the washer together (gasp). Life is too busy and short to worry about fading colors and grass stains (that’s why thrift stores are such a treasure). Keeping their clothes separate from their siblings’ gives a sense of ownership and duty. They all help shoving them in the dryer, but when it comes time to fold, they help according to their age and ability, whether it’s sorting, stacking, or turning things right-side-out. It may not sound like much, but they’re actively learning, it really does help with the whole job, and they don’t have time to argue.

Now my oldest is in kindergarten, and as we begin our homeschooling journey, I’ve added daily assignments/privileges (Chief, Cook, and Bottle-Washer).

  • The Chief is in charge of family prayer, grace at mealtimes, and receiving first choice in things like colored cups. No longer do I need to strive to remember who got to pray last and whose turn is it this time. One of you gets to be Chief for the day.
  • The Cook gets to help in the kitchen! Cooking with small children can be a joy, a danger, and sometimes an impossibility. For too long have I tried to cook with all three, only to leave me frustrated and them in tears. With one in the kitchen, it’s safer, I can still reach the counter and the ingredients, there’s no arguing over who “scooped” last, and one child gets to have a meaningful experience. The two left waiting for dinner will play together much more cooperatively than three ever did. There will be special days when I cook with all three, but not every day.  washing-dishes-1112077_1920
  • The Bottle-Washer: It’s time to add “doing dishes” on to their domestic skill list, and at this age it’s still fun to stick your hands in the bubbles.

Chief, Cook, and Bottle-Washer are for our regular home life, but downstairs in our school room we also have Meteorologist, Time-Keeper, and Farmer.

  • The Meteorologist checks our outdoor thermometer and changes our daily weather forecast chart.
  • The Time-Keeper is in charge of changing our calendar and our day-of-the-week chart.
  • The Farmer is in charge of chickens! We are the proud new owners of six beautiful buff brahma bantams, and they must be fed, let out to roam, and cleaned up after daily. The kids LOVE it! The chickens sit on our patio and look in the windows during school.

And, my personal favorite is a daily “Good Habits” chart to help them on their path to independence and self-sufficiency in their morning routine (printable: Good Habits). It’s posted on the refrigerator, and they cover each box with a magnet as they complete them after breakfast. They enjoy the autonomy, choosing the order in which they do them, and checking them off. I’ve named it good habits instead of chores because we use it 7 days a week, including Sabbath.

These jobs are all based on a family of three, but, with a little imagination, can be adapted for any home. I hope this brings you inspiration as you balance the tedious and fun.

Reformation in the Home: A Joyful Journey

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My mission is to find joy this year in all the challenges we face in our home. I made a commitment to NOT let Satan steal our joy while we wrestle with how to discipline and how to reward from a young age in the lives of our children. This post is a post about right rewards, and, because today is Reformation Day, I thought, “Oh! Discipline is really just reform in our home.” Reform in our home has been about finding what needs to change, and working out the blessings of right living. So, come hear how we’ve been reforming and how God is blessing!

Our children are ages seven, five, and three. About six months ago, I read to them a chapter in Adventist Home titled, Mothers Helpers. I’d encourage all mamas to reread this chapter periodically, even out loud to the whole family! As I was reading, I was inspired to start a reform in our home. I want to help our children be better helpers in the home because this skill is something they will take with them when they leave the home, and it also teaches them in a practical way how to honor their parents, a commandment for which training and daily practice is required. Out of this realization, I have been slowly developing what we call “Blessing Cards” in our home. This system is still a work in progress, just like reform often opens the door for further reform, like in the case of our walk with Jesus.

“And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 8For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ,” 2 Peter 1:5-8. 

Over the summer our routine loosened a bit while we spent more time enjoying the sunshine and in our garden. That being said, I found myself often repeating myself to remind the children of their little chores or obligations within the home. So, although I forsook the chore chart long ago because it was one more thing to keep track of, we decided to implement a reminder system to help the children with a tangible reminder. I posted their reforms in their bedrooms; we call them the “Morning High Fives” — five things they must do in the morning,and preferably before breakfast, so when they come to sit down they can give Mama or Daddy a high five of completion. I know, totally dorky, but we all think it’s fun.

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I have added to their reform cards, including a stop sign for their ongoing expectations like picking up toys when they’re finished and putting away their own clothes (with help if necessary). We also have a star on the list for their one extra household chore for the year, and that way they learn efficiency with this one chore throughout the year, and at the same time I am not assigning weekly or daily who is doing what.

Now for the rewards, right?! I wrestled with the idea of allowance because it doesn’t fit with our family’s ideals, BUT I also wanted to be able to give my children some kind of tangible blessing as they had now come to understand that sinning in our home leads to consequences and choosing right living through practicing self-control leads to blessings. I do believe that blessing our children looks like a variety of things, including encouraging words from Mom or Dad, one-on-one time, and little privileges not normally expected, as well as those privileges expected and often overlooked. So, we made a stack of blessing cards which the children helped me decorate and laminate. I made up a list of what the blessing cards could be used for or saved up to use for. The children were so enthusiastic, and it did work wonders for me not having to remind them for the first few weeks… And then, as others may have experienced, reform started to lose its luster in our home. I wondered if the blessing cards where even the great idea I thought they’d be, or if I should just not even bother…

Last week, as we were studying the end of Moses’ life, I read a quote that gave me courage to continue our Reformation in the home. It came from Patriarchs and Prophets, page 470: “God speaks to His people in blessings bestowed; and when these are not appreciated, He speaks to them in blessings removed, that they may be led to see their sins, and return to Him with all the heart.” Our memory verse that week was Joshua 1:9, and the sentiment “Be strong and of a good courage” was repeated multiple times throughout our reading. I decided it would take true Christian courage from both the children and this mama in the Reformation of our home life to be filled with blessings!

