Back to the Drawingboard

If you recall a few months ago, I published a post about my destructive boys.  Well enough time has passed for me to reveal that, in fact, canvas drawers were not the solution.  In fact, it would appear, metal beds are not the solution either.  That’s right… Not even a year later, my kids have managed to destroy Sierra’s new bed…

As you can see – they managed to disconnect the WELDED ends from the  bed… Plus they tore up the stitching on all their canvas furniture.

Now before I go on – I might ought to point out that this destruction is not intentional.  They’re not purposely breaking stuff for the joy of breaking.  They’re doing things like… using the drawers as boats and seeing how many of them can fit in.  They’re jumping on the bed cuz that’s fun, they’re pushing the bed around to make forts, etc.  They’re playing REALLY hard.  But it doesn’t escape the fact that they are breaking everything all the time.  If we were more lax in our child-watching duties they would undoubtedly have broken more things by now.  The main reason they end up breaking things in the bedroom is because you tend to assume “ohai play room” and that it should be ok… I mean it’s basically child-proof right?  Nope.  Not with these kids.  But still, we have things we have to do, and things we want to do.  Parents need free time too to relax.  I mean for that matter we can’t even send them outside without them destroying something so it’s not really something I see as being a realistic expectation to watch them ALL THE TIME.  Consider this – Jordan and David wake up hours before we do on the weekend… and don’t make enough noise to wake us up.  Mark has even managed to climb out of bed a time or two without waking me up and I’m a very light sleeper.  He does it by climbing over the end of the crib instead of rolling onto the bed where I’m sleeping and climbing down.  So there’s only so much a person can reasonably be expected to do.

With that disclaimer out of the way, I have a NEW plan.  I scoured the webs today and pinterest and I think the solution is (hopefully) simple.  It could be modified depending on their level of destruction too.

  1. No furniture in their rooms.  Period.  At all.  No bed frames, no dressers, no bookshelves, nothing.  Four walls.  And a mattress for each child to sleep on.  The mattresses can be removed during the day if they’re tearing holes in them (like they have done before… I am not making this up).  I’m not saying no toys.  I’m saying nothing breakable hopefully.  Now yes there are still four walls they can break.  God knows they have tried by tearing off the door frames and such.  And yes I do send them outside to get their energy out, but then they get stung by hornets (Mark this weekend) or it’s “too hot” (all of them), or they’re thirsty, or they’re bored, or whatever else.  I give them ideas to play outside (go have races, go pretend you’re treasure hunters, etc)  It just doesn’t last long… Maybe thirty minutes tops.
  2. Toybox stays in the common room.  Shane fixed their wooden toybox last weekend and we’re keeping it in the den.  That way we can see it and keep them off of it and out of it.  Hopefully it won’t get destroyed again.
  3. Family closet implementation.  I think what we need to do is buy some metal racks, one like we have in the kitchen for the baker’s rack, and get laundry hampers or baskets or what not – perhaps color coded canvas drawers?  And put their clothes in those.  Then they can’t access their clothes without me knowing about it, so they won’t be playing in the drawers.  It also won’t collapse on itself like the canvas drawers did.  David likes to pull his drawers around outside of my room so he can find what he wants to wear.  No matter how many times I organize his drawers he still does this.  Well, a canvas set of drawers wasn’t meant to be drug around like that so it’s started to droop and the stitching has started to tear.  I really like the laundry basket idea.  I think a system like this would be great.

So I’m going to work on getting these things in place and see how that works out.  Once I get the system in place I’ll update you again with the results!  Maybe I will finally find a solution for my destructive children!

Finding Joy in the Midst of the Horrible

When things go bad they seem to go from bad to worse in no time flat.  If you’ve read my blog for a while, you may remember that back in January we had a main exit pipe thingie collapse.  Caused a big mess all over our downstairs of our new house… a house we’d only been in like 6 months.  And if you recall, we had to have multiple plumbers come in, dealing with wading through toilet water for a week, just to get almost all of our new carpet ripped out, all the new flooring downstairs obliterated and destroyed and half the walls downstairs pulled out, not to mention our third bathroom (the boys’ bathroom) rendered almost unusable.

Well since then, a lot has happened.  And not really for the  good.

We decided to spruce up the backyard.  First we tried to put up the swingset, but the braces weren’t holding so the kids had a couple of weeks to play on it but now we’re back to square one on trying to brace them down.  We have a plan but as usual, finances are the main concern.  Then Shane decided to chop down the dead tree in our backyard and haul away the doghouse, both things which I agreed needed to be done.  In the process of doing this, we discovered termites.  When we called the company that we thought did our termite bond, we were told there was no bond, just a letter stating no termites.  I know that the words “termite bond” were used, but apparently it wasn’t on the paperwork that was signed so now we have to get termite services.  Luckily I was able to shift around stuff to make that happen, another tightening of the belt – made possible by some of the bills we’ve paid off no longer being an issue.

Then, FINALLY, five months later, and two redos of the insurance estimate, and several no-call-back contractors later, we finally got a contract signed with some repair workers who will be fixing up our house.  Notice the tense in that sentence – that means indeed, it still is not repaired and here it is almost June…  But oh the best part… when the workers come in to develop a game plan of what to first they’re like “OMG asbestos!”  Apparently we have asbestos tile.  YAY!  It was confirmed yesterday that it is in fact asbestos.  How fantastic is that?  And my family has been living in this house with the floor all torn up like that for five months.  Cheers.

