Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Charts & Lists That Save My Sanity

Do you ever find yourself making multiple trips to the grocery store because you forgot a staple food item?  Or sitting down to re-create your grocery shopping list of mostly the same items you purchase every week?  With the children do you find yourself spending time and energy repeating the specifics of what it means when you say, "Please get ready for bed", or or, "Please clean up the kitchen"?  Sometimes I would try something really helpful: repeating my instructions slower and louder, thinking that surely doing this will improve the children’s memory or help them become more thorough.  *smile*  I can tell you - it doesn’t work.  *smirk*  I was so tired of repeating myself, and the children felt badgered or nagged.  And a definition for insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly hoping for a different result.  So!  New plan…

After years of these problems (yes, insanity) I have finally become a very proficient list and chart maker, and have significantly reduced the occurrence of these frustrating situations.  

With charts that are consumable I print off about 10 copies at a time and keep them in my kitchen file so when the kids complete a chart and need a new one they can just pull one out and tape it to the refrigerator.  Organization is time efficient.  Our refrigerator is Organization Central for our lists and charts, and it’s one of the first things to capture our friends’ attention when they’re in our home.  *chuckle*  Many requests have been made for copies of our plans, so I thought some of you might enjoy seeing these tools, too.  Here’s a photo of Organization Central.


Each chart or list we’ve created was born out of a particular need we had.  I will show you each of the 9 lists or charts that we use every day, give a brief explanation on how we use them, and explain why they’re useful to us.

(Tip: you may click on the picture of any chart or list to enlarge it, and click a second time to enlarge even more and read it more easily)  


Here’s an inventory of my lists:
  • Master Grocery List
  • Dollar Store list
  • Weekly Schedule
  • Morning Routine Chart
  • Bedtime Routine Chart
  • Cleaning Up the Kitchen Chart
  • Activity Ideas List
  • Preschool Activities Idea List
  • School Today Check List
  • Meal Ideas List
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MASTER  GROCERY  LISTS
This simple idea has been such a time saver for us in that I no longer waste time sitting down every week to re-create our shopping lists of the same staple items we always use.  With the old plan of creating a list from scratch every week I would likely miss an item or few and then have to make additional trips to the store, and often I would be making dinner – or worse get half way through it – and realize that I don’t have one of the ingredients I need.

Our Master Grocery List is a typed list of all of the staple items we always want to have on hand in our pantry, and then I hand-write in additional items to the list that I need for recipes that week.  Here are additional functions of my list:
  • I type in italics beside certain staple item any specifics that my husband, Bob, would need to know if he did the shopping for me (occasionally a necessity, but rare), like what brand we like to purchase or what quantity.  
  • As food items are consumed over the course of the week we simply highlight them on the list to show that it needs to be replaced for the following week.
  • Before I take the list with me shopping I skim through it to make sure we have each of the staple items and see if additional items have not yet been highlighted.
  • While shopping I know that I only need to purchase the items that are highlighted or are hand-written.
  • I also put items on the list in order of how I shop in the store.  For example, I start at the front of Costco and work my way to the back, so I put items I’ll come across first in the store at the top of the list so I don’t waste time back tracking in the store. 
Both planning and shopping are the most time efficient I've found – and we shop ON PURPOSE. *smile*



DOLLAR  STORE  LIST
Before creating this list I was forever trying to remember which items were available at our local dollar store.  Or I would make a trip to the dollar store thinking that I may be able to get it there only to discover that I couldn’t.  Wasting time – I hate that.  So, one day I walked through the entire store and wrote down everything we usually purchase there.  I then went home and typed it up for the family’s reference, and we keep that list next to the grocery list on the refrigerator so we can see at a glance if an item is available there or not, and highlight it on that list if possible.

WEEKLY  SCHEDULE
Our Monday through Friday weekly schedule plan at home.  Our time is budgeted just like we do our finances – planning in advance how to best use our time; taking on life proactively, avoiding chaos, enjoying a peaceful home (in general). 



MORNING  ROUTINE  CHARTS
It is a good plan to get up promptly in the morning and enjoy a productive day, however we cannot do this without having direction.  Our human nature would have us lounging in our pajamas for the first half of the day, no shower, and letting things happen when and if they ever do.  Saturday mornings are a good time for pj’s, but not Monday through Friday.  We need the children to be up and productive on their own initiative, and taking care of their responsibilities, especially with a large family.  I cannot do everything myself, and I will not waste my energy every day threatening and repeating trying to get the children to be responsible.  

