Sunday, January 21, 2018

Weekly Review 1.21.2018

I started this year writing these weekly reviews in a journal notebook in Evernote, and decided it would go just as well in my neglected blog, which I can then save to Evernote (I think).  I have been haunting Mystie Winkler's blog and signing myself up for her 6 week courses.  I completed Sweep & Smile over Christmas and am right in the middle of Humble Habits. 

My verse for the first Humble Habit (Prayer): Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. - Proverbs 3:5-6

My second Humble Habit (Movement): Squat 3 times when I wash my hands.

Really, the way things were going around here, I needed to figure out how to change things up.  So pretty much all of my planning routines have changed.  Our homeschool day has changed.  My homemaking routines have changed.  I think it's all for the better.  We've had ups and downs.  Actually, we are currently running at two good homeschool days and two bad homeschool days per week.  Considering before Thanksgiving we had one good day for every eight, it's a big improvement.

So where to start?  Since it all started with Sweep & Smile, I suppose we'll start there.  Each week, Mystie took us through one area of the house and we figured out the routine for that area.  Actually, first we set up our bare minimum Morning and Evening Routines and then went from there.  This has probably been the single most helpful thing I got from the program, although the rest was helpful too.  These routines are cleaning routines, not personal hygiene type things.  So my Morning Routine is: Master Bathroom Loop (5 minutes), Make Bed, Main Bathroom Loop (5 minutes).  And my Evening Routine is: Finishing Touches on Kitchen, Sweep Kitchen and Dining Room, Quick Wet Mop Kitchen and Dining Room.  Honestly, I haven't been good about my Evening Routine, but I'll talk about that later in What Worked and What Didn't.

Our homeschool has really struggled this year.  I've struggled finding the balance between being a mommy to little ones, being a mom to big ones, teaching three this year, plus the addition of our puppy who needs lots of attention and all the other day-to-day things we need to do.  Fritter is 11 now and in 5th grade, and his needs look much different than they did even a year ago.  Keeping up with the way our family is growing up has been hard.  We are making the transition from all little kids to big kids and little kids.  All that is to say, our original plan for this year just wasn't working.  There was too much "Do this, do this, do that" and bad attitudes,  and not enough connecting with each other and exhibiting virtue.  Our homeschool is transitioning from school at home to a genuine lifestyle.  This is all good, and we needed a new plan to accommodate it.

We have always done Morning Time, but the way I was doing it was taking way too much time out of our homeschool day and so I would be stressed and there wasn't really enough time for actual discussion and reflection.  So I have simplified our Morning Time and put it on a loop schedule.  I have also added in an afternoon Tea Time which is also on a loop schedule.  These two changes have actually meant that we are getting to the material I want to get to, but with very little stress.

Our time budget from last Monday.

From Instagram (click over there to get the whole explanation).  Our Morning Time and Tea Time plan for the past three weeks.

After reading almost everything Mystie has on her blog about Interval Scheduling, I have also changed our school calendar.  We are now going for five weeks and then taking one week off.  For comparisons sake, we put in 16 weeks this first semester of school with not one week of break.  No wonder we were burned out!  Each interval has a focus and a plan, I can work the plan, and then we can take a week off so I can evaluate how it went and if any tweeks need to be made.  I also made all of our book baskets have five weeks of reading material in them that are geared towards the liturgical year and whatever we are learning about in school plus picture books I want to make sure get read out loud.  Now I actually have a week where I can refill the baskets!

The kids' school checklist are kept here and (ideally) put back when they are done.

Sunflower's (Grade 1) Checklist from last week.

Ladybug's (Grade 3) Checklist from last week.

Fritter (Grade 5) Checklist from last week.

Exercise is another area I have really struggled to get into our day.  I love early mornings for quiet cups of coffee and prayer and reading, but certainly not for exercise.  But if not then, then when?  Even getting in a walk almost daily was not happening because I felt that so many other things needed to be done.  Yet another reason we crashed and burned.  So that has it's place in the schedule now and I have restarted myself back on MuTu (currently on week 5).

