Time Management

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Looking at the calendar the other day and realized that we only have about six weeks at home before we start school again along with fall activities. I say “at home” because we have a wedding to travel to at the end of the this month and then a combination family reunion and vacation at the end of August so we’ll be gone a bit.

With that realization in mind I’ve started working on figuring out our fall schedule. It’s a full one with three grade school students, one preschooler (who may end up being a very early reader like Buggle and needing more time than I think) and an infant. Not to mention dance lessons for four children and choir for two, one day of co-op learning and my possibly (probably) teaching a class on literary theory and essay writing for middle school students!

It’s going to have to be a very tightly run ship around here and one of the keys is going to be good time management for myself and the big three. Buggle and Mouse are definitely of an age to begin managing their own time and learning the consequences of using their time well or badly. I’ve worked on this before (and written about it) but it’s one of my foci during this last part of the summer. Here’s what I want:

  1. The big children to automatically do chores and schoolwork before asking to go out to play, or going out to play.
  2. The big children to learn to get themselves up and do the things on their morning list before school starts without my having to tell them to
  3. 90% of the time for jobs and schoolwork to pass inspection the first time they ask me to inspect. Having to redo jobs or do earned jobs takes time and time is going to be a premium this fall.
  4. For there to be a general attitude of “pitching in” to keep things running smoothly, whether by doing your own assigned things or by helping out a sibling who is “running behind”

Tall order.

But all important skills and habits for life.

Here’s what I’m doing so far:

Two main job lists: one for before we start our project for the day and one for after naps and before play.

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Once school starts the “Before Going Out/Morning” list will also get “Do Spelling and Penmanship” added to it as those two subjects require almost no input from me.

For the most part the children have the concept of looking at the list and doing those things down. Bull probably does the best as getting up and starting his day by emptying the dishwasher and I am working on doing my part of loading and running it in the evenings so there are clean dishes for him in the morning!

What we/they are struggling with is the “doing the job correctly, the first time” and “doing the job in a reasonable amount of time”. Neither list “should” take more than 30-40 minutes but the afternoon list in particular tends to drag on and on……

Consistent use of earned jobs is helping as well as my adjusting my schedule to be more available to  follow through and make sure jobs are done at the right times and inspected promptly. I know I’m going to have to step up my game as well as teaching them to step up theirs.

I’m trying to keep things pretty close to what our school schedule will be as well substituting projects like cleaning the basement for schoolwork to fill the hours we would normally be at our desks.

 

I think there is progress although as is typical with children it frequently feels like the “two steps forward, one step back” variety!

Any thoughts? I’d love to hear how other people have taught time management and garner some ideas!

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Job Failing

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One of the things that happens frequently around here is jobs done halfway and left in hopes that no one will notice! Sometimes (most of the time) this is an attitude problem as much as anything and simply calling the child back to redo the job doesn’t usually help them fix the attitude.

We’ve been giving extra jobs for poorly done work or a bad attitude about work for a long time on the theory that more practice working should help with attitude and performance but things weren’t improving that much.

S asked me to write a list of extra jobs as it seemed that one of the problems was inconsistency with appropriate extra work (isn’t parental consistency always part of the problem?) or with us not being able to think of a job and so nothing being assigned.

 

I thought for a bit and wrote this:

 

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All jobs that should take 5-10 minutes and that are nice to have done but not essential.

Job Fails work like this:

You do a regular job or one you were asked to do, call for an inspection and fail the inspection- you earn a job which must be successfully completed before you can redo the original job. If the Earned Job fails you earn another job which must be completed before you can redo the original Earned Job which must be completed before redoing the original Non Earned Job.

Failing to complete the job within a reasonable time frame is also a job failure and earns a job.

Of course this means that on occasion a child has managed to give themselves an afternoon’s worth of work but that is not something that happens often as working while the others are playing tends to be self-correcting. There is usually some weeping and gnashing of teeth when this happens but that is a great chance to address attitude problems.

Slowly the children are learning that working well is its own reward and that their attitude choices make a big difference in how well a job gets done. I’m much more able to be consistent with a list to work from and clear expectations for success and failure.

