Extras to Earn, Not Expectations to Receive :: A Week of Boundaries

leaving the house and boundaries

I read Boundaries with Kids in February (which feels like so long ago!).

While I felt like I understood the concepts, I floundered on the follow-through. I could see the issues described in the book being played out in my home, and like the true brainiac that I am – I just watched and I couldn’t seem to connect the dots.

I felt like I couldn’t come up with consequences that made sense. My kids would cross boundaries and disobey while I just watched, feeling paralyzed.

Instead of being constructive, I lectured and over explained how their actions made me feel. I saw their little eye glaze over again and again. Here she goes again… I reacted with words which doesn’t help at all. (And now I know better. This is explained in detail in the book.)

For a couple weeks, I felt like a train wreck.

So I did the only thing that made sense: I prayed.

Help me, Lord! I am so broken and needy. I know what’s right but I can’t do it! I keep repeating the same mistakes. I want to love my children by creating and maintaining loving limits but I honestly don’t know how.

For weeks, I felt like my prayers were going unanswered.

I was grasping at straws.

Then I saw our routine chart (you know, the one we never use and have visually learned to “not see” anymore – yeah, that one), and I realized that I had already done the work of creating boundaries. No reinventing the wheel necessary.

So, now I had my boundaries clearly laid out, but what about consequences for crossing the boundaries? Because as the authors said “It’s their job to cross the boundaries.”

And then I realized that the consequences should be the loss of the regular, weekly extra activities that we enjoy. In my desire to shower my kids with comfort and joy (great things!), I made the “extra activities” in our life the expected activities or dare I say the entitled activities. For example, a trip to the library is great! And when you take due dates into view, a trip is a need. But do we need to go there or do we want to? For us, the line between needs and wants in our schedule was blurred.

Not only was our schedule a blur, but our household chores were getting muddy too. Because there weren’t consequences for failing to follow through on tasks, I was turning to money to motivate them to obey. When I would engage with my older kids (7 and 9 years) to train them in some personal responsibility, they were beginning to expect monetary rewards instead of just doing the tasks for the sake of obedience. So, I allowed my lack of boundaries to fool me into the mindset that I should try to bargain, bribe, or beg them to obey.

And I’m not joking! The words: I’m begging you! Were becoming a part of my weekly vocabulary.

(Whoa.)

I took a hard look at my own life: why is this behavior so important to me? What is most important to my kids? How can I move them from consuming our schedule, home, resources, etc. to contributing to these? What will motivate and correct?

I already learned that money didn’t work. Like a cupcake with too much frosting, they bit a little and then scraped the extra off and continued without changing the behavior I was trying to change.

So, I considered my life again but more practically. If I want to enjoy something, what has to happen? If I want to have a peaceful morning, I put in the work the night before to wash pans, tidy up, and write the plan.

Plain old life requires work, but there are natural rewards in that work too – like peace!

(Lightbulb.)

I decided that I needed to train my kids to see life’s rewards as extras to earn not expectations to receive.

And this week has been so different.

Monday: I wanted to follow the routines. Now hear me, I’m a flexible person. I’m not hyper strict about most things. I enjoy my Type B personality (or my adult ADD) most of the time. So to reward my kids for their participation in our daily responsibilities, I said that I would take them to a new play place by 2pm as long as we each put our responsibilities first. I built free time into the schedule too. There was no need for anyone to feel burdened, just loosely guided.

One additional condition was kindness. No out of control arguments. I’ve been working for months on training my little people to treat each other with kindness and respect, to see and anticipate the needs and feelings of each other.

They were on board and super excited to go and play! What a treat. Usually Mondays are “stay home” days.

But they argued – again and again. I had to correct and redirect. I warned without lecturing or showing any emotion, until finally I had to say “You’ve lost the privilege. We will not be going to the play place.”

Boy, was it hard to stick to this consequence! They straightened right up, got back on track, and asked again if we could still go. Considering the fact that we actually hadn’t fallen behind in our routine. We could still make it – no harm, no foul. But I couldn’t give in or change my mind.

This is vital to establishing real boundaries. Boundaries that are consistent.

