Friday, May 2, 2014

Scheduling: What To Do With Summer?

Summer begins in June here in Washington and most parents are probably thinking ahead to it with eager anticipation.  *smile*  It's tempting and common for parents to approach this glorious season with these thoughts, "It's summer!  *woo-hoo!*  Let's throw all structure to the wind and wing-it for 3 months!"  But I personally have found that the wing-it plan was not very much fun at all - especially if one has a large family and the chaos is multiplied by 9.  *chuckle*  Those "wing it" summers were stressful, chaotic, and extremely frustrating because my expectations were then that I would have all kinds of time to do what I would like and the child would "Just go play" (as well as, "Let's go play!").  This plan does not work well during the school year - and I discovered that it doesn't work well for summer either.  So I had to learn what to do with our time during the summer.  I sought out and the Lord helped me to find answers for our family to these questions:
  • How can we have a routine while still having enough time to play outside in the sunshine?
  • What should we do on rainy days?
  • Should I fill the children's time?  Don't they need a break completely?
  • How long of a break should we take for summer?
  • What if it's an extra hot day and water play is just about the only pleasant thing for the kids to do?
  • Here's what our summer routine looked like in 2012


Since about 2002 when I was first introduced to Steve & Teri Maxwell's book, Managers Of Their Homes, I have delighted in applying the principles of scheduling across our life.  I've learned how to be the manager of our home, not the only "do-er".  A supervisor, guide, and teacher, and since I'm not the sole do-er I have time to do my role effectively.  And I have been able to orchestrate our home to flow smoothly for the most part.  Of course we have our times of stress, too, but it's not a life style.  Those times are short lived, and I can see what needs to happen in order to get back in to order and enjoyment together.  When life events throw us off, or if we choose to step out of our routine for a while, we can step right back in as soon as we are able or choose to do so.  Being in a weekly routine or schedule is a sweet place to be ~ even in the summer time.

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How can we have a routine while still having enough time to play outside in the sunshine?
Having a routine does not mean being so structured that there is no free time!  No, no, no!  It means budgeting your time like you would budget your finances; making sure you have time for all of the necessary, the important, and the fun things!  *smile*  Sound nice?  It is so nice!  *beam!*  Being proactive with your time, not just reactive; controlling your time, instead of letting your life control you.   

In our schedule I make sure I have planned a good amount of time for the children to play outside.  But the children shouldn't just play all day long for the whole summer.  They still need to participate with the functioning of the family and home.  They live here and eat the food and dirty the clothes; they need to help with the responsibilities.  And really, expecting them to play outside for hours upon hours successfully (i.e. without breaking or destroying things, or hurting one another, but with obedience and good relationships - yes, this is possible *smile*) is not realistic for 2-3 months.  In my opinion and from my experience children should have a few hours each day to be running and playing freely outside - so I make sure they have that with a good plan in place to enable it.



 Croquet

Badminton





 (...or just time to relax by yourself...*smile*)


What should we do on rainy days?
When I was first putting together our weekly schedules for the summer time I had large blocks of time marked off for playing outside.  But then when it was raining and the children did not want to play outside as much, I found myself inside the house with all of the children and without a plan for what to do with their time, and I thought to myself, "Oh no...now what??"  Again, the "Just go play" plan for hours was not fun for me or ultimately for them, either.  The children often did not make choices that were pleasant or acceptable, and they could not manage their relationships independently for that long by themselves.  They needed some guidance in order to be successful, safe, and happy.

So I developed a strategy that has worked great for me in planning our family's weekly time for summer!  I'm pleased to share it with you.  What I do is put together a weekly routine for summer, just like I do for the rest of the year, except I combine two schedules in one - a sunny day schedule, and a rainy day schedule.  What I detail on paper is what our days will look like on rainy days inside, but I lightly shade the places of the schedule where the children will be outside if possible.  So the lightly shaded plans on our schedule would not be done if the children are outside playing (dark shading are meal times), which is just fine because the activities I planned for that time are ones that we can easily skip.