THEN on top of all this crap, the electricity in the bottom floor of our house (you know – the bedrooms, the working bathrooms, and den…) went out a couple of days ago.  The home warranty is supposed to be sending out an electrician today to fix it but still – that’s more money out of the pocket.  Will be nice to take a bath with the lights on again…

Then, house issues aside, Shane is having back surgery for his degenerative disk next month, and he’s concerned about that a lot, based on previous surgeries he’s had, like his knee surgery.

And finally, drama with those of Shane’s family which don’t live with us is starting to creep up again and we’re trying to run screaming from the drama.

So that’s what we’re having to wade through to find some semblance of joy.  You might think such a task is impossible, but you’d be surprised.

We went to Walmart and Lowe’s the other day to try and see if we could fix the electrical issue – Shane thought it was a fuse issue, and then when that didn’t work he thought it might be the fuse at the outlet.  Anyways, while we were there, I saw curtains.  PERFECT curtains.  And a lovely curtain rod.  Yes it was a bit of a splurge, but technically they’ve been on my to-buy list for a while.  So we bought a leaf curtain rod for the dining room and little ivy curtains for the kitchen.  See, the mini blinds in the living have been destroyed for a while and besides the fact that people could then see into our house, I hated looking at it because it made me feel trashy.  And then in the kitchen, the miniblinds over the sink always got really filthy and the only solution is to pull the whole thing down and wash it.  Nevermind the fact that I hate miniblinds.  So now we have NO mini blinds in our kitchen or that window in the dining room, but instead lovely curtains.  That made me happy there.

Then, because we have no power downstairs, we again had to move everyone upstairs for electricity in the evenings, computer usuage, etc. and as a result of that, I’m again upstairs constantly able to keep Lilly on task with her chores, and can make sure she gets her job done correctly.  This is working out so well that I’m CONSIDERING, possibly keeping my chair upstairs and then in the evenings while she’s cleaning, or on the weekends on her cleanup days, I might have my laptop upstairs so I’m not bored out of my mind waiting for her to clean, but at the same time she can’t wander around mindlessly with a halfway job done.  I think it could work out well.  So having a clean upstairs again is another nice reward.

Then aside from all this, there is the joy I glean from my children.  Just this morning, we were listening to the Have Fun Teaching alphabet song, and they wanted to get Luke out of his high chair and circle dance, so that was fun to watch.  It’s fun playing with Luke and Mark in the mornings when they wake up because they’re in really good moods then.  Jordan is always a goofball, and Sierra likes showing off her newfound reading skills.  So spending time with my children is also a big pick me up.

Today on the way to work, I heard part of a sermon talking about choosing to rejoice.  God can provide comfort for all things.  There’s no need for me to worry about all this stuff, but instead I should rejoice.  So that is what I will do.  In my mind, it’s a lot like love.  It’s not a feeling, it’s an action.  It’s a decision.  So I choose to be joyful.  I choose to stay positive and think of the good things in life.  I have 6 happy, healthy children.  I have a stepson who isn’t sulky all the time anymore.  I have friends on my computer game.  I have a wonderful husband who loves me and does things around he house for me despite his pain.  And even with me having to take some time off work to be with him after his surgery – that’s more time around my family.  So it will work out.  And hey better to have discovered asbestos now rather than later, and we at least get new carpet now, etc, and we were already planning on getting termite services, now it’s just done and budgeted, no more lollygagging.  So there you go.  Finding joy in the middle of a bunch of horrible events!

Swapping Up Chore Day

If you’ve read my posts about chores, then you’ll know that I was trying to get the chores done on Mondays.  This was great in theory, but not so great in application.  For one, it seemed only I was on board with the method.  And since I wasn’t at home most of the day on Mondays, it was a constant battle.  Items never got checked off the to-do list, I never got to see the house clean because by the time I got home from work it was screwed up again, and everyone was flustered and frustrated.

Enter Chore Day Saturday.  When I was growing up and my mom worked, we did all the weekly cleaning on Saturday.  I hadn’t considered Saturday before because Saturday is my baking day and I thought I would be overburdened on that day.  The beauty of the new system, though, is that I’m really not doing more chores.  I do the ones I WAS doing Monday morning on Saturday morning instead.  I wake up, clean the bathroom, then change the sheets on the crib and bed after everyone else gets up.  I start a load of laundry, empty the lint bucket, perhaps windex the appliances in the laundry room, and relax for a bit.  Then after a while, upstairs to start baking day.

While I’m upstairs I can make sure that Lilly does her cleaning chores.  She usually does upstairs and Matthew usually does downstairs with the little guys cleaning up their own areas and picking up toys and trash from around the house.  So while I’m upstairs baking and resting from baking, I can direct Lilly, and Sierra too on her few upstairs chores, to get them done.  Now, that being said, it still can take all day because of daydreaming and derping off but there are more regular eyes on the situation than would be on a Monday.  Plus there’s no school to interfere with cleaning.  So a day that ordinarily would have gone to strictly leisure, is now utilized to actually get the chores done.

Plus I get to enjoy a clean house before the kids mess it up!  It’s win win.  Another good benefit is that on Monday morning, my school day isn’t as rushed because I’m not doing my weekly chores before school.  I still left some of my personal chores for Monday, such as preparing the meal plan for the next week, and school lesson organization and such, but as far as physical housecleaning – done.

Another alteration I made was laundry.  I used to wash a load every day and require kids to fold it up every day.  And of course they wouldn’t, and I wasn’t there to enforce it, and when I was trying to enforce it we were stressed with unfinished school, unfinished upstairs chores, etc.

