Weaning from the Screen

I mentioned in my Week 16 Pregnancy Update, that we were needing to wean from the screen because I had used movies and streaming video and iPad games to “babysit” the kids during my bout with morning sickness. After a week of really cracking down, the whining and asking and falling on the floor in a heap of “I’m bored” was almost *almost* completely nipped in the bud.

Several of you asked how I went about this, so this post is my answer to that question.

Weaning from the Screen | RaisingArrows.net - How we went from excessive TV and computer time back to a more reasonable approach.

The way we ended up with too much screen time is a sordid affair.  I have a house full of boys.  Rowdy, rambunctious, jump on mama’s bed when she feels nauseous little boys.  They are awesome, but without our usual daily routine, they were BORED.

No really, they truly were bored.

I don’t typically like that word, but frankly, when kids are used to a certain routine and that routine suddenly becomes NOTHING, they feel a little lost and need something to fill that space.  For boys, that something is rarely quiet or calm.  Thus, the electronic babysitter.

Weaning from Screen Time | RaisingArrows.net

**NOTE:  This photo is how we do family movie night – a projector and laptop with the movie projected onto a blank wall in our living room.  This is the projector we own.**

The last straw was the day my 5 year old asked every 5 minutes if he could watch a movie on the iPad.

Every. Five. Minutes.

I was finally coming out of the First Trimester Fog, and I knew we needed to go back to our usual Movie Days (more on what Movie Days are in a second).  After 15 times of telling him no, I realized watching movies had become part of his daily routine and he had no recollection of this Movie Day thing I kept spouting off about.  And really how dare I change up the routine of every day movie watching without explaining myself!  So, we had a quick Family Meeting where I explained the finer points of that vague notion we once called Movie Day.

Now, I know you all know this, but here’s my disclaimer…
These are the Roberts Family Movie Days.  They are guidelines we feel comfortable with.  They are not a set of rules YOU have to follow.  The real issue here is to have guidelines.  Your children need to know WHEN screen time is appropriate.  It may be something as simple as “after school work is finished” or “between 4-6pm” or whatever you like.

Movie Days are Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.  Wednesdays and Fridays are Roberts Family Movie Night.  Saturday is Computer Time for everyone (only my oldest 2 children have weekday Computer Days).

Exact computer time is based on age:
My littlest guys get 15 minutes.
My middles get 30 minutes.
My oldest kids get an hour on Saturdays (they get 45 minutes on their alternating weekdays).

Everyone is also allowed to watch a movie or two on Saturday.

Another major aspect of this schedule is the fact that if we are gone any of these days, there is no “banking the time.”  If you miss a day that you usually have Computer Time on, you don’t get to have that time the next day to “make up” for it.  If we aren’t home on Saturday, we don’t automatically make Sunday a Movie Day.

Are there exceptions?  Of course!  We are a family and sometimes these sorts of rules get broken in favor of family life.  It’s ok. ;)

So, once we established that we were going back to our typical Movie Days, I was able to remind the children of the day of the week and keep a lot of the asking for screen time at bay.  My 5 year old asks every day, “What is today?”  I tell him the day of the week and then he asks, “And what do we do on that day?”  I usually give him a quick run-down of the day and then get to the real answer he’s looking for…

“Today is not a movie day.”

At some point, I want to get a calendar made up that has Sunday – Saturday with all the screen time written on it (with pictures for my non-readers), but that has yet to happen.  I’m still too foggy for that. ;)

This Move

We’ve arrived!  We moved in a snow storm, but got it all unloaded before the big one hit.  From there, we were sitting under about 16″ of snow and bitter-cold temps.  Nearly 2 weeks later, we are digging out and settling in.

Our living room (see my daughter being silly as she tries to get out of the room in time!)

Our living room (see my daughter being silly as she tries to get out of the room in time!)

At first, I was super pleased with our progress.  Boxes were being unpacked and things were finding homes, but this week, as we began a bit of homeschooling again, I found myself frustrated and overwhelmed.

Then, I remembered this always happens.

Every time we move, I end up needing to deal with a few bad habits we’ve gotten into in the previous house.  Sometimes the issues are direct results of the move itself.  This move was, and is, no different.

