Table Chores

Table Chores {our newest version since the move and new baby} | RaisingArrows.net

A couple of days ago, Ty’s mom was down for a visit, so Ty and I took the opportunity to go out for dinner with Miss Aspen.  When we arrived home, things were in utter chaos because the kids had left my mother-in-law to do all the meal clean up alone.

It was time for a new Table Chores list!

For the past several weeks, we’d been winging it.  Mommy or Daddy would throw out random chores to random children until everything got finished.  It was nowhere near the autopilot we were used to, but it was what we could manage.

When I asked the kids why they didn’t help Grammy with the after meal chores, they all exclaimed they had no idea who was supposed to do which chores.  (Well, all but my 16 year old son who has gotten to the point where he automatically does whatever chores he sees needing to be done.  He had helped Grammy to an extent, but had gotten sidetracked by the time I walked in the door.)

A new house always means a new list because every house has a unique dynamic and a unique set of chores that needs to be accomplished.  With the new baby and the holidays, I hadn’t gotten around to putting together a new list.  Seeing the chaos that night prompted me to immediately sit down at the computer and revamp the old list.  (It took me about 10 minutes, including multiple interruptions.)

Before I share our new list, I want to mention that there are other things that change Table Chores besides moving.  You might have a baby graduate to eating at the table or a toddler graduate out of the high chair.  Perhaps you have a child who is now old enough to help out and you need to add them to the rotation.  Or maybe you’ve had a child grow out of Table Chores.  There are a number of changes in a household that will subsequently change the Table Chores (and most everything else as well!).

For us, there was a toddler moving out of the high chair and a newly turned 6 year old being added in that needed to be taken into account.  I also decided it was time to switch out a few of the harder chores, giving them to a different child for a while.

Obviously, Table Chores are going to be unique to your family.  You will need to consider ages and abilities as well as priorities.  You can see from my 2010 Table Chores post that back then I didn’t have many children with abilities, and my priorities and standards were much lower than they are now that I have 5 children working at a time.

I’d encourage you to start by writing down everything you think needs to be done after a meal.  Assign those chores by ability (with mom and dad taking any chores that are too “big” for your children).

Next, look through the list and order it.  For instance, don’t have one child’s first chore as “Sweep floors” when you have his siblings still bussing the table and before anyone has wiped down the table.  That’s asking for a traffic jam and a floor that doesn’t look like it’s been swept.

I always work through the list in my mind child by child and then put it through a trial run before setting the Table Chores in stone.  There is almost always something that I missed or a chore or two that don’t fit correctly in the mix.  These things can be tweaked and the list printed and posted.

And now for our 2015 Table Chores:

16 (almost 17) year old son:
Unload dishwasher
Sweep floors
Mop floors (may just require spot mop)
Take out trash (as needed)
Wash stove, microwave, refrigerator

14 year old daughter:
Rinse dishes
Load dishwasher
Wash extras
Clean out sink
Wipe down sink area & dry

10 year old daughter:
Bus table
Put away food
Tidy counters
Wash island, bar, counters

9 year old son:
Bus table
Wipe down table & chairs
Help put away food

6 year old son:
Bus table

Yay!  No more after meal chaos!

If you’d like more tips on keeping your kitchen neat and tidy, check out this post – How to Keep The Kitchen Clean.

Baby Boot Camp

The 6 year old is running through the house.  The toddler is constantly saying no and hitting the 4 year old.  The 8 year old is whiny, and everyone (including mommy) has a bad attitude.  Oh, and you just had a baby a few months ago.

You are in those difficult “little years”. Those years when chaos seems to reign supreme.  Sometimes you look around you and wonder what happened.  Most of the time you look around and wonder if you’ll ever gain control of the household again.

Never fear, mama…there is hope!

Baby Boot Camp - how to get the little ones back on track (no drill sergeant needed) | RaisingArrows.netI’m sure some of you read the title of this post and immediately jumped to some sort of torturous conclusion about what it was going to be about.  While the name “Baby Boot Camp” (coined by another mom of many) sounds somewhat harsh, the heart behind it is anything but harsh.  (Honestly, I tried to come up with a name other than Baby Boot Camp and nothing sounded as good or made as much sense.)

