What to do with Our Little Ones While We Work with Our Big Ones

Our little ones are a blessing from The Lord. No matter how much we love them, we all still struggle at times. I remind myself frequently that this is a season of my life. All seasons, good or bad, change quickly. I try to remember to enjoy the things that are special about each age. This is a challenge for me after clearing poop out of my two year old’s underwear and off of the floor for the third time in a day, but then I see his contagious smile and joy at the simplest things in life, such as peanut butter and crackers for snack. He is so precious! Thank you God for using my son to remind me of the simple joys in life.

 

When we are faced with seasons of our life that are more challenging than others (sickness, new baby), remember that it is okay to change what school looks like for a while. Perhaps taking 12 weeks off of traditional schoolwork, after a baby is born, to work on home economics and baby care, is the best thing for all involved; Or focusing only on the 3Rs. More multi level learning or more independent workbooks might be what is needed. Adapting curriculum to the specific needs of our family is one of the benefits of homeschooling.

 

As much as I’d like to do it all, it’s simply not possible. We have to make choices of what is the most important in our children’s education. If I have to choose between math and teaching my son to control his temper when his little brother breaks his Nerf gun, I think the character choice is the way to go. Hopefully, by making this choice now while they are young, I will have more time with them when they are older and have developed good character, to teach them the other things that I want to teach them. If my daughter knows calculus and all of the presidents in order, yet can’t cook herself a meal or get along with others, I will consider her education a failure!

 

I believe self-discipline training is also important when trying to find the time to do school. If my preschoolers and toddlers are

  • patient,
  • obedient the first time,
  • can play by themselves when told to (alone time), and
  • can sit for a period of time when told to,

everything is easier. These skills take practice to develop and time to learn. Having my preschooler sit and color for 15 minutes in the morning is not so much because I want her to develop her coloring skills; It’s because I want her to develop her obedience and self-control. Learning to color inside the lines is a bonus.

 

Another thing I do in order to have more time teaching my children traditional subjects, is to utilizing a number of time management strategies.

 

  • Meal plan.
  • Turn off phone.
  • Have kids help with chores (Also part of teaching them life skills)
  • Have big kids help little kids (School of littles, Read to littles, Play with littles)
  • Schedule errands only one day a week

 

Infant

I plan my time of instruction around my infant. When he naps, we do subjects that require more involvement from me, like science. When he nurses, I read to the kids things like history and geography or have them read to me. Older kids can help with my infant, even if it’s just holding him or sitting on the floor next to him. Sleep training can be helpful. Some find babywearing to be helpful. It may also be a season where more field trips are easier than sit down instruction.

 

Toddler

With my toddler, I try to involve him as much as possible and save the other techniques for when I really need them. He’s my little buddy when I do chores in the morning. He may sit on my lap or a big siblings, when we are doing schoolwork. He may hold the completed flashcards as we do them. When I want to have more focused instruction with my older kids, then I have him do things like alone time, listen to books on tape, puzzles, coloring, stringing beads, pull out a bin of special toys, or simply wait till nap time.

 

Preschooler

My preschooler is most often involved on her level. She has her own workbooks when big siblings do theirs. She listens when we read history and science and is often involved in the experiments. At other times, she does puzzles, coloring, lacing cards, stringing beads, cutting, gluing, alone time, listens to music, watches an educational video, or plays with her siblings. I require my children to take an afternoon nap until they at least start kindergarten.  

 

Though little ones are a joy, they can still be frustrating at times. I try to remember to always show God’s love to my children. First Corinthians 13:13 reminds me And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

How I Plan my School Year

 

 I can achieve a lot more during the school year with a lot less stress if I spend a little time planning early on. Some time during the summer I plan out my school year: What subjects I want to teach, how I want to teach them, when I'm going to teach them, etc. It can be overwhelming to know where to start, so here is how I break it down into simple steps that aren't so overwhelming.

Back to school Free Photo

 

1. Write out average schedule for average day of the week, noting any available time for school time (I usually do this in a spreadsheet on the computer).

 

07:00 AM

Wake Up

08:00 AM

Breakfast/Devotions

08:30 AM

Chores

09:00 AM

School

09:30 AM

School

10:00 AM

Feed baby

10:30 AM

School

 

2. Duplicate for every day of the week and note differences for particular days.

 

 

Mon

Tue

Wed

09:00 AM

School

School

Errands

 

3. On a separate paper (again I usually use a spreadsheet) write out subjects to teach (legally required plus personal preference) - Reading, Writing, Math, Spanish, Religion, etc.

