Back to School

BACK

Wait, wait, wait…. isn’t it still July?!?

Yes, yes it is. You haven’t lost a month, so don’t panic.

TKEP Academy is trying out year round schooling for 2016, so that means our six week summer break has officially ended, and the second semester has begun. Before you start thinking how horrible it is that the kids are getting ripped off on their summer, let me lay it out for you. First of all, we don’t really do much over the summer. Our budget is limited as we’re trying to pay off our debt, so we aren’t travelling or exploring or doing anything that would cost extra money. In essence, summer is just like the rest of the year here. At least, for now. Plus, within the next week or two, most kids start hitting the “I’m bored” phase of summer. Many parents begin counting down the days until school starts back up. We’re just nipping that in the bud right now. But mostly, we do this because we need the structure. Ok, ok, I need the structure. The girls had plenty of lazy summer days, spent time outside, read lots of books….. Now it’s time to settle back into a routine and get the house in order, for all of our sanity. Besides, this schedule will seem fabulous when we can take six weeks off between Thanksgiving and New Years!

So, yes, the girls have been easing back into school this week. And you know what? It’s been hard. Really hard. I’m not going to lie – they are quite unmotivated at the moment. I’d even say they are downright lazy about it right now. Unfortunately, they are just doing bare minimums to get the work done, which isn’t what I want our homeschool life to be. I want them to really enjoy learning, not just do what’s needed to get by. The dragging of the feet for every little thing is going to get old really fast.

Of course, then I wonder…. What should I be doing differently? What do we need to change? How can I fix this?

Right now, the answer is “nothing”. We’re midway through our first boxed curriculum for Peanut. This curriculum seems to work well for her, for the most part. The only “problem” is she’s moving into more advanced concepts. It’s not easy anymore, and so she isn’t wanting to do it. (That trait may be from me….. bugger) As for Pumpkin, she would be starting kindergarten this fall. We are doing math worksheets and handwriting practice, plus lots of out loud reading and playtime. We’re going through Hooked on Phonics with her, and she’s nearly half-way through the first grade lessons. We will get her started in first grade level work at the beginning of our next school year in January. Until then, I want her playing more than “schooling”.

We just need to find our groove again. Long breaks almost always lead to rocky restarts, and we are working out our kinks and finding our balance. As long as I can keep my head, and my patience, in check, I have no doubts that this semester will be just fine. Eventually.

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Who knew?! Routines are actually helpful!

So far,  this new year has been treating me well. I have no idea what is different other then the process by which I’m working on things. And perhaps my attitude. Not sure, but things seem better this month. Is everything “just right”? Nope. Is everything sparkly and perfect? Ha! Not ever. But I feel like I have a grip on life, for the first time in a long time. In fact, I think I’ve only had 3 Crazy Days this whole month!

(Crazy Days are those days where I’m not myself. Or, I’m the myself that I don’t really like. You know, the cranky, depressed, unmotivated, anxious, everything-and-everyone-is-driving-me-nuts self. I’m sure a lot of us have similar days. I just dubbed them Crazy Days.)

So, what am I doing differently? I’m making a schedule. Well, more of a routine really. Schedules mean specific times and such to me and that is definitely not happening. But I have the beginnings of some good routines in place, at least for the housework. Nothing too crazy, but a simple guide so I know what needs to happen and when, instead of trying to cram it all in one day. Or, on the flip side, not doing any of it. Ever.

I wrote out this weekly routine on a little dry erase board near our Command Center. (Don’t be too impressed. It’s been our Command Center for at least a year and has yet to be truly functional. But it looks good!) This board shows everyone what area will be worked on each day so they can help. For example, on Fridays we do floors and clean up the family room. Peanut vacuums and Pumpkin dry mops the hardwood floors. (And then I do them again, because she’s only 4.)

Our Command Center. The Menu comes in handy when I plan ahead. The blank frame is for random to do's. The weekly housekeeping schedule is on the weekly calendar board, and the message board on the shelf is for groceries needed. Everything is dry erase to make life easy!
Our Command Center. The Menu comes in handy when I plan ahead. The blank frame is for random to do’s. The weekly housekeeping schedule is on the weekly calendar board, and the message board on the shelf is for groceries needed. Everything is dry erase to make life easy!

This routine is allowing me to get the bare minimums done each week, and then I can integrate “deep cleaning” once a month. The first week of the month, we will deep clean the bathrooms on Tuesday. The second week we will deep clean the kitchen on Thursday, and so on.

Have I actually done deep cleaning yet? Nope – other than 1 bathroom. But this gives me mini goals and allows room for changes without tossing it all out the window. As an added bonus, this is keeping me focused. When I did our bedroom on Saturday last week, I just did what needed to get done to make the room look cleaner. The bare minimums. In the past, I would feel motivated to start cleaning out every drawer and closet while “cleaning” the bedroom – but then get completely sidetracked, lose steam, and end up with a huge mess that can never get finished in one afternoon. So, as much as it pained me to not have it all the way done and perfect, I just did the bare minimums – put clothes away, found flat surfaces to dust, and defeated the dust bunnies under the bed. On a “deep cleaning” day, I will work on cleaning out a drawer, or a closet, or a dresser. Now that I know a “deep cleaning” day will come around once a month, I can stop stressing about when I’ll ever find the time to clean out those drawers!

So, what’s my routine? For now….