 
Should I fill the children's time?  Don't they need a break completely?
Children need to learn to be productive members of a family and of society, and this is the time when those habits and expectations are established with them and when they build up their skills to do so.  For our family it is also good for people to have a break from the usual regiment of life for a couple of months between school years when the sun is out and we're able to enjoy it, especially here in Washington where it is rainy and wet much of the year outside of summer.  But that does not mean the children should not be productive and learning new things and improving their life skills as well.  So we plan elective-types of things for them to do, or skills to improve or learn.  Things like Spanish, cooking and baking, a more in depth Bible study, knitting, crocheting, jewelry making, erector set constructions, map reading skills, character development curriculum, card making, drawing, creative writing, and sewing.  

We also have our children do math through the summer which maintains their skills and knowledge.  Math is so easy to lose a lot of ground in with too long of breaks, it takes a lot of time to catch up on, and yet is easily done a little bit each morning to avoid these problems.  

I have heard of more and more families, however, who are choosing to homeschool year-round with their children, and then take more frequent and longer breaks through out the school year instead.  Same amount of school days per year, but breaks through out.  We're not there personally at this point, but I wouldn't be surprised if we chose this rout some time in the future, maybe when our children are older.  *smile*  Aah the blessings and freedom of homeschooling.

During the school year I make sure we are in our schedule at least 4 days of the 7-day week, so that it is the majority of our time.  We can reap the fruit, then, of that being our norm.  I found that if the kids are in a schedule only 3 days per week or less, they do not get in to a good, natural, easy habit.  I think of it as being stuck in a Monday - always starting at the beginning and never getting in to a flow.  *smile*  But in the summer we don't worry about that so much.  In the summer our time is productively occupied, but with things that can easily fluctuate to fit the summer play opportunities.  We go out in Grandpa's boat when ever there is the opportunity with him, we go for walks or to the beach, we have friends over to play in the yard, and we make strawberry lemonade and eat popsicles.  It's wonderful family time - and with a weekly schedule we're able to still maintaining a clean and orderly home. 

Also, with a summer schedule the children maintain an attitude of responsibility, productivity, and participation in the family's home and life, rather than getting in to a new habit of doing nothing.  You've probably heard it said that it takes 30 days to make or break a habit?  Well from my experience 2-3 months is plenty of time to get in to the habit of playing all day long instead of being responsible.  Which makes the fall season, then, really difficult not only with starting the academics of a new grade level, getting used to being inside a lot more, but also trying to get out of the play-all-day mentality and in to productivity and contribution.  If we maintain some structure through out summer, the only thing we change in the fall is switching one set of activities for another.  It's really surprisingly smooth.  

In fact, the children so enjoy being in a consistent, predictable routine during the year that they actually look forward to the fall time and getting back in to the things we enjoy during that next season.  They recognize that it feels good to be productive.  I love it.

 Beach play in Washington, on Puget Sound with Grandpa's boat...
 







How long of a break should we take for summer?
When the children were little and we weren't in to high school grades, we chose to have the same school year as the public school kids.  So we ended school the first week of June or so, and started again the beginning of Sept.  But for the last few years the oldest kids have been in upper grades and therefore need to be all the more on task about completing our curriculum for the year.  Also, we had been taking necessary time off during the year for my pregnancies or for having a newborn baby (or babies!) at home.  So we were having a bit of a longer school year at that time, through June and then taking only July and August off for summer.

Having that longer school year, though, really served us well anyway because the kids can't play outside in our yard very much in June due to the amount of rain and the swampy back yard which hasn't dried out yet for the summer.  And really, two months of playing is plenty of time.  So far every year by the end of two months the kids have always started saying that they're bored, and can they start doing school again?  So - for us two months, July and August, has been perfect... Although I will say that I usually get a huge Spring fever bug myself in June, craving time to get extra things done and to have a break from the academics.  *chuckle*  So, school in June isn't quite as productive as it is the rest of the year.  *wink*


What if it's an extra hot day and water play is just about the only pleasant thing for the kids to do?
Great!  *laugh!*  I'm all for water play - how fun!  And because it's not something the kids get to do all the time, water play usually occupies their time beautifully and for unusually long periods of time.  It does take much more of my own time to manage and facilitate it, though.  Everyone needs suits, and the pool set up, and pool toys, and beach towels, including one inside the sliding glass door on the hard floor to prevent wet feet from slipping and slamming kids to the floor.  I need to help kids dry off a tiny bit before they trapse through the carpeted family room to the bathroom.  Remind kids that inside toys stay inside and outside toys stay outside.  Pushing someone on the swing to get them going.  Comforting kids owies when they slip, or bonk heads with someone, or get clobbered by the person swinging on the swings.  *chuckle*  I'm always surprised how much of my time it takes just to help the kids play outside!  *laugh*  But it's a good, fun day.  And we get back in to our regular plan when we're done.  But simply playing all day is the exception, not the norm; and we can afford to skip household jobs sometimes when they're done regularly the rest of the time.