I told them that we could find another time in our week to add in this fun extra, but that they would have to continue to show me that they could respect the routine.

Tuesday: Library day. They couldn’t keep it together. Squabbles and dawdles robbed them of their “need” to go to the library.

At this point, I could see that I was really getting through to them. Not only was I being firm on the limits of their behavior, but I was being loving! I was calm, compassionate, and willing to listen to them. I wasn’t willing to compromise or change my mind. I asked for the routine to be followed without fighting (little arguments and disagreements aside – they are kids for heaven’s sake), and I meant it.

Wednesday: we got out of the house and enjoyed a little perspective from the outside, which brings us to Thursday and the picture of us leaving the house!!!

We enjoyed the library and the play place! We got out of the house (easily!!) by 9am with chores done and no fighting!

Am I being too strict? Is it fair to cancel plans and make they follow the routine? (Side note: we [my older kids and I] created this routine together, so this isn’t just a “my way or the highway” plan. It’s a collaboration.) I don’t think so.

This is parenting. 

 

*I am not a parenting expert. This post isn’t written to diagnose or treat any parenting issues. If you see yourself in my experience or my kids’ behavior, I pray this post will encourage and not discourage. I would love to connect with you personally too! Click here to read my previous post reviewing the book on Boundaries with Kids.

Know Your Style: Homeschool Planning Tip #4

Know your style hpt 4

There is so much more to planning a homeschool year than putting dates and assignments on a calendar.

I wish it could be that easy.

Two years ago, that’s all I thought it took. I opened up all my resources, gathered the time frames suggested in each, wrote out the units on my planner, and mentally clicked on “autopilot.” I truly thought I was not only doing what was best for our year but I was also tricked into thinking that the schedule would somehow run the show.

I thought I was being logical: If we have deadlines on the calendar, then we will accomplish all of our work on time.

This didn’t happen.

Not at all.

To our credit, we were still sort of settling into to what it means to learn at home. It was the first year that I would say my kids were past the “kindergarten” stage of just needing the basics. So, I honestly didn’t know how to incorporate different subjects on my own. That year, I didn’t buy a curriculum-in-a-box with a master checklist of the daily list of to-dos.

Also, this was pre-Bullet Journal and pre-Make Over courses.

I simply didn’t know how to manage a day well. I didn’t know how to manage myself well. My style at the time was still developing, but I didn’t realize the work ahead of me to define a working routine that would bless both my kids and myself.

So, before jumping into the same mistakes I made (or other ones, there are many to choose from) like filling in your whole homeschool planner with dates and deadlines – take a few days to define your style. Your style for accomplishing your responsibilities. There are so many “right” styles, the only wrong one is not knowing what yours is.

Are you energized by a busy schedule?

Are you defeated before you begin if your house is a mess?

Do you thrive on field trips and spontaneous learning?

Or do you need someone to help keep you accountable to check off the lessons in your child’s math book?

We all have strengths and weaknesses when it comes to management and leadership styles in the home. As a home educator, you’re both – whether that sits well with you or not.

I’m learning that my style is slow and steady, housework then schoolwork, in more than out, and the discipline of “withness.” These are the realities that go into my homeschool planning for the year, month, and week. When I prioritize these into each day, it not only benefits our school day but it also fuels me as a person. I feel more alive when I’ve honored the way I’m wired to function.

Notable in November 2

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I want to recommend Teaching From Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace (affiliate link). I wanted to tell you about the section where Sarah Mackenzie details the virtue of rest and the 2 vices on either side: Anxiety and Negligence – but I can’t find the page. So, instead I’ll recommend that you think about this (from page 57 – section titled The Truth About You):

“We must look ourselves squarely in the eye and decide what is true about how we operate best, then base our homeschools on those truths, playing to our strengths and providing for our weaknesses. The result? The children benefit tremendously, regardless of their unique learning styles.”

The truths detailed in this little book (seriously, only 81 pages – even non-readers can read this) are worth spending a few weeks with before planning the nitty-gritty details of what you want to learn and accomplish this next year in your home.

Don’t neglect this piece of the planning process! I hope you can be encouraged to spend the rest of this month steeping in truth, digging in to understand yourself better, and committing to steward the resources available to you.