Menu Planning has been made easier as well.  I downloaded Mystie's Simplified Dinners (actually I've since downloaded the entire Simplified Pantry Collection and had them bound) and we are pretty much on a two week rotating menu plan.  I've tried this before and it didn't work, because I always get adventurous and think I have more energy when it's time to cook dinner than I actually have.  Now things are simple, but flexible enough that on the day of, if I feel like really being creative in the kitchen (I won't) than I can.  I've also planned all three meals plus our Tea Time snack, so I don't have to make a decision on the fly (unless I want to, but I won't).

This week's menu.

Each of these things have been put on a checklist similar to the one Mystie uses, but I have tweeked it for my own purposes.  As I do one of the routines or tasks, I cross off the circle.  So there is no pressure if I don't get to something on a particularly hard day.  The goal is consistency and getting to things a majority of the time.  Not always.

This past week's checklist.  Obviously not a terribly consistent week, but we made progress.

Getting ready to plan this week.

Moving on to talking about the past week.  What Worked and What Didn't:

Like I said before, currently we are having about two good days for every four days of school.  I haven't entirely identified what is the problem with the two bad days (usually Wednesday and Thursday) other than perhaps we are tired by the end of the week.  Mondays and Tuesdays have been pretty productive days and heavier teaching days for me, and they have really gone well.  Perhaps I am expecting everyone to work independently and peacefully and allow me to do my own thing towards the end of the week?  I don't think that's the case, but I'm going to be more watchful of it this coming week.

Dan and I talked a bit about how to bring more peace in the home, and he (gently) said that if we all worked on picking up after ourselves, perhaps that would be a small thing that would help.  I agree, the problem is, I am probably the worst offender.  So starting with me, I moved my giant stack of books (if you follow me on Instagram you will have seen this) to a basket under the table.  And then I dusted the table. It's a start!

Yes, I do need all of these books out and handy.  I read them all!

I also ditched our read aloud.  I've never actually done that before and usually just suffer through a book I'm not enjoying reading out loud.  But I couldn't do it this time.  We were reading Captain's Courageous together, which is a very good book, but I wouldn't suggest it as a read aloud.  The dialog is written with an accent (more than just ya'll and 'em) and I was really stumbling through it.  So I told the kids (Fritter was really the only one interested in it) that if they wanted to know what happens next they will have to read it themselves and I put it back on the shelf.  Tomorrow we will start The Book of Dragons, and I am really looking forward to it.

 Friday I almost forgot about our piano tuner coming and ran a dozen errands only to get home at just after 2 pm to find him standing in our driveway trying to call me.  Thankfully the appointment was for 2 and the piano was tuned, but my planned afternoon had to change.  I organized the pantry instead of spending that time reading quietly and it was just fine.  However, I really need to be checking my planner more regularly.

One task I gave to myself was to get some vision of our family life in general and our homeschool in particular.  Again, I read a very important post from Mystie and then decided to do Brandy Vencel's Start Here with Charlotte Mason study, which includes reading For the Children's Sake.  I just finished Charlotte's first principal "Children are Born Persons".  I was invited to do the study with a group of Charolotte Mason homeschoolers, but on top of everything else, I just couldn't justify being out of the house an extra evening.  So I'm doing it alone, but that's just fine.

I am about half-way through Strangers and Sojourners for our Well Read Mom Book Club, and I am really loving it.  I actually dreaded reading this book, but now I don't know why.  I'm finding it enchanting.  For my morning meditation reading, I am still inching my way through On Pilgrimage by Dorothy Day.  Lots to chew on there.

In other reading news, we are listening to the first Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place on Audible.  I'm loving this one too.  The narrator does a fabulous job and even though Fritter has already read the book himself, he seems to be enjoying listening to it as much as everyone else.  Fritter is reading Sherlock Holmes, Ladybug is reading Kate Dicamillo's Flora and Ulysses, and Sunflower is reading Hello Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle.

So there you have it.  My first blog installment of The Weekly Review. Next week probably will not be so incredibly long, because I won't have to explain my process again.  :)