Drying off and warming up in the sun - cocoon kids *smile*

Or playing with the sprinkler in the cul-de-sac...
 



Here's what our summer routine looked like in 2012
Putting a new schedule together takes some time, but it's very much worth it.  By doing that I've really thought through about a thousand decisions in advance through my schedule, and saved myself that time an energy for the whole summer.  Now all we have to do is follow our plan.  Nice.  Here was our schedule for 2012 in detail, and then I'll explain it to you below.  (tip:  if you're visual like me, you may want to print the schedule so that you can follow along with me as I explain my strategies to you).


5:00 am - For more detail on how I do my Bible time in the morning here is my post, This Large Family Mother's Bibles Study - At Home.

5:30 - After my shower, "day prep." for me means making our bed; opening all of the house window blinds; bringing the laundry hamper down stairs, sorting clothes, and starting a load of laundry; putting away a few cooking dishes left out to dry in the kitchen from the previous night's dinner; glancing at the calendar for today; and also at my to-do list and desk (kitchen counter) for reminder notes to myself (if you like you can read my post on how I manage my time).

6:30 - I prepared Green Smoothies for my husband Bob and I, and warmed some of the whole wheat rolls Karen has so lovingly baked for us, then cleaned up the kitchen.  Karen and Melanie both got up and did their Bible time the same way I do mine, reading and studying with their study Bible.

7:00 - More "day prep" for me means talking with Bob about things before he leaves for work, and checking email real quick just to see what is on my plate for later that day.  Seeing if I have any emails from family or a close friend that I need to answer quickly right now?  Are there any longer ones to read later or to flag to be read when I have more free time?  And deleting any junk mail.  Email and texting are my primary sources of communication with the outside world *laugh*, so I am faithful to check them every day.  I just don't have time to talk on the phone generally, plus it's too loud anyway.  *laugh*

7:30 - This was when I woke up the younger 7 children, and it took about 90 minutes from this point to get them all up, dressed, hair and teeth brushed, beds made, laundry put in to hampers, diapers changed, pull-ups and diapers into the trash, any wet beds stripped and re-made, chase a few toys back in to the play room where they need to stay until homeschooling is over (so kids aren't distracted easily), prompt the "middle kids" (ages 9, 6, 5) to get their one morning job done and then sit up to the table to start their school work while they wait for their breakfast.  It was a busy but sweet time - and I always felt that I had accomplished something when we were through.  *laugh*  *smile*  It was very busy staying on top of the three middle kids and simultaneously managing the four youngest ones.  But it's doable with the older girls' help and when I took each of the youngest from their beds one at a time, sang to them as we worked and got them all ready, and then deposited them each strait in to their booster seats at the table where they awaited for breakfast.  And Karen (13 at the time) and Melanie (12 at the time) were in and out of their showers, busy with their own morning charts and weekly cleaning jobs, getting started with math or Bible study, and visiting with siblings as they arrive in the kitchen.  

Now - real life - I'm also managing squabbles, strongly suggesting that kids get back to their job/school/shower, asking them if other people's disobedience is any of their business, reminding middle kids where they ought to be, and asking Karen and Melanie if their morning chart is completely checked off yet.  *wink*  Just FYI.

8:00 - This looks like a large block of time for jobs on the schedule, but actually it's only half-an-hour.  It's spread out because the girls did not do the same job every day of the week, they did one of 5 jobs (although they have those same 5 jobs all year) so I listed here what they were to do and when.  The boys, I've found, did better with one longer job than having varying jobs each day.  So their job of setting up the pack-n-plays and play yards including the activities that the younger children would need in those play areas, took about the same amount of time as the girls spent on one of their jobs.

