(“Manage” might be a little too hopeful a word. “How I keep from spending all my time in a corner of the room, banging my head against the wall” might be a more appropriate title. Sometimes the answer is simple: Oreo cookies. Lots and lots of Oreo cookies. ;))
Let me begin by saying that in addition to self-medicating with Oreo’s, my husband is home 3-4 days out of every week. He helps with cooking, cleaning, homeschooling, music practice, EVERYTHING. For those who wonder “how I do it all,” that’s a major part of the answer! Second, I’m only now getting to a point where I feel our home is “manageable.” Largely thanks to the book Getting Things Done (which I wrote about here and here), I’m doing much better about having systems and routines in place that help our home flow somewhat smoothly. I’m not exactly the organizational guru or the poster girl for efficiency, cleanliness, or homemaking skills and we’ve only been doing some of these things for a few weeks now, but it IS working for us, so I thought I’d write about it. As things change and progress, and we learn better ways to manage things, I’ll probably write more from time to time.
This is a pretty long post, so I’ve tried to break it down into sections for anyone who might be wondering how we do things in a particular area…
We’re not nearly as consistent about following this schedule as we would like to be, and we don’t always do things at their appointed time. But we do try to stick with the basic flow each day (especially on days when my husband is at work) and it’s really helpful for the kids to know exactly what is going to happen each day, and (roughly) when it’s going to happen each day.
Taking advice from the book, The Now Habit, we started our schedule by determining when our non-negotiable recreation times would be, and aimed to follow every task that must be done with something fun to do. We came up with our play/recreational time schedule and then worked everything else in around it. Here is what we came up with (we have this laminated and hanging on the playroom wall. I didn’t print our breakfast time, because it varies, but we try to eat some time before 9):
I’ll go into some of these in more detail in the next few takes, but in our home, responsibilities and play times are mandatory each day, music practice and school is not. While we try to do school and music practice each day, there are days when it gets skipped or cut short because of other things we have going on and we are FINE with that. It’s one of the reasons we don’t have a Summer break… this allows us to be consistent with the number of school days they have each year, without having to be consistent about schooling 5 days a week, every week. (If you’re interested in hearing more about our homeschool system, I’ve written about it here.) Why are responsibilities mandatory? Because we ALL get grumpy if the house is a mess, and it’s important to us that our children see chores (we call them “responsibilities”) as a natural part of their everyday life. I think this will serve to make things easier for them when they are managing their own homes, or getting up to go to work every day, and we also feel it’s important for their sense of self-worth and development. During music practice, I work individually with each of the kids for 30 minutes and the two older girls will often practice for an additional 30 minutes on their own. The older kids also do some of their independent school work during this time. During the 2:00 play time the little ones are usually down for naps and the older ones are playing together or on their own which enables me to get some things done or just have some “down time.”
“Responsibilities” (i.e. chores)
Every morning, each of the children are responsible for their own personal care. They’re in charge of cleaning their bedrooms, making their beds, brushing their teeth and hair, etc. They also each have a “station” in the kitchen or living room and one additional responsibility in the main part of the house.