So the new system is that I wash clothes, if a full load exists, every day.  This depends on if kids have brought me hampers or not.  Every Tuesday and Saturday, kids fold up clothes.  By the time these days roll around we usually have two full hampers to fold, and a load in the dryer ready to fold.  So far it’s been working out, but we’ll see if it continues to hold true – I may need to add a third folding day if it doesn’t  work smoothly every time.

In a large household you have to be dynamic.  When something isn’t working, you can’t add more stress to your life by continuing to use a non-functioning system.  They say if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, but the opposite is true also.  If it IS broke, then you definitely need to fix it!

Gaining Perspective

It’s kind of funny.  Every now and again I will be going through life, minding my own business, when all of a sudden, something seems SO OBVIOUS about the nature of God, when before it was a mystery.  I don’t know what that means exactly.  I don’t know if it is a correct perspective, but it really helps me in my walk.  And almost every time it happens, it is seeing things as a parent-child relationship.

Take last week for example.

I was driving home from work.  I don’t even remember what all I was thinking, but I do remember that I was just “peopled out”.  I wanted some serious introvert time.  Somehow the line of thinking led me to how I tend to watch my kids rather than directly involve myself with their play.  I don’t know if this is a correct approach or not, but I just have never really felt a need to directly involve myself in their play.  I’d rather watch them and their little imaginations at work.  It’s rather fascinating if you ever do it.  You can see those inquisitive, scientific minds at work, as they experiment with toys, as the practice socializing and working out conflict.

Most of the time I don’t NEED to get involved.  Sometimes of course I do, if they’re hurting each other or destroying something.  Then I have to get involved and mete out some discipline.  But I rather enjoy just watching them.

And then it kind of hit me.  Maybe God enjoys watching us in our little creative endeavors.  Maybe he’s like that parent that just watches and enjoys being in the presence of His children, and letting them “play”, but being there when they need him.  It makes you think a little.  I don’t know if that’s how it is but it does seem to make a lot of sense.  After all, God gave us our minds, and so surely he must enjoy watching us put them to clever and creative uses.  Maybe he sits back and is proud of us when he sees us come up with a concept that wasn’t taught us.  Would be interesting to know I think!

Another thing is something I heard on my favorite radio station the other day – the Bible Broadcasting Network (BBN).  They were talking about families and discipline and such and the classic “this will hurt me more than it will hurt you” line.  Well that surely applies too?  I don’t think God WANTS us to suffer through discipline.  I don’t LIKE watching my children crying and unhappy when they’re being disciplined.  But they MUST be disciplined, or else they’ll become very disobedient and unruly.  And in general they would be extremely unpleasant to be around.  I’m sure everyone’s met kids like that.  Therefore it’s important for parents to discipline their children, just like God must discipline us.  I’ve posted before about how as the children we can’t always see or understand the perspective of the parent, but now I think of it from the opposite way.  I still love my children very much even if they must be disciplined.  I will be there for them, and my anger never lasts long.

Lilly asked me the other day if I was “still” mad at her two days after I’d gotten mad at her.  It was her day to wake up early and watch the kids (alas Luke and Mark still wake up at approximately “way too early” on weekends and so Shane, Lilly, Matthew, and I all alternate weekend days waking up early to watch them).  Even knowing this, she stayed up until 1am the night before.  I warned her multiple times she better not sleep through her alarm clock, and that she really needed to get in bed.  When morning came, she of course wasn’t up, so I had to send Jordan to fetch her downstairs.  She came down, got the boys, and I went back to sleep.  When I woke up her lack of sleep had become obvious.  My belongs which I always leave in the same spot were gone, and couldn’t be found for a good long while, it was a big mess all over the place, and just general chaos.  It is not normally like this.  So I did get mad, and I grounded her from her computer.  I don’t think my anger even lasted ten more minutes, if that.  Irritation may have lingered, but my anger was gone.

I wonder if God is like that.  Does he get mad at our disobedience, but then “get over it” and be ready to be there for us again?  That seems to be what the Bible says, but thinking of it in these terms really helps me visualize and get a feel for how it seems to be.

It is interesting food for thought thinking of things in a parent-child relationship.  For me anyways, it paints a fairly clear picture unlike the fuzzy picture you kind of get in sermons and such.

Back to OneNote

It’s funny how things work.  Sometimes you use a tool forever and then you realize there are a whole slew of features that you never even knew existed!  Take OneNote for example.  I used this the good majority of the year for keeping track of the children’s homeschooling lessons.  I wasn’t very familiar with the tool so my notes were rather convoluted and messy.

I had a notebook for each child… so that was 6 notebooks.  I had to keep and sync 180 days of school for 6 different notebooks.  It’s no wonder the android performance was horribad with OneNote!  Not to mention, the littlest boys all essentially had the same assignments so I was clicking in three different notebooks, navigating to the pages, and then checking off the same assignments.  No wonder I was hating OneNote!  I liked that it was cross platform, but I was not organized with it.

Fast forward to the end of the year, several articles and videos later, and here I am.  I have learned about OneNote addins and installed a couple of different ones to assist me in  creating a much better OneNote experience.  I use Gem for OneNote to copy entire folder structures because seriously, this functionality should already exist in OneNote.  Kind of crazy it doesn’t.  I also use OneCalendar so that I can easily insert calendars into OneNote.  Now granted, you could create the table yourself, but time saving tools are always a plus.

