Saturday, January 15, 2011

Daily habit 7: Do most important chores before starting anything else each day

Nearly twenty-five years ago we started the habit of doing the most important chores first thing each day. We might read together; then some will go do devotions while others exercise, but before we "hit the books" for the day, we do the most important daily chores for that day. For us, this means getting something started (or figured out) for the evening meal, doing a load of laundry (and starting another one), unloading and reloading the dishwasher, gathering all of the trash throughout the house and taking it out (and replacing trash bags), being sure the kitchen sink is empty and wiped out, making the beds (okay, well Mom and Dad’s bed anyway—since it is downstairs and doubles as the “den,” putting away anything that is out from the night before, and wiping down the bathrooms/scrubbing toilets.

About twenty years ago, we lived in a home with a full basement, and our schoolroom was downstairs. One morning we went down to do Bible and character reading together, and then I gave everyone assignments to go upstairs and do chores. One of the kids mentioned that it would sure be a lot easier if just did our schoolwork (sessions with Mom) right after Bible then went upstairs and did chores. I almost agreed, but told the kids, "No, we want to come down to do school meetings with a clean upstairs and all of the daily work done." Well, when we came upstairs to do our jobs, we smelled something burning--and our attic was on fire. We had just moved into that house, a rental, so we didn't have smoke detectors up yet, so if we had stayed downstairs, we might not have discovered the fire until it was too late (especially as long as it took me to get through several elementary children’s school meetings every morning!). We called the fire department and got out of the house before any damage was done to anything except the attic. And I was quick to tell the kids that it pays to do chores first thing in the morning!

One thing about important (i.e. no clothes to wear or dishes to eat on if they are skipped!) “daily” chores that has helped me immensely in raising a large family with several children in homeschool at one time is to think of dishes and laundry the same as brushing my teeth. I never brush my teeth fewer than two times a day...and we never do dishes or laundry fewer than two times a day. Saving dishes for later and accumulating large amounts of laundry always depressed me. I cannot function in school, writing, and other household tasks with undone dishes and undone laundry (that I or someone else will have to face when all of our other work for the day is finished).

If daily chores are keeping you from doing the most important things each day, start with this one: a daily chore time for twenty minutes or so each morning in which each person has a list of tasks in order to conquer those "dailies" that keep getting in your way. If you have two, three, (or in our case, six!) people doing daily chores every morning, those ongoing, never-quite-finished tasks will not seem so big. (Note: If both parents work outside the home and the children go to school, I recommend a "cleaning up dinner chore time" in which everybody pitches in for ten to twenty minutes and does different tasks around the house--some clean the meal; some do laundry; etc.)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Daily habit 6: Read aloud to your kids (and husband!)

We have read aloud to our kids for years and years. When our older childen were little, they would get read to by me or Ray (through Bible, unit studies, devotions, and story time) three to five hours every day. Now neither of us has time to read aloud that much with the kids (and I admit I use talking books to substitute for me quite often!), but we still enjoy reading to and with the kids every day.

You have heard it all before--if you want to raise readers, you have to read to them. Children who are read to daily are x times more likely to become readers themselves, etc. etc. Guilt trip aside, we have found that reading has built a strong educational foundation--and tied heart strings at the same time. We have so many memories of "Jack, Max, and Axle at the Acme Painting Company" and "Morris learning to count," as well as inspiring devotional materials and awesome creation science books. And, yes, we have raised several readers. Even the ones who do not read lengthy pieces of literature love to read the Bible and inspirational materials. And we all still love gathering with a stack of Christmas books in December for long evenings of reading aloud.

Again, think baby steps. Just read from a Christian adventure chapter book every night towards the end of dinner. Or read two stories to the littles before naptime. Or stick a book of short stories in the van and read aloud while Dad drives. You don't have to read three to five hours a day. And you don't have to read certain books. Just enjoy reading and learning together.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Daily habit 5: Get completely ready for each day

Years ago, when my older children were younger, I seldom "fancied up" unless I was going somewhere. I often put on sweats, took my walk, then showered and put another pair of sweats on. I figured that if nobody was going to see me except the kids and Ray, I may as well use that time for something else. I hated spending time getting “fixed up” when I could be getting something done off my list (efficiency expert gone wild here!).

Then I met Geney and Lilli, yes, that's you, you two. They always looked great no matter whether I dropped in unexpectedly or saw them at the skating rink. And I decided that my family deserved more than ponytails and sweatpants.

Flylady (a self-help, organizing, cleaning guru online who helps thousands of women get control of their daily lives) sends out a daily email reminder early each morning that reads, "Dress down to your shoes." Her premise is that if you get completely ready for the day (as though you are going somewhere), you will feel more professional and serious about what you do each day. Also, if you do it first thing (or at least right after reading or exercising), you will be more energized to attack the tasks at hand.

Now that Ray and I dance for exercise after work some days, I don't just have to get ready down to my shoes; I actually have to get "dressed up" (well, somewhat dressed up). The studio where we dance has an unwritten "no jeans and no sweats" policy. But you know what? I like it. I have come to enjoy not being dowdy all the time! I don't panic if someone pulls in the driveway. If I have to run a quick, unexpected errand, I don't have to make excuses for my appearance to everyone I see.

