Monday, November 14, 2011

There is NO secret ingredient...or is there?

I remember going to a session at a homeschool convention that was going to be about how to "get it all done" (I put this in italics and quotes because we all know that moms never really have it all done).  I can't remember the name of the session but just that I was excited to finally get the answers that had been alluding me all these years (as if there were some magic formula).  I had four little ones five years old and younger and felt that I was always a few days behind in everything that needed to be done.  And, I had long since given up on perfection and decided to go for survival...haha.  Still, I was having trouble getting it all done.  With great anticipation, I watched the speaker go up on stage as I balanced my newborn baby on my lap with paper and pen in hand.  I was ready to jot down the secrets.  This was going to be my breakthrough.  The secrets to the universe would soon be mine...haha.  The first words that the speaker said went something like this..."I'm not going to talk about how I get the dishes and laundry done.  I'm going to focus on how I get the schooling done."...or something like that.  I felt the wind go out of my sail.  I wasn't so worried about how to get the school done.  My kids were still little and we were having a great time going through the Science based theme units that I had designed around the days of creation.  What I really wanted to know was how to get it ALL done...the dishes, house cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, time with preschoolers, individual tutoring with older kids, grading, quiet time, time with my husband, staying in touch with family members, writing "thank you" notes, etc.  I can't remember anything else but the opening line from that session.  However, over time I have had different moms share with me some of their secrets to "getting it all done".  The biggest secret is that there is no secret...haha.  It took me years to finally learn that.  I was really looking for that one secret or magic formula.  It is much like the line in Kung Fu Panda "There is NO secret ingredient".  Although in my case, there is no magic...but there is a secret ingredient...or several actually:) 

Through the years, I have taken suggestions from other moms, changed a few around, and finally pieced together a good reliable plan that works for our family and will allow me to get it all done...well, most of it anyway...on a good day:)  I wanted to share them here in the hopes that somewhere out there in cyberspace is that young mom with four kids five and under, that was me a few years ago, looking for some "ingredients" that will help to create a smooth and workable homeschool experience.  So, take the ones that work for you and leave the rest behind.  As my dad says "Eat the watermelon and spit out the seeds"...or eat the soup and spit out the noodles...or something like that:)

I have a great deal to get done EVERY day.  I know you are all shocked upon hearing this...haha.  I get up, have my quiet time, feed the baby, get little boys diapered and dressed, wake older kids, start laundry, get breakfast, adjust laundry, check to see if chores are done, adjust the laundry again, get out the curriculum that we will be going through that day...and did I mention laundry?  And, this is all before nine in the morning.  Whew.  I get tired just listing it all.  Here is what I do to "get it all done"...the vitals anyway.

1. I have a daily schedule.  I used a great book "Managers of their Homes" to help me put together a workable schedule.  Every child has a place to be and an activity (sometimes free time and yet scheduled) to be doing all the time.  Our days are scheduled from wake up to go to bed.  Now, I can see you all running for the hills.  Come baaaack!  It really isn't that bad.  I can choose to NOT follow the schedule any day.  But, it is there for me and if I stick with it everything will get done...most days:)  When we stick to the plan, I get to have time alone with each older child...and Peter does too.  And honestly, the days go much smoother when we stick to the plan.  Everyone knows what to expect and the little ones get to stay in a good routine.  Here is a picture of the detailed schedule that we follow...most days:)

Notice all of the white blank spots at the beginning of the day?  I am NOT an early riser:)

2. I have lists...yes the plural is intentional.  There is a list on my bedroom door telling me what to do before I go down stairs and another list telling me what to have done before retiring to upstairs at night.  (I really want to minimize the trips that I make up and down each day.)  There are several lists by the washroom door leading to the garage telling me what I need to have packed in the van for...PE, church, park outings, water play, etc.  It is basic enough that the older kids can read and then pack the van for me.  Believe it or not, the older ones usually like it when I trust them with an important job like this and are pretty willing to help...especially my organizer.

3. I have a chore list and Saturday cleaning rotation for the kids.  Each child has a chore to complete after breakfast every morning of the week, except Sunday morning, and another just before dinner (the evening chores are mostly related to picking up the mess of the day so that Peter comes home to a peaceful environment).  The two little boys are buddied up with an older brother and "help" them with their chore.  For example, Nathan puts the dishes away each morning and Wesley "helps"...the Padawan learner.