1.  I am sick of the paper trail my children leave about the house.

I am all for creativity, but oy! the paper trail is maddening!  I snapped this photo the other day and then asked my little moms-of-many group to please advise (feel free to offer your own advice as I’m still working through it all!).

papers in living room

This scene is recreated all over my house every day of the week, and most every child in the household contributes.  My bigs try to be a bit neater about their paper, as do I (yes, they got this from me), but my littles draw and dump at will.

This sort of thing needs to stop.  Problem is, I’ve been too lazy to stop it.  I’m to blame for paper and pencils and crayons and scissors *gasp* and glue being TOO easily accessible.   So, this move, those things are finding a new home with new rules.

2.  My little boys stand (and often jump) on the furniture.

We had discipline for this in the old house, but I wasn’t always as consistent as I needed to be with it.  I didn’t stick with it as is needed to actually break bad habits.  This move, I am determined to nip this in the bud and stop this behavior once and for all.

“Method?” you ask?  Every time they stand on, jump over or off of the furniture, they must stand, nose to the wall, for as many minutes as their age.  The 3 year old gets 3 minutes, the 5 year old gets 5 minutes, and yes, my newly turned 8 year old gets 8.  (Eek!  Can you believe the 8 year even stands on the furniture sometimes?!  You ought to be feeling better about your parenting skills already!)

3.  I need to do better about the “place for everything and everything in it’s place” rule.

I’m just going to be honest here, my organizational skills are severely lacking.  Every little thing I organize has to be brainstormed and often reworked before it actually makes sense.  It is a painfully slow and ugly process.

When we move, I have to find new places for things and then learn where those place are.  About the time I learn those places, I realize where I put things makes no sense and needs to be reworked.  (We have a saying here, “As soon as you know where it is, we’ll move!”)

This move, I am hoping to get things organized sooner.  (As soon as I typed that, I sat here blankly for a few minutes.  Who am I kidding?  I won’t get organized any sooner than I normally do because I haven’t somehow magically gained 4 more hours to my day or grown an extra set of arms or a more organized brain.  Yeah, scratch that...)

This move, I am hoping to get things organized sooner.  There, that’s better.

So, there you have it…a little taste of life in our new home.  Never a dull moment!

How to Be a Consistent Mother

How to Be a Consistent Mother | RaisingArrows.netConsistency is one of those words we like to throw around as the elusive answer to all our problems.

“If I were more consistent, my children would obey better.”

“If I were more consistent, I would be able to get everything done.”

“If I were more consistent, my children wouldn’t be behind in their school work.”

However, we can’t make consistency the fall guy for everything.  Consistency is great, but almost entirely impossible.  We need to learn to see consistency in a different way, so when a reader asked about how be a consistent mother, I decided to tackle the issue in a different way – with a vlog (that’s a Video Blog for all of you scratching your heads at such a weird word).  It’s only 3 minutes, but if you don’t have the time to listen to it all, some of the highlights are listed below the video. {can’t see the video?  Click HERE!}


  • Stop stressing!  There will be different seasons in your life.  Accept them.
  • Create an At-A-Glance Schedule.
  • Surround yourself with things that help you be a better mom.
  • Enjoy the entire process of homeschooling, homemaking, and mothering.
  • Consistency does NOT mean every day looks the same!
  • Do the little things.

Do you struggle with being a consistent mother?  Anything in the vlog resonate with where you are?  Do you have other suggestions for the inconsistent mothers reading this blog?  Leave your comments below!  Raising Arrows is a community and readers love to interact and help each other out.  Don’t be afraid to add your thoughts to the conversation!

Looking for more Ask Amy posts?  Have a question of your own?  Click the graphic below!

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Changing Chores – The Art & Science of Knowing Who Gets What Chore

Changing Chores:  The Art & Science of Knowing Who Gets What Chores | RaisingArrows.netEveryone has had the same Home Blessing Chores for a year and a half. A few weeks ago I realized my 7 year old wasn’t working up to his current capabilities.  I also realized each child needed to learn some new skills, so I finally forced myself to rework Home Blessing chores.

I’m going to confess right here and now…reworking any set routine is a difficult task.  You get set in your ways.  It’s mindless and everyone appreciates that.  In fact, the morning we implemented the new chores, my husband warned, “Be prepared for attitudes!”

