Friday, May 14, 2010

Keeping House and Raising/Homeschooling My Kids Can Be Done in Tandem

I have had an amazing, life-altering, paradigm-shifting week.  Over the last month I’ve been particularly stressed out and overwhelmed by my efforts to balance cooking, cleaning, and teaching my children.  I’ve questioned whether it was possible to do it all as my standards for cleanliness have continued to slip and even considered the possibility that I’d just have to live in a dirty home for a few years.  Well, Hallelujah, I was wrong.  It is possible.  It can be done.  During this month I’ve also listened, and re-listened (like 4 times) to a couple lectures from the TJED 2010 Forum and then read more from the speakers’ websites.  What they were teaching finally came together in my mind and I really “got it.”  I must emphasize it took me several times through their lectures and writings before it started to make sense to me.

Beginning on Tuesday I began applying what I’d learned and I just can’t believe the amazing results!  My house is cleaner than it’s been in years; my family is happy, peaceful, and content; my relationships with my kids have improved and Isabel especially made progress this week in learning how to work without complaining, my kitchen is full of healthy, homemade food; and I feel like a great wife and mother. 

Here are the two lectures I’ve listened to so many times now:

A Journey Through Core Phase by Keri Tibbetts, and her website where you can register and then receive her free e-book

Teach Your Kids to Work Their Little Britches Off by Lara Gallagher and her blog

I have realized that I was struggling before because I had a false paradigm about the way things could or should be done in my home.  I’m reading Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits right now for bookclub and that has influenced my thinking too.  He teaches that before we can make any progress with managing our time or working more efficiently, we have to make sure we are working on the right things, that our paradigm is correct.  He likens operating under an incorrect paradigm to using a map of L.A. to try and navigate New York City (or something like that, I probably have the cities wrong).  Once you find and use the correct map or paradigm, everything opens up and you can be effective.  That is exactly what my experience this week was like.  I found the right map!  Wahoo! 

I’m going to summarize my old paradigm or false beliefs vs. the new truths I’ve learned and accepted from Tibbetts and Gallagher.  I can say that for me, this is really working and I believe it’s true but reading my post is probably not going to help you much unless it inspires you to go and listen to what these ladies have to say and then find your own way to implement the principles (assuming you come to believe they are true too).  No ones situation looks just like mine so lots of what I’m doing won’t apply to other families – but I believe the principles are true and you can find a way to apply them to your unique situation.

Might also be helpful for me to remind you what my situation is:  My husband and I have been married for 12 years and have adopted our 3 children.  Isabel is 6, Chloe and Liam are 18 months old but act more like 14 or 15 month-olds (they were born 4 months early and are still catching up).  We are homeschooling our kids in the TJED or Leadership Education model.  We live in suburbia and my husband has a full-time job away from our home.  I had brain surgery last fall and still need a tremendous amount of sleep to be functional (9-10 hours each night).  Thank goodness all my kids sleep 12-13 hours/night and the twins nap 2-4 hours during the day!  A lot of the terminology I use comes from TJED.  Core Phase refers to children ages 0-8 + or – several years.  Love of Learning Phase refers to children ages 8-12 + or – several years.  These are developmentally based and every kid develops differently.

My False Beliefs
1.     To fill Isabel’s love tank I must spend a significant amount of time reading or playing with her.
2.     It’s not right or possible to ask Isabel to do more than personal chores and a few, small family chores each day.  Someday when all my kids are older I will finally be able to teach her how to do all the cooking and cleaning I want her to know how to do and “get my promotion.”   (This is a reference to Cherie Logan’s statement that a Mom with older children who is still doing all the cooking and cleaning missed her promotion.)
3.     Isabel should be able to go do a simple chore by herself, without my supervision.
4.     Because it took her so long to do it, it wasn’t reasonable to ask Isabel to make her bed, clean her room, and get dressed before breakfast.
5.     Core Phase children should be read to for hours and hours, several days a week in order to inspire them to progress to Love of Learning Phase.
6.     At this point in my life, while I am homeschooling young children, it’s not possible to have a clean house.
7.     At this point in my life, while I am homeschooling young children, the only time I can really read to myself is early in the morning before the kids wake up or after they go to bed.