So, let’s proceed with an open mind about the name, shall we?…

In the military, boot camp is a time of concentrated focus on getting new recruits battle ready.  There are little to no outside influences and everything the soldier does is monitored.  Yes, there are screaming, often foul-mouthed drill sergeants on hand to facilitate this.  That part, I am NOT advocating. ;)

So, how does this translate into our Baby Boot Camp?  Here’s a quick 5:

1.  Manage one issue at a time.

2.  Stay focused on the task at hand.

3.  Don’t go anywhere.

4.  Don’t add anything extra to your day.

5.  Be Mommy.

I’m going to go through each of these one by one, but I need to offer a caveat…

Baby Boot Camp may be harder on you than on the children.

OK, so now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to business!

Manage one (or two) issue(s) at a time

You may be tempted to try to fix every issue with every child all at once; however, you will quickly find this is impossible and you will will wear yourself out.  Think about the biggest issues you are having with each child.  Running in the house?  Bad attitudes?  Hitting?  Whining?  Pick one or two to work on.

Stay focused on the task at hand

You cannot “check out” during the day by flipping through Pinterest or checking Facebook.  You can’t hang out on the phone or stare mindlessly at the television.  You have to be PRESENT and AVAILABLE and READY.

You are watching for the issues you have chosen to focus on.  As soon as you see the beginnings of one of these behaviors, you head it off.  The name of the game is immediate redirect.

Here’s what this might look like…

You toddler has taken to hitting.  You decide this is one issue you really want to work on.  You keep your toddler close to you all day long.  You watch his activity and watch for signs that he might be planning to hit a sibling.  With hitting, I like to grab the offending arm and give a firm, “No hit.”  Then, I let them try to play again.  If it continues, I come to a point where I completely remove them from the situation and tell them, “When you hit, you cannot play.”

Toddlers do not have a very long attention span, so you only need to remove them for a short time before bringing them back into the group and try again.  You want to give him opportunities to succeed.

Now, do you see why you need to be completely present and ready to go?

Hopefully, you also see why you can’t possible handle more than one or two issues at a time!

To help you stay on task, keep these two things in mind…

Don’t go anywhere

and

Don’t add anything extra to your day

For obvious reasons, you need to stay at home.  I know it may be hard to clear your schedule, but if you really want to be successful with this, you have to stay home, and you have to keep your extra activities to a minimum.  Your meals need to be simple and you need to be completely engaged.

The final part of Baby Boot Camp is quite possibly the most important…

Be Mommy

Baby Boot Camp naturally means you will be spending a lot of time alongside your children.  Don’t squander this time by being that drill sergeant I mentioned at the beginning of the post.  The simple act of spending time with your children, smiling at them, setting them up for success, and loving on them will do as much, if not more than your actual disciplining.  Use this time to not only nip bad behaviors in the bud, but also to read to your babies, sing to them, enjoy them!  Sometimes all they need is to know you really are there, you really do care, that you will be swift to redirect their bad habits and even swifter to praise them.

Large Family Homeschooling eBook | by Amy Roberts of RaisingArrows.net

Keepers of the Faith Club for Girls

Keepers of the Faith Club for Girls - Our Experience and How Our Club is Set Up | RaisingArrows.net

If you follow my Facebook page you’ve probably heard me mention Keepers of the Faith.  My girls have been a part of a local group since we moved to the area a few years ago, and we have all really enjoyed the fellowship and projects.

I had a reader ask me to talk more about Keepers, so I thought I’d write a post and explain how our group works and how you can form a group or find a group to participate in.  Please, keep in mind, my experience is unique because all Keepers groups are unique due to their autonomous nature.  Also, keep in mind this post is specifically pertaining to the girls club and not the boys; however, much of the same information applies to the boys club.

How Our Keepers of the Faith Club is Organized

Leadership -
Our group does not have a “leader” per se.  One person always emerges as the organized one, but all the moms in the group have input, as do the girls.

Planning -
The moms get together a couple of times a year to discuss the next 6 months of projects. Typically, we have previously discussed with our girls some of the projects they are interested in doing as a group so we can bring those to the table.  We choose the project, who will lead it, and where the meeting will be held.

The moms have a private Facebook group to send out messages, share photos, and remind people of meeting dates and anything they might need to bring.