  • Sunday: Planning
  • Monday: Groceries/Food Prep
  • Tuesday: Towels and Toilets
  • Wednesday: “Whatever”
  • Thursday: Kitchen
  • Friday: Floors and Family Room
  • Saturday: Sheets and Bedrooms, Playroom and Office
  • Daily – Dishes, Laundry, Clutter, Sinks

On Sundays I look at my calendar and attempt to plan out my week. I’ve only done this once so far, but it has helped me immensely! Mondays I plan to do errands, grocery shopping, and food prep for the week. I chose Mondays because our garbage day is Tuesday morning, so might as well get all the food scraps/meat wrappings, etc. out in time for garbage! My Wednesdays are going to be a catch-up day if needed. My mornings are already busy with a weekly Bible Study, and I know I wouldn’t necessarily get a lot done in the house, so I plan afternoon playdates on Wednesdays, or catch up on bills/computer work on Wednesdays. It’s my “whatever” day! Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays are pretty self explanatory. Saturdays look awfully busy, but my family doesn’t get a “weekend” like many others do. Hubby works Saturdays, so the kids and I can spend time picking up those rooms before moving on to fun stuff.

The Daily chores aren’t that bad when we stay on top of them. I typically try to do one load of laundry each day if needed. My dishes are usually under control. The clutter is something that needs work – people in my household don’t always put things away (ever). I decided the sinks should get wiped out each night, too. It won’t take long and makes for a clean start to the next day.

I haven’t necessarily done everything in that weekly routine yet, but it’s a good place to start. I’m working toward progress, not perfection. Baby steps.

And that’s that! One small step for my house, one giant leap for my sanity!

Towels and toilets

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I have a confession. I am a horrible housekeeper.

It’s true. I know at some point in the past I was pretty good at it. In fact, I remember enjoying cleaning the house. It was nice to have rooms sparkly and clean, and it gave me a great deal of satisfaction when it all looked perfect!

And then kids happened. Suddenly I lost the motivation to clean. Not to say it’s because of them that I don’t clean, of course. But you have to admit, it’s a lot easier to keep the house sparkly clean when (a) everyone in the home works full-time and is rarely there, and (b) there is no one living there under the age of 18. Once the little ones came about and I became a stay-at-home mom, it was a lot harder to keep up with the house. Impossible for me, in fact. How can you possibly keep anything clean when you finish an area, turn to start another, and the first is inexplicably trashed again? The perfectionist in me thought, “well, if I can’t keep the whole house clean at the same time, then why bother with any of it”. And it went downhill from there.

Now, I can fake it with the best of them. My house, at least the parts that people may actually see, looks presentable when necessary. I can pick up the clutter and quickly dust (maybe) and vacuum (sometimes), and I’m great at wiping down the bathrooms (at least one of them). But it’s not really been clean – deep, down clean – in….. years? Let’s see, we moved into this house about five and a half years ago, so I’d say the last time it was really clean would have been about five years ago.

Sigh.

So things have to change, but baby steps are definitely needed.

About three weeks ago, I dubbed Tuesdays as “towels and toilets” day. Basically, I’ll wash the towels and clean (and by “clean”, I mean wipe down the sinks, mirrors, and toilets) every Tuesday. That way I know it’s been done because there *may* have been times in the past when it wasn’t done every week. Or even every month. (Oh, honesty. Ugh.) So, I made this mini habit to do bare essentials every Tuesday. So far, so good.

Then today, I had an epiphany of sorts. What if, on the first Tuesday of every month, I actually clean the bathrooms? Like, for real clean? Then the other weeks I can maintain them until the first Tuesday of the following month. Eureka! A routine!

So, I got all my supplies and headed to our full bathroom, since the powder room was the most recently “for real” cleaned (but I won’t say when). Motivation high and I started scrubbing away. The sun was shining, music was blasting – I was even using a toothbrush in the crevices, people, that’s how motivated I was! I washed the walls, ceiling, shower, floor, even the grooves on the base of the toilet! You know, the part near the floor where all the dust and hair and grossness collect? Yep. Even cleaned there.

I’d love to tell you that the burst of motivation lasted, but about halfway through that bathroom I realized something. I realized that it was hard work. I realized that no matter how motivated I was, having a 4 year old there to “help” is bound to delay things. I realized that perhaps letting it get this bad was not the best move on my part. After two hours in one bathroom (yes, two hours, partly because it really needed a good scrubbing, partly because of my little helper and all her helping), I decided to leave the deep cleaning of the powder room til next week. So a quick wipe down happened instead. And that’s ok.

Baby steps, right?

Today, our main bathroom is “for real” clean, but not perfect. The shower curtains were washed, but the exhaust fan was not. The sink was scrubbed, but the shower isn’t as good as it probably should be. But you know what? It’s a really good start. And sometimes starting is the hardest part. And getting past that hardest part feels really good. And letting go of perfect feels really good, too. Mini win for me!

Next Tuesday, I’ll tackle our much smaller powder room and just maintain the main bathroom. Then, two weeks of quick wipe-downs before another bout of deep cleaning. If this works the way that I’m hoping it works and I actually follow through, that deep cleaning should take far less than two hours – for both bathrooms! And, if I can keep it up, I’ll start adding other rooms to deep clean during the other weeks of the month. This could be huge for me!

But we won’t rush things. Baby steps are all I need.