Now, instead of a notebook for each child, I have ONE notebook!  Technically there are two notebooks for each child – my Master Notebook with all the lesson plans and such which I will describe shortly, and then a notebook for each child to put their work in.  I read about this concept not too long ago and I thought it was awesome.  Right now only Matthew, Lilly, and Sierra have digital notebooks.  But no longer will I have to worry about lost papers, or claims of completed work.  Now there is a place to store all of that.  We will be purchasing a scanner before the school year so that the kids can scan any paper work and paste it into their OneNote digital notebooks.  They can also add voice recordings (for Foreign Languages, for example), or screenshots, or even doodles, so I could in theory give them a worksheet right in OneNote.  I don’t know if I’ll do that, but it’s there as an option.


Now onto the description of my Master Notebook.

  1. First of all I plan to have one for each school year.  Therefore, I am naming them by school year (2016-2017 School Year) for next year’s notebook.
  2. Sections are useful!  I have several large sections.  Included are:
    • Attendance
    • Book List
    • School Calendar
    • Answers
    • Template
  3. Section Groups are just as useful as sections!  For large groups of material that would have been overly cumbersome to have as sections, I made these sections into Section Groups.  It keeps my UI cleaner, and it’s much quicker to navigate to the areas I need.  My section groups are:
    • Gradebook
    • School Material
    • Term 1
    • Term 2
    • Term


AttendanceMy attendance section is fairly straight forward.  I have a simple table for each day of that week.  I have a page for each of the 36 weeks of school.  It’s easier for me to think in terms of “Week 1 Day 3” instead of “Wednesday” because I have holidays that fall in the middle of weeks, or push my weeks out of alignment.

Book List

booklistI really like the idea of a book list.  I have never really used one before, but it really is useful.  Too often I gather up these awesome book for use in the school year but then I forgot that I got them and they go to waste.  This year, however, I wrote down all the books I downloaded and bought, and put them in the book list.  I have one page for each subject, and on each page is a table with the child, and the books they will be using.  To further increase the usefulness of this section, I also including apps and such that they will be using.  Nothing more annoying than trying to think of a fun game to assign and forgetting all the ones I’ve found!  No more!

School Calendar

This section isn’t really anything other than pretty.  I created a school calendar for the entire year using OneCalendar.  Then I added a legend to color code for holidays, birthdays, and vacations.  I also added a link to my Google school calendar, where I not only track this information but also the day that school is.  Mostly I wanted something pretty that I could see at a glance where we were in the school year.  As I said this section is done manually – it’s not synced to Google or anything which sucks, but at least I have the link to Google so I can see that if need be.



I don’t have anything in the Answers section yet but how I intend to use it is as follows.  Too often I need to check the kids’ work, but then I have to go find the book, find the answers, blah blah blah blah.  So instead, when I have assignments I need to grade, I’m going to just use OneNote’s screen capture feature to port in the answers into the Answers section.  It’s conceivable this section may become a section group depending on how much I need to use it.  But the beauty of this page is that even though the kids will have access to this notebook, in order to get to their lessons and such, they will not have access to this section because I have it password protected.  I love that feature.  Now I can have everything in one place and not worry about kids getting stuff they shouldn’t have!


This section is just a template for my Week’s lesson plans table.  I created a template because I have them all sized the same and color coded and I’m OCD enough that it annoys me if they aren’t the same size.  So I created a template to just paste into each new page.  All of my weeks for this year are already pasted in but I plan on using this structure in future school years too and I figured it would be easier to paste a blank template than go through 180 days of school and erase all the content in the tables.  I have the template set so that I can copy all the pages and paste directly into a new week (when you see how I have my Terms you’ll understand what I mean).  I also used my template to set up my weekly schedule.  For example, Music is only for Matthew, Lilly, and Sierra, and it’s not every day of the week.  So any children who will never have lessons on that day for that subject, I blacked out the day, so I don’t forget when I do my weekly lesson plans.



My Gradebook is a section group.  I have one section for each child, and within each section is a page for each subject.  On each page I have a table with the date, the description of the assignment, the points earned, the points possible, the percent, and the grade.  This will all be manually entered, but this organizational structure made sense to me because when I do report cards it’s easier just to have one of a child’s items all together.  And I really wanted a date and description of assignment area because not all assignments will have grades, so I needed to be able to distinguish.


School Material

Shane has agreed to do Prepared Dictation for me – that is, using the Charlotte Mason method, I will present the children with a passage each week to study and learn, and then he will read the passage aloud for them to write down with correct spelling, punctuation, etc.  In order to facilitate this process, I made a Prepared Dictation section and put it under the School Material section because I thought I might have other things like this that will be useful.  In the lesson plan I link to this page so that it’s easy to get to the prepared dictation for the week.  I have a page for each passage, and I just used OneNote’s screen capture feature to capture the passage from the web.  No need to browse to a site and get distracted now!

Term 1 – Term 3

I have divided out my school year into 3 terms of 12 weeks each.  Accordingly, I have 3 section groups, one for each term.  Within each Term section are the weeks for that term (Term 1 – weeks 1 through 12, Term 2 – weeks 13 through 24, Term 3 – weeks 25 through 36).  One each week section, I have a page for each subject.  On each page is a color coded grid with each child and the day of week.  Then the lessons are listed within.  I have check marks so they can check off the items as they finish, and I have added links to OneDrive, and other places in OneNote for their material.  Where appropriate, I also linked to the particular pages in their digital notebooks, so for example when they have a written narration to do for a selection of reading, it should go right to their notebook, so their won’t be lost work, or can’t find this or that.  I’ve noticed this feature doesn’t really work on the android tablets, but they do their work on their computers anyways so that shouldn’t be an issue.  Another thing I did, which helps me use the templates with ease, is that instead of continuing the numbering of the days (for example going from Day 5 of Week 1 to Day 6-Day 10 on Week 2) I just kept it as Days 1-5.  This makes copying templates much easier.  Again time saving for the win!


