(I started writing this post Monday, Jan. 4. I am completely unable to start writing without setting the scene, and I like rooting my thoughts in time and place. Even if the ending of a post is written weeks after the beginning.)
Yesterday (i.e., a couple of Sundays ago), while the snow whipped past my window and piled into 3 and 4 foot drifts like waves on a white sea, I sat down with a big stack of papers, catalogs, and books and attempted to provide some direction to my two oldest kids for the next quarter. It was a good day for planning. The wind chill never climbed above zero all day and the 4 inches of snow we were supposed to get turned into 6 or 8 or 10. (I mean, if the size of the drift on my front walk is any indication. It looks just like ice cream that's been frozen just a little too long, then cut with a scoop. Funny how I can go from waves to ice cream in less than a paragraph.) We had been supposed to spend the afternoon sledding with our Little Flowers and Blue Knights group, and then on to dinner at a friend's house, but I had canceled a few days before because all 4 of the little boys have rotten colds and anyway, once the weather turned bad, sledding was out of the question. So there was really nothing better to do but sort through that big stack and try to make some sense of it.
I work from quarter to quarter. While I might have a broad theme (usually historical) for our family studies for the whole year, or a math or Latin book, the details get planned out a few months at a time, and not in such great detail. Around the end of December/beginning of January, I also think about how the year has gone thus far and if any changes need to be made for the remaining time. (I think this is pretty common, so I'm not telling you anything original here. )
We often need a schedule shake-up in January, too. The holidays plus winter's viruses (etc.) in combination with a definite change to WINTER weather have usually wreaked havoc on our schedule, and it usually becomes apparent about this time of the year that a portion (or portions) of the schedule are broken and need to be fixed. Maybe we've been banging our heads against the wall over some piece of time management for months (usually mornings in our house) and things have finally come to a head. So January can be a bit of a mix-up for a while as we sort out old, new, broken, and fixed.
My New Best Friend
... is a yellow legal pad. Nothing fancy, 1 of a 3 pack picked up at the grocery store. I had been using a moleskine journal to scrawl notes, but while it's good for brainstorming and writing, its size was a bit limiting and of course, I couldn't tear the pages out. At this point I like my yellow legal pad better than a computer because it's a)more portable; b)it has no buttons for 2 year olds to push randomly in an attempt to demolish hours of Mommy's work; c)it requires no tutorials in order to use; and d)it can't crash, lock up, or perform any maddening adjustments to your formatting. So here I am, a bit of a Luddite.
Anyway, I have used my new yellow legal pad to troubleshoot our old schedule, to make various new schedules hoping to address our morning problems (i.e., big kids getting up later and later, therefore making it impossible to have our normal prayer/catechism/read aloud time), and to make a neat Montessori math chart for Farmerboy so I would have some idea of what to do next with him (which is what you see in the photo above. Page numbers correspond to the NAMC Primary Mathematics Album.)
The New Schedule
After too many mornings that didn't get started until 10:00, I made out a couple of new schedules and showed them to Gareth and Katydid. After discussing how the day would go using each one, they chose one they preferred. Fortunately, it was the one I liked best, too, but it is requiring us to make a few more changes in our morning than just getting up earlier. On the other hand, this new routine is much more like the routines we had when the kids were younger.
6:00-7:00: I get up and have breakfast with Andy.
7:00-8:00: I drag the big kids out of bed and at some point take a shower. The little boys usually get up some time in between 7 and 7:30 anyway, so this is normal for them. They can watch a little TV at this time. The big change is that the big kids do not have to get dressed when they get up, but they do have to be at the table for breakfast by 8 AM-ish. (The reason we used to have the "you have to be dressed when you come out" rule was because certain people were taking so long to get dressed that it crunched the before lunch work time.) And instead of everyone eating here and there, everybody eats at the table. We have morning prayer, go over the Baltimore Catechism, and then I read aloud (currently D'Aulaire's Norse Myths and finishing up Beorn the Proud). After the kids finish eating, they can get "something to do" while I read... this morning for the little boys it was paper punches and scissors.
Around 9:00 or 9:30 (depending on how long our reading session lasts; this morning we spent some time talking about Haiti before we read and then during our reading of Beorn, we had to get out an atlas to look at Jutland, so it was about an hour and a half), it's time for everyone to get dressed and do chores. We have an hour for this, as chickens need to be fed and watered in addition to everyone's assigned house chores, and it takes a while to help three little boys with clothes and teeth.
10ish/10:30 -- 12:00: This is a work period. (Beginning with a snack for a pregnant Mommy and four "starving" small boys.) We've always had a period of work (or choice time) before lunch, but it was getting squeezed shorter and shorter and/or pushing lunch later and later. Hopefully, the new "breakfast at 8 in your pajamas" will help.
A new element to this work period, however, is that Farmerboy (my 1st grader) is doing some of his required work -- math, phonics, handwriting -- at this time instead of waiting to do it all in the afternoon. That's the way I used to have it set up because the twins and Chipmunk made it impossible for me to work with Farmerboy individually or for Farmerboy to concentrate. So we waited until the three littlest were asleep before we tried to do any sort of required work. The problem with waiting until afternoon has always been that a)it's afternoon and b)Chipmunk still will not sleep for more than 20 minutes on his own. It is very hard to do any kind of math with manipulatives while lugging around or rocking a sleeping two year old.
Anyway, although I do use phonics workbooks and primers, we're still using straight Montessori math. He doesn't really have a choice of whether to do it or not, but I do like to introduce him to enough math works so that he has a choice of what math to do every day.
12:00-2:00: Lunch and a break. Outside, weather permitting.
2:00-4:00: Another work period, primarily for Gareth and Katydid. And yes, it does usually go to 4:00... but that's only because either chores eat into the morning work period, or the kids are outside and don't come in until 2:30 or 2:45... I'm not likely to interrupt sledding if they've been stuck inside all week. (I just count sledding as PE.)
This brings up another point. Our work periods are not primarily devoted to seat work. For instance, if Gareth decides he wants to use the elliptical during work period, or if Katydid tells me she wants to take a nature walk, that's perfectly fine with me. The point is to be gainfully employed, not sitting around playing Pokemon. Both kids do have some required daily work and/or weekly work (which I'll talk about in a minute), but I like to leave the order of the work up to them. If there's a conflict somewhere (say, I can't help two people with math at the same time), I let them know my limitations and we work something out.
Also during this time I read to the little boys and put the twins and Chipmunk down for nap/quiet time.
4:00-6:00: The kids can play Wii during this time. The problem we're having is they all want to play Wii individually instead of together, and so their allotted 30 minutes a piece (except for the twins, who do play together) racks up. The related problem is that even though most of them are waiting for their turn, they're watching everybody else's turn. Thirty minutes of game time a day I'm ok with; two hours is pushing it. So we're still working on this. Wii time was actually a point of contention in the creation of a schedule, because previously the afternoon work period lasted from 2:00-5:00... which, I will just tell you now, is nuts. But we were doing that because our days weren't starting, for one reason or another, until 10. Anyway, if they had to work until 5, then not everybody could have Wii time before dinner, which made it seem like Wii just went on all night. (On the other hand, Andy sometimes likes to play Lego Star Wars with the boys after dinner, which is a bit different.)
I usually get on the computer for a little while during this time, then wake Chipmunk up so I can fix dinner and do laundry.
Next up... new work for the new year.