Whether you get "fancy" each day or simply get completely ready for your day and presentable, if you are a work-at-home mom, I think you will enjoy it too. I feel so much better coming out to teach the kids and manage the home with myself pulled together. Besides my family deserves to have a happy, glowing mommy--and wife! Smile….

Note: To start at the beginning of the “Eleven Daily Habits for ’11,” click on the link that follows:

***Parts of this article were written in 2008 under the title “Eight Daily Habits for ’08” and published in Training for Triumph’s homeschooling newsletter (as opposed to the “Eleven Daily Habits of ‘11” in this blog).

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Daily habit 4: Tie heart strings

“Our daily input into our three young adult daughters' lives is like a continual healing balm to them.”

We can get so caught up in work, teaching, outside demands, and physical needs (feeding and clothing) that we overlook one of the most important things that we should do each day--tie heart strings with our children. Most parents have their children's attention for eighteen years. Those are years that we can invest in them spiritually and build relationships with them.

It is so easy to get to the end of the day and discover that we have not squeezed our special squeeze, winked our special wink, or hugged our special hug. This is especially true as our children get older and no longer cuddle in our chair with us or have "rockies."

In addition to the physical closeness that our children need, they also need our verbal affirmation and communication. My and Ray's daily input into our three young adult daughters' lives (ages seventeen, twenty, and twenty-one at the time of this original article) is like a continual healing balm to them. Two of them are heavily involved in demanding ministries--to the disabled and to the Spanish community (no English spoken!). One of them is searching for her place and working hard to prepare for her future. They need to connect with us. They need for us to tell them that we are proud of them and that we support their endeavors. They need for us to hurt with them when they are hurting. They need for us to say, "So, tell me about your day," and "Give me details!"

Tying daily heart strings is more difficult than simply reading a morning devotional or being sure the laundry is done each day. It isn't usually in the schedule. It is needed at the most inopportune times. The more you give, the more they seem to need. But it is essential. Our children need to have their heart strings tied to ours so that when the storms of life roll, they will have a safe haven of love and understanding---"Jesus" with arms and words of encouragement on this earth.

If you find that each day ends with no heart strings tied, try this little tip: In the corner of each day on your planner, put a little square. At the end of each day, write the initials of the child that you connected with that day in that little square. Purpose not to end a day without being able to write one sweet child's initials in a daily square. Each week you can look back over your planner and see who missed out that week. (You know, the squeakiest wheel gets the grease!) Then next week, you will know who needs focused on more.

Or try this tip that I did for years and years when our older children were younger: have a "day" for each child. We milked this day for all it was worth. It was the child's day to help me with dinner (or fix it herself as she got older); it was the child's day to do extra chores; it was the child's day to help teach some of the preschooler’s school. But it was also his day to pick two books for story time, sit in the front seat of the van if we went somewhere, and sit closest to Mom during read alouds. Heart-wise (and often unbeknownst to the child), it was his day to get a longer blessing during blessing time, to have a longer time with Dad at bedtime, and to get extra attention from Mom throughout the day. This is especially helpful for families with several children. Each child needs a day! :)

If you only do two things off my “eleven habits,” do Bible/character with your kids and tie heart strings every day. You can always get more organized, exercise, and work on projects later—your kids will be grown someday and these two things are not going to be on your “to do” list for forever.

Note: To start at the beginning of the “Eleven Daily Habits for ’11,” click on the link that follows:

***Parts of this article were written in 2008 under the title “Eight Daily Habits for ’08” and published in Training for Triumph’s homeschooling newsletter (as opposed to the “Eleven Daily Habits of ‘11” in this blog).

Monday, January 10, 2011

Daily habit 3: Teach your kids God's Word and the character of Christ before anything else

When we start the day out with our children and God's Word, we are telling them that the Bible is the most important book to study and its truths are the most important knowledge to obtain. We decided nearly two dozen years ago that we would not teach academic subjects without teaching the Bible--and that it would be first. If we had time for the other subjects, great. If not, at least we had done the most important subject.

We have taught the Bible and character dozens of ways. There is no one "right way." Ray's favorite way is to open the Bible, read it together, and discuss it. I personally like using "programs"--reading from creation science books, character based books (like IBLP's Character Sketches), Bible story books for younger children (like our favorite, Family Bible Library), character booklets and other devotional type booklets, etc. Ray has read through The Picture Bible with each child when each little one was between the ages of four and six. I read through the entire Family Bible Library with each child around that same time. We also enjoy reading devotional materials together: discipleship books, names of God books, Bible handbooks, and other "daily devotionals." (One of my many fond memories of teaching “Bible” and “character” to the children is twenty years ago when the three oldest kids would eat breakfast at their “little table” every morning, and I would sit at the end of the table and read to them from our devotional as they ate. Oh, sweet, sweet days!)

If this habit has eluded you in the past, just pick up a devotional or other "daily" type book (even if it is just a few paragraphs in length for each entry), and read it at breakfast every morning. That will get the ball rolling. From that will likely spring discussions and applications galore as you build those truths and principles into your children's lives.

Note: To start at the beginning of the “Eleven Daily Habits for ’11,” click on the link that follows:

***Parts of this article were written in 2008 under the title “Eight Daily Habits for ’08” and published in Training for Triumph’s homeschooling newsletter (as opposed to the “Eleven Daily Habits of ‘11” in this blog).