Everything Made New – The First Week of a New Morning Homeschool Routine

As I mentioned in my very first post, I’ve jumped in with both feet into some new and exciting changes. Not everything is perfect and my neuroses are constantly reminding me of that, but it’s ok.

We decided to switch up our usual Willy-nilly school schedule with something a bit more structured. I’ve been working outside the home for about 7 months now and that, in addition to being a full time student, leaves little room for haphazard homeschooling.

There’s a lot going on in our lives that is screaming out for more structure.

Little T just turned 4 and has been wowing us with his impressive desire to learn. As he reminds us all the time, “I’m 4 now, you know”. I think it’s finally time to start incorporating some lessons in our day specifically geared toward him. He’s already worked through all the pre-K and kindergarten material I have, so apparently I need to find him something new.

Baby A is 18 months (time flies!) and she is all over the place.  Her vocabulary is exploding (She said ‘Dr. Who’ last night. We’re so proud!) and she’s very curious, so planning more Montessori activities is on my To Do list.

In addition, it’s half way through spring, which means we have garden things to be doing, nice weather to be enjoying, and let’s not forget it’s almost summer, which means all the fun and chaos of that is just around the corner. We need a schedule to keep schoolwork in focus.

So I went back through pintrest and found a great post about structured morning routines by Pam Barnhill on Ed Snap Shots. It’s wonderful, and even includes a link to a post about a fantastic morning time binder (and I like anything that feels organized).

So I dug through my supplies (remember, I have a bunch just waiting to be used) and started assembling my binder.

Is it perfect? No. But it will be… One day… Maybe… Probably not, but shhh that’s my little secret.

Sunday night I cleaned the kitchen and the kitchen table and set myself up everything I’d need to make my coffee, and teach the kids first thing the next morning. Another little secret of mine? I’m not really a morning person.

The next morning was nice. Calm. The kids sat and ate their breakfast while I read them rhymes and stories. We did our daily memorization, Dinosaurs A to Z. (It’s a big deal in my house. The kids picked it and learned most of it themselves.) Then we read chapter 1 of Alice in Wonderland. Little T had enough at that point and went off to play. JNinja and I chatted for a while about where our new lessons were headed since we were starting new units in just about all subjects. Baby A yelled and spit out her food. (You can’t win ’em all, right?)

Overall, it went pretty well. That, in addition to the new house system, (which you can read about here) made my morning pretty relaxed.

Tuesday was much of the same. Little T was excited to hear the rhymes with breakfast, but by the time I got to Alice he was ready to bolt from his chair. We had to stop a lot Tuesday morning. JNinja made breakfast, and I think that may be what tripped us up. It’s going to take some work to get it flowing just right.

Wednesday was a fail. I had some last minute, end-of-term paperwork and emails that had to be handle at 9am. That, paired with JNinja needing more than an hour to make sausage and eggs, meant when I got off the computer everyone was miserable. I know better than to try to read to miserable children. We all decided it would be much better to eat and go outside to play. I intended on trying the morning routine later in the afternoon, but we just never got there. The kids spent most of the day outside, and I can understand. The snow has kept us inside for much of the last 5 months.

Thursday is here, and our routine is already starting to morph and change. JNinja and Baby A ate breakfast early together, then played. Little T ate breakfast while I made coffee. Then, by the time I was done making my coffee all the kids were done eating and playing in the living room. So, following Pam’s update at the end of her article, we tried moving the story time into the living room. It went great. The kids were much more active in reciting the rhymes. Little T and Baby A could play quietly when they got distracted without putting a stop to the reading. We did our Dinosaurs A to Z song and then everyone was ready to take a break, so we held off on Alice in Wonderland until Baby A’s nap time. All in all this worked reasonably well.

I’ll continue updating as time goes on, but I’m feeling good about the progress we’ve made.

Next, we’re going to try incorporating a linear schedule, and an idea jar (which will hopefully help with my family’s need to be spontaneous).

I Don’t Decide Anymore – A System For My Kids and My Sanity

No. No. No. No. No.

Some days it’s the only thing I feel like I ever say.

It’d gotten so bad that when my kids would come to me asking for something, “No” came out of my mouth as soon as they said “Mommy”.

I was tired. No one was listening. Everyone misbehaved. The house, and especially their room, was perpetually trashed. And no one cared. Except me.

Every time I turned around, they wanted to play video games, open new toys, do projects, and go places. The only things I wanted were a clean sink and to be able to see their bedroom floor. We had tried chore charts and everything else to encourage some responsibility. Nothing was working.

The day of their tandem birthday party, I shorted out. I was in the middle of preparing for a party in the park with 40 guests. Nothing was going right, recipes were failing, ingredients were missing, things that never should have gone wrong did. The baby was screaming, Little T was whining, JNinja was nowhere to be found, and I just completely freaked out, laughing and crying over the sink. I sucked it up, and went on.

Then, Little T comes up to me, out of nowhere, and says “Thank you, Mommy, for throwing us a party and making everything. It’s so cool.”