Keepers of the Faith Club for Girls - How Our Club is Organized | RaisingArrows.net

Meetings -
We meet once a month in one of our homes or at a local church.  We open with prayer, the club Bible verse (we have chosen to learn it in another version), and the mission of Keepers of the Faith.

Usually, we have a Character Lesson that fits well with the skill we are learning.  When we worked on American Sign Language, we had a Character Lesson on Attentiveness.  At Christmas time we worked on Charity.  Keepers of the Faith have their own booklets for each Character Lesson, but we don’t always use theirs.  There are a lot of resources online that can be used for free.  Typically, the mom leading the project also leads the Character Lesson.

After that, we start the monthly project.  Each project has a certain set of skills the girls are to learn.  Sometimes all of the skills can be learned in a meeting, and sometimes the girls have to go home and finish up.

For instance, a few months ago, we did Plastic Canvas.

Keepers of the Faith Club for Girls - How Our Club is Organized | RaisingArrows.net

The mom in charge taught all the stitches, but to finish the project, each girl had to finish 2 different plastic canvas projects.  We only had time for 1 that day, so it was up to us to finish at home.

I will talk more about this in the next section, but I also want to mention here that because Keepers of the Faith is parent-led and autonomous, each family has the choice of what equates completing a project.  I could have chosen to make that one project the fulfillment of the requirement to complete the Plastic Canvas badge, but I knew my girls were capable of doing more, and my 9 year really enjoyed it!  (In fact, she received MORE plastic canvas and project books as a birthday present!)

Meetings last about 2 hours.  The girls ages range from 6 to 14.

How We Handle Multiple Ages -
We are a small group, so we haven’t seen much of a need to separate the girls out by age.  Yes, we have different skill levels, but we really haven’t had much trouble coming up with activities that are suited to all age levels.  The girls are welcome to work on other badges at home, so we try to keep the monthly meetings to projects that are good for everyone.

Keepers of the Faith Club for Girls - How Our Club is Organized | RaisingArrows.net

Some of the moms have chosen to award their younger girls with the silver badges and then work through the book when they are older and receive a second badge in gold.  This means the younger girls can work at their level and still be rewarded for their effort without needing to complete the entire project at the same level as the older girls.

Awards -
We have chosen to buy the actual pin badges and put them on the sash.  There are sites that have patches that coincide with the different KOF projects, but I wanted the ease of pins, so that’s what we went with.

You don’t have to award with badges, but I’ve found the girls are highly motivated by the badges and the Awards Ceremony we have a couple of times a year.

Our Awards Ceremony is not a huge to-do either.  We just can’t seem to coordinate a night that allows for a major celebration, so we will often do it at the same time as our monthly meeting and have snacks afterward.  We only do an Awards Ceremony when all the moms feel it is time.  Each mother is responsible for tracking and purchasing badges to hand out at the Awards Ceremony.

Cost -
Our club itself has no dues.  If an individual project requires an investment in supplies by the hosting mother, then she lets everyone know the cost for that project (usually via the Facebook group), and we come prepared to pay that amount per child participating.  I don’t think it has ever been over $3.

You will need a handbook for each girl.  There are also Companion Notebooks, but we have chosen not to purchase these.

The badges also cost, but you only purchase those on occasion, and you can choose to cut costs by going through a 3rd party that sells the project patches at a cheaper rate.  You will probably want to purchase or make a sash to put the badges on.

You can buy a Keepers t-shirt, but it isn’t necessary at all.  We do not require our girls to dress alike at meetings.

There are Leadership Materials you can purchase if you would like to start up your own club.  These are good to have if you’ve never been a part of a Keepers Club and need some help figuring out how to get it off the ground.

You might also want to check out the Club Locator to see if there is a KOF club near you, but keep in mind, not all clubs register, so there might be one near you that isn’t on the map.  Ask around!

Can’t find one?  Start your own!

How to Start Your Own Keepers of the Faith Club

At Home, On Your Own -
Buy the handbook for each of your girls, and work through them on your own.  This would be a great addition to your homeschool!

Find Others to Join You -
Look to your local homeschool group or your church to find other moms and girls interested in joining you in a more club-like atmosphere.  Purchase the Complete Starter Kit, set a meeting with the moms, and start planning!