I've was asked regarding the Family Participation: Chores for Kids post if our kids have their one cleaning job plus other around-the-house jobs?  Yes, they do, it just didn't show up on the chart in that post.  I put those things in this chart for people to see.  They do one cleaning job per day and then some other family-support, daily jobs such as folding laundry every other day.  During this 8:00 time I also put in that the oldest 2 girls did a morning chart every day.  Here's what that looked like on our refrigerator.


9:00 - With everyone finally at the table, and I prepared Green Smoothies (same recipe as for mine and Bob's breakfast at 6:30 am) for breakfast for all the kids.  Karen (13) and Melanie (12) helped me with breakfast by also serving the whole wheat rolls (also linked to above) and cut up fruit.  Then the three of us clean everyone up and get them down to move in to the next activities.  (I intentionally have everyone stay at the table until we are all cleaned up and ready to leave the kitchen as a group so that I'm not trying to manage kids around thehouse while cleaning up the kitchen simultaneously.)  

You may notice that pretty often in my personal column of the schedule, such as in this one, it says "facilitate".  This is me being a manager, which take all of my time and energy; keeping the "plates spinning" with all of the kids.  It doesn't mean that I sit back and watch them all work, just so we're clear.  *chuckle*  It means that I am pretty much always moving about the house and talking to everyone, coaching and instructing, checking and holding accountable, inspecting and moving everyone along.  This has been a fundamental thing for me to learn to do - compared to trying to do everything myself while trying to manage kids who are unoccupied and causing problems.  It's like some some people have said that while their husband is driving the car he likes to keep the car moving at all times (even if it means taking detours to go around traffic or creep slowly up to a stop light instead of pulling all the way up and then sitting there waiting *chuckle*).  Well my personal phrase is, Keep the kids occupied at all times.  I'm often saying, "Let's go... no down time."  Which means no floating time where kids get out more things that will have to be put away again before we can begin the next thing, or they're squabbling, or having a science lab in the bathroom.  Now this doesn't mean working at all times!  It usually means doing school, playing, or doing something productive - but it does mean that they're doing something specific; not getting bored - which produces disobedience and danger.

10:30 - The kids and I did Character First together, which is a short, simple curriculum to teach character qualities to kids (and parents!).  It's fundamental for our homeschooling and our family.  We actually hadn't been able to do this curriculum during our regular school year for a few years now due to having back-to-back pregnancies and newborn babies, including our twins; so I've been making sure we get it in during the summer months until we can add it back in to our regular curriculum during the year.

Also during this 10:00-12:00 time block, Karen (13) and I shared the responsibility of moving the youngest four "muffins" between their activities every 30-60 minutes, monitoring their times using digital timers. 

I chose to put in bold type the academic or skill-developing activities the children were doing throughout the schedule so that I could see what we were accomplishing that summer in addition to having play and work times.  This was just a good visual reminder and encouragement to me personally.  And I planned these activities to be in the beginning of the day so that they're sure to get done every day before kids go outside to play.  Responsibilities first, then play time, for everyone including the Mom (that's another reason why we schedule).

11:00 - Karen and Melanie were doing a character study that summer called Beautiful Girlhood, with a Companion Guide to go with it.  This is a widely read and highly recommended book amongst discipleship-minded families.  They did the study at this time, and then we discussed it together at 2:00 during the youngest children's' nap time.

11:30 - During these lightly shaded times, for 3 hrs. between 11:30-1:00, and again between 4:30-6:30 are the planed times to be outside playing if it's dry.  If it's raining, then we'll do the activities detailed on the schedule during those shaded times.  Sunny-day schedule, and rainy-day schedule.  *smile*  

This is a good amount of time to be outside, while not being so much that the kids get bored in the yard.  We were not on the go very much at that time when there were so many little ones to manage.  Being out was a lot of work.  So we reserve those being-out-and-about times to do together with Daddy.  So most of the kids' outside time was in the back yard, or on the bike trail by our house, or out in Grandpa's boat and on the beaches of the San Juan Islands of Puget Sound with Grandpa and the cousins.

1:00 - Here is one of those places where you can see that people have some additional daily jobs to their one cleaning job.  Karen and Melanie helped with the serving and clean up of the meal with me; Brandon (9) and Anna Marie (6) swept the kitchen together after lunch; and Riley (5) helped tidy up the family room (couch pillows, left over toys).  