Boy, was he right!  {more on that in a moment…}

So, I’ve told you the how and why behind our original Home Blessing chores.  Today, I want to talk you through what to do when its time to change those chores.

How do you know when it is time to change chores?

  • Your children’s abilities have significantly changed.
  • Your children are completing their assigned tasks with proficiency.
  • You are adding a new child to the lineup of workers.

How do you go about changing chores?

1.  Review the old chore chart and make notes ON the chart itself.  Our chart was laminated, so I took a wet erase marker and made notes about who I thought ought to get what chore.

Note:  Not all chores can simply be passed on to the next child down.  For instance, my oldest son still has to vacuum downstairs because the vacuum is too heavy for any of his younger siblings to haul downstairs.  He will also continue to clean out the van until his sisters are a little older.  Think through the chores based on each child’s abilities and the areas they need to work on.

2.  Type up a new list and go over it with your husband and children.  Going over it before it actually took place gave everyone time to mull it over and voice their concerns and comments.  I went over my list with my husband first to make sure it all sounded good to him, THEN I went over it with the children.  That way I knew Dad and I were on the same page.  Do listen to any concerns and comments from the children, but do not let the children complain themselves out of a job they are really capable of.

3.  Expect to micro-manage the first 2 weeks.  This past Friday was our first day working the new chores.  I got NONE of my own work done until after everyone was finished with theirs.  Next week, I expect more of the same.  You will be needed to guide them through chores, check their work, and walk them through any mistakes or missed steps.  You will also need to keep everyone on task!

4.  Make notes as you go.  Make notes to yourself and make notes to the children.

Home Blessing Notes

My 15 year old handed over bathroom chores to his younger siblings.  As he walked them through the steps, I wrote out a very simplified list of the steps in order so that they could simply glance at the list and remember what he had taught them.  I then posted that list inside the bathroom cabinet.

I also made notes to myself on the new printed out Home Blessing list.  I reordered certain chores because they didn’t fit with what others in the household were working on.  For instance, my daughter can’t sweep and mop the hallways until her brother is finished cleaning the bathroom because he puts everything from the bathroom out in the hallway!  This is another reason you should expect at least 2 weeks of micromanagement.  It’s going to take that long just to get things in the right order.

What was that about attitudes?

Um, yeah.  Attitudes…*sigh*.  As much as I hope to ward off any attitudes and complaints concerning a new chore list, it just isn’t realistic.  First of all, I have one child who hates change of any kind.  She loses all sense of direction and becomes completely discombobulated to the point of being irrational.  At one point, we stopped everything and I took her on the porch for a break.  I talked her through everything, including what I expected of her attitude.

Was she still frustrated?  Yes.  But, at least she clearly understood what was expected.  I also informed her that poor attitudes would result in MORE work, not less.  And I followed through on that.  By the end of chore time (which was an hour longer than usual), she was calm and got to enjoy the start of her weekend.

Ultimately, the name of the changing chore game is to KEEP GOING.  So often, parents give up on a great chore list because it is a tedious process.  A little grumpiness, a few missed chores, and one all-out fit brings the training to a complete stop with mom swearing she’s better off just doing it herself.

Mama, keep going.

Teaching your children to run a household is important!  Don’t give up on it.  Persevere!  So often, I have people ask how I ended up with such servant-hearted children who help not only our family, but others.  The answer is I KEPT GOING.  It’s not always fun and it’s not always easy, but it is ALWAYS worth it.

The Teaching of a Mother

The Teaching of a Mother

The new school year has started.  Perhaps you are overwhelmed with it already.  As a homeschool mom, it is a weighty matter you have undertaken.  The burden you strap to your back every morning feels heavier as the weeks and months of the school year progress.  You may even wonder why you chose this burden of all things.

Homeschooling was never meant to be the burden we often make it.  It was meant to be a way to teach, disciple, live the Bible out moment by moment with our family.  It was an opportunity to educate our children, guiding them gently toward Truth, grace, mercy, love. It was a chance to teach them about the Lord and all His ways.  It was to be a time of awe and wonder, growth and maturity.