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The Past Few Weeks…

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Have been a whirlwind of activity!

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Home Educators Association of Virginia Convention in Virginia- one full day of driving to get there (the children did very well and made traveling really enjoyable for the most part. A day and a half of visiting with family and friends (oh, the joy! of friends that you can just blend with even when you haven’t seen them for years!), two and a half days of convention (children’s program for the big three, two Question and Answer Panels for me, plus plenty of time at the Special Needs Resource Table answering questions and juggling the baby and the three year old ( he did nap in the stroller most of the afternoon on the two full days), Vigil Mass on Saturday evening, a picnic supper with friends and then the long drive home again the next day! Good and well worth it, but very full!

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Unpack the car, put things away and a dance recital- That was this week. Unpacking in a steady rain on Monday, putting things away Monday and Tuesday, cleaning the upstairs (a good start anyway) on Wednesday, making sure all the dance recital stuff was ready on Thursday, and three hours of dress rehearsal yesterday for the recital today.

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Sick children- Mostly the three year old but the baby is a bit snotty too. Jack has a full fledged something: runny nose, good fever (104.3 this morning), and the worst sign (given his personality) no sense of humor. Kept the littles home from the recital today and will keep them home from church tomorrow. Praying we don’t end up with croup again….

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Working on- Lesson plans for next year’s schooling, year end testing for the big two, clearing out the basement to make a playroom/romping room, working with the other mom’s to organize a Catholic homeschool co-op for next year.

Coming up- Another trip to Virginia for my baby sister’s wedding, baptism for all five children (have you ever tried to arrange for ten godparents at once?), a trip to Tennessee and Kentucky for S’s family gathering.

Clearly never boring around here!

 

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The Little Things

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So for the past couple of weeks I’ve been doing a lot of sitting on the couch and feeding the baby! Perfectly normal post-partum activities but not very conducive to keeping up with the housekeeping!

The first week I had my mother’s helper every morning and the lovely woman who does some of the heavy cleaning came, but this week both of them were absent. I was sure going in that things were going to be very, very messy by the end of the week.

You know what though? They weren’t.

To be sure there are some things that need to be tackled, but most of those are things like Mouse’s room which is never tidy, and which I have to help her with every couple of weeks. And even that isn’t as bad as it could be.

Here’s why:

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Piles!

All the stuff in that pile was scattered across the living room floor at the end of the day. Five minutes of my sweeping up and ten minutes of someone clearing up the pile and the living room is basically tidy again.

I’ve been doing this twice a day upstairs and down and it has kept the build up of mess down to almost nothing. Mouse has even managed to stay focused enough to clear the pile in her room since a pile in front of her closet is much more doable seeming than instructions to “clean your room”.

Here’s the second thing that makes a huge difference:

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This child clears the dishwasher every time we do jobs. That means at least twice a day. Which means I need to have it loaded and run so he can clear it. And if I load the dishwasher, I might as well wipe the counters. And if I’m wiping I can put things away at the same time. And (surprise, surprise) if I do that then the kitchen actually stays mostly tidy.

Probably all of this is obvious to most of you- but I need constant reminders that doing the little things makes the big things possible.

 

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Bless Another Homeschooler

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Convention is coming and I’m making my lists and anticipating happy hours spent looking at curriculum, buying curriculum, making lesson plans and finally teaching!

I‘m also anticipating the joy of being able to talk to other homeschoolers and encourage and be encouraged.

Honestly, that is probably the biggest benefit of the HEAV Convention to me! The way in which perfect strangers united by a shared purpose step into each other’s lives for a weekend and bless, encourage and refresh each other.

In little moments in the Exhibit Hall when two moms are looking at the same curriculum and fall into conversation…..

At the HEAV tables in the lobby where seasoned homeschoolers point dozens of inquirers toward the right resources (and the bathrooms!)….

At the Special Needs Resource Table (where I volunteer) talking with parents about how to teach their struggling learners and encouraging them to “take courage”…..

At Registration…..

In the workshops……

At the Used Curriculum Sale…..

Everywhere there are homeschoolers helping each other!

Some of this help is just the effect of like minded people inhabiting the same space, but much of it comes from the small army of volunteers necessary to make the Convention all that it is.