4:00 - This was our only snack time of the day.  I've had many moms ask me about how we manage snack times during the day with so many kids, as they've found that kids desiring snacks constantly is a real problem and a time waster.  In our house I serve food 4 times a day, which includes one snack time.  I also, however, always serve food of high value - whole grains, protein, nuts, vegetables and fruits - so the children are really full and satisfied all day between meals.  Kids desiring snacks all day are probably doing it for one of three reasons:  they're not getting enough "whole foods" with protein and fat to satiate them and give them strength, or they are having too much sugar which is empty and then produced a "sugar low", or they've simply developed a habit of eating this way (not eating large meals when it's time and therefore desiring to snack often between meals).

6:30 - The oldest 7 kids had small jobs during this time just before dinner. 
  • Karen (13) helped with preparing food and getting hot dishes on to the table.
  • Melanie (12) filled all of the water glasses and sippy cups.
  • Brandon (9) removed all 9 of the kids 24 oz. water bottles from the table and emptied them out to dry at night.
  • Anna Marie (6) set the silverware.
  • Riley (5) put condiments on the table.
  • Tyler (3) and Spencer (2) set napkins on the table...in the general vicinity of each person's place *wink*.

So - we carry our scheduling blessings in to the summer months with us as well as during the school year!  There is a time for everything - the work gets done, we have time with the Lord, there's time for exercise and play, story times with the children, a clean home, and enough sleep.  We love doing life ON PURPOSE.  *smile*  I hope you've found encouragement somewhere through this glimpse in to our summer life.

I'd really love to hear about how you structure your own summer time!  What strategies or routines have you implemented that you think could really bless other large (or small) families to know about?


Blessings on your efforts this summer!

Recommended Resource:
Managers Of Their Homes, by Steve & Teri Maxwell

You might also enjoy reading my posts:

44 comments:

  1. We homeschool year round on a 4 weeks on, 1 week off basis. (Just for interest my eldest is 8, so this might change as we move into a different season). We do giggle a bit to fit round holidays etc. I love having off weeks regularly to re-group my thoughts, be able to do larger house hold tasks (that the girls help with). My eldest 3 (8,6,3) have a morning and evening high 5. They have 5 morning jobs and 5 evening ones and when they have done them they get a high five. They really like the reward of a high 5! And it means if they haven't asked for a high 5 I need to check that they have done the jobs!
    They also do table jobs (you see, I can learn after your last post and my comment! :-) )They carry on doing these things whether it is schooling or not. I agree so much that it would be a nightmare if they just stopped doing these things because they weren't doing school. (And I would end up one stressed out Mumma!)
    This year is slightly different because I am expecting a baby in July so I am intending to not school for a bit longer. I am intending to do lots of reading aloud during that time though.

    Oh...and I LOVE the picture of your cocooned children. Wonderful.

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    1. Thanks for sharing how your family does things, for additional ideas.

      *chuckle* Thanks, I love that picture, too. ;)

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  2. First off, I want to tell you how blessed I am that I found your blog. I have had to spend little chunks here and there over the last few days reading and learning from you.

    I don't have a large family due to female issues but I am blessed with what God has given us and nothing is impossible. Smile. Thanks for sharing your wisdom. You are encourager and I am so thankful to find your blog.

    I am in the process of planning my summer. I agree with all you wrote and thanks for sharing your tips.

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    1. Bless your heart's desire for children; I'll pray right now that the Lord blesses you that way some day...

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  3. How do you manage to keep your littler ones clean at breakfast time since you dress them first? I think all 4 of mine (well, maybe not the 7 year old) would be in tears and wanting changed after spilling something on themselves at breakfast...especially with something as messy as smoothies.

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    1. It does take attention to keep them clean. I do work constantly on having them stay seated, which avoids a lot of spills in itself.

      At breakfast they don't have glasses of water, they have water bottles they use all day long, so those can't spill. But at dinner time when they do have water glasses, we teach them to keep the glass at the back of their plate so that elbows can not knock it onto the floor or the table.