My New Truths
1.     Spending time working together and talking for several hours each morning totally fills Isabel’s love tank!  And after working so hard she is ready to go play independently for the rest of the afternoon.
2.     Core Phasers 4 ½ yrs old and above need to spend the whole morning working alongside Mom.  It develops the character and work habit they will need to later do the hard work of learning to read, write, and calculate.  And Isabel has never been happier than during this week of 3-4 hours of cleaning and cooking with me each day.  I see my “promotion” on the horizon.  When the twins are about 5 I will have 2-3 years (before Isabel moves to Scholar Phase) of supervising the family work while my 3 kids actually do most of it.  I finally feel like I’m really teaching Isabel how to work and she is feeling so proud and confident.  She’s happily envisioning the day when she can do everything on her own without my supervision.  She’s been saying things like, “Someday I’m going to be a good Mommy because I’ll know how to do all the chores!”
3.     Until a child has had a lot of experience working alongside Mom and learning how to do things with her, they won’t be ready/able to consistently do chores on their own, unsupervised.  My expectation that Isabel go clean her room and make her bed by herself wasn’t consistent with what she’s ready for and that’s why it would take her so long.  When I figured out a way for us to be together while we both cleaned our rooms and made our beds, she felt so much happier and motivated.  Our bedroom doors are directly across the hall from each other.  We put a gate up in the hall so the twins can’t get to our doors, open the doors and then talk while we work on our rooms.  Isabel likes to race me while we make our beds.  For almost all of the other work we do, we’re in the same room, working alongside each other at different tasks.
4.     Now that I’ve figured out how to motivate Isabel to get her personal chores done quickly, we can be at the breakfast table with personal chores done by 8 or 8:30 each morning.  That is early for our family.  I’ve made an effort to be at the table with her this week and we’ve started having our devotional at the table each morning.  It feels better this way. 
5.     Core Phase children should spend the morning working alongside Mom, with time for a daily devotional fit in, and the afternoon playing.  Work and play, in large quantities, is what will prepare them best for Love of Learning phase.  Being read to is important but daily devotional (focusing on our core book), 30 minutes of story time during the day and 20-60 minutes of evening family reading are sufficient to inspire a desire to learn to read and love books, if the available books are classics (worth reading and studying multiple times).  Seeing Mom and Dad read and study will also inspire this desire.
6.     It was such a thrill this week to discover how wrong I was!  With the way I structured our time this week, Isabel and I spent 3-4 hours each morning cooking and cleaning together.  I used to aim for keeping the kitchen sanitary, most of the time, and cleaning the bathroom before anyone came to stay from out of town, and I did a lot of cooking/baking but usually felt like I couldn’t keep up with my family’s appetite.    This week we have kept the kitchen clean all day, every day; cleaned the bathroom and maintained it; mopped the kitchen floor; vacuumed the whole house; emptied all the trashes; dusted; washed windows; and prepared tons of healthy food.  My fridge and cupboards are full of good stuff and we’ve had great dinners every night.  I didn’t think it was possible.  I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish next week.  I feel so much happier and my husband has really noticed.  He feels much more relaxed and peaceful when he gets home from work.  I’ve never seen Isabel so consistently happy and we’ve had no real discipline issues.  The twins seem just as happy as before – I don’t think they’ve really noticed. 
7.     Now that I’m getting so much work done with Isabel during the morning I can work on other things like bills, email, phone calls, reading and writing during the afternoons.  I don’t feel guilty or like I’m neglecting anything or anyone.  I hope the twins hang on to that afternoon nap for a good long while.  I know the transition period while the twins are not napping but also not playing independently will be tough but I’m not going to worry about that right now.  I am so loving today!

In case you want the detail, here is what our new day looks like:

·      Wakeup – if early enough, Mommy exercises and showers
·      Make Bed and Clean Rooms, get kids dressed
·      Make Breakfast with Isabel, have devotional around the table (song, prayer, pledge, scripture memorization, read from the Bible)
·      Isabel and I clean the kitchen together
·      Isabel and I spiff up the bathroom together (my mom’s term – it means wipe down the mirror, counter, sink, and toilet)
·      Twins go down for a morning nap if tired, if not they play while all this is going on.
·      Isabel and I do the days work for 2-3 hours.  I have a stack of cards with chores on them and I chunk them up into 5 groups, one group for each day, that becomes the days work.  These are all weekly or monthly chores.  If we are only going to be home for 3 or 4 days that week I’ll divide the cards into 3 or 4 groups and we’ll work longer on those fewer days.  I anticipate adding lots of chores to this stack – I know we can actually do it now!
·      Isabel and I make lunch.  We all eat lunch.  Isabel and I clean up lunch.
·      The twins go down for a nap.
·      I read to Isabel for about 30 minutes
·      Isabel goes to play outside or in her room for the afternoon while I work on the computer, make phone calls, or study.
·      I call Isabel in to clean up what she’s been playing with.
·      Isabel and I make dinner, set the table and help the twins clean up their toys.
·      Daddy comes home, we eat dinner.
·      Isabel and I clean up the kitchen while Daddy gets twins ready for bed.
·      We read as a family for 20-60 minutes.  The twins may go to bed during this time if they are tired.
·      All kids go to bed.
·      Mommy and Daddy read and talk and get to bed by 10pm.