Today we are just two weeks away from Convention and the need for volunteers is high.

Can you give an hour or two to help?

Volunteers are needed in particular in the following areas according to Jennifer Jessen, the Volunteer Coordinator:

 

Registration needs adults to serve in On-Site Registration on Friday (all time slots). These are the folks who help unregistered attendees determine which level of convention registration is right for them, and then process the payment. Shifts are three-hours long. Without good volunteers here the registration lines will be long and slow.

 

Speaker Assistants are needed in the Dissection Lab and Art Workshop, as well as at Crystal Paine’s book table and Voddie Baucham’s book table. These volunteer needs are not listed on the Volunteer Sign-Up Application, so interested volunteers will need to contact me directly at volunteer@heav.org. Speaker Assistants are also needed in the teen Apologia program. Volunteers could be older teens. The perk here is that a full-time teen volunteer can participate in the program for free, but he must volunteer for both days.

 

The HEAV Tables still need experienced homeschool parents to work at the tables. They will answer general homeschool questions, and direct folks to appropriate resources. All three days need volunteers rather urgently. (This is one of my favorite spots to volunteer, I always have wonderful conversations and frequently run into people I haven’t seen in years! …K)

 

If you would encourage folks to volunteer at the convention, HEAV would be grateful! Of course, one should volunteer because it is the right thing to do (even Jesus came to serve and not to be served Matthew 20:28), but HEAV expresses appreciation for volunteers by offering a Golden Ticket for early shopping in the UCS. Volunteers may enter the UCS on Friday morning up to one hour before Pre-Registered attendees. (After 3 p.m. Friday everyone may come and go at will.)

 

One other note: Volunteer sign-ups will be temporarily suspended beginning Sunday, June 7, so that we may print and stuff volunteer packets, and move to the convention center and set up. Volunteer sign-ups will resume on-site on Thursday, June 11, but we will be unable to accept sign-ups from June 7 through June 10.

 

Won’t you come and help? I look forward to seeing many, many people wearing Volunteer Buttons and carrying a Golden Ticket!

 

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Quiet Days

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There’s been a lot of this going on these days. Taking pictures of a sleeping baby, or just watching her sleep.

Slowly returning things to normal.

Today that meant making a batch of bread since we’ve used up the sandwich bread I made before she was born. Supervising Mouse doing jobs since she is having trouble remembering how to work and needs more practice. Letting Bull lie on the couch and look at books as he seems to have a slight stomach bug. Buggle and Jack playing together in the yard with the blocks Buggle made for the little boys to use in the sandbox.

Quiet, easing back into our regular activities. Using some of the easing to address attitudes and behaviors that need some work and to tweak schedules and job charts.

Another couple of weeks of this, gradually getting busier and we head off to Virginia to the Home Educators Association of Virginia’s annual convention. I need to start prepping for that. Making a final list of books for next year. Printing and marking up the map of the vendor hall with the places I want to buy and the vendors I need to visit and browse through.

Getting ready to spend time at the Special Needs Resource table as in previous years and prepping to assist at two Question and Answer panels on Special Needs Homeschooling.

Convention is one of the highlights of my year and I’m looking forward to the conversations and stimulation to get me excited about the new school year!

 

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Danegeld

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This is what we woke up to yesterday….

The three boys share a room. Bull and Jack wake up 100% awake and ready to start their day. Buggle wakes up slowly and prefers quiet while waking. Usually Jack comes in to snuggle us, and Bull gets out of bed and goes next door to the schoolroom to play, leaving the bedroom for Buggle.

Yesterday, however, Bull decided to sing. Loudly. No matter what Buggle said.

S went in to straighten things out and asked Bull why he hadn’t just gotten up and gone in the schoolroom.

“I’m waiting for Buggle to give me a penny to be quiet.”

Apparently Buggle had paid him to go away the other day and Bull thought this was great and ought to be encouraged!

Time for some Kipling …..

 

It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
  To call upon a neighbour and to say: --
"We invaded you last night--we are quite prepared to fight,
  Unless you pay us cash to go away."