      Green smoothies take the most of my attention and it's a hassle - but the nutrition they're getting is THE best thing they could ever eat, so I persevere and do what I need to do. I keep my eyes on them pretty much the whole time they're drinking. =/ I have one son (9yo) stay in his seat until he's done drinking it; I have one son and one daughter (the 5 and 6 yo's) stand in a corner of the kitchen by the counter where smoothies are served from so that they're unlikely to be bumped or to spill and I can supervise the whole time and require that they stand still and use two hands (I call it the "smoothie corner" to make this seem like a friendly place to be *chuckle*). The 12 and 13yo's can drink w/o spilling of course. We use "milk shake straws" which are extra wide to allow a thicker beverage to go through quickly and easily, and this also helps with any potential mess, and the kids are not allowed to take the straw out of the glass for any reason (or they lose it). And we hold the glass and straw for each of the four youngest children in turn in booster seats to help them drink successfully (the 3yo, 2yo, and 17mo. old twins). It's worth it to me. Sometimes we still have spills or splatters, but it usually comes out with Zout laundry spray. In my mind, that's just part of feeding a lot of young kids, really.

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    2. you make them stand in he corner to drink,, ?

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  4. How do you make strawberry lemonade? Sounds delicious.

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    1. I don't - Costco powder mix does. ;) *smile* It's SO good.

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  5. Thanks for the ideas; having a "rainy day" schedule is brilliant! We do school year-round, but our summer is filled with other activities than the rest of the year, plus my hubby's different schedule, so I need to revamp ours! Thanks so much for the ideas.
    So sorry to read of your loss; we are praying for your family...

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  6. Here is another random question....it doesn't really fit here, but I'll ask anyway. How do you manage switching out clothing for the seasons? It takes such a huge amount of time for us!

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    1. Flippant answer alert!!!! You could move to the UK. I never swap clothes. As it is seldom very cold or very hot we just mostly just wear more or less clothes depending on the weather that day!!! :-).

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    2. Sarah, Well I've written about that somewhere inside of another post, but for the life of me I can't find it! Better dedicate a post to it soon as it's a good subject and frequently asked. I'll try to give you a nut shell.

      I only rotate clothes 2x/year, for spring/summer clothes, and for fall/winter clothes. I spend a couple of hours in the garage with our boxes and first put away all of the seasonally no-loner-appropriate clothes to make room for the new season's clothes. I pull all of the hangers from the girls dress rack and hang them in one place for easy access as I get out the next season's clothes. I work chronologically with kids ages, to keep my head on strait. =) And I keep a pad of paper on hand to write down what I need to look for at Value Village or Good Will; whatever we don't have or are short of. (i.e. boys have out grown their shorts, so I need those; one younger daughter doesn't have sandals, etc.) I get out one person's clothing size boxes and go through those putting away what I need to and getting out what I need to, then the next person's. And if I'm getting out spring clothes but will also need summer tank tops soon, then I get those out but set them aside somewhere on a shelf until it's warm enough for boys to wear them (then I put the tank tops in their tee shirts box), as I desire for them to be able to choose clothes and know that they're going to be seasonally appropriate and not have to waste time changing because something is too cold. I think that's basically it. I work on a Saturday when Bob is home so I can be pretty much uninterrupted, to save time but also to avoid mistakes that will cost me confusion or time later (or purchases that I thought I needed but really didn't). =)

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    3. Thank you so much for the time you spend to answer questions!

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  7. Yes switching out clothes for the seasons takes allot of time. And by the time I am done I am so sick of clothes. :)

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  8. Erika, thanks so much for this post. I have been reading your blog for a LONG time, lol, and your scheduling posts are always my favorites! I just used your template to create our own summer schedule and this is our first day to use it - high hopes over here! :O)
    I do have a question/concern for you. I have 5 children, DD9, DS7, DS5, DD3, and DD19 months. My two youngest are SO moody and cranky, I'm not sure how to deal with it pleasantly anymore. Especially the youngest. I try to be positive and warm, and upbeat, but she is always whining and crying and so dramatic. She actually wakes up mad at the world in the morning sometimes! It is such a huge drain emotionally because it ends up affecting the whole family. Any suggestions or ideas? Have you ever had to deal with a "pickle" in your family? I love them both dearly and I know it will get easier with age, but my goodness I sure feel a little overwhelmed right now! :O)

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    1. I will be looking out for the response to this as I am in exactly the same place with my DD3 and DD23 months!