Bullet Journal: Homeschool Planning Tip #1

BuJo HPT 1

You know you need to plan out what you want to accomplish in the next year for homeschooling your children. But where do you start?

In the last post, I wrote that I would be sharing my year planning tips in short and sweet chunks, and the best place to start is by emphasizing the importance of using a Bullet Journal.

There are so many moving pieces with lining up a homeschool plan, that every mom I know has struggled to keep it all together. From not being able to see the big picture, or not being able to figure out the small details, it can all feel overwhelming.

And most people don’t feel the urge to pull it all together until August anyway. When August rolls around they are shocked, overwhelmed, and irrational (usually this stays on the inside but it has a way of leaking into “jokes” and crazy eyes). Suddenly, there’s so much to figure out, and most moms complain that they feel so far behind.

So, why stay on that crazy cycle?

Let me encourage you that you can avoid all of that by taking the time to implement my bite sized planning tips now in the late spring and early summer. By the time August rolls around for you, it will be possible for you to feel at peace with your next homeschool year’s plan and have the confidence to begin.

IMG_4141

How to begin:

You need to have ONE place where you write everything down. You need a method of recording all the things in your life. This is why I strongly encourage you to use the Bullet Journal system. It’s simple, streamlined, and customizable to your specific preferences.

All you need is a journal and pen.

{I wrote all about how to set up a Bullet Journal for homeschooling last year. If you have never heard of this system before, go to this post and check it out. Then come back here to finish this post.}

Now that you’re ready to write, clear out a couple evenings or a Saturday afternoon to start brain dumping all your thoughts about your home, your kids, and your philosophy of education. This will be an ongoing part of your planning, but it is also extremely important that you honor this part of the planning process by putting it first.

WARNING: Do not purchase any books, resources, tools, etc. until you have completed this step.

It’s important to know how you feel about homeschooling. It’s valuable to write down where you are now emotionally, where your family is at in terms of functioning in the home, and where the next year could potentially take you.

Take the time to note all the major milestones that are expected to come within the next year. Can you imagine how these changes will influence how you feel about being a home educator?

IMG_4137

The goal in writing all these things down is to settle your mind and heart, to center your focus on the present and the foreseeable future, to detail the specific challenges you face, and to prioritize just a few educational goals. The whole point in all this is to turn away from the temptation to buy the prepackaged curricula that feels promising: Homeschooling made easy! Or the temptation to blame the challenges of the past year on the resources that you chose: Well, we completely failed to finish our science curriculum because the instructor’s guide was just too hard to use.

Both of these temptations appeal to my desire to have a sure thing. I want to be successful at this lifestyle of home education. I want to prove that I’m capable.

But when I write out that my child struggles with mood swings and impulsive behavior then it doesn’t really matter if I pick a perfect “school in a box,” it’s likely that this child will not want to do anything I propose in our homeschool year.

And if I’m not growing like I should in the discipline of ordering our routine to be consistent, trustworthy, and beneficial to all in the family then it doesn’t matter if I find the best science program with an instructor’s guide that I can understand – because chances are I won’t be disciplined enough to use it.

So, this is why the first step in planning for your next year needs to happen now. You must give yourself time to honestly reflect on the strengths and weaknesses that you have within your home.

Whether you like it or not, in the next homeschool year you will not be able to accomplish everything you feel like you “should” do. That’s why it’s important to make the time to really prioritize your goals.

IMG_4136

In summary, to begin your homeschool planning:

  • Set up a Bullet Journal
  • Write out the highs and lows from this past year
  • Note your child(ren)’s strength and weaknesses and just a few simple goals for their personal growth (I wrote out a page of prayer requests for my kids to help me remember the most important things)
  • Articulate your educational philosophy
  • Write down any anticipated milestones coming in the next year
  • Chart what a potential week in your life will look like – include outside commitments, routine goals, and rest.

Sit with this journal and continue to write until you feel settled. Don’t move on from this step until you feel confident that you can make wise decisions regarding how you will spend your time and money on the next homeschool year.