And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
  And the people who ask it explain
That you've only to pay 'em the Dane-geld
  And then  you'll get rid of the Dane!

It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
  To puff and look important and to say: --
"Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
  We will therefore pay you cash to go away."

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
  But we've  proved it again and  again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
  You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
  For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
  You will find it better policy to say: --

"We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
  No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
  And the nation that pays it is lost!"

Danegeld
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Margaret Elizabeth

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She’s here!

Born on Wednesday by c-section

7 pounds, 7 ounces

20 inches long

Possibly red haired

Believes in eating, early, often and vigorously

Adored by her siblings especially Jack (Bull likes her too but I haven’t managed to get a good picture of him with her yet)

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The Greatest Thing

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Sometimes I hear people say  things about forgiveness….

“I believe it’s possible”

“If you are repentant you can be forgiven.”

“I’m forgiven but I still do these things, so maybe I’m not really forgiven.”

Other phrases that break my heart.

I’ve been thinking about forgiveness a lot lately; at Mass we say the Nicene Creed as our response to the Liturgy of the Word (the readings and sermon) and we say “I believe in the forgiveness of sins” and when we say a Rosary we again affirm our belief in God’s forgiveness when we begin with the Apostle’s Creed.

There are no caveats. There is no “I believe that sins might be forgiven”. There is just an absolute “I believe that sins are forgiven.”

The Sacrament of Reconciliation makes the absolute even clearer.

“God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son, has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

The focus is on cleansing and reconciliation. There is no doubt that consequences may still exist but the cleansing is complete. The sins themselves no longer exist nor is the sinner defined by them.

We are new creatures.

 

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A Little Update

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Looked at the blog this morning and realized I hadn’t posted in a while. Too much going on and not enough time to pull some thoughts together. Head colds and ear infection (for mommy), a messy house since I didn’t have the energy to clean or get the children to do their regular jobs.

Anyway….

The snow is finally melting and the yard looks…horrible! Brown grass, mud, puddles and a sad flotsam and jetsom of small objects dropped by the children and covered by accumulating snow. Got some work to do there.

Another week or so should see it all gone and I’ll be fertilizing and liming as soon as the ground has thawed enough it won’t wash away before absorption!

Inside we are almost done with school. Another month should see everything but Handwriting and Math complete and I like to continue those at least a couple of days a week through the summer. Probably add some Nature Study and Art in as well.

Churchwise:

We’ve gone through RCIA and  joined the Catholic church on Holy Saturday at the Easter Vigil. Pretty exciting and a much different journey than I expected. The things I expected to bother me haven’t and in many ways I find this a coming home to a home I didn’t know I was missing. I’m still sorting it all in my head, but will probably write about it at some point.

We still need to baptize the children and do a few other things but that will probably happen over the summer, we’re still debating whether to do all five at once or split things up. Maybe the little boys one day and the big children on another day with Number Five having his/her own date….

Number Five is due in about six weeks and oddly for us we’re still debating names. Girl names are easy we’ve had several that we like since Mouse was born but boy names are harder to come by!

I’m trying to get things tidied and organized, redo the basement into more of a family room, do some precooking for the freezer so my big kids can help with meal prep. Little things to make May and June a bit easier with a new little one to figure out.

Jack is so excited about the baby. His birthday is about week before Number Five is due and says “It’s my birthday present!” He brings his animals to “say hi to the new baby” nearly every day and is concerned that the baby have something like his “Eeyore” for its own.

 

I’m working on putting together some thoughts for next year’s schooling as well as our “holiday tasks”. Got at least two road trips planned as well as a LOT of outdoor activities to take advantage of the weather before winter comes again.

We’ve put a contract to buy on the house we’ve been renting, and plan to close in a couple of weeks so I’ve been making lists of things that need to be done maintenance wise and things that can wait a bit.

There’s some termite damage and rot from water that will need to be done pretty quickly and will take a professional but a lot of the work needs time more than skill and can be puttered at over the summer. I’m foregoing a garden this year in favor of making a good garden plan in consultation with my neighbor who is a landscaper, and getting the grass back into really good shape!

Lots going on and plenty to keep me occupied and not writing but I’m hoping to get back to regular writing again soon…

 

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