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    2. Mrs. Splitty and Amy, I have two who are like that also but I minimize these times by 1. making sure they are getting enough rest and 2. making sure they are eating properly and not getting *any* sugar or junk! These two are numbers 9 and 10 out of my 11 children so I hope that helps you!
      Sorry Erika for stepping in here but I figured you wouldn't mind.

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    3. Christi - Oh no I don't mind at all; I like it when other moms step in and help other moms. =) That's why were here - to encourage. And I certainly don't have all the answers by myself.

      I think enough sleep and no sugar are a great start. Maybe you're already doing these things, but here's our initial thoughts. Bob and I would encourage you to
      - Make sure the littles are having some regular, consistent time with you, so they don't whine or hang on you because they don't know when they'll have your attention again.
      - Try to be proactive in meeting their needs, getting up in the morning, eating, changing activities. We try to always practice what we call "kill it before it does". =) Changing the activity after an appropriate amount of time (if they're usually successfully playing together for 60 min., then change the activity at 58 min.) while they're still feeling good. Then they're left with positive memories of that activity, and the next activity has begun before whining or fighting takes place.
      - Also with the older 3yo's, we would implement a consequence when he/she whines. Something like being removed from the family for 5-10 min. or until they quiet down and stop the negative behavior. When they're quiet we go right back in and invite them to come join the family again.

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    4. Thanks for the advice ladies, I do so appreciate your thoughts and time taken to answer. We do know that they get enough sleep (a good nap every day and their bedtime is 7:30/8:00 and they generally wake around 6-7), and we're working on the food (we are NOT a sugar family, but I'm currently working on making more of our food from scratch and also more nutrient dense.)
      I will definitely take your suggestions to heart, trying to be more proactive about meeting their needs. Perhaps I need to give them more one on one time as well. I noticed they are more whiny with me than with their father. ;O) Thanks again, I'm always eager to learn from those going down the same path!

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  9. Love reading all your posts. So informative and helpful, even though I only have 2 right now (and one in the oven :).

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  10. I wanted to just say how beautiful and green your lawn is. It's amazing! (We're pretty arid out here.)

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    1. Thank you! =) My husband works on it every year as the amount of water we have 9 mo. out of the year (drain-off from the surrounding houses on our hill) swamps our yard and the grass is bald and muddy. Bob fertilizes and tends it until it thickens up and is a nice green. I'm always so pleased and impressed. =)

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  11. Very interesting and encouraging post for me. How do you handle frustration of dawdling kids when its time to do their chores?

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    1. I stay near by doing my things and prompt them to stay on task. =/ Our older girls like to listen to audio books or messages on personal disc players while they fold laundry, but if they take 90 min. then to do a 30 min. fold/put-away job, then they don't get to listen to something for the next 3 laundry days. I guess I schedule our jobs during times when most everybody is doing jobs and I'm facilitating that time, so I'm working, but available and in the mindset to be prompting them to stay on task. I hope that one day sooner-than-later they will adopt the principle of staying on task by themselves.

      And I pray for patience and faithfulness with the kids. And I try to plan in advance what my responses will be to them when they don't stay on task, with a consequence in mind for certain people if necessary, to help myself from reacting with anger but with patience and peace, simply delivering the consequence w/o heightened emotions.

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  12. Eeek! Where did your naps go? Is your summer schedule more exhausting for you than your school year schedule (especially when expecting another blessing)?

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    1. LOL - you're so cute. =) Well we actually lost the baby I was just carrying, and when I'm not pregnant I usually don't need naps if I can get to bed consistently at a good time.

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    2. Oh, I am so sorry! I will be praying for you and your family: Praying that our Father would meet all of your needs Spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

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    3. Awww sorry to hear that the baby passed. You didn't "lose" it, it went to Heaven. You know where it is. Look at it that way.