Before breakfast, the children are expected to check off their entire morning chart, or for younger children, follow their picture chart and do those tasks with help.  We cannot allow blatant disobedience when we’ve given children instructions, however.  So after making sure that a child's schedule is age-appropriate and that he or she has been taught how to implement each aspect of it, habitually not completing their chart is then a character issue that we address and implement appropriate consequences for.  Or, if they choose to mark something as completed on their chart that actually has not been done, that is deceit and they will receive appropriate consequences for that as well.  

Ignoring a chart that we as their parents have instructed them to complete is disobedience and must be addressed.  To qualify, however, this is only appropriate if the parents have set an example of being productive themselves; the expectations on the chart are reasonable; the children have been trained to do those tasks, and have been given ample time to do so. If I find later that any additional aspects of their morning routine need to be completed but they are usually forgotten, those get added to their chart as well.  *smile*  For example, if a child continually “forgets” to put on deodorant after their shower than that goes on the chart, too.  And if they complete their chart but with a bad attitude then apparently they need more practice in faithfulness so they’ve earned an additional job that day.  This is accountability, and all I have to say is, “Have you completed your chart?”  Rather than playing 20 questions with each of our 9 children every single morning.  *smirk*  The children know what is expected of them and they can then easily be successful.  This is a mutual blessing.  Children like to know they are pleasing and that they’re enjoyed.  Here is our children’s current morning chart.


Our children complete all of the items on their individual charts every single day before breakfast and then we move right in to our school morning, or Saturday activities, or church.  Everyone is well taken care of and we’ve done the chores as a team – a blessing to all of us!  The children know they are a necessary and appreciated part of our family, and they receive a powerful amount of satisfaction in this.


BEDTIME  ROUTINE  CHART
This chart, like the morning chart, saves my sanity.  Before I created it we would ask the kids to get ready for bed and they would do a partial job.  They could say, "What - I did it" but their work was not done well or thoroughly.   So – another chart arrived on the refrigerator.  *smile*  Now we simply ask the kids if they have completed their chart.  If they go to bed without completing it then we get them up to come back and do it, and if it continues being a problem then they may need to do that particular aspect they've been doing poorly or skip 10 times the following day.  Now they don’t forget very often.  *wink*



CLEANING  UP  THE  KITCHEN  CHART
This chart works the same way as the morning and evening charts.  And these 3 make up our primary checklists.  Again, the children know how to be successful, they are learning a great skill in how to clean up a kitchen beautifully, they’re serving their family, and we all enjoy being in and cooking in a kitchen that is clean.  When it’s done well they receive ample praise, and we always try to remember to continue to praise when we get to use the clean kitchen by saying something like, “Oh, I just love preparing food on counter tops that are so clean!  Thank you, Karen.”  (And she beams. *smile*)  I write out every little step in cleaning up a kitchen, therefore the list looks long but really it’s just very specific as they seem to “forget” items if I don’t do this.  Each night either the item is checked off and done or it’s not – expectations are clear, they practice excellence, the family is blessed, and mom and dad are pleased.  No threatening and repeating.  No insanity.  *smile*



ACTIVITY  IDEAS  LIST
Our children used to be in the habit of constantly asking for ideas of what they could do with their spare time, and when we encouraged them to come up with some ideas they would inevitably come up with ideas for too large of projects for that time duration, not smaller time frame activities which is what we more often have time for.  So I found myself most of the time saying ‘no’ to all of their ideas.  Needless to say, it was not very motivating for children to offer me ideas.  And the younger children cannot rehearse in their mind all of their activity choices.  They cannot know what I would deem appropriate for a 15 minute block of time, or 30 or 60 minute blocks of time.  So my husband came up with this great chart idea!  Now when a child comes to me and says "I don't know what to do", I can respond with, “Right now you can look on the 15 min. idea list”, and there they have a whole bunch of ideas that are time-appropriate ‘yes’ ideas! 



