Time Management

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.  

 

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?

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.

Introducing...

You may have noticed my lack of recent posts. Here is the reason why.

I tried to prepare for the time demands of a new baby ahead of time as much as I could. I stocked up my freezer with meals and tried to stay on top of bills and laundry and correcting schoolwork and such. When my son was actually born, I took two weeks off of school, with no pressure, to do anything other than survive. After that I started up our schoolwork again slowly (similar to how I we do it in the fall). I started up math and Language first and then when things started to settle into a routine, I added back in the other subjects one at a time as I could handle them.My youngest son was born on February 12th. We had some health challenges the first few weeks, but are now doing well.

In place of and later in addition to our regular schoolwork, I found this to be a great time to talk to my children about babies: how to care for them, how God created them, what makes our baby a boy, etc. I have to frequently remind myself that just because my children aren’t doing all their workbooks, doesn’t mean they aren’t learning. What is more important than learning life lessons about a new baby?

How do you prepare for the birth of a baby and manage life after the birth while homeschooling older children?

Grocery Shopping for Learning Opportunities II

Last article “Grocery Shopping for Learning Opportunities”, I wrote about the educational opportunities I encounter while grocery shopping with my children. This article is about the educational opportunities I create as I prepare for grocery shopping.

Grocery Store Preparation

Cut Coupons - I have my children cut coupons for me. When my preschoolers are first learning to cut with scissors, I have them practice with coupons that I don’t want. The straight dotted lines are a good place for them to start learning scissors skills. Once my children are able to cut reliably, then I have them cut out coupons that I intend to use. They get to practice their scissors skills, and participate in saving our family money. This activity is also great because it saves me time!

Make a List - Depending on the age and ability of the child, making a grocery shopping list can range from me writing a list for them to read off at the store, to them making a list of the ingredients we will need for the next week’s meal plan.

Meal Plan - I recently gave my seven year old son the assignment of making a meal plan for our family for the whole week. He had to design a plan that was balanced and fit into our budget. Then he had to make a list of the ingredients we would need. He helped me find the items at the store and made choices when there were some about which option to pick. He helped me prepare the meals for the entire week including planning ahead to take items out of the freezer as needed so they had time to thaw. This also works at younger ages on a smaller scale. For instance planning and helping with a single day or single meal instead of an entire week.

What educational opportunities have you encountered while preparing for grocery shopping? I’m sure there are many more in this area and I love to hear your suggestions.

Next article I will write about how I use our time for educational opportunities on the way to and from the grocery store.

Grocery Shopping for Learning Opportunities

The grocery store seems to be an endless opportunity for learning. It’s amazing that so many of my children’s learning opportunities are tied into the grocery store in some way. I realized that I spend almost an hour there every week with my children. It’s hard to be with my children for an hour and not teach them something. It’s just not natural for me. My oldest child is only seven years old, so I’m sure that the teaching opportunities have barely even begun to be tapped at the grocery store.

Here are some of the lessons we have done while grocery shopping and a few extra that I plan to do in the future. Most of them only take an extra minute or two while shopping. They are mostly  preschool or early elementary related. It seems that whatever stage my children are at, I can tie it into something while at the grocery store. Oh, the possibilities are endless!

Counting

I can have him count the items as I put them into the cart. He can count how many eggs are in a dozen. He can count how many yogurt cups we buy today. He can count how many bananas are in the bunch. He can count how many different types of grapes the store sells. He can count how many people he sees in the store.

Colors

I can have him look for a certain color of food. The produce department is my favorite area for this game.

Shapes

I can have him look for items that are a particular shape such as a cube or cylinder.

Letters

I can have him look for a particular letter on signs or labels. He can find items that beginning with a particular letter (again, the produce department is great for this). To take this a step further, during my Letter a Week kindergarten curriculum, I even let the child pick out an item that started with the letter of the week. I would then incorporate it into our meal plan for that week. My boys really loved this! I have to admit, I did too.

Reading

I can have him read signs, labels, or anything in the store. Sometimes I make a grocery list in advance for my son and have him check off the items as we put them into the cart or read the items to me that are left on the list. I’ll ask one of my sons to get me a specific item such as sharp cheddar cheese. He can’t just look at the picture then. He has to read to figure out which cheese is the sharp cheddar.

Writing

I can have him write the items that I buy on a list.

Money

I can have him write the cost of items I buy on a list. He can calculate the total bill. He can round each item to the nearest dollar. He can then estimate the total bill (this is my method of estimating my total bill each trip to make sure that I don’t go over budget). This is a great still for him to learn! I can pay with cash and have him figure out how much of each denomination is needed to pay the total or how much change I will get back.

Other Math

I can talk about and show him different units of measure such as 1 dozen eggs, 2 pounds of bananas, 1 gallon of water, 1 quart of milk, or 2 liters of pop.

He can compare and contrast items by type or size.

We can discuss metric versus English measurements such as liters versus quarts. He can find items that are sold by English or metric measurements.

He can find items that are sold by volume or weight or quantity.

He can estimate the weight of bananas or other produce that we buy.

Social Studies

Where we live, we often see people from different ethnicities and speaking different languages. I like to teach my children a little about where they come from, or what language they are speaking. If I know, I’ll maybe even teach them a few words from that language (I can at least say “Hello” in a few different languages).

History

This one pops up occasionally and unexpectedly for me. Sometimes I’ll see something that was common in the past, but not common now, such as glass bottles of pop. I’ll take that opportunity to discuss with my kids how things are different now than they used to be when I or our ancestors were children. I can discuss with them how glass bottles of pop were common for Grandma and Grandpa and how they used a bottle opener to open them.

Sometimes my kids will ask questions like why an item comes in a certain type of container such as baking soda in a can. I can discuss the history of how that came to be (though I often have to look things like this up).

I can teach him the history of certain foods. We once read a book about bananas. We learned how they came to the US and how many different varieties of bananas there are. It was fascinating! Did you know there are bananas that taste like ice cream?

Geography

I can have him look on food labels to see where different foods come from. He can look up that county on a map when he gets home or even learn about that country from an encyclopedia. He can look for foods from a particular country that he has learned about at home or heard about in the news lately.

Science

I can point out different produce that the store sells. If I don’t know what something is, I can learn by asking a produce department employee. We can maybe even try the new food.

I can discuss how different plants grow such as carrots are roots, apples are fruit of a tree, or celery is the stalk of the plant.

I can discuss what is the difference between yams and sweet potatoes. When my children are older, I can even have them research these things on their own and write reports on them.

What learning opportunities have you discovered at the grocery store?

Next time I will write about the educational opportunities I create as I prepare for grocery shopping.

Staying Sane with Homeschooling During the Holidays

Around the holidays I can get stressed with homeschooling. I want to keep doing all of our regular school, but I also want to do special things for the holidays. Originally I tried to do both. That was a little too crazy and stressful for me (and the kids). More recently I’ve adopted a different two-fold method to manage during the holidays.

First, I plan ahead and lighten the load. At the beginning of the school year when I’m planning my schedule, I plan a reduced schedule (or extra time off) around the holidays. This way, I don’t have to stress about getting behind if we take the whole day off to bake a pumpkin pie instead of doing math that day.

Second,I incorporate holiday activities into our regular school schedule. During the time we would normally be studying history this week, we stop our normal history study (Greece this semester), and spend the week on Thanksgiving related history topics such as the Pilgrims, or how Thanksgiving became a national holiday, or we learn about our heritage. During our normal art time, we do Thanksgiving related crafts. During our normal time for science, we might learn about live turkeys, or how turkeys are processed to get to the grocery store (my 3 year old is really fascinated with this concept this year) or bake a pie. My holiday approach is similar to a unit study on the particular holiday. 

I find this method makes the holidays a lot more fun for the kids and myself and a lot less stressful. In fact, it’s even an enjoyable time of year to be homeschooling!

How do you stay sane with homeschooling during the holidays?

Homeschool Doesn't End When Summer Starts

If you are like me, you probably recently finished your school year or are almost done. I admit I’m calling it the end of the year. My children are excited to be promoted to the next grade (before they even put down their pencils after the last assignment), but we aren’t really done. Learning is such a part of our lives, that I just can’t stop teaching them. We enjoy it. I see summer as a wonderful opportunity to do more hands-on-learning such as field trips and science experiments and math games. I feel like we have more time for fun learning during our summer days because we aren’t doing as much book work. Yes, I meant to say “as much”. 

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