One game-changer resource that has helped me in this part of the planning process has been Sarah McKenzie’s book: Teaching From Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace (affiliate link). You should get this book, read a few pages a day (there are only 81 pages – but each page is a gold mine of truth), and record all your thoughts in your Bullet Journal. I promise you will treasure what you write. 

Next in this series, I’ll be sharing how I find closure for the year that we just finished. This can be a tricky thing because we don’t always “complete” a subject, but keeping it on the shelf when I don’t we won’t use it anymore isn’t helpful. The next post will help you move on, let go, and clean the slate.

Are you feeling motivated to plan? Or is it draining just to think about it? Maybe you're like me and you waffle back and forth between these two. Wherever you're at in this learning journey, I'd love to help you take the next step. That's why I've created an Accountability/Encouragement group. I send out 2 emails per week to inspire and challenge you - and these are applicable to anyone at any stage of personal discipline. Want to join us? Click here to sign up.

Salvation isn’t found there.

IMG_1555

I had (have) a tendency to search for the answer. The perfect solution to life’s challenges. The one size fits all cure for clutter, chaos, and chores.

I just recently wrote out our day, and one thing I’ve learned through the process of living and learning at home with my children is that routines change. Good things come to an end. All my effort and discipline to match our needs to our nature and time things out in order to accomplish all the things works only for a season. And then it all fades and something new needs to take its place.

This happened to me the very same day I published that day in the life post.

My toddler stopped taking naps. And in its place, he picked up a nasty habit of coloring all over everything – couch, desk, table, floor, windows, chalkboard, himself…

Exhibit A:

//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js

And shortly before this, my older children stopped doing their chores. I fearfully ignored their failure to comply with the routine. I told myself that we were in a funk and that we would recover in due time.

But we haven’t recovered.

All roads point to a need for a new routine. Am I excited about this? Not at all. It doesn’t seem productive to have to keep switching up the time of day that we normally perform certain tasks. If I were left to myself in this home life thing, I would do everything at the same time – eat the same foods, accomplish the same chores, and take the same breaks each day. I would be perfectly boring and predictable. I would cling to the sameness as if it could save me from all things uncomfortable.

But I can’t cling to my old routine because salvation from the uncomfortable isn’t found there. I can’t stick my head in the sand and pretend that our routine is working just fine. I can’t avoid the change-pains of trying new things. And I can’t believe the lie that hard things = bad things. This just simply isn’t true.

What is difficult can be far more rewarding than what is easy.  

So, here I am. Leaning into change. Searching for solutions that may only work for 3-5 months. I’m accepting that my beloved autopilot has quit and I must redirect the whole thing or we’ll really crash.

I’m embracing my responsibility and disciplining my mind so that the changes we make are thoughtful and practical – things we can actually follow through on.

Have you found a good way to reorder your days when the routine stops working? Share it with me in the comments or by contacting me. Or if you have a favorite blog, pinterest board, or book on the subject – please share those too.

Cara’s day in the homeschool life (ages 8-,6-,2-and 1-on-the-way)

a day in the life

My family has been officially homeschooling for 5 years. And the one thing that I’ve been striving for since the beginning is: how to have consistent, good homeschool days.

Here are some things I’ve learned so far about what the most important components to a good homeschool day are not:

It isn’t about the curricula. (I put all my eggs in this basket, and – shocker – the checklist didn’t do the work for me.)

It isn’t defined by times of day. (There isn’t something magical about getting lessons started first thing, middle thing, or last thing. There’s only magic in having it done.)

It doesn’t depend on sibling relationships (the presence or absence of squabbles).

It won’t be ruined by getting out of the house. (This one has to be in balance. It goes back to not thinking there is a magical time of day.)

It isn’t about feelings. (Even though sometimes it is.)

Last year when I wrote our day in the life, I started with our evening routine, and I still believe that our best days begin with a good evening and rest the night before.

131

 

 

In the evening:

I write out our lesson plan and schedule for the next day on our chalkboard. I have one kid who relies on this to be done and one who gives me less of a hard time because they can see it written down. 

I write who will take care of the puppy for the whole day. (This has put an end to a lot of squabbles.) 

117

 

And who will clean the kitchen. (This is a bonus for me. Since they are obsessed with everything being fair, I got to add a chore to their plates because of the arguing over caring for the puppy. Win, win.)

IMG_2179

In the morning:
5:00-7:00 Personal time for me.

This time of day is when being pregnant really tests me. I know I need this time alone before my children wake up. I gain so many rewards for using this time wisely that I almost always regret sleeping in…but the baby growing inside me makes me feel so tired. Which is why I have decided that, for me, homeschooling isn’t about feelings. Consistency, personal growth, and doing the hard, good things add up to so much more than living by the standard of do I feel like it.

Popcorn for breakfast is not unusual.

Popcorn for breakfast is not unusual.

8:00 Breakfast and free time

Free time in the morning is vital for one of my children. It’s important for her to be able to warm up to the day slowly without being told 10 things she needs to do right away. She has no problem looking at the board to see if we have appointments or obligations first thing in the morning, but she doesn’t do well if she has to receive her instruction verbally. The writing on the wall saves our relationship. (Seriously.)

9:00 Get dressed and tidy bedrooms

The second most important thing for a good day for us is my with-ness. I’ve learned that I have to do most of the main daily tasks I require of my children with them. Not for them, and not holding their hand, but at the same time. If I ask them to get dressed, I need to get dressed. I’ve tried and tried to live on my own schedule while keeping them on theirs, and it never works well. They follow my lead 100% of the time.

IMG_1825 - Copy

10:00 Household chore

For at least 30 minutes, we all tackle one household chore. Laundry, bathroom, floors, whatever. Again, it’s important that we do this together.

11:00 Free time

When I didn’t write out our schedule in times of day, the kids would have their free time, but they wouldn’t realize that they were getting it. Or they would not use their time on what they wanted most to do and then be upset when I asked them to stop. So, now that we use hour schedule blocks, they plan for what they are going to do and have much better attitudes. They always got free time before they saw the words on the board, but now we all honor it more. I don’t bug them to do chores in that time, and they feel more fulfilled in knowing they can have that time to themselves. (And I use that time to do what I want to do too!)

Sometimes that looks like this.

Sometimes that looks like this.

12:00 Lunch and tidy kitchen

With-ness is important here too. I tend to eat “off schedule” to my kids. They graze in the morning while I eat a meal at 9:00am. I’m not always ready for lunch at the same time as they are and vice versa. But I’ve learned that this sit down time for us at the table is an important informal meeting time where they just naturally share what’s on their minds – about the day, the week, their feelings, whatever. So whether I’m ready or not, I sit down and eat with them!

1:00-3:00 Toddler lays down for a nap and the rest of us start our lessons

My current youngest still takes a 2 hour nap, and we have learned through many disasters (see this post for more proof) that it’s best to do lessons (history read-alouds, unit studies, lapbooks, etc.) while he is asleep or in his bed.

I just started having the kids make their own entries in their journals.

I just started having the kids make their own entries in their journals.

I write on the board all the subjects we need to cover for the day and what we will do. Then they have to copy that list into their Bullet Journals. (If you haven’t started keeping a daily journal for your kids, you should definitely try it. This has been the #1 key to our consistency this year. Read and watch how we use the kids’ Bullet Journals here.)

Vis-a-Vis is a handy tool. My kids love it when I write on the windows.

Vis-a-Vis is a handy tool. My kids love it when I write on the windows.

With-ness is important here too. While half of their lessons require me to read or teach, the other half does not, but that doesn’t mean I’m free to move about the house on other business. I usually do my Bible study while they work through their math, or I read a book while they read alone too. I want to be close so that any question they may have doesn’t become frustrated by having to track me down.

4:00 Kids finish their work or enjoy screen time while I prep dinner

I almost always listen to a podcast while preparing dinner. I love this time.

5:00 Eat as a family and dad reads aloud

We are doing the Read-Aloud Revival reading streak! We’re on day 59 and we are loving The Green Ember (afflink) right now.

Read-aloud time can look like this.

Read-aloud time can look like this.

6:00 This time is variable depending on the day

Mondays the kids have Bible study in the evening with my husband, Tuesdays we go to the library, Wednesdays we have a friend over from our homeschool program, and the other days are open so this time is again free time.

7:00 Prep for bedtime

Snacks, water, comfort items, books to read in bed, etc. The parade to get up the stairs can be quite impressive. I find it best to plan for this by starting early.

8:00 Bedtime

Once the kids are prayed with and sung to, the evening routine starts all over and I write the next day on the board. 

And that’s it! Our usual day. Like most families, we have many variables like errands and doctors appointments that get thrown into the mix, but for the most part I try to keep our routine simple, and home-based. This is what works for us. I hope you have found something encouraging or comforting by reading about our day!

This post is linked up with SimpleHomeschool.net and the Day in the Homeschool Life series. Click here to see all the other amazing homeschool days. Do you have a great routine or questions about creating a routine? I’d love to see it – comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading this post. I had fun detailing our real day. If you want to learn more about how to create a solid routine that serves your family while honoring your personality - I would love to encourage you. Sign up for TheHomeLearner via email and get more information on my program: How to become your own, best accountability partner.

The Homeschool Mom’s Holiday Survival Guide

I know yesterday was Cyber Monday, but more importantly it was the first Monday after a holiday and that’s a real test in a homeschool. Sometimes I have skipped taking days off (we did our lessons on Labor day!) because I feel like with younger children it’s easier to keep routine than break it and repair it.

We took 3 days off of our lessons last week for Thanksgiving, and I felt the effects of the lack of routine.

Holidays and homeschool. All the people, places, meals, and traditions on top of lesson plans, chores, and daily routines. It can all feel like too much; recovery from one party can rob days of productivity. Kids of all ages sense that a lot is going on and find a hundred other things to busy themselves with in order to appear unable to sit down to do their lessons as usual.

Pushing everyone in order to do it all never ends with Happy Holidays, but throwing in the towel and letting the lesson plan pause until January isn’t the answer either. (I know, when January rolls around no one wants to “do school.”)

So this December, I’m going to set up a guide to help border my time, decisions, and essential routines so that I don’t fall for the ever illusive extended-holiday-laziness-isn’t-going-to-hurt-anyone temptation.

Simplify Stuff. It’s time to remove all the clutter (again). Toys, decorations, clothes that no longer fit, and piles of books all need to be paired down. Taking time to work on one room a day for just a few days pre-party will relieve the overwhelm of all the holiday things that come home with kids every time they go to a party or event.

Simplify Food. Parties always have great food, so don’t feel like your weekly menu has to be amazing. Eat simply, fresh salads and staples from the pantry will be perfect for this season. If you’re taking a dish to a party, then make something you already know. Don’t take on a new recipe an hour before you’re supposed to arrive at a loved one’s house. Sometimes the most simple dish is the favorite. Don’t put added pressure on yourself to make flashy food.

Consider the Noon Hours. Margin time seems to get squeezed out of my schedule during holiday and busy seasons, but I can’t function well as an introvert without the alone time in the morning and evenings. Attending all the events with family and friends usually happens in the evenings and goes well past everyone’s bedtimes, which means we normally want to sleep in – translation: no margin. So, I put the margin back in to the middle of the day. We sort of have an after lunch reset (also known as a Quiet Time). I need the calm and they need me to be calm too.

The Math of Cancelling. Our regular routine includes going to different places throughout the week. We have plans that are ongoing. But during this holiday season, I know that for every 2 special events we need to cancel 1 regular event. We all have limits on how much we can handle being on-the-go and my family tends to have tighter limits (at least I do). So I’m really careful to not pretend that we are going to keep doing all-the-things as usual, and my kids generally understand.

Plan Your Party First. Get your individual family’s traditions scheduled on your calendar first. Time at home with your people is so special and important that everything else can fit in around it – not the other way around. Stick to 1 or 2 traditions that make your family unique and enjoy it. Count the time with extended family as a gift and enjoy that too.

Time Budget Backwards. Everyone wants to arrive at a party on time without any hassle (and without yelling – here’s the post on how I do that). Before budgeting time backwards, I would set an arbitrary time to start getting ready, a time to leave, and hope that everything would get done in between those two times. But now I start at the arrival time and work my way in time chunks backwards in order to include everything that needs to be done and the time I end on is my “start time.”

For example, we have a party scheduled to start at 6pm and it’s an hour drive to get there. Here’s how I plan backwards:

  1. Set an arrival time for 5:45pm
  2. Leave at 4:45pm
  3. Get everyone into the vehicle by 4:40pm
  4. Find everyone’s coats, shoes, and toys for the ride at 4:30pm
  5. Last call for using the bathroom for everyone at 4:20pm
  6. Load all extra items in the vehicle – presents, cards, desserts, etc. – 4:10pm
  7. Get everyone bathed and dressed 3:10pm
  8. Set out clothes and locate all shoes and accessories needed 3:00pm

If there is anything else that I know I will need to do – like prepare the dessert – then I will have to add that in as well. But going through the progression backwards helps me to see exactly what time I need to begin to prepare instead of just guessing that we should begin around 4:30pm and hoping that I can cram in all that we need to do.

Education in an Hour. At The Read Aloud Revival, Sarah McKenzie has created (with some expert help) an amazing resource called “Education in an Hour” which is a small, power packed part of the membership site for revivalists. If the holiday part of this season isn’t stressful to you but the education part is, then I highly recommend sampling the membership resources here to get the inspiration, support, and practical advice from the experts that we all need on an ongoing basis as home educators. (This also makes a great gift for another homeschooling mama you may know!)

Advent* began on Sunday too, so I’ve been thinking a lot about my time, personal routines, and the things I want to focus on for the rest of 2015. I won’t be blogging as usual until the end of the month in order to set my mind on the projects that I had hoped to present to all of you for the New Year. I look forward to sharing my usual “Things Learned” post at the end of December, and I will continue to connect in shorter snippets on my Facebook page.

My prayer for all of us this time of year is to focus on the first things. Don’t push through for the sake of keeping up, but don’t let go of all that is best simply because there’s too much good to keep track of. Let’s do more than survive this season as homeschool moms, let’s thrive.

Merry Christmas!

*For Advent this year we are reading Tabitha’s Travels (get it on Kindle and start it today – you’ll only be 2 days behind). This is a continuation of the story by the same author as last year’s Advent story: Jotham’s Journey (you can read my review of Jotham’s Journey here). This devotional is 90% story and 10% devotional but don’t let that ratio fool you. The reflective opportunities within the story are well worth the read. If you know a thrilling-story-loving kid, then this is the devotional for them. 

Affiliate links used in this post! Thanks for your support.

Day 26: Our Block Schedule #Back2School in #31Days

Kid-ucation Graham and Joe

I’ve been studying our days for a long time.

How my kids spend their time when allowed to play however they please, taking note of their highs and lows – excitement and boredom. Ups and downs or I like to call them – anchors and hot air balloons.

I’ve experimented with timing and different levels of involvement, and through this I’ve learned that a strong routine is built upon the natural order of a person’s interests.

For example, my daughter almost invariably will begin her day already playing in her mind. She has a plan for what she wants to do first as soon as she comes downstairs. All she needs is a snuggle and breakfast and she’ll be set for hours. She not only wants this freedom, but she needs it in order to thrive, create, and discover. When I have tried to establish a morning routine for her, she not only resents me but it’s almost like she deactivates – all thinking, feeling, and working functions are turned off and she is very difficult to manage.

I am not saying that I let my daughter completely do whatever she pleases just because she will fight me otherwise. I guide her most definitely in the mornings, but in ways that she doesn’t discern as guidance. Making sure she has a rich learning environment in which to play isn’t created on accident, and I’ve learned that my best involvement with her environment is an unseen one.

My son, however, doesn’t want to eat right away and he wants to be told what to do first. He wants to know what things he needs to do in order to earn screen time. Most often screen time is reserved for the afternoons when the toddler is napping and the energy level for the day has lulled. His personality thrives when I establish a morning routine for him, this is how he best functions knowing that I am helping and enabling him to reach his other goals for the day. Otherwise, when left to himself in the mornings, he flounders and frustrates – himself and others.

So for today, when I show you what our block schedule is and what it means for us – I am by no means expecting you to copy and paste it into your day planner with fingers crossed and a prayer that maybe this will help keep everyone in your home happy.

Likely, it won’t work for any other family than just mine. And I’m okay with that.

What I do want you to glean from this post is connections between my children’s behaviors and the behaviors of the children in your life. We are all unique and yet strangely similar too.

Here is our current Block Schedule:

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 7.11.48 AM

You can see that our 3 main blocks have natural anchors for that time of day.

Breakfast, morning chores, snack time, lunch, dinner, and bedtime routine. Just announcing that it’s time for morning chores requires a full-stop from what they were involved in and a change in action.

Full-stops are so important, necessary, and crucial that I use them sparingly – and always couple them with eating or leaving (things the kids love naturally).

The reason a full-stop is so valuable is that it supports authority. When I announce that it is time for a full-stop, it isn’t a matter of “wanting to” for the kids.

I’ve learned that limited use of, but full confidence in my authority has safe guarded our home from the threat of wasting our days. And more than that, it has allowed me the freedom to more fully enjoy my kids and engage in their fun because I’m not secretly afraid that they will bully me into giving into their every desire. Oh how I’ve learned the hard way that giving them too much freedom to choose hurts all of us.

You’ll notice that I don’t use times in my blocks. It’s important to not tie times to these anchors for us. I’ve attempted to schedule based on a time on the clock and that’s only led to frustration for all of us. Just because it says 12:00 PM on the clock doesn’t mean my kids want to come in from outside to eat. Usually, we like to eat before noon anyway.

Timing is important, and learning to use a time budget has been life changing for me. But trying to time everything perfectly has made me too obsessive or too passive.

So when it’s time for an anchor, the kids know that they will be receiving instruction as to what they can do next.

Individual lessons: math, writing, activity books, reading, and lapbooking will be included here.

Group lessons: using our Five in a Row and Early American History, we will focus on 2 main subjects per day – I have written out a sample week, a bare bones plan for our days:

  • Monday: Science & Bible – Start Lapbook
  • Tueday: Math & Language Arts
  • Wednesday: (HC)2 – no group lessons
  • Thursday: Early American History & Art
  • Friday: Social Studies & Cooking Lesson – Finish Lapbook

All lesson specifics will be written in the Kids’ Bullet Journals – all chores, anything time sensitive, or places we need to go per day are included here. We’ve already started using them this week to get comfortable with the new habit, and so far the kids are working well with this layer. (Remember, I only add one new thing into our routine at a time.)

Bedtime routine: We started doing the LifeAsMom.com’s Bedtime High Five years ago. Those of you who visited our home way back when JoeAnna was 3-4 years old will remember the construction paper hand taped to the back of our bathroom door.

This routine, and the simple phrase “let’s do our high five” has had a lasting impact on our bedtime efficiency. Teaching our kids from an early age to do the same things every night before bed has created strong habits that build security into their lives.

Why Block Schedule?

I’ve learned from trying to do too many good things in a single day that this pushes us too far. The best things get rushed or skipped while the new things suck all our time and energy.

Taking the time to fill a block only with the essentials leave us with room to breathe, room to make mistakes and start over, and room to simply enjoy the hot air balloon moments in everyday.

This is the beauty of a home education. A tutorial education, one that is fit to the individual.

I hope today’s challenge in the #Back2School in #31Days series inspires you to study your days too. To see and discern what times are best for the people in your life, and to see growth and fruit from your intentionality.

This is Day 26 in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.

You can still get access to the course:

Crystal Paine’s #MakeOverYourMornings course has been one of the most inspiring sources of help-to-change for me, and I hope it will be for you too. Join me and a group of friends as we go through this course now! Comment or contact me if you want in on the group encouragement.

Read my post detailing the 5 things I needed most from the course, and how this course was the catalyst to some really great changes in my life.

Thank you for reading this post. If you've found it helpful, bookmark or share it for future reference. There are affiliate links in this post, because that's just good business - they are all marked by underlining. If you want to know more about affiliate links read my disclosure. As always, be sure to subscribe for more free content and to download your free guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.