 

4. Decide what I want to teach for each subject and how often.

 

Writing

Handwriting – Copy work

weekly

 

Language – A Beka God's Gift of Language C

daily

 

English from the Roots Up

daily

 

Typing – Mavis Beacon

weekly

Fine Arts

Art – A Beka Art B

weekly

 

Music – Songs We Enjoy 3, Hymnal

weekly

 

Music – Guitar

daily

Math

A Beka Arithmetic 6

daily

Science

Apologia Exploring Creation with Chem/Botany

daily

Health

A Beka Choosing Good Health (6th grade)

weekly



5. Fill in school subjects during school time for every day of the week.

 

 

Mon

Tue

08:00 AM

Bible

Bible

   

09:00 AM

Pledge

 
 

Computer

Reading

09:30 AM

Math

Math

10:00 AM

Science

Health




6. If multiple kids, repeat steps 3-5 for each kid. I even make a schedule for my toddler and preschooler so I have a plan for what they will be doing when I need to work with my older kids in a quiet environment (For example play with sibling, nap, etc.). I usually start my scheduling with the youngest child because they are the most inflexible. This may take some tweaking to coordinate all their schedules. At 10am they may all do science together. But at 9am I may be doing one-on-one reading time with my kindergartener, so my older kids may be doing self reading or computer time at that hour.

 

When I am done, I have a detailed list for each child of what I plan for them to be doing for each subject (Steps 3 and 4). and a spreadsheet for each child of what subject I plan for them to be studying at what time (Steps 1,2 and 5). This is only a guideline. Obviously messy toddlers and crying babies alter the schedule regularly, but it gives me a plan to help everybody make the most of our time and to coordinate when I plan to do group work and when each child can have time on the computer and how I can plan to give each child their needed Mommy time. The more kids I have the more essential a schedule becomes to me to get anything done.  

 

Picky-Eater = Hungry Child

I love my children and so I will provide them with nutritious meals three times a day. Additionally I may choose to offer them a small afternoon snack of my choosing. They are individuals with individual likes and dislikes. I respect their individuality and allow them the choice to eat the food they have lovingly been given at the table with the family or choose to go hungry. That is their choice. I run a home not a restaurant and therefore I do not cater or offer menu choices. Whether they like the food being served today or not is inconsequential. Their choice to eat or go hungry remains the same. Some call them picky-eaters, I call them hungry children.

With that meal view in mind, these are the mealtime rules I have developed:

  • Come to the table when I call you.
  • Use your manners-Sit on your butt in your chair quietly until you have been excused.
  • Be polite-No fussing, whining, or complaining.
  • You must try one bite of each food. (You can not know if you like it or not until you have tried it. If you don't try it, I will save it for you to try at the next meal when you are hungrier.)
  • You may not have more until you have finished what is on your plate.

Special circumstances such as illness or allergies do arise in our household and are dealt with on an individual basis.

I believe it is our job as parents to teach our children to be polite members of society. This includes manners at mealtimes. Complaining about food at mealtime is not polite. It will not hurt the child to eat a food he does not like. In fact, I think it is good for him to learn that there are many things in life that we must do whether we like them or not.

What mealtime rules work well for you?

Kitchen Dating

I think home economics if an important skill. That’s one of the reasons I have one kid a day as my kitchen helper.

My kids usually love it when it is their turn to be my kitchen helper. It’s kind of like a date with Mama since they get to spend a little one on one (sorta) time with me. I invest this time into them because I love them. It’s also important for them to learn how to cook and learn how to help. As they grow older and learn more this will return as a blessing to me.

I have them assist me at their level. My two year old can dump stuff into the bowl or stir something. My four year old can make juice. My six year old can flip pancakes and crack eggs. My eight year old can make pancake batter and pizza among other things.

I believe that kitchen economics is an important skill to becoming an adult.

What have you taught your child about kitchen economics this week?

My Curriculum Choices 2013: 5 year old 2nd grader

Part 1 of My Curriculum Choices discussed the choices for my eight year old. This time I'll tell you about the choices for my five year old.

Reading/Literature

NIrV Read with Me Bible Illustrated by Dennis Jones: I want to instill in my son the daily habit of reading his own Bible. I feel this Bible is written at the right reading level for my son’s current reading ability.

A Beka Book Second Grade Readers: These readers progress with difficulty at the same pace as the A Beka Book Language 2 that we are using. I like how they compliment each other and the Biblical characteristics and morals that are woven into the stories.

Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt: This is a resource guide for me that helps me select extra reading material for my son.

Writing

A Beka Book Language 2 workbook: I have used A Beka Book’s Language books in the past with my two oldest sons and have been pleased with them. I like the convenience of having a workbook that my son can write in. I like how it explains the language rules and then gives opportunities to practice them and review them throughout the book.

I will also be introducing my son to cursive handwriting this year.

Music

Alfred’s Basic Piano Library All-in-One Course for Children: I will continue this book with my children from last year. I like how this books combines lesson and theory into one simple book.

Math

A Beka Book Arithmetic 2: I have used A Beka Book’s Arithmetic books in the past and have been pleased with them. I like the convenience of having a workbook that my son can write in. I like how it explains things simply and then gives opportunities to practice them and review them throughout the book.

Science

Apologia Exploring Creation with Astronomy by Fulbright: We used Apologia’s “Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures” by Fulbright last year and it was a good fit for us. This series is written from a creation perspective and I can use it with multi-level teaching. It is more in-depth than many other science books I have looked at, which works well for my analytical son and it has lots of simple hands on experiments and activities for my more hands on son.

History & Geography

All Through the Ages by Christine Miller: This is a resource guide for me from which I plan to select books on the Dark and Middle Ages and obtain them from our library system. This guide makes it easier for me to select quality books from these historical time periods for my sons that are safe from non-Christian biases. This is a multi-level teaching approach. I used this guide book in the past and it works well for us. History is one of my sons’ favorite subjects.

Geography From A to Z A Picture Glossary by Jack Knowlton: This cute book will complement our multi-level study of geography through history. It introduces new geography terms in an easy and fun way.

In my last post, part 1, of this series, I explained why I haven’t listed all of the subjects that I am teaching my children. If you the last post and are interested in why I did this, please check it out.

Also, If you did read the last post, you may have noticed that many of my choices for my second grader are the same as my choices for my fourth grader. Though they each have their own Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic books, for many of the other subjects their books are the same. I use a multi level teaching approach in these other areas. This saves me time, and I feel they learn more when they can share and discuss what they have just learned with each other.

What are your kids’ favorite subjects and what do you use in those subject areas?

My Curriculum Choices 2013: 8 year old 4th grader

In this first part of a two part series I'm sharing my curriculum choices for our eight year old who is doing 4th grade work.

Reading/Literature

NIV Boys Bible by Zondervan: I want my son to continue his daily habit of reading his own Bible. This bible has a few study notes presented in an interesting way to boys, that help my son understand what he is reading better. 

A Beka Book 4th grade readers: These readers progress throughout the year together with the Language Book we use. I like the Biblical characteristics and morals that are woven into the stories.

A Beka Book Read & Think 4: My son requested this book. He used Read & Think 3 last year and loved the stories in them so much that he requested that I get the 4th grade book this year. His reading improved greatly last year!

Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt: This is a resource guide for me that helps me select extra reading material for my son.

Writing

A Beka Book Language A workbook: The A Beka Book Language series works well for my son. I like the convenience of having a workbook. I like how it explains the language rules and then gives opportunities to practice them and review them throughout the book.

I will also be introducing my son to cursive handwriting this year. 

Music

Alfred’s Basic Piano Library All-in-One Course for Children: I will continue this book with my children from last year. I like how this book combines lesson and theory into one simple book.

Math

A Beka Book Arithmetic 4: We used the A Beka Book Arithmetic series in the past and they work well for my son. I like how it explains things simply and then gives opportunities to practice them and review them throughout the book. Though this is a workbook, I plan to have my son use it like a textbook and write his answers on a separate piece of paper so we can reuse this book in the future with my other children. He usually needs more space than is provided to show his work anyway.

Science

Apologia Exploring Creation with Astronomy by Fulbright: We used Apologia’s Exploring Creation series in past years. This series is written from a creation perspective and I can use it with multi-level teaching. It is more in-depth than many other science books I have looked at which works well for my analytical son and it has lots of simple hands on experiments and activities for my more hands on son.

History & Geography

All Through the Ages by Christine Miller: This is a resource guide for me from which I plan to select books on the Dark and Middle Ages and obtain them from our library system. This guide makes it easier for me to select quality books from these historical time periods for my sons that are safe from anti-Christian biases. This is a multi-level teaching approach. I used this guide book in the past and it works well for us. History is one of my sons’ favorite subjects.