The breakdown goes like this:
– All kids:
PERSONAL CARE (each morning): clean room, make bed, brush teeth, brush hair, change clothes
– 10 year old:
KITCHEN STATION: put dishes in washer and wipe counters (3x/day, after meals)
MISC: feed chickens and wipe off bathroom counters (each morning), put away laundry (2-3x/day, before meals)
– 9 year old:
KITCHEN STATION: wipe off table (3x/day, after meals), take out trash (each morning)
MISC: feed dog and clean cat litter box (each morning), put away laundry (2-3x/day, before meals)
– 8 year old:
KITCHEN STATION: sweep kitchen floor (3x/day after meals)
MISC: feed cats and take out bathroom trash (each morning), put away laundry (2-3x/day, before meals)
– 5 year old
LIVING ROOM STATION: pick up living room floor (3x/day, after meals)
– 4 year old:
LIVING ROOM STATION: pick up play area (3x/day, after meals)
The kid’s get paid for their responsibilities each morning ONLY if they get finished with their morning responsibilities in time (after 2 hours.) Most of them don’t take nearly that long to complete and so they earn extra playtime before school, but we have one procrastinator in the family, which is why we started setting a timer. I also made this nifty responsibilities chart, which I’ve mentioned before:
Each day, three times a day, we set the timer for the things that have to be done and everyone who gets done in time, gets to place an “X” on their chart for that set of chores. If they earn X’s for every set of chores, every day of the week, they get a special treat on Monday (a movie, a trip to the park, ice cream, etc.) Since we’ve started, we’ve only had someone miss the timer a few times! 🙂
Eventually, I’d like to set up something like this for extra tasks the kids can take on to earn extra money (click on the image for details on how she set this up):
– 3 –
The laundry – washing and drying
The laundry was the biggest problem area in our house for the LONGEST TIME, but I think we finally have a system that is working for us!!! Here is what we’re doing:
Every day before each meal, the two oldest girls will throw in a load of laundry and bring up anything that is dry (if needed.) I’ll then fold and hang everything, put away anything that goes upstairs, and sort everything that goes downstairs. Each of the three oldest girls have an area they’re in charge of – one hangs the “Sabbath clothes,” one hangs the “play clothes,” and the other puts the pants in the cubbies. Usually, I’ll just set the laundry waiting to go downstairs on our little recliner and the girls take it down on their next trip.
– 4 –
The laundry – getting it put away (in places where we stand a chance of finding it again!)
I’ve written before about our system for taking care of socks, headcoverings and underwear, but the rest of the clothes were always a disaster until we set up a “family closet.”
We put up some clothing racks in our basement and moved all of the kids clothes downstairs into an area beside the washer and dryer. We have four hanging racks and four cubbies for clothes. One hanging rack is for what we call “Sabbath clothes” (these are our nice clothes – the clothes we wear out places, and when company comes over.) Another is for the older girls play clothes, a second for the boy’s play shirts, and a third for the youngest girl and eventually the baby’s play clothes. The cubbies are divided up according to size and that’s where we store the kids play pants and shorts.
– 5 –
Bedtime used to be one of the most frustrating times in our house because (despite all the blog posts I’ve seen from awesome mom’s who experience the contrary,) I really look forward to bedtime! But for the longest time, I could NOT get the kids to go to bed and STAY in bed. They needed water, they needed to go potty, they needed to tell me something REALLY cool or ask me a REALLY important question. Imagine five kids getting up three or four times each after my brain has shut down for the day and you can get a sense of my frustration. Enter my very favorite parenting tool…
Every night, around 7:30 or so, the kids and I wind down with a story. After story time, the older girls go to bed with books to read, and the boys go to bed with either books to look at or cars to play with, and I set the timer to go off at 8:30. The rule is that any time before 8:30, they can play or talk quietly with each other but they can’t get out of bed unless they need something (water, a trip to the potty, telling me something important, etc.) When their reading/bedtime play time is over, I go to their rooms and remind everyone to get water, go potty, tell me anything in their minds to tell me, and put away their books and toys. I’d like to say that we also pray during this time, but the truth is we’re not very consistent about that. After they’re done with any last minute things that need to be done they lay down, heads on pillows, covers over bodies, and I turn their music on (either violin or cello music from the book they’re working in) and the lights off. From that point on they are not allowed to talk or get up for any reason other than an emergency.
Since we’ve started this, I have not had ANY issues with kids getting up after lights out, and they’re usually fast asleep by 9:00, something that never happened before. There’s definitely something to be said about routine and set rules! And timers! 🙂
So, that’s how we’re managing things around here right now! Just don’t ask how we budget and menu plan for a family of 8. Thus far, we’ve flown from the seat of our pants and prayed that God would make it all work out, somehow, at the end of the month!
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