The beauty of doing my lessons this way instead of how I’ve done them previously is that ALL my children for the ENTIRE week are all on one area.  Of course you could organize it differently if you looked at data differently.  But I want to see who all is doing the same subjects because a lot of them overlap.  It makes copying and pasting a lot easier this way than having all of a child’s subjects on one section, and then a page for each child.  If I want to see who has what work left I do have to tap or click through each subject, but it’s much easier to prepare lessons this way and that’s where my time crunch is.

I just love my discovery of the new functionality in OneNote.  I never thought about section groups before, or color coding, or having 1 notebook for my school year.  The ability to password protect sensitve sections, and my usage of linking to OneDrive and even other notebooks within OneNote is very useful for keeping kids on track with their assignments.  Being able to clip data from an external source and paste right into OneNote makes creating digital curriculum a breeze too.  And then the organizational prospects of having all of the children’s work in their own digital notebooks is much better than the pen-and-paper way we do it now.  Lilly in particular is horrendous at organizing her work.  One page will be a history narration, then on the next page she’ll do math problems.  This way will somewhat force her to organize her work better which is a plus for me.  And as usual – digital lesson plans means no papers getting lost, which is always a plus!

A Day in the Life of a Working/Homeschooling Mom

I really enjoy reading posts about “A Day in the Life of” things with regards to subjects I’m interested in – like homeschooling!  And I also know that before I was a homeschooling working mom, I wondered how it could even be possible.  So maybe seeing some insight into how I make it work will help someone else out who is wondering how they can make it work.

I’ll preface by saying a few things.  First, I have a big family.  Seven kids, five of which do school in some form or another (and next year I’m planning to involved all 7!)  My eldest, Lilly, has ADHD and so she has serious issues focusing, which presents its own interesting set of challenges.  Finally my boys are… loud.  They are active.  They are most certainly NOT the sit still and do book work type, yet if I don’t include that they throw a fit so… more interesting challenges I had to resolve.  I think I’ll do a few posts over the next few weeks about homeschooling and the issues I’ve had to deal with.  But for now, on to my day.

I wake up at 6am.  My phone is my alarm clock and so I always wake up to it.  I resist the urge, some days more than others, to hit the snooze button, but instead hop out of bed.  I turn the fan off, and hope that while I’m getting ready in the morning, the lack of white noise will wake up Shane, Mark, and Luke.  Usually it just wakes up Luke.

So after I’m out of bed, I go to the bathroom, get dressed, rinse the sink out, and on Monday mornings, I do a quick 5-10 minute clean of my  bathroom.  This involves windexing the mirror, cleaning the counter and sink, cleaning the toilet, and cleaning the bathtub.  If it’s a monthly cleaning day, I’ll do those tasks on Tuesday so I don’t spend my whole morning cleaning.  After all I am on a time limit!  Either way, by 6:15 I’m up, ready, make-upped and good to go.  So I plop back in bed to wake up whoever hasn’t woken up yet.  I usually don’t succeed at that until around 6:30, sometimes later.  After everyone is up and out of bed, I quickly make the crib and bed (on Mondays I change the sheets so it adds about 5 extra minutes to that routine.  Then I gather up the laundry from our hamper (and sheets if it’s Monday) and go rotate the laundry.  This is usually the only time I mess with the washer/dryer during the day on a weekday.

After that, I go to the mantle, which has our family charging station, and grab whatever devices haven’t already been grabbed by kids.  Usually Jordan and David wake up before me and get their tablets and go upstairs to play video games.  I then head upstairs with Luke in tow, popping him over the makeshift baby gate and make sure he gets up the stairs ok.  I yell at Lilly and Sierra to get up if they aren’t already up and then to my seat.  The homeschooling seat lol.  Lilly gets Luke in his seat and I’m getting all the kids started with XtraMath on their tablets.  They all have the app on their devices.  It was about $4 on the play store, but being able to block the web and still let them do their XtraMath was worth it to me.  While they’re doing XtraMath, I’m looking at my lesson plan for the day and pulling out the worksheets that are needed for everyone.  I print my worksheets a week ahead and plan lessons several weeks ahead usually.  If kids still aren’t done, I open up the various apps and such that will be needed in the next few minutes.

It doesn’t usually take them long to finish XtraMath.  Jordan and David usually finish first and so I give them their worksheets for the day.  Some days it’s coloring sheets, some days it’s a craft, and some days it’s a find the letters.  Today it was a find the letters.  They both finished pretty fast and then I gave them their Math activity which today was a cut and paste shape sorting activity.  While this was going on I opened up Google Play books and got the Goop Directory ready for their daily character lesson.  I also gave Lilly and Sierra their copywork sheets to get started on.

By now it’s around 7-7:10 and Shane has come upstairs with a mug of coffee for me (he’s so awesome!) and he gets breakfast ready.  I plan breakfast in advance and prepare 3 days of  breakfasts on the weekend.  The other two days are grits or oatmeal.  Today was an oatmeal day.  Jordan loves oatmeal.