Geography From A to Z A Picture Glossary by Jack Knowlton: This cute book will complement our multi-level study of geography through history. It introduces new geography terms in an easy and fun way.

You may have noticed that I skipped a few subjects like Health & Art. It’s not that I’m not teaching my children those subjects, it’s that I don’t have specific text books for those subjects. Instead, I’m choosing to design my own plan for those subjects and other subjects I may be adding to the books that I’ve listed. Those areas not listed certainly aren’t forgotten.

Next week I'll tell you about my educational plan for my 5 year old who's doing second grade work.

Are you ready for this school year?

How I Manage Our Precious Time


One of my biggest time management strategies is to just say no. I try not to take on or get involved in things that aren’t a part of our family’s goals. Doing God’s will and helping others is part of our family’s goal, but saying yes to every play group or homeschool opportunity (no matter how wonderful they may be) can get us so overbooked and stressed, that we just don’t have time for things that are the most important in our lives (homeschool or other).

I set boundaries and priorities to better manage my time. For starters, after God, my husband is my first priority. That means that I do hold sacred my little time that I have with him in the evenings. As a result, I try to run errands that I can during the day instead of waiting until he gets home at night. It certainly is easier to go grocery shopping without the kids, but not at the cost of time with my husband. Furthermore, I believe children can learn a lot from the errands in life that we run. Each errand can be a learning opportunity if we use it wisely. There are many ways to make use of our driving and waiting time. I try to make the most of it, so I have more time when I’m at home to do the things that I can’t when I’m out and about.

My second priority is my children. This means that I often have to say no to moms’ groups, or homeschool co-ops, or playdates. Are these things really what’s best for my children? They can be fun and great opportunities, but at what cost? They just aren’t worth doing if we get so busy that we get stressed and crabby or don’t have time for schoolwork. I refuse to go out of the house every day of the week. My goal is to run errands one weekday a week, and an educational field trip once a month. I incorporate this into our school schedule at the beginning of the year. I try to stay home the rest of the time to allow me to maximize my time.

I manage my time according to these top two priorities. I’m big on schedules and plans. They help me manage my time so that I don’t over or under use my time for important and unimportant things. I set limits on things that can easily consume more time than I want them too. The following is a list of how I have applied some of my above time management principles:

Habits

  • I teach my children to obey me the first time I tell them something.
  • I teach my children to do for themselves the things of which they are capable.
  • All members of our household (two years old and older) have chores.
  • I do not turn on the TV during the day.
  • I try to keep my phone conversations short (sometimes I don’t answer the phone at all and just let the machine get it).
  • I try to keep my house organized and uncluttered, so that I can easily find things and put things away faster. 

Schedules

  • I use a meal plan.
  • I go grocery shopping once a week.
  • I use a daily school subject schedule. It contains what needs to be done in which subject for which kid and how often.
  • I have a chore schedule (for myself and my children).
  • I do laundry on Mondays and Thursdays.
  • I work on projects on Thursdays.
  • I clean the house on Fridays.

Limits

  • I limit myself to checking my email once a day.
  • I limit myself to checking my facebook once a week.
  • I limit my hobbies like scrapbooking and genealogy to Sundays.
  • I run errands and try to schedule appointments for first thing in the morning on the day that I go grocery shopping.

This is obviously not a complete list, but I hope that you will find some of my strategies helpful.

What tips do you use to manage your time?

Happy Birthday America!

Independence Day like any other birthday in this house will be celebrated with food. We will be having Red, White, & Blue Pancakes for breakfast. Lunch will be a simple PB&J sandwiches with a side of Bananas. For supper we will grill out and serve Red, White, & Blue Fruit Salad.

Normally we spend the day with friends and watch the fireworks late at night. This year my children have chickenpox. Since socializing in public places is rather frowned on, we will be staying home this year.

I also want my children to never forget the importance of this day, so we will be reading the Declaration of Independence. I know that my children are young and probably won’t understand most of it, but I want them to become familiar with it as they grow. If I read it every year, it will become familiar to them by the time we study it in-depth in highschool. I also plan to discuss some of our founding fathers who sacrificed greatly to make this day happen. Rick Boyer has a great list of some of these heroic men in his article Part I - Boyer Family Independence Day Celebration if you are looking for some brief summaries.

We love to finish our day by watching the City fireworks at a local park. However, since getting bitten by a bunch of mosquitoes while already having chickenpox probably wouldn’t feel so good, we are planning to watch the fireworks from inside our minivan. It will be a challenge to arrange the kids so they can all see out the window, but hey, our country’s birthday only comes once a year, so let’s remember what our birthday is all about and celebrate!