Remember, this is YOUR club!  You can make it as structured or unstructured as you like.  Our group has done very well with a more low-key approach, but your group may need something different.  You may get large enough to split off into age groups, or you may want to meet more than once a month, or you may want to have a more structured meeting that is planned out more than 6 months in advance.  Any or all of these are totally appropriate!

Have more questions?  Feel free to ask me (I’ll try to answer to the best of my ability), check the FAQ at Keepers of the Faith, or contact Keepers directly for more help and information.

It’s Time to Settle the Homeschool Socialization Question

It's time to Settle the Homeschool Socialization Question - Why this question needs to stop being asked! | RaisingArrows.netShe looked me in the eye and said, “But what about Prom?

That was her best shot at trying to make me question our choice to homeschool our children.  It took me a little bit to even comprehend her thought process.

Prom?  Really?

But, the heart of her question was not really Prom in and of itself.  It was that big, bad “S” word every homeschool parent will hear at some point in their homeschooling career:

SOCIALIZATION

However, it isn’t just outsiders who can’t understand how a child who is schooled at home could ever be socially adept.  Even homeschool parents themselves, especially those deeply entrenched in a public school mentality, will find themselves petrified of raising a child who isn’t socialized according to the cultural paradigm.  They will run themselves ragged taking their children to sports practices and games, classes they don’t need, and group field trips where no one learns anything – all in the name of socialization.  (Some parents take their children to these events without the “S” word being their motivation.  They are NOT the ones I’m speaking of here – just to be clear.  More on that in a moment…)

Parenting out of Fear or Guilt?

Many parents these days are parenting out of fear and/or guilt.  They fear doing something wrong, they fear not doing everything, they fear not being “good enough”, they fear raising children who aren’t “good enough.”  And homeschool parents are the worst!  We have taken Deuteronomy 6 seriously, but rather than believing the Lord will bless our efforts to disciple our children, we run around fearful of missing opportunities and warping our children forever.

And then there’s the guilt.  Every missed opportunity, every crazy day, every whiny child, every off-schedule moment makes us feel so guilty, we are almost paralyzed.  Despite the fact we know there is no such thing as a “perfect mom“, we still cling to our guilt, hoping it will somehow make us better parents/teachers.

If your desire to socialize your child is based on fear or guilt, it’s time to rethink things.

So, back to the Prom question…

When Others Question Your Child’s Socialization…

More often than not, the reason a non-homeschooler brings up the socialization question is because:

1.  They misunderstand the nature of homeschooling.

2.  They think your child might be missing out on all the fun they had.

There are other reasons, of course, but most of the people I hear this question from are reliving memories and wonder how a child could ever be happy without those memories.

What they don’t know is that my children are making fun, happy memories all their own!

Think of it this way…
A child in another country is not going to have the same happy childhood memories a child in the U.S. has, yet, many children across the world each and every day are making wonderful childhood memories to cherish the rest of their lives.  They are having their own brand of fun.  Their memories do not have to look like yours to be good ones.

And just because my children don’t go to a government school does not mean they are never around people.  I’m not even sure how I would manage to keep my children away from people.  In fact, I would almost venture to guess my children are around a more varied group of people than most public-schooled children.  They have met and interacted with all ages of people from all walks of life.

As for those people who are genuinely concerned your child is being warped from a lack of socialization, it might be a good time to educate them on the true nature of homeschooling.  It is completely possible they simply do not understand that homeschooling does not mean your child never leaves the house.

Should You Find Socialization Opportunities for Your Homeschooled Child?

Again, if you are wanting to socialize your child because you are fearful or feeling guilty, stop right now and do something else for a while.  You will not make a good decision about what kinds of opportunities are good for your child and your family if you are working from those emotions.

Ok, good…let’s move on…

I am not against purposely being social.  Children need to learn manners and how to behave in particular situations.  They also need their parents to guide them through how socialization works.  The epidemic of rude, ill-behaved children in public has a lot to do with parents who aren’t guiding their children through proper socialization.  So, by all means, please socialize your children to the point where they know how to behave in public situations!

When assessing extracurricular activities for socialization merits, consider using our family’s list of guidelines for participating in outside activities.  This will help to keep you from running around like a homeschool mom with her head cut off.  Socialization is not about doing everything and being everywhere, but about choosing those things that truly have lasting merit and will guide your child into adulthood.

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!