After the boys finish their worksheets, I start the android tablet lessons.  Usually it’s one or maybe two apps on their, for example the Starfall app to learn about the letter of the week we’re working on.  That takes maybe a minute and then it’s back to me.  On days when they have math games, I save those for last because they like to linger over the games a bit and I’m on a time limit.  The good thing is that David’s tablet is my old phone so it’s pretty good quality and can hold all of the games I give them for school.  So after everything else is done I can give Jordan my tablet and David can use his and they can both play their math games at the same time.  (Of course he lost his tablet yesterday so we have to find it now…)  Just prior to any math games they may have, I do the other thing I save for last – the YouTube videos.  ALL the kids like listening to the YouTube videos, even Lilly.  She channels her inner preschool and watches.  I can’t say I blame her, I pick out interesting songs and videos.  I have several YouTube playlists for different grades so I can easily find the videos I need.  There is almost always a video to listen to.  While the boys are doing their school, I open up Sierra’s math – she’s doing SplashMath on my tablet and she does her daily lesson.  If there’s time she plays on the aquarium of the app after her lesson.  Lilly will work on her copywork and toast and prepare a bagel for me to take to work for breakfast, assuming Shane hasn’t beaten her to it.

I save the Bible reading for the absolute last.  I used to read the Bible to them myself, but I guess I’m boring and they prefer my app to read it.  So I open up the LifeTV Bible app on my windows tablet (which is paired to a bluetooth speaker to increase the volume) and play the reading for the day.  After that, boys are done.  By this time it’s usually 7:20 or so.  Sometimes it’s closer to 7:30.  At this time, I do a quick Scripture memory review with the girls.  They’re pretty good at it.  I give them index cards and they glue the verses onto the card and then keep them in their folders for review.  Sierra really likes keeping track of her things and reading the cards – she’s really proud of her newfound ability to read.  Lilly mostly just looks at it once and then never looks at the card again but still memorizes it over time, listening to me and Sierra recite it.  Then, the last morning activity I’m involved in is to do the Hymn study.  I’ll play 1-3 hymns depending on time and mood and we’ll sing them together.  Sometimes David joins in cuz he’s just good like that.

After all THAT is done, it’s time for me to leave.  I open up a Librovox recording of Pinocchio (that’s the book we’re currently reading in literature) on my Windows tablet for Sierra to listen to, and then I try to leave her with another activity.  Sometimes it’s phonics, sometimes a game, sometimes Math if we were running behind.  It just depends.  I leave her with both tablets though and she finishes up those two activities and her worksheets while I’m at work – or at least she’s supposed to.  Sometimes she “forgets” and we have to do it when she gets home.  She’s pretty good about finishing the tablet work though.

So then I go to work.  I TRY to get there by 7:30 but it just doesn’t happen.  I usually get to work between 7:45 and 8.  I keep facebook messenger open all day for kids to message me questions or work.  Next year I have a better system which I will reveal in another post but the current system is facebook messenger.  Matthew will do his work independently and then send me attachments and screenshots of his work via messenger.  Lilly is SUPPOSED to do that but she keeps forgetting and then I have to have her do her work later.  Some days she remembers but a lot of days she acts as though I never before told her to put a screen shot of her work on messenger… even though that’s the way it’s been every day this year.  Ah well c’est la vie.  Matthew’s assignments are currently in OneNote, and Lilly’s are on my tablet, which she can view when Shane opens up my tablet for her.  Matthew usually finishes in a couple of hours, I print out the files he sends me and take them home later.  On Mondays, I prepare and print out anything needed for their lessons, in between work assignments!  I have everything organized in OneDrive so I don’t have to hunt for things and this takes almost no time to do.  I’m really specific in my lesson plans so that I can find stuff later (print page 100 from such and such a book).  Then if it’s a boy’s lesson, I know both boys need that lesson.

I leave work around 4 every day.  Assuming I have no appointments, I head home.  I’m usually greeted by our Labrador retriever, Bruce.  I pet him for a few minutes, and as soon as the little guys hear me, they all stream out of the bedroom to greet me.  I had one my coffee mug, and one my lunchbox because they like helping and they scurry off to make my lunch (which just involves putting the stuff I already made into my bag.  I make my lunch a pay period at a time so that lunch making is super fast).  I then have to go see Luke because he’s screaming his head off at being left alone in the room while the other guys all hopped the gate.  So I pick him up, drop my purse off in my room, sometimes change clothes if my work clothes aren’t that comfy that day (they usually are comfy lol), and then I plop on the bed for a bit and hang out with kids and Shane.  Talk about our days, etc.  After that I get dinner going, unless it’s a crock pot meal in which case there’s nothing for me to do usually because we prepped everything ahead of time, so I get on my computer.  I spend a few minutes playing my game (World of Warcraft… lol what can I say!) and then Sierra will come ask me to do school.  Usually there’s a game or something independent I can give her – sometimes it’s PE depending on the day so I’ll send them outside for a while.  Just depends on the day.  Yesterday it was PE.  Today it will probably be tangrams on my android tablet.

I spend the next hour trying to play WoW, hold Luke who climbs up and down, across my computer, and being a general nuissance, cute thing that he is, and working with Sierra on her school.  After work, I generally have to read her her science and history lessons, and have her narrate, and then she reads her reading lesson to me.  There is also usually another miscellaneous lesson.  Yesterday it was an artist picture study.  Today it is health and music study.  She’s supposed to listen to the music compositions during the day with Lilly but that doesn’t always happen.  So I play them after work.  Sometimes her lessons take until bedtime.  It really is flexible depending on the environment of the day. If Luke is really fussy, or if kids are acting like maniacs, or if there are a lot of chores to be done, then my after-work-routine varies a lot.  Add in to that my game takes precedence on Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 for in-game events, and it adds to the interesting factor.  I have done school while playing my game with Sierra during the downtime.  It’s pretty funny to see it happen.  But she’s good to go with the flow.  I try to finish Sierra’s school early in the evening though so I can dedicate the rest of my attention to helping Lilly finish her school.  On a good day she’s done before I get home.  On an ok day she can finish before bed time.  Sometimes though, we just have to carry over school to the next day.  Today, for example, Sierra and Lilly both have makeup work from yesterday to do because they were busy with chores.  Shane was making sure kids did chores correctly for once so there wasn’t much time for school.  Even still, the little boys finished, as they always do.