What are your plans for Independence Day?

Save Time and Money with a Meal Plan

To save time and money, I use a weekly meal plan. I used to have a blank meal plan every week. I would come up with ideas every Saturday night and fill it it. Some weeks though I wasn’t feeling very creative, or I didn’t have enough time to come up with ideas and it was rather difficult. So I created a two week revolving meal plan pattern. Some of the meals are static such as Monday breakfast is usually pancakes (Though I change it up from week to week by making different pancakes including plain, banana, or blueberry). Some of the meals are more flexible like Monday night pasta (this can be anything from spaghetti (my fallback), to tuna noodle casserole)).

On Saturday night, I fill out my weekly meal plan for the following week, being as specific as I can. Monday breakfast (pancakes) becomes: Rhubarb Spice Pancakes, strawberries, and juice. Monday night pasta becomes: Spaghetti with meat, garlic toast, and lettuce salad. Here is a PDF of my weekly meal plan that I printed and laminated with contact paper. I hang it on my fridge for convenience but keep my two week revolving meal plan pattern stashed away with my cookbooks since I don’t need it every day. Here is a sample of what my weekly meal plan would look like filled in. The only difference is that I use dry erase markers to fill it in on my fridge (they wipe off of contact paper easily), and I abbreviate a lot and assume things for myself. I thought it might make more sense if I spelled it out in a little more detail than I use for myself.

The bottom section of my meal plan is marked “Notes”. I use the space for reminders for myself. Such as new recipes I want to try next week. Reminder to fry 2 pounds of hamburger to save me time for a meal later in the week or often as a to-do list since I look at the meal plan at least 3 times a day.

As far as the “save money” part, there are lots of studies about people who use meal plans and shop with lists spend less money. In addition to that, there are two big ways that I save money with a meal plan.

  1. I buy meat when it is on sale at the grocery store and put it in the freezer. Then I base my meal plan the following week off of what I have in the freezer.
  2. I don’t waste food. I incorporate left-overs into other meals (such as left-over chili may become topping for baked potatoes later in the week) and I schedule a left-over meal into the meal plan at least once a week. (A left-over meal is where I pull out all the left-overs from the fridge, line them up on the counter, and let each kid have a turn choosing which left-over they want. I usually have a simple back up idea, such as PB&J if we run out of left-overs.)

How plan you meals?

Grocery Shopping for Learning Opportunities III

Last article “Grocery Shopping for Learning Opportunities II” I shared about the educational opportunities I create as I prepare for grocery shopping. This article is about how I use our time for educational opportunities on the way to and from the grocery store.

The grocery store I frequent most is only about ten minutes from our house. Yes, I am thankful that I don’t have to travel far to get groceries. Even though our drive is very short, I still like to make use of the time with my children as I usually go grocery shopping with them on a school morning. I have incorporated this time into my school schedule and actually planned to use it accordingly. Currently there are two activities that I have scheduled for this time in our van.

Memory Work - I have my children take turns reciting the Books of the Bible (One of our memory goals for this year). Often one child recites the Old Testament and another child recites the New Testament. Then I have them recite things that they are working on, such as my preschooler will count to 20 or my 1st grader will name the days of the week or my 3rd grader will recite The Lord’s Prayer. At other times I will have them recite Bible verses.

The memory work I choose is one of the goals that I set for them at the beginning of the year. In the future I plan to have them learn things like the 50 states or all of the US presidents. A helpful tip for driving is that I have them work on things that I already have memorized. Since I don’t have all of the US presidents memorized in chronological order, I will have to either personally work on that for the future, or come up with some other method by that time.

Reading - Sometimes my children each read from their own reader/book and other times I have one of my children read aloud.

In the past I have also done other activities with my children in the van.

Music - I have borrowed CDs from our library with different types of music in order to teach and expose my children to different styles of music. I’ve also used our time to sing and teach them new songs.

Audio Books - I have borrowed audio books from our library on different topics. Obviously we can’t finish an entire book in one ten minute trip, but we can listen to part of it during each of multiple trips until we do finish the entire book.

There are websites and books out there dedicated to travel entertainment. I have only listed a few of the ideas that I have personally used on our short weekly drive to the grocery store. I’m sure many of you have many more ideas than I do. Please leave a comment and share one or two with the rest of us.

I hope you have enjoyed my series on Grocery Shopping for Learning Opportunities.

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