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  13. Hi Erika! I would love to know how you go about potty training (I know you have the book Potty Training in Less Than a Day, but I'm that there are probably some things in there that must be adapted to a large family-like when they say that you should try to have all other family members out of the house during training. In my house that would be impossible!), and also your Saturday night/Sunday morning church prep.
    God bless you,
    Jessica

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    1. I'll have to post on potty training some time; I've written it down on my list of ideas/requests for posts (and your other two ideas! Thanks!). =) It's pretty much the book you mentioned, but of course there's little things that I've discovered for our family that I always do. But we do have everyone leave the house except me and the little training muffin. It's absolutely necessary from my experience. If weather/season necessitates, the kids and Bob go to my parents for about 5 hours, getting home again before nap time at 2:00. If that wasn't a possibility, however, they could all go to the park for a while, and then maybe to a beach with a picnic lunch, or for a long car drive, or for some of the time to a mall play area if it's raining outside... Bob would be creative with the group and just keep them moving between activities during those hours.

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    2. I'm very sorry to hear about your loss; I hope you and your family are doing well and I pray that you are healing properly.
      Thank you for your response-I can't wait to read your potty training post. And thank you for continuing to bless us with your site in the midst of all the busyness that is your life!

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  14. It's always interesting to see another family's schedule. We are just adding in music lessons (well, adding piano, my oldest has been taking violin the past year) and I've been trying to figure out the best time for practice. I like where you have it in the morning so it wouldn't interfere with any afternoon quiet time. I find it amazing that your 2 and 3 year old still take long naps...that is awesome! I consistently put mine down, but they all seem to quit napping shortly after they turn 2 and just play in their rooms during that time.

    So sorry to hear of your loss.

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    1. Our 3yo's always think they should stop napping, too. =) But we received good counsel to keep kids napping through 5yo and that's been very wise for us. If they genuinely do not need afternoon nap sleep (only 2 of ours have been this way) then we adjust their night time sleep so that they still need a nap in the afternoon. That child can go to bed later or get up earlier if necessary - but all nap through age 5 or so. Then they've generally learned to read and they can occupy themselves better during a play-room time during other's naps.

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  15. Love your blog and it's a blessing since I have 5 of my own ages 8 down to newborn. I am learning from you! So, question: On what software do you type up your schedules? I know it's a silly question, but I wanted to know if it's Excel or some other program that might be easier for me....

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    1. Haha! Never mind, I found it under how you create a schedule. I don't have excel...Might need to get it.

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    2. Oh no, you don't need it. Just use Word and make a table. That's what I've always done for EVERYTHING else. My husband just encouraged me to use Excel for the schedule but that's all I know how to do on it! LOL Word would be just as good I'm sure.

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  16. I love reading these really practical blogs that you write. I always have an ah-ha moment!

    I think it is time for me to step up the involvement of my older 3 kids in chores and running the house so that I can 'manage' more. Right now I have fallen back into being a 'do it all' momma. I don't think it's good for my sanity or their character development.

    Thanks for sharing. :)

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  17. Curious question: Do you guys ever go away for a family vacation? I know that you mentioned camping once but I think that was just for a weekend. I'm talking like taking a week long get away somewhere?

    When our kids were really young vacation sometimes just felt like extra work in a distant location. Now that they're older it's nice.

    As we prepare for our first trip of the summer I'm scanning your site for organizational tips and tricks for traveling with kids. Especially since it's just us. This will be the first vacation season in years that we're not bringing help. I'm feeling a bit intimidated.

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    1. We never have yet only due to cost. But we sure hope to. You'll do great! I encourage you to have a general plan for your time, to make sure you see a lot (or do a lot), but have realistic expectations as well and have time to rest and enjoy the time slowly, too, if you need to or would like. Too much running around can stress people out; but doing nothing in a beautiful or exotic or historical place would be a waste, too. Balance is key. And maybe bring some healthy snack foods to save money and keep some sense of normal through out your days; what people are used to. And when you need to eat right away, that's not the time to leave what you're doing and try to find something appropriate... Probably bring some good evening/hotel activities such as books, puzzles, games to productively occupy time so TV isn't the only option. Just some thoughts of how I'd do things.

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  18. I'm from a homeschooling family of 7, but it seemed like my family was always on a different calendar than everyone else. We traveled quite a bit due to my Dad's job, so my Mom pretty much took the strategy of continuing on with schooling whenever we weren't traveling without any long breaks because she found it impossible to bring all the books along in suitcases!

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  19. Have you ever considered jus letting them be kids and le them go play wih some other kids

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    1. They are kids, and they do play with lots of other kids; I just didn't take any photos of that here.

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