We usually eat dinner by 7.  I TRY to get dinner done by 6 but it just almost never happens.  It kind of sucks too  because Luke is usually screaming his head off by 7, but sometimes life just doesn’t cooperate.  After dinner, Matthew and Lilly clean up the kitchen while I get Luke in the bath and send boys in turn to the shower and brushing their teeth.  I put Luke and Mark in bed between 7 and 8 usually and send the Jordan and David to bed as soon as their showers are done, or as soon as I get done putting the little boys to bed, whichever is later.  After dinner cleanup, Lilly an Matt fold up the clothes I set to washing and drying earlier in the morning and if I still have school with Sierra I finish it up during this quiet part of the evening.  I send Sierra to bed around 9 and then have 1-2 hours to myself.  I TRY to get in bed by 10 but a lot of times it’s closer to 11 before I actually close my eyes because after I close my computer for the evening, I take a shower or bath and brush my teeth before bed, so that takes a bit of time.  Plus if I opt for the bath rather than the shower, I’ve been known to watch Netflix on my tablet for a few minutes at the same time…  Multitasking and all lol.

Finally around 10-11 I climb into bed.  I check the calendar for tomorrow and make sure all of my to-do list items were checked off that were completed.  Then I zone out until another day.

So as you can see my morning routine is really structured, but my afternoon/evening routine not nearly so much.  Whatever we don’t finish during the week we finish up on the weekend.  There have been weeks where Lilly is still doing school on Sunday.  I really try to push her to finish by the end of Saturday but you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink.  Same thing with homeschooling.  You can present the lessons and sit them in front of the work, but you can’t stop the daydreaming and not doing the work.  We can motivate her in various ways to finish (no playing on the computer till you’re done) but it only works so well as her desire for that activity versus her desire not to do her work!  What works for us may not work for everyone, but that is how we make homeschooling work with me as the primary teacher and the sole breadwinner.

Timesaving Tricks for the Frugal Homemaker

When you’re a parent you’re busy.  This is true whether you’re a stay at home mom or a working mom.  I’ve been both so I know.  And when you’re trying to live frugally, you’re spending more time to save money.  But it can be worth it if you use some timesaving tricks.