PRESCHOOL  ACTIVITIES  IDEA  LIST
This is a simple list of educational activities for a preschooler to enjoy.  Our children love to play with the younger ones, and sometimes I’ll ask an older one to choose an activity to do with a younger person who needs some extra attention that day or perhaps needs less freedom.  *wink*  Or sometimes I ask them to set up the preschooler's activity time during our homeschool hours.  Older ones are still learning what is appropriate for a 3 or 5-year-old, so this is a reference for them to choose an activity that a younger child will enjoy because it’s age-appropriate for them, and that mom will enjoy them doing because it’s time-appropriate for that part of the day.



SCHOOL  TODAY  CHECK  LIST
As we’ve had more children joining our homeschool it’s been harder for me to keep track of what needs to be completed that day; to remember who has tests which take more time in their day, and which of the children have done their music for that day, etc.  We have a white board by the kitchen table where the older kids do most of their book work, and this is where we write what each school-age person has in front of them that day (although now the list of subjects is much longer).  The kids then simply check off the box as they complete things and I can quickly and easily see everyone’s progress as the day goes on, without playing 20 questions with each of them, and they have accountability.  *smile*  We don’t get to the end of the day (or several days) only to have me discover that they haven't done music lately, and then we have the same old conversation, “Why not?”  “I du-no, I guess I forgot.”  “You forgot to do something that you do every single day??”  *shesh*  And this list also helps me to not skip preschool time completely one day if it needed to be postponed during a busy morning hours.  I can see on the white board list that it hasn’t been checked off for the day, and I or my husband (who also enjoys seeing what’s gone on that day) can scoop up our preschooler and give them at least 15 minutes of preschool time with that little one after dinner.  


MEAL  IDEAS  LIST
This is just a 5x7 post-it note list stuck to the refrigerator for quick reference with ideas of meals that I can prepare fairly spontaneously with pantry items I have on hand without shopping.  Either these are staple food items that we keep on hand for those nights when I need something quick (like canned chili, spaghetti sauce and pasta, or oatmeal), or we’re having an “eat the pantry” couple of weeks where we eat left over ingredients or whatever we have living in the pantry that needs to be eaten.  *smile*
 

So!  *smile!*  I hope one or more of these ideas has been helpful for you!  May you be encouraged in your efforts with your family -  training kids ON PURPOSE.  We would really love to hear from you!  Please leave us your thoughts, comments, questions, or tell us of your successes and additional ideas!  We are blessed to know that we’ve touched your life.

Blessings,

43 comments:

  1. I love this!! Especially the chore lists...they are so specific. We are really getting to the point where I am getting tired of the sound of my voice and they are getting tired of hearing it...reminding them over and over. I do think that if something doesn't change, you will hear the sound of me spontaneously combusting from here to Skagit Co. So, thanks for posting all the chart examples...I will definitely be swiping these ideas! ;)

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  2. Wow! This is so wonderfully informative! Thank you so much for this post!

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  3. love this how awesome!Do you use excell? I don't have excell what else would work for this?
    How do you do these charts. I feel so busy during the day that I can't concentrate enough to do this. I have a daily master plan etc but I like all the other ideas. COOL COOL!! Now I just have to find time to do something like this. Thanks Erika your posts really minister to me.

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    1. Try Open Office. It has a spreadsheet program that works like Excel (and opens Excel documents--and their Write program opens Word docs, etc). And it's free.

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  4. Michelle, Thank you! I'm so pleased that these charts may help you! I used Excel just for the family schedule, but the others are all just done in Word. I'd be happy to email you any of the ones you're interested in if you email me your address; but it's very simple to do. I just open a new Word document, go to the "Table" tab at the top, then click on "insert". Then you'll choose how many columns and rows you'd like. If you highlight your table then you can go to "format" at the top, and "boarders" and choose which of the lines you'd like to hid or see. When you start typing in the boxes they'll expand as you go.

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  5. I just found your blog today, for the first time! I love it already! I found it from "Raising Arrows" and I absolutely love your "lists" and will be "copying" some of those if you don't mind! :)

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  6. I have seen your lists and schedules. I am working on making our day (morning specifically) more efficient and peaceful.

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  7. LAUREE - Wonderful, I'm so pleased you found us - welcome! =) I'm so glad to be an encouragement!
    CAROLYNN - Hello friend! I always know just who you are by your name spelling. *hugs* Blessings on your efforts as you work on improving, as we all do as we go along. *smile*

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  8. I am so excited to have found your blog! We are a homeschooling family with five children and we are in definite need of some improved organization around here. I will be following some of your ideas and setting up our organization central. Thank you so much for sharing this!

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  9. Thanks for all the nice comments about the charts etc. If you do not have Microsoft Excel, Word, Word pad or Microsoft Office etc. we can also convert the charts we use to PDF files for you to print. you wont be able to change them but you can use them! If you have another word processing program let us know and we will try to convert it for you.

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  10. Good stuff here! Glad to know I'm not the only one who spells out the kids' morning/bedtime things. Being a list/schedule lover I thought I was overdoing it, but it really does help bunches. I haven't thought of the checkoff parts so I will be experimenting with that new idea. Thanks, Erika.

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  11. It is nice to have affirmation, isn't it. =) I've appreciated it very much over the years, too. Glad for you! Hope you don't feel alone. Blessings!

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  12. Do you use excell? I don't have excell what else would work for this?

    If you don't have excel Gmail has the same concept in the document area. You can create word documents, excel spread sheets, and all kinds of things. You can also share them with any one that also has a Gmail account.

    If you don't have a Gmail account, Open Office is a free down loadable program that does most of the things Microsoft does with word, and excel. http://why.openoffice.org/ Not only that but it will convert excel files, and excel will convert theirs. (so you can share them back and forth with people that have different systems)

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  13. CYN - I use Excel for our family schedule, but that's just because of preference in appearance. You could easily do one in Word using a "table"; all of my other charts and lists are done in Word this way. =)

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  14. Are we sisters? *grin* The more I read your blog, the more I am thrilled that someone 'thinks' like me; how fun is that!? We too, have a walmart, costco, dollar store list; my littles 'table time & learning trays' are similar to your 'play stations', and we seem to have very similar style to keep the home simple yet cozy. Although, admittedly, I do not have sleepers, yes, I lacked discipline in that category (I am too soft in that area, but for us, I wouldn't change it, lol). We DO do quiet time though, *giggle*
    Your style of sharing is fabulous, you are quite eloquent in your words. =) May you continue to bless others w/ your grace-filled gentleness...
    ~Sheri

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  15. SHERI - Thank you! I'm glad we can connect. We work hard to be descriptive (of what we do - sharing ideas) and not prescriptive (telling others what to do). And to not be critical of others. I'm glad to know it comes across gracefully. *hug*

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  16. Erika,
    Thanks so much for sharing all of this! We have a small family (3 ages 7, 5 and 6 mo.) but would love to have more, so I'm learning from experienced Moms about running our house.
    I've learned so much from reading your Blog!

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  17. MEG - I'm so pleased you found good ideas for your family! =) May God bless you on your journey.

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  18. Ok, don't normally shop at the dollar store. Is it really worth it? I have also herd people rave over Trader Joe's. I always thought of them as being to expensive, since it's a natural food store, but now I know they have comparative prices. I'm not totally sure I want an additional store to shop at though. Thoughts?

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  19. ERIN - You know, it totally depends on the dollar store. We have two near us, one is garbage, and one is great. The great one still has a lot of junk, but it does have a lot of good stuff, too. I usually save up a stop there until I have a couple/few things at least that I need there if I can.

    I do love Trader Joe's; we don't have one near us any more. =( It is an extra stop, and I don't know that I'd go there every week for staple things myself as I really need one-stop-shopping at this point (I do Costco and Wal-Mart for pretty much everything). But I'd stop for buying in bulk some things we'd like; maybe shopping there every 3-4 weeks or less. I do stop at Fred Meyer every 2-3 weeks for whole milk yogurt for our 1 yo, and we do make a trip to Win Co once in a while for some 10-25 lb. bags of steel cut oats, rolled oats, whole wheat pasta, and hopefully soon more dried beans. More on shopping in the shopping post in the next few weeks!

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  20. Erika,

    Thank you for this post! I have a 2 1/2 year old and a 9 mth old, last summer I babysat ages 8, 6, 4, and 1 too. I would have LOVED your idea lists especially for preschool aged. We had school time everyday, and the little ones were "playing with toys" or playing playdough. We'll have fun getting used to ideas found here and be prepared when the older kids are out of school in December!

    Shannon

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  21. Excellent, thank-you for sharing! I just recently found your blog and I am very much enjoying reading through your posts! In one of your posts you mentioned sharing your schedule via e-mail...I wonder if you might send me a copy? I'm revamping ours this week for the new year...me e-mail is christinewaugh@msn.com

    Thank-you and many blessings to you!

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  22. When your boys are older, do you intend to have them help out with the household chores as much as you expect your daughters to? An unfortunate trend I've seen with larger and more conservative families is that the older daughters seem to end up with the brunt of the "domestic" duty (cleaning and caring for little ones, primarily) while the boys are left to play or pursue other "leadership" activities. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on training boys on being able to run a household as effectively as you are able to. In all reality, some of them may end up as stay-at-home dads one day (if their partners have a higher earning potential, if they choose to, etc.), and everyone could use the organizational and family-management skills you have developed.

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    1. Cory - Yes, my plan would be to have the boys helping at home absolutely. They already do a bit, although it's really a challenge right now to be teaching them when I have so many very little ones simultaneously. So the boys are learning a bit later than our older girls did, but they will definitely be contributing to our family's functioning. I recently read a great book and did a book review on it which talks partially about how to do this idea of including the boys if you'd like to read that for more of the books thoughts and my thoughts on the subject. =) http://www.largefamiliesonpurpose.com/2012/03/raising-real-men-surviving-teaching-and.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+LargeFamiliesOnPurpose+%28Large+Families+on+Purpose%29

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    2. Thank you so much for sharing these lists! I have 6 young children and have finally gotten to the point where I know I need a more regimented system or nothing will get done. My oldest is 10 and I have been doing everything myself and I just can't keep that up. Just this past week I made up chore charts (I like yours better, esp. since they last for 2 weeks instead of 1!) and life is changing for the better! Thanks so much for sharing!!
      Kristi
      www.homeschoolblogger.com/andersons

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  23. Your blog looks very helpful to me, although I haven't had much time to read it as of yet. Is there a way to print the lists you have? They would be so helpful to me with many small children myself. We have one girl (6) and four boys ages 5,3,2, and 6 weeks. I homeschool the two older ones and feel like the little ones get left out a bit. Also, just trying to keep on top of all the household stuff and stay ahead of the little guys and their natural curiosity many times gets the better of me! I truly need all the help I can get in being organized, and training our children in the way they should go in every area of their life!

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    1. There's not a way to print using Blogger for our blog as we do. =/ But I can email them to you if you send me your address.

      Here are a few posts you may enjoy. =)

      http://www.largefamiliesonpurpose.com/2011/02/young-children-inclusion-in.html

      http://www.largefamiliesonpurpose.com/2011/01/scheduling-routines-you-cant-have-your.html

      http://www.largefamiliesonpurpose.com/2012/05/productively-occupying-3-year-old-boys.html

      Happy reading more on our blog - I think you'll find LOTS of helpful information/ideas.

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  24. Would you be willing be willing to send me the Morning Routines and Activities charts? nburleson@sbcglobal.net Thank you so much for this blog! So helpful!

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  25. Is the kitchen chore list something geared towards a specific age range? I'd love to know and any other pointers with figuring out kitchen jobs for 8, 9 & 6 year old. Thank you! HEATHERLBRANDT (AT) GMAIL (DOT) COM

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    1. Here's a post on chores:
      http://www.largefamiliesonpurpose.com/2012/05/family-participation-chores-for-kids.html With ages broken down for ideas for each. =)

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  26. Wonderful ideas! My children are young, so not all of the charts are relevant for them; but, I'm going to save them and refer back to them for myself! =) The Master Grocery List idea would be perfect for me. Every time I shop, I have to prepare my grocery list of things that I buy every time. And, sometimes I forget things because I just know I need them. Definitely doing the Master List! Thank you!!!

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  27. Erika,
    You are so wonderful to write these posts and answer the comments! What a life saver you have been in my life. :) I have a family of all boys. Boys are loud. Very loud. All the time. Even when two of them are emptying the dishwasher and cleaning the kitchen - loud. How do you handle the noise volume in your house? Is it a problem? I really appreciated how you pointed out you must be home 4 out of 5 days for your schedule to work. That has totally been our problem, only I didn't realize it! Thank you. :)

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    1. Sarah,
      Yes, noise is absolutely a problem, especially because we have a really tiny house so it seems and feels all the louder. I try to let them be boys, but at the same time we cannot have loud all the time; not even for long periods of time for that matter. We have to require that they learn to speak more quietly, move more quietly, gain self-control, recognize that there are loud times and quiet times and be able to adjust. I have realized that the Lord has given our boys a small space to live in, therefore He must know that our boys need to be able to develop the skill of being able to be more quiet. And it's okay for me to expect this of them. I wish they had more freedom to have more large motor time and really be loud and embrace their strength. But disappointingly we do not have property at this time or a large space inside. =( So they just have to learn to be quieter. With consequences when necessary. And yet while still recognizing that they are boys and do need some exertion . And we try to give them that whenever possible, going places that allow or encourage it, such at the park, or McD's play space, or the beach, or an open field to throw and run...

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  28. Where do you get the templates for your charts? I can't stand what I have on my computer, not very user friendly....or maybe the user just isn't very patient using it. *wink wink...you know its true!*

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    1. I just make them in Word using the "Tables" feature, and in "Format" you can delete any lines you want using "boarders".

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  29. Great tips everybody. Thanks! I even have a giant colorful sign on my schoolroom that claims 'If not Pine Tree State, who? If not currently, when?'. I refer the kids to the current whenever there's a large number to scrub up, or employment to be done.job chart It's nice to listen to them say it to themselves typically, as they devour a born pencil or one thing (that wasn't even theirs...wow!). I additionally love the method you visit your students as 'friends'. may strive it....
    Thanks!!

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  30. I have drawn so much inspiration from your blog over the years, and I need to be better about dropping a note to say so! I am one of 9 children and have 3 little men three and under. Your methods and tips are both reminiscent to the way my mother ran my childhood household and a huge inspiration to keep me intentional about the way I run ours. What a wonderful mentor and friend you have been to me over the years through your thoughtful posts. Praying for you, dear Shupes. And hoping that you have an understanding of the huge impact you have on the home life of your readers. So much of the fruit we bear as a family has been produced because of the overflow of the obedience to The Lord and dilligence you live out daily, Erika. What a gift you are!

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  31. I have a question about the Kitchen Clean-up chart. It shows that it needs to be done once per day, but my kitchen gets dirty at LEAST 3 times a day. Do you only require them to do this after one meal (maybe breakfast or lunch) and take care of it yourself after the other meals? Or something else? It seems that at least some of the things are things that would need to be done every meal (like wiping the table, filling the dishwasher). How do you work that?

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    1. The chart is for dinner time as that is when the girls clean up on their own. We all clean up together for breakfast and lunch. =)

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    2. Gotcha. In our house, it's kind of the other way around. I need to have something to keep the kids motivated to help me, and they are too young to really do it on their own (although my 7-year-old can read her list and will do it on her own if she doesn't get distracted). Our dinner time is too close to bedtime, so I do everything after the kids are in bed. When they are older, it will probably change! :)

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  32. I really need to implement a better chore system. I have one, using myjobchart.com, but my daughter often doesn't mark off everything because she doesn't do everything. I think I would rather lump all the before-breakfast jobs as one item on that list and keep the paper list on the fridge like you do, and she can only mark the one on the computer when I have verified that she has done all the ones on the fridge. Going to work on that as soon as she gets over the virus she's got right now (I don't enforce chores when kids have fevers!).

    I have a system for my shopping list that works pretty well as far as shopping lists go. I shop at WinCo, Costco, and whichever health food store I am nearest (for whatever organic produce that Costco doesn't have). I only shop Winco once or twice a month, or send my husband after work. I have a master list that I keep on the side of the fridge, but I usually only refer to it once a month to stock up. Everything else goes on a white board as it gets low, and I make my weekly shopping list as I make my menu. I keep all my lists in the Shop Shop on my iPod--it has a list for every store. My master list has letters beside the items to indicate which store I buy it from. This way I don't have to print out the menu all the time. I just keep them on my iPod, which I always take with me. Then if I can't go or my husband got off work early, I can email him the list easily (adding in details like brands or whatever before hitting send). I keep my running thrift store list and Dollar store list and other lists there too (like auto store, Azure Standard, Melaleuca, Fred Meyer, and even a catch-all wish list, among others. I really don't miss trying to keep track of paper!

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