Organizing Busy Family Life
by Christina Parrott
(Beckville, Texas, USA)
In our house after many years of struggle, we started the color coded system. Each child is assigned a color.
That color is used for their plastic plates, plastic cups, towels, crate for school supplies, folders, baskets for toys and books, etc. This way I know at a glance who has not picked up or washed their things. And everyone knows what belongs to whom.
We have also done a similar thing with socks and underware. My two oldest daughters wear the same size panties, so one has solids and the other one has patterns. For socks, one has all white and the other has white with blue heal and toe areas. Everyone again knows at a glance whose is whose.
For books (my absolute favorite thing), we have bookshelves in our garage made from long, wide wooden planks and concrete blocks. They are arranged by school subject to make it easier for the kids to return the books.
We also use these shelves to house boxes (cardboard office boxes) to keep craft supplies in grouped by kind. We also keep coloring books in one, math manipulatives in one, Bible manipulatives, tapes and CDs in one, cups and measuring spoons and beans and rice in one, etc. This way I or the kids can just grab the box, do the activity, and then put everything back into the box and place it on the shelf.
And then we have a supply closet for paper goods and general school supplies (which is stocked during the back to school sales) that has doors to keep everything looking neat. Again this is kept in the garage. (A note here-we used the yellow foam spray insulation to seal around our garage doors to keep out pests and dust. This allowed us to store things in there like books, school, supplies, and exercise equipment. My car can live outside; I needed the space.)
Each child has a desk that can hold all of their supplies and books. But they are not required to do all school work at their school desks. Many read on the couch or in their bedroom. And my older kids can do other subjects in their rooms. Math is the only one I require at their school desks because if there is ever a subject my kids will dawdle at it is math.
I plan assignments one subject per sheet. So I would plan out the whole book of math on one sheet with the days numbered 1,2,3,etc. This way when an emergency happens or a teachable moment occurs, I can stop and take care of things without messing up my whole lesson plan. And the reason I only have one subject per page is because some days we might complete some subjects and not others and then again it would have messed up my schedule if all subjects were on the same page and it was dated. This is a life saver for any busy family.
I have a basic outline of what I want my kids to know when. And it is different than most. I don't care if my kids learn to read at 5 or 6. My son is just now learning to read at age 8 and he is very excited about it. If I had pushed him before he was ready, he would probably hate reading and learning by now. But I do want them exposed to science, God, and literature (family read alouds) at those young ages. I also do not classify my kids at any grade level because in somethings they are ahead and in somethings they are behind (compared to the standards?.?).
I hope that we all get some freedom in these areas. And that we let God set our standards as what to and not to teach our children and even when. We are called to be different. And if the public schools had it so right, then why have our educational standards and marks steadily dropped for decades now. Do not feel like you must duplicate their system at home.
I do have goals and time deadlines for finishing books/subjects and what is required to get a credit for my highschooler. I do not count credit hours. When a book & the related activities or labs are completed, the credit is given. Why should I punish a student who can get the work done in half of the time of someone in a public school room? Plus, it saves me time and headaches. Our highschool requirements are based more on her needs and interests that what public schools require. I require religion everyday. I require Household Management most days. I require consumer math (by Dave Ramsey & mom). I do require public speaking. But I may not require physical science or 4 maths or 4 sciences for every one of my kids in highschool (it will depend on their talents and interests to some degree). I also do not necessarily require grammar. We edit her writing and it is blended in there. I do not require PE because my kids get plenty of exercise so why waste my time there. I just don't clutter up my school hours with things not essential. We read alot, but there are some books/classics that are too immoral. And there are too many books to read all of them. So I make judgement calls on which we will read which changes with each child. You get the idea. Do what is right for your family and let the rest go.
As far as organizing my schedule, I get up about 1 hour before my kids. This is a must! I get dressed and start a load of laundry. Then I have my time with the Lord which makes all the difference in the world for how our day will go. After all it is mom who sets the tone for the day. Then I start another load of laundry and wake my two older kids. I exercise with one daughter (who has health, weight, and self-esteem issues and needs mom & me time) while the other daughter cooks breakfast and wakes up the two younger kids (This is great training for her future as a mom and keeper of the home). Then as the kids eat, I read the Bible and we have devotion. I eat after I get them started in their school work.
The actual scheduling of our school time is very loose. I do school with my two little ones for a maximum of 1 hour. And my older two (11 & 14) have their assignment sheets. They both start with math, but can then finish everything else how they see fit. For us, math first works the best.
We have meal plans that are taped to the inside of the cabinet doors by the stove. I have two four week rotations. I also have a 3 ring binder with each week's meal plan and the recipes and grocery list behind it with tabs separating the weeks. This was set up mainly to facilitate training my teenage daughter in preparing her to be a keeper of the home. She does all of the breakfast meals. I do all of the lunch meals. And then each of my four kids rotates to cook dinner with me (it is great bonding and teaching time).
I have started paying all of my bills on the first day at the beginning of the month. This saves me lots of time. It took a while to save up before we could start doing this. And now that we have no debt it only takes a few minutes because basically utilities are all we have other than the kids activities. (Read everything you can by Dave Ramsey-no debt is the way to go. It feels too amazing to describe.)
Also on the first day or Saturday of the month (depends upon my schedule), I mail out all of the birthday or holiday cards for that month. I change my a/c filters. I add ridex to my toilets. I dejunk one area. And I clean the windows-a job in which the kids love to help.
I keep a large calendar/day planner in my purse at all times. It has phone number pages in it which is invaluable. Never leave home with out your calendar. You can even use it to take notes in church or a note about your child's club or team or to jot down
to-do lists or ideas.
As for To Do Lists, Dave Ramsey said to have A, B, & C lists. On my computer, I made a simple To Do List. The first third of the page is the A list (must be done today) with room for listing 8 things, then the middle third is the B list (things that must be done soon, but not today) with room for listing 6 things, and then the C list (which are great ideas and things to do but have no time table or a very long time table) with room for listing 4 things. This automatically prioritizes all of that stuff I have to do.
I also keep a box full of bargain buys to keep on hand for birthdays and such. And I give gift cards or even on line gift certificates. I do not have time to run to the store at the drop of the hat for a party gift. This saves me time and money.
Another thing that saves me time and money is clipping coupons and playing the grocery game (www.grocerygame.com). (I keep my coupons in a 3-ring binder in those plastic baseball card organizers with tabs to separate categories.) For just a few dollars a month, I get a list of the rock bottom prices at stores in my area. I buy alot if not most things for a minimum of 50% off the regular price. I then stockup on these bargains to carry me until they are on sale again. I will admit that the first month it took a lot of time. But now it has just become my way of shopping. To get started you have to save up some money to be able to buy enough to stock pile. Think-use up all or most of the pantry items and freezer items you have on hand. And then maybe for a week or two or more eliminate any eating out and cook cheap meals. Then you have the money to start your grocery game. With the money I have saved, with the couponing and the grocery game, so far has bought all four of my kids loft beds with desks which helps us stay more organized because it gives us extra room and storage.
No, I do not have it all together. And yes, there are many days where the things listed above just don't happen. But my goal is for me and my kids to get better and better at staying organized and being good stewards. My goal is not to be perfect. I pray. I try. I fail. I pray. I try again. And so it goes with life, families, and homeschooling.