What has it become for you and your children?

Proverbs 1:8 says,
Proverbs 1:8b

There is something different about a mother’s teaching.  When we think about a mother’s teaching, we immediately default to the painting at the top of this post.  A mother, gently guiding and instructing her child.  It never looks like the crazy woman we have become, frantically trying to push through the schoolwork before collapsing at the end of the day.  I think perhaps I would want my children to “forsake” that teaching if that’s what my homeschooling were to become.  Listen to what verse 9 says that teaching will be like…


Is your teaching graceful?  Is it something your children carry with them?  Is it beautiful?

Those words do not sound like a burden.  They sound amazing!

Today, I want to encourage you to set that homeschooling burden down, and instead, gather your children on your lap and be Mother.  Be soft.  Be gentle.  Be grace-filled.  Teach as a Mother, not a teacher.  This is an opportunity of a lifetime!  May it be beautiful!

What are you doing today to teach as a Mother?

To read more posts on discipleship in the homeschool, see the Teach Them Diligently Blog.

Teaching Your Kids to Do Their Own Laundry

Teaching Kids to Do Their Own Laundry | RaisingArrows.net

Over the years, I’ve had many laundry systems.  With every age, stage, new home, new circumstance, I’ve had to revamp how I did laundry.  This past year, I finally brought my 12 year old daughter on board as a laundry helper, but it seemed that even between the two of us, we were never caught up with the laundry.  The stuff multiplied in corners and on bedroom floors, taunting us.

I also noticed an alarming trend.  The very item of clothing a child (or husband) needed for the next day was the very item of clothing that managed to get buried beneath the pile.  And wet towels somehow always snuck their way to the bottom of the pile, creating a smelly mess.  I was sick and tired of it, but with 9 people in the house, it seemed my lot in life.

And then Kendra from Preschoolers and Peace posted about how she got all 8 of her kids to do their own laundry, and I suddenly saw a ray of hope.  While our family dynamic is different, I felt like I could take what she had done and make it my own, so that very day I started planning and the next week I introduced my plan to the children.
{affiliate links included}

I did a quick inventory and realized we needed one more large laundry basket so that each room (Parents, Boys, Girls) had a large laundry basket in it for dirty clothes.

Then, I made a Laundry Chart:

laundry chart

I wrote out simplified instructions and laminated the sheet.  I put at the top a space where we could change out whose day it was to do the laundry, and I affixed velcro dots to the chart as well as three laminated tags for Mommy, the Boys, and the Girls.  Then, I attached it to the laundry room wall and gave the children a run through of specifically what I expected when it came to doing laundry.

I divided the children by days of the week.  So, Mommy has Monday and Thursday, the Boys have Tuesday and Friday, and the Girls have Wednesday and Saturday.  That allows for Sunday to be free.

The oldest of each group is ultimately responsible, but they are to enlist the help of their younger siblings.  So, on my day, I wash my clothes as well as Daddy’s and the 6 month old’s clothing.  My 15 year old son is responsible for the boys in his room, but they all pitch in to sort and put away.  The girls are both capable of doing their own laundry, so they switch off and on.  Everyone washes sheets every other week, something that was not getting done prior to implementing this system.

The one issue we came across that was easily solved was that of towels.  We use a lot of towels.  Those towels are often wet and nasty.  Because the laundry room is just off the kitchen, we decided to throw towels and bibs on the floor next to the washer and whosever day it happens to be is the one responsible for that day’s towels.

This system has given me back my laundry room!  No longer do I have to crawl across piles of clothes to get to my pantry.  No longer do I have to stare at the piles, wondering how I could possibly wade through it all that day.  No one ever has more than 3 loads on their day!

I am so thrilled to finally have a handle on the laundry.  But I am even more thrilled that my children are learning to do their own laundry.  This is one of those skills so many leave home without.  My husband tells stories of guys in his college dorm coming back from the laundry room with pink socks and underwear because no one had ever taught them to do laundry.  He was so thankful he knew how!

By the way, if you subscribe to Raising Arrows (see top right hand sidebar), you will receive a Home Management Training Checklist.  Doing laundry is on there. ;)

So, do any of you have your children do their own laundry?  How do you have it set up?