So my prayer is that whatever Reformation you have going on in the home of your heart, homeschool, and family, you might find the courage to continue and find joy in the journey!

Many Blessings,

Allison

Five Simple and Affordable Ways to Start Your Homeschool Year

5 Simple and Affordable Ways to start your homeschool year

Have you ever started the year with gusto, gathering and purchasing every recommended program to start your homeschool year, just to have piles of unused materials when the year ends? Do you fear that your child will miss out when you see curriculum that you don’t have in your current program? Does looking at all of the options paralyze you and leave you feeling unsure of where to even begin?

The good news is, you don’t have to buy it all to have an effective homeschool program (in fact, it may hinder your effectiveness). Gathering curriculum and supplies for your homeschool can be simple and manageable.

Here are five ways to start your homeschool year simply and affordably:

1. Start small. Choose core and essential curriculum components and start there. When it comes to curriculum, it’s not necessary to start with core curriculum AND all of the supplements available. It could even distract your child to have too many options at the beginning of the school year. I suggest getting a start with the core pieces. Once your school year starts and you have a better handle on how the curriculum is meeting your child’s needs, you can follow by purchasing supplements as needed throughout the school year.

2. Purchase art supplies as needed. This is a danger zone for me. I love to craft and have ALL THE THINGS available at any moment inspiration may strike. Even though 1,000 colored pom-poms in all shapes and sizes may be beautiful and seem necessary when you spot them in the craft aisle, they just may end up cluttering your craft space (and you may find them in every corner of your house). Instead you could try mapping out your art needs for monthly or weekly trips to the store. This ensures that you are only getting the supplies that are needed for those projects. 

As the year progresses you may find that you have most of the supplies you need for your projects and can space out your supply shopping trips even further. I still LOVE free crafting time, and will have my daughter use a portion of the supplies purchased for school to do this. We also encourage her to be creative and find things around the house to reuse or repurpose for fun-craft time or even educational projects.

To give you an idea, we usually start with these basic supplies and then add to it, depending on the project: one small box of crayons, one small box of markers, two glue sticks, a pair of age-appropriate scissors, and a small pack of colored construction paper or drawing paper.

3. Always make and bring a list when shopping. Not only does this help keep your homeschool space clutter free, it also helps the budget! In most cases if it’s not on the list, it’s a “no buy.”  There are always exceptions to the rule, but if I didn’t write it down, then I really have to wrestle with its “essentialism” before making the purchase. I like to use the Notes app on my phone to make my lists, but I have some friends who use some nifty list apps like Clear and To-doist.

4. Use the one-in-one-out rule. We try to use this rule mainly for clothes and toys: when a new item comes in, an old item goes out. The same principle can be applied once you have a base of curriculum and supplies that you feel comfortable with. The idea is to keep it at a manageable level for your family. For example, if you decide that you need/want some new markers, sift through your old ones and make some room for the new.

5. Put on your blinders and teach. It’s so easy for me to continue to search for curriculum and ideas throughout the whole school year. This can lead to a serious feeling of being overwhelmed. When the temptation to add more to your curriculum comes your way, ask yourself if it’s a necessary piece that’s missing, or if it’s more of an unnecessary addition. Having extra projects and activities to spice up your child’s learning experience is A-ok, just consciously choose what you want to add. Don’t let the “fear of missing out” guide your decisions when it comes to curriculum.

Choosing curriculum and supplies for your homeschool year can be overwhelming and stressful. Finding a manageable amount of textbooks, workbooks, and supplies that works for your family — and sticking to it — can be a great way to de-stress and find joy in the simplicity of homeschooling.

Homeschool Planner

In my quest to become organized and stay on top of our homeschooling, I have tried many planners throughout the years! From homemade to store bought planners. I’ve even tried software and EBook planners, but nothing seemed to stick. Finally, after going through my second store bought, pre-filled in, fancy homeschool planner, and discovering only small portions were used; I decided I needed a flexible change! I know myself and my kids. We don’t always stick to what I have scheduled. We also have sick days or weeks, break weeks, holidays, vacations and tons of other things that come up. Then we just have weeks where mama doesn’t want to do anything…I know you’ve been there too. So after researching different options and websites online I decided on keeping my planner in a 3 ring binder that I can reuse every year. I have attendance forms, school calendar, and curriculum overviews. Each month is separated out with its own calendar and then I take each week and fill in our lessons on my lesson planning spreadsheet and then print it out.

Below I have included a video walk thru of my current homeschool planner along with links to where I got all of the planning forms…for Free!!! Who doesn’t love free! I hope you enjoy it!

Planning Forms

Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool – http://www.tinasdynamichomeschoolplus.com/free-printables/7-step-curriculum-planner/

Scattered Squirrel – http://scatteredsquirrel.com/printable/

Half A Hundred Acre Wood – http://www.halfahundredacrewood.com/

  • Weekly Lesson Plans (I used one of their 36wk planners and edited it to suit my needs)

Artist Study:

Composer Study:

Hymn Study:

Nature Study: