Back To School

We start school tomorrow. As in, I begin to school at home my two oldest sons (7&6) while the 4 year old goes to preschool (to help him learn Hebrew) and the 2 1/2 & 1 year old are here. At home. While we do school and prep food and keep house and….OK, I’m tired now.

I get one question frequently. It comes both from moms with fewer children than I have and also from moms who don’t have their kids home during the day.

How do you do it? I can barely manage with my ( fill in appropriate number of children or situation).

Well, I’ll tell you. I don’t know. But, I do have a secret weapon, or rather, two of them.

The first one you may have heard me mention before. It is Flylady.net. Flylady gives lots of very helpful and totally do-able tips and tricks to help you stay on top of your housework and even make it sorta fun.

The second is Managers Of Their Homes.  This book shows you how to make a daily schedule, especially for homeschooling. It has lots of real-life schedules from many families of all different sizes and ages of kids to see for example and is filled with practical advice. It’s the first book I’ve found of its kind and has been extremely helpful.

Some main tips I’ve picked up from these sources include:

  1. Use a timer set for not more than 15 minutes to get a job done. Make it a race and see the progress.
  2. Get kids involved with meal prep. I have an assigned dinner helper for each week day.
  3. Assign play times and play partners in 1/2 hr blocks of time. This helps them build relationships and keeps them busy while you do school one on one or tend to another task.
  4. Have your daily schedule be the same each day. A certain block of time might have a rotating activity but it always happens at the same time each day or on that day each week.
  5. When you get off schedule for any reason, do not try to catch up. Just jump in where you are!
  6. Do not let the schedule or routine ruin the time. It’s there to help you, not to boss you around!

I have my daily schedule for this school year created. Will it work? I have no idea. But we’ll find out soon enough!

Now, off to that lesson planning…


Menu Plan For The Rest Of JULY!

As I’ve mentioned, I struggle with menu planning. Even though I KNOW it works, it helps, it’s good to do, I just don’t like to do it, which is why it’s so helpful for me to post it because I know I’ll get it done then. As you may (or may not) have noticed, I haven’t been posting them the last few weeks. And, that means, I haven’t been making them. Which means, I sometimes have no idea what I’m going to make for dinner, even half an hour before said dinner -time. I have a goal of making menus one month at a time, and doing some amount of prepping ahead and freezing what I can. Right now, the most I’ve done is make a double batch of some things and freezing the extra, and making some mixes. These are helpful, but not what I have in mind for my freezer cooking goals. Today is Tuesday. I didn’t have my menu planned for the rest of the week yet yesterday (on Monday, my menu planning/posting day). But today I am going grocery shopping, so it had to be done. And then, I did the unthinkable…..I planned the menus for the rest of the month! Using this monthly menu planner from $5 dinners, I filled in the rest. I know it’s only 2 1/2 weeks, but for me it’s a lot. Unfortunately there’s not many things I can prep ahead, but I may be able to figure some out.

So, here’s what’s planned for the next 3 weeks:

M- Baked Potatoes, grilled onion&mushroom toppings, steamed green beans

T- Eggs & toast, OJ

W-Burgers (Father’s Day–we never had it)

Th- Rainbow Salad & (hopefully) Homemade Bread

F- Chicken Pot Pie, Broccoli, Challah, Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies&Almond Milk

S- Granola, Raw Granola, Almond Milk, Pasta Tuna Salad

S-Vegetable Stuffed Eggplant

M- Spinach & Chickpeas with pita

T- Homemade Pizza, Greek Salad

W- Pancake Supper

Th- Homemade Hummus, Couscous Tabouli, pita

F- Crock pot Sweet n Sour Cabbage&Beef soup

S- Couscous Salad

S- Taco Casserole

M- Eggs & Toast, OJ

T- L/O Cabbage Soup

W- Spaghetti, Salad

Th- Cabbage & Potatoes (pan fried)

F- Baked Fish, Macaroni & Cheese, Candied Carrots, Spinach

S-Leftovers????

Assigned Dinner Helper-Works For Me Wednesday

I don’t know about you, but the hours between 4:30 and 6:30 are really tough for me. Really tough. Naptime is over, snacks are dealt, and The Dinner Preparation Begins.

I’m feeling a grroannn just thinking about it.

That’s because, in my family with 5 littles, it’s not that simple. One or more will need a diaper. One will get hurt. Two or more will argue or fight. And they all want to help. In the kitchen. With me. Laugh.

Hey….wait a minute. If someone could actually be of help, well, that would be helpful, right? Right.

I recently discovered that my older children are actually capable of real help. I’ve been training them since the beginning to do chores. Of course, with little ones, the work they do is usually not helpful at all, to say the least. Now that the oldest are 7, and 6, I’m finding that they and even the 4 year old are able to provide actual help with what they can do. (Yes, that’s my 4 year old cutting with (gasp) a real knife. Preparing a salad) It’s wonderful! Yes, they are slow. Yes, their work is not high quality. But with good scheduling and lowered expectations, they get good practice at things they need to know how to do, and I get help.

Enter: the Assigned Dinner Helper plan. It’s just as it sounds: I have an assigned helper for each day of the week. The older 2 get 2 days each, and the 4 year old gets 1. Twice a week I have no helper; I just don’t want one on those days.

The boys are always very excited to help and look forward to their day. They get to wear an apron, ring the dinner bell to call everyone to the table, and be proud of their contribution. And you would be amazed how a child will devour a salad that he has made himself.

Having Assigned Dinner Helpers works for me.

What works for you?

See what works for lots of other moms at WeAreThatFamily.com

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

I have a confession to make. I have not been following my own advice.

A short while back, I posted about using a schedule for children home during the day to help keep chaos away.

I haven’t been doing it. I’ve been stumbling around, my big belly and discomfort being my “excuse” for not organizing my thoughts, or my time, even a little. It’s not been worth it.

My children are misbehaving. A lot. I’m yelling. A lot. And I’m becoming one of “those” moms who can’t wait for her kids to go back to school. I don’t want this.

So, I think I can at least manage some of those tips, even if I am not doing the full schedule. The following seems to be the things that I can do now:

Separating them into pairs for playing. Group play of more than 2 seems to consistently meltdown into either arguments or wildness that I just can’t handle.

Assigning them activities to do separately. Example: one does a puzzle (he may choose one), one builds with Legos or K’nex, etc.

Not letting them do chores together. They always fight or fool around.

Therefore….reserving group free play for the exception, not the norm. Yes, they have it, a few times a day. Just not all day long.

That’s about all this pregnant mama can muster right now. Soon enough, a little bundle of joy will be everyone’s focus. We’re so excited!

Summertime Kids-How Scheduling Can Stop The Madness!

I have four children, ages 6,5,3&16 months. And a baby due in about 4 weeks (yay!). The 3 older boys have been at day camp for the last 3 weeks, but today is the last day. They will ALL be home, with me, until school begins again September 1. (*Gulp!) They will ALL be home/out of school when the baby is born and for a few weeks after that. What am I going to do with them?

I am a big fan of homeschooling. I did it for one year of preschool, and am taking a break from it until they get a little bit older; they need to learn Hebrew which I believe can best be done by immersing them at school, and I do not feel I can homeschool when so many of them are so young. So, my plan (at the moment) is to begin homeschooling the oldest after first grade and add a child each year after that.

The reason I bring up homeschooling is that one of the biggest challenges of homeschooling is: how to get schooling AND housework AND playing AND (fill in the blank) done without everyone killing each other?

I find a similar challenge during vacation time. My boys love to play together, and are good at finding things to do. But after 2 days off or so, I find that there is not only an increase in bickering and injuries, but also they are more likely to find things to do that…ahem…I don’t approve of. While free time and “boredom” can stimulate creativity, I find that lack of boundaries/expectation/direction leads to less than desirable behavior.

What to do? Just as a homeschooling family must do, you schedule. Schedule, schedule. I know some of you are thinking that it doesn’t sound like much fun for them, that you want them to be able to relax and enjoy themselves, and think of their own activities. I’m not suggesting an absence of free time. Instead, I’m suggesting that even free time gets scheduled.

Most of the help in scheduling I learned from Teri Maxwell, in her book Managers Of Their Homes. www.Titus2.com It was the only guide I found for step by step help in creating a schedule for a large family that had time slots for all that was necessary.

Some of my favorite tips are:

  • Schedule play periods for 2 siblings together. They strengthen their relationships and get along better than they do when there are 3 or more.
  • Schedule meal helpers
  • Schedule one on one time with Mom or Dad
  • Schedule playtime alone; every child should learn to entertain himself
  • Choose activities for different days of the week so that they rotate and the children don’t get bored. Example: Monday fingerpaint, Tuesday playdough,Wednesday blocks, etc.

Kids love dependable routine. They are much more likely to go along with the program if you already know what the program will be. And I really think it’s the only way to stay calm in the eye of the vacation storm.

I’ve tried it the other way during vacation time. I didn’t like it much. This time…I’m ready.

What are you doing with your little ones during summer vacation?