  Nathan puts away glass dishes and has Wesley put away the plastics that mom conveniently stores in low cabinets.  On Saturdays, rooms are cleaned (this is more in depth than the daily pick-up) and then everyone works together on one large chore from the rotation.  It may be yard work, or cleaning out the cars, etc.  These are jobs that can be done once a month or less.  After this, Saturdays are "free days".  The list below is old and needs to be updated.  From time to time, change is needed and I adjust when I see that one thing isn't working.

4. I have a daily cleaning and laundry rotation for me.  
The laundry rotation means that each morning I do a different category of laundry.  So, Monday is little kids laundry, Tuesday is Peter's and mine, Wednesday is towels, etc.  So, including cloth diapers that I do every day, I am usually doing 3-5 loads of laundry every day.
The cleaning rotation means that every afternoon, I clean one or two rooms of the house.  If I keep it up, the house stays in good condition...livable anyway:)

5. I have a biweekly menu planned along with an ever growing shopping list.  I do grocery shopping every two weeks so, I plan a detailed menu for two weeks at a time.  I plan every meal.  For breakfast, I normally have foods that the kids can help themselves to such as whole wheat bagels, cereal, instant oatmeal, or something in the crockpot.  (My current favorite crockpot recipe is steel cut oats.)  I make green smoothies for myself and four of my older kids will drink that as well.  Lunch is usually salad and sandwiches or leftovers from the night before.  I have a different food planned for each night of the week.  For example, Monday nights are leftovers, Tuesdays are tacos...or taco salad, Wednesdays are baked potatoes, etc.  We do fun and exciting recipes Friday through Sunday when there is less or no school, schedules are free, and Peter is home.

So, there you have it.  These are my "secret ingredients" that really aren't secret but, when put together help our home run more smoothly.  Most of this information I keep in a three ring binder that I lovingly refer to as my brain:)

I would love to hear other ideas on how to "get it all done".  What do you do to "get it all done"?


  1. I have a laundry rotation too! I was having it where everyone threw there clothes in the washer in the morning and I said, there has to be a better way! So I created a laundry schedule and I have the master schedule too! What do you do for rug time? I really want to implement that but not sure where to start.

  2. This is incredibly helpful! In the past when you said you did laundry every day, I was assuming you meant something like Lisa Hughes posted... a laundry schedule sounds wonderful!

    so many helpful things... I just ordered the book you recommended... I've been trying to get us on an organized schedule for years... maybe I'll finally get there :)

  3. Glad that this post was helpful! I was hesitant to post it as I don't really like sharing too many details and opening myself up to criticism. But, I felt led to share this info. I know how much I have appreciated those who have shared their ideas with me:)

  4. Lisa,
    We have a 3X5 rug by the front door and just have Wesley and Seth sit on the rug with a puzzle, educational toy, game, etc. Ransom is now having playpen time...I need to update my schedule:) We have a cabinet full of these items near the rug. They know that they have to stay on the rug and keep their one item on the rug. It does take training though, especially for those under three. I usually take time to do some training during summer or winter vacation. I started Wesley off in the playpen when he was one. Then when he was used to sitting still and playing I moved him to the rug. Seth has just followed Wesley's this case that is a good thing:)

  5. Thank you for following the leading and yes you are a big help with ideas in my life. Very grateful! I wonder if I need to get seperate toys for rug time, so they are different from the other puzzles and toys. Christmas is coming.... I got a blanket and we are trying it!

  6. Lisa,

    How is she doing with it?

    We do have items that are just for "rug time" and off limits other times. They get to choose from the cabinet but only one item at a time and only during rug time. Gives them something to look forward to:)

  7. My two younger girls are having a difficult time staying for the hour and a half that I need them to. How long do you have them stay on the rug? When I am at the table or couch with my older girls, I need them to stay somewhere where they can learn to sit so they aren't running off to get into things. But I also want to be realistic with time. Still configuring this rug time idea... I put it on the schedule and have a blanket.

  8. Lisa,

    I rotate my kids every 30 minutes...haha...sounds like I am roasting them! I try to follow a quiet activity with an active one. Now that the weather is nice, they can go outside together for 30 minutes after having rug time for 30 minutes. I need to update my schedule. The one that I posted is a little outdated. On my to-do list for this weekend:)