To me, this is a beautiful way to live!


Sea Star said...

I too have been making changes in our home based on both of those same lectures. I have been reading Lara Gallagher's blog for a long time and have enjoyed reading about the changes she has been making in her home.

It is amazing how much my kids enjoy working. They actually finish a chore and then ask to do more. I hope it isn't just novelty. They still have trouble picking up their toys when I ask them to but they love doing the laundry, empty the dishwasher, make bread, and even clean toilets. I can't say our house is spotless. With two small boys I think we need to clean our bathroom three times a day. I just like not feeling like the maid anymore. They used to run off and play after dinner. Now they are clearing and loading and washing the dishes and even sweeping the floor. I love it.

We have still done some school type stuff but it hasn't been my idea. My kids have asked to do it. Sophie even got out her Math book today and read the lesson and did the workbook on her own.

We still have a long way to go. I still feel like we have way too many toys in our house but my kids would flip out if we dumped everything all at once. Little by little they are going away.

At first I thought Keri and Lara were a little extreme but as I have read and listened to them and then implemented just a few of the things they mention I can see the difference.

It is hard to keep three kids of varying ages busy with work especially if I need to supervise them all the time. So I am still working on that. Taking turns with them. My trouble is that they all want to work and it is hard to tell them no so I can work with one of them.

Hurray for earning my promotion!

Jennifer said...

So Ironic Sarah. I just read your very similar post on your blog and made a similar comment. When the twins are ready to enter the cleaning mix that will be challenging but at least Isabel will be trained and can help me train them.

My house isn't spotless either but it's soooo much better than it was. I thought Keri and Lara were extreme too - I still think they are. But, I think they are right about a lot of things and maybe right about all of it. Like you, I will keep applying things they teach bit by bit and see what I think...

franklyentertaining said...

It was great to see you guys today! This post was inspiring - I'll have to look into it more. Thanks for writing it all down!


Pugsley said...

You inspire me, Jen. Thanks, too, for realizing we all have unique situations: there is only so much I can do to teach Hazel housework when we are both busy playing cop (protecting Rose from Jane). I have made a loose schedule for summer and a list of goals and rules. I involved Hazel much more this morning in clean-up, laundry, and food-prep and she responded pretty well. She is also responsible for her own little plot of earth outside--hopefully this will go well. I love and miss you.

Jennifer said...

Thanks Al. I love hearing what you are doing. I love the "plot of earth" idea too. Good Luck!

Lance said...

I'm glad you had such an awesome week! I've actually always admired those who could "ignore" the mess and get on with the "more important" things! But I do agree that there is a definate peace in the home when all things are in order. I love the chores before breakfast thing. Having done it for the last year has really worked well for us as also. And I have also found that those mornings where I am up early enough to be getting ready WITH the girls and doing my chores alongside them there is definately a greater spirit of inspiration. I'm inspired to find more ways to involve both of them in the chores I view as "Mine". I'm right in that phase with an "in-betweener" who is just starting to be on the verge of handling those chores. It will be fun to see what you do come up with when the twins get to that point! ;)
Just the other night (I think I told you that with just recently moving things with our schedule have been somewhat chaotic)but we finally had one of our first "Normal" nights where we had dinner and were all involved in the clean-up process before our reading time. I got the girls going on their chore of gathering up the trash from all the bathrooms and kitchen (now with 3 bathrooms this added a whole new dimension to the process for them and they were SO excited)combining it into one bag, then putting liners back in all the trash cans and it just FILLED them with joy to be busily working at their own little task. I just still get a kick out of 3 year old Maddi getting that big garbage sack to fit perfectly in the trash can that's just about as big as her. :) I had actually contemplated running an errand that night as a family but after such a wonderful time getting things ready for bed I found myself thinking that there was probably nothing more we could have done to entertain those little girls then to just give them their own little responsibility and way to contribute to the family. :)

Wow that was long! But there's my two sense. :) Love you