Right then, I realized I have great kids. If things aren’t going right, maybe it’s because I’ve made myself too important a part of everything. After all, what I really want is for them to be independent little  contributing members of our family (and, eventually, society). So (after the party) I created a plan.

My plan became our new daily system. I started with the idea I had seen on Pintrest, where the kids wake up grounded and work their way off restriction. This idea never sat quite right with me, if only because when I was growing up “being grounded” and “restriction” were serious consequences for doing something really terrible. They weren’t “incentives” to do those things that need to be done.

So I worked with the idea of needing to compete tasks to earn something. Maybe like game objectives? No, that’s too complicated, I needed something quick. They could do one thing to earn one thing… but the kids wanted so many things. So I thought again about doing a star chart, but I remembered how limited it’s effectiveness was last time we used it, and how central my part was in it (Did he do what he was supposed to do? Did I give him a star? Haven’t I already given him a star for that? No, you don’t have 10 stars, you spent 4, don’t you remember?) So I looked for a way to minimize my part.

What if I just let the system answer all those requests they made every day? What if I didn’t say anything? Could it be that simple?

The Answer is NO.

The Answer is NO-page-001

The Answer is NO – Word document download

And yes, it is that simple.

Confused? Bear with me.

The name of our system is “The Answer is No… until”

And it is that simple. Whatever they want, the answer is NO… until they complete the things on their list. And their lists are not complicated. It’s not like I’m planning on them not completing their tasks. Quite the opposite. I have to prepare myself to say “Yes” to anything they want (within reason) once their jobs are done. (This incorporates something else I saw on Pintrest, creating an “atmosphere of yes”.)

At first, everyone played along. I loved answering “What does the paper say?” when they came to me with random requests. (I don’t have to say “no” anymore!) Then there was some mild confusion…

All my toys have to be picked up?”

“I have to wash the pan I made breakfast with?”

“I have to brush my teeth again?”

With a little explanation the system has taken off. My ten year old has surpassed all my expectations with this system. He loves his video games and the computer, so it’s no wonder he is always on top of his list. He walks the dog three times a day, gets his great-grandmother’s newspaper and mail (she lives two houses down from us), and handles a “daily chore”. My 4 year old has not been quite as interested, as he has told me ever day (before his jobs are done) that the new system is a “bad idea”. Then, with a little reminding, he does his jobs and he thinks the world is just fine. He’s not exactly used to being held to any kind of standard so there will be an adjustment period for him, and I’m OK with that.

Everyday since I started this, my kids have been clean and out of their pajamas, their clothes have been put away, their room has been clean, and my kitchen table hasn’t been covered in plates and random food scraps. It’s been interesting saying “yes” to everything they want to do, and, no, my house hasn’t burned down just yet. It’s actually been a win-win so far. I’ll update our progress again in the future.

I included a Word document download of our list of objectives to help you get started. It’s not fancy or overly beautiful, but I needed something fast that worked, right away.

Lets Get It Started

I’ve been putting off actually posting the first real post for this blog. I’m a procrastinator that has a hard time with follow through… It’s a terrible combination – I take forever to start something, then, most of the time, I don’t finish it. Needless to say there are a lot of supplies around my house for projects un-started, and many half finished projects collecting dust. This blog has been terrifying me for months. The idea has been plaguing me for years. I really want this blog, but I know my weaknesses. The last thing I want to do is start a blog, create any kind of following (even if it’s two people) and then stop posting, walk away, or leave some great multi-part post unfinished.

So, for months, I’ve been researching blogging, making notes, and writing small unpublished posts – proto-posts, if you will. All in anticipation of “being ready”, with no actual goal in mind.

The truth is, I work best under pressure. Deadlines, due dates, peer pressure, firefights, imagined threats… all of these work well for me. I’m the person who writes my final an hour before it’s due, I clean my house as people are coming over. I finish decorations and fill goodie bags when the party is scheduled to start. I’m crazy. And I usually get it all done on time. Clearly, it has never failed epically, or I would have learned my lesson and stopped doing it this way.

So I’m trying to create some pressure for myself. I planned on starting April first, but my entire family was struck down with the stomach bug, followed by lingering general sickness. Yet another setback. But I took it as some kind of sign (not that I look for those things) since no one in my immediate family is usually ever sick. *knock on wood* So I battled through April, sick and unable to get anything in order, until last week, at which point I held a double birthday party and had to complete finals.

Now, here I am, in the beginning of May – No large events coming up, no critical due dates approaching. I’ve managed to start a bunch of new things, new plans, new homeschool routine, new organization, new home schedule. Things are working out well… so far.

In all of this, I keep thinking of all the posts I want to write, all the blogging I could be doing. I finally decide – just do it. Run with it.  Just having the blog is at least some pressure. Having some followers will add to that. And social media (which I’ve *gasp* never used before) will be even more pressure. Maybe the blog alone will keep the blog going… we’ll see.

But just in case that’s not enough, I’ve also started the #30daystoMontessori challenge. I’m very excited to expand on my knowledge and interest in Montessori teaching.

This whole website is supposed to be about intentional decisions, and I really want this blog to happen, so hopefully it will.