  1. You can make your own brown sugar in the food processor.  Before I was taking sugar and molasses and mashing it together with a fork to make my brown sugar.  It worked but it was time consuming.  Last weekend Shane took pity on me as I scrambled around doing baking day and he threw it all in the food processor.  It turned out absolutely perfect.  He said it was like store bought brown sugar and I have to say, I agree.  So you’re talking about a couple of minutes for a big batch of brown sugar.  And cost wise it’s totally worth it.  We buy a 25 pound bag of sugar for like $12 and change and a jar of molasses for around $2.  Considering that a tiny bag of brown sugar costs upwards of $4, you can see the financial savings.  And now there’s time saving too!
  2. Making crock pot meals during the week is great, but not without planning ahead. Shane convinced me that I needed to spend less time cooking.  He said he was at home during the day and he could work on some crock pot meals.  So over the past couple of months, I have worked on finding some good crock pot recipes, and learning some follies along the way.  One of the things about crock pot recipes is they like to use convenience ingredients, such as canned beans.  I almost never buy canned beans because they’re usually more expensive than dry beans.  However having a bag of dry beans doesn’t really help if you’re wanting to do a crock pot meal that morning.  So I have started to incorporate crock pot prep into my baking day routine.  On Mondays when I plan out my meals for the next week, I look through the recipes for things that need to be prepared ahead of time for convenience on that day.  So far I have found:
    • beans – I soak them in the morning and then set them going around midday until they’re done, drain them, let them cool, and put them in quart or gallon size baggies depending on the recipe, and lay them flat in the freezer.  Good to go for crock pot meals
    • cream of <fill in the blank> soup – I NEVER buy condensed soup.  Instead, I googled and found some generic cream of soup recipes where you can add additional ingredients depending on the type of cream soup (mushroom, chicken, even cheddar!)
    • biscuits – We recently did a chicken pot pie in the crock pot.  It. Was. AWESOME!  And in preparation of the meal, I made biscuits and left them frozen and uncooked in the freezer.  Biscuits are so easy to make I make at least a batch every weekend.  Here’s the general idea for the biscuits I use, and when I don’t have buttermilk I use milk or water + creamer or just water:
  3. HAVING a planning day saves time.  There was a time when I didn’t plan my meals a week in advance, and I didn’t think about my grocery list.  There was a time when I played school by ear each day, and when I didn’t set out my clothes.  But each of these impromptu events cost time that could have been saved to do other things.  So now I plan.  Every Monday I plan out my meal plan.  I use Wunderlist to keep track of my shopping list – then as I’m backing, I put it on Wunderlist when I run out and when I do my grocery shopping online, it’s right there and I won’t forget that we were out of something.  I plan my homeschool out so I have the materials I need on time.  It really kind of sucked when science experiment day came and I had to find a video instead because I didn’t have the right supplies.  So now I try to plan ahead.  Sometimes life still happens.  Sometimes we ran out of a food I thought we’d have for a dinner and we have to reorganize, but by planning out my homekeeping, we’re able to make these adjustments in stride.
  4. Getting enough sleep is a must.  It might seem counterintuitive to end the day when so much is left to do, but consider an alternative perspective – approach it as a per week instead of a per day.  When I approach my to-do list and tasks as a per-week, then I know hey, I can go to bed on time tonight because I can finish up tomorrow or the next day.  I do this with chores, school, anything really.  So long as I finish my tasks before Sunday preferably but definitely before Monday I’m good.  Because sometimes life does get chaotic.  Maybe you’re sick that day and so you get behind.  But on Saturday when you usually do nothing, maybe you can catch up.  We have to use Saturday a lot to finish up the last bit of Sierra and Lilly’s school because sometimes I just can’t get to ALL of their school ALL of the time.  I try but it doesn’t always happen.  Sometimes Luke is being a pain and so I have to stay in the bedroom putting him to sleep for two hours and then I don’t have time to finish Sierra’s school.  It has happened when, by the time I get done putting Mark and Luke to bed, that I come out and Sierra looks like a zombie and says she’s tired and can she go to bed?  How could I say “no, you have to stay up for another hour so we can finish school!!”  Instead, I tell her to go to bed, and we finish the next day, or the next.  There have been weeks where it took us until bedtime Sunday to get through all of Lilly’s work, because she will daydream.  It happens.  But by setting a bedtime for myself and going to sleep, I can be sure that *I* am well rested and ready to tackle the day.  And by making sure my kids get to bed on time, they can make better use of the time they’re awake and get done with their tasks more effectively.  When I’m tired it’s all I can do to stay awake, much less try and be productive.  When I’m rested though… I knock out tasks like there’s no tomorrow!
  5. Have a running budget through the next few years, if need be.  My budget is in an excel spreadsheet and it currently runs through to 2019.  Yes there was some initial set up to finagle the numbers, and yes sometimes I have to adjust them as life happens, raises happen, deductions happen, etc.  But I have every pay period planned out for every plannable expense we currently have.  That would be all of the medical bills that we still owe, paying my dad back, our car we had to get when our old one died, as well as regular expenses like groceries and gas and insurance.  The way planning out the budget saves time is this – on pay day, you don’t have to worry about what goes to what bills… it’s already planned out.  I use GoodBudget to utilize the envelope system and I am still working on padding all of the envelopes a month ahead so that whenever I take from one envelope it’s already refilled again come pay day.  That’s peace of mind too, and it helps you make the hard choices.  We’ve had to cut out of some budgets to make room for bills that came up.  I’m able to plan for my giving – which I’m just now beginning again and want to get better at.  And I have Christmas and savings budgeted.  So even though it’s only April, I’m putting money aside for Christmas.  By the time Christmas comes, unless something drastic happens, we’ll have another $2000 saved up for presents and such, even though each check it’s only maybe $20 here or $30 here.  Sometimes there are large contributions, but a lot of times it’s small.  Some weeks it’s a few cents.  But it adds up over time.  And not having to spend all that time collecting bills and running around like a chicken with your head cut off trying to remember if you paid this bill or that bill saves time.
  6. Also, I record due dates for bills on google calendar, along with the meal plan for today, and any chores that need to be remembered (like whose kid duty it is on that weekend day!).  I also record the school day we’re on, and any school holidays, and I can see any appointments.  Being able to see my entire day at a glance on google calendar is a big time saver.
  7. And back to the kitchen again… I multitask when I do my baking day.  But I do it in a smart way.  I usually have about 3 mini session on baking day.  Every baking day I have 3 breakfasts, 3 sweets, and any dinner or accessory items to prep for the week (things like barbecue sauce, or brown sugar, or maple syrup).  So I look over my baking list, which I prepare on Monday with the meal plans.  I know now which items cook at 350, which at 400, etc.  I also know which dishes I’ll need for which meals.  So I try to group them together.  For example… I will start maple syrup on the stove – it’s mix, whisk, and ignore basically until it boils for three minutes.  So while that’s heating up, I might drain and get some beans going for crock pot meals during the week in my big 16 quart stock pot.  I just fill that sucker up, sprinkle some salt on, and turn it on high for a while.  It’s big enough I can kind of ignore it for a good long while, usually until the beans are done.  Then I might start cooking some sausage for sausage biscuits on the front eye.  That still doesn’t require my full attention, so I prep a coffee cake, and save the egg yolks from that in a bowl for french toast in session 2.  All of that will take me about thirty minutes to do in total.  When I’m done with session 1 I will have finished maple syrup, coffee cake, beans are good, and half of my sausage biscuits are done.  Session 2 would be maybe chocolate pudding, french toast, muffins, and biscuits, so then 3/3 breakfasts are done, 2/3 sweets are done, and all of my extra list is done.  Then I will mix up cookie dough and let Lilly babysit the cookies cuz really the cook 10 minutes, let rest 5 minutes thing annoys me and she will sit up there on her tablet and happily do it.
  8. Finally, I always make sure I’m ready for the next day.  One of the best ways to start my day is to make sure there’s not a lot of crazy time in the morning.  So I always make sure my clothes are set out, I make sure all the devices are plugged up and charging so school will go smoothly, and I try to make sure my bedroom and bathroom are tidy, though lately I’ve been leaving my bedroom till the morning because Jordan and David will go in there to get clothes after their showers, then go to bed, and I won’t notice the gigantic mess of clothes they pulled out till I go to bed, and we’re trying to teach them to clean up after themselves.  So I have him clean up in the morning when he gets up.

That’s probably not everything I do, but that is at least some of the things I do to help me save time during the week.  Hopefully some of these ideas will help other people save some time too!