Friday, August 7, 2015

Our Weekly Checklist (and a bunch more organizational chat too!)

I have been working from a weekly checklist for several years now.  For a variety of reasons, it's suiting us perfectly in this season of life!  This year, I'm using pretty much the same template but I've adjusted it a bit to account for multiple kids in multiple levels and for growing independence for my two oldest.

I also rely on a few other items for keeping our homeschool organized: a Daily Schedule, a Weekly Planning Page, and a Chore Routine sheet.  I'm going to share them all here in case they are helpful to you.

Obviously, your schedule will likely look nothing like mine--it is very particular to our family rhythm.  But so many of you have asked what our school day looks like and for copies of our scheduling template, so I thought I'd upload a downloadable set in case you'd like your own versions to fiddle around with.  (By the way, when you open it in Google Drive or as a preview, the formatting doesn't come through correctly.  You need to download the file and open in Word to get the correct format.)

Brace yourselves--this is a long one!  I thought about breaking it into a series but then I figured I should just get it all out there now.  (And I have pregnancy insomnia to thank for actually making that happen!)  So grab a cup of tea and make yourselves comfortable. ;)


I described the basic set-up of our weekly checklist last year, and that remains the same:

:: Daily Work for the Bigs.  Each student has his or her own list of daily work at the top.  My older two kids (Year 4) do their daily work on their own.  Their responsibilities are listed in more detail on their personal assignment sheets (shared below)--for example, I list out there what "binder work" entails and how long they should spend on each item.  I don't need that level of detail on my list because they are the ones responsible for completing it.

:: Daily Work for the Middles.  Cate (Year 1) and Xavier (my kindergartener) do all their daily work with me.

:: Daily Work for the Family. And then there is the daily work we do together, including poetry, Italian, memory work (reading of the selections we're currently learning), and recitation (review of the selections we have learned in the past). We still use our Evernote "notebook" to organize our memory work, and poetry is part of our Morning Basket.

:: Memory Work.  I have our current selections (as well as our current read-alouds) in the daily work section too.

:: Weekly Work for the Bigs.  At the bottom left, I have the Year 4 assignments broken into two sections: what we do together and what they do on their own.  This is more productive for me than divisions by day because I appreciate the flexibility and because I really only need to keep track of the items I am responsible for doing alongside them.

For readings, the first bubble is for completing the reading and the second is for narrating it.  (You can see that some readings only have one bubble--this is because they aren't responsible for narrating those.)  For non-reading assignments like Latin, Grammar, and so on, the number of bubbles corresponds to the number of days per week each is scheduled.  So as you can see, we do four days a week of Grammar/Dictation, two of Latin, and one of Written Italian.  And you'll see on the bottom that they also do Written Italian once on their own.  (The first might be a guided assignment with me and the second might be copywork, for example.)

:: Weekly Work for the Middles.  I do all Cate's Year 1 readings aloud, so hers are listed in one box.  I also have there "First Communion Basket" with four bubbles, which means that I choose a book to read from daily from a basket I have of her First Communion resources.  (More on that when I get around to sharing my Year 1 plans.)

:: Weekly Work for the Family.  This includes all our Keeping, as well as music study, picture study, etc.  At the bottom of that left column, I have our Morning Basket readings listed since we do those as a family too.  I aim to read one of those per day, and they are not narrated.


The older two have their own weekly checklist to work from (shown above).  Each week, I cut and paste that "Year 4 Assignments - Independent" section onto the little half-sheet and print it for them.  Everything else stays the same week to week.  The top details their daily tasks, including the work for their morning block.  They do those items four days a week, leaving the fifth for a morning nature study outing.  The top also has their chore checklists--they each have a "Bathroom/Other" and a "Floors" chore scheduled daily.  In the middle are their weekly assignments.  They are responsible for about two readings daily.  The Keeping we do together, but I like them to have it printed there so that they begin to take ownership.

At the bottom is the scheduled afternoon block, which they do during the babies' nap while I'm working with the middles.  Each day has a certain schedule because I need them not to interrupt during that block, so I have it all laid out there for them and let them move through it on their own.

I'm going to share now our Daily Schedule so that you can see how all of this looks in practice:


On the left is basically my schedule, and on the right is my two older kids'.

We only use this schedule four days of the week.  One of those days we have our homeschool park day, but luckily it's in the morning, so it basically just shifts our usual backyard time to the park and we're home in time for naptime lessons.  And one day a week we don't follow this schedule at all: we meet up for a nature study outing with friends in the morning and then spend naptime working on our nature journals and listening to an audiobook.  But as Brandy would call it, this is our "average day chart." :)

In truth, our days are not on so strict a timetable.  We have hard stops like naptime and our afternoon play time, but we make lots of adjustments.  I do find the daily schedule useful laid out in this level of detail for a few reasons, though:

:: When the baby comes, I can just hand the kids this chart and let them direct themselves. ;)
:: It keeps me beholden to time limits on our subjects so that we are hitting all the items that I want to over the course of the week.
:: I know that all I have scheduled *can* realistically fit into our normal day.

Each week I also print out the following:


I am loving this simple Weekly Planning Sheet that keeps me accountable to doing some pre-week planning.  At the top are all the items I need to do each week to ensure smooth school day--you know, so I don't realize on Monday morning that the kids don't have new math drills, I forgot to pre-read a couple books, and I haven't a clue what we're doing for Italian.  I print this on Friday and aim to hit all the items by the end of the weekend.  It's working great so far.

In the middle is the Weekly Meeting section, which we haven't begun in earnest yet.  We have been doing all the items, but we haven't been doing them in as organized a fashion.  I really want to take just twenty minutes or so each week with my Year 4 students to sit down and touch base regarding their school assignments, including the topics I have listed there.  This is a habit I want to begin starting in Term 2.

And at the bottom is my weekly menu.  I have pretty faithfully written weekly menus for years now (it keeps me sane to know what's for dinner in advance), but now that the kids are helping more in the kitchen, I take some time to go over the menu with them too.  We plan breakfasts and lunches and consider any prep work they'll need to do, and then I plan the dinners on my own.  It's great to have it all in writing.  (Not that it keeps me from getting the "what's for dinner?" question dozens of times a day.  Ahem.)


And last but not least, this is our current Chore Routine that hangs on the fridge.  It includes tasks for me and my three oldest (9, almost-9, and 6) and is color coded.  I listed it by day number rather than day of the week in case we miss a day--we just do the next one, and day 5 ends up being on the weekend, no problem.  The kids do their "Day 1" chores on Monday and continue on from there.

A lot of organizational talk, I know!  Let me know if you want to chat about anything in particular.  You can find the bundle of downloadable templates here.  (And remember, as I said at the top: You need to download the file and open in Word to get the correct format.  In the preview and in Google Docs, it will not format correctly.) 

Happy Planning!

65 comments:

  1. Thank you, Celeste! I'm looking to refine our checklists a bit because I don't think what was working before the new baby is going to work quite as well now that he's here. I'm hoping to get started in the next few weeks.

    One question: since you have some subjects that you expect to be done x number of days per week and have that many bubbles to check off on the list, do your kids ever want to complete the week's work all in one day? Or maybe do a couple days worth of work in one day? Do you allow that or just insist that each day has its own work? I can see my 9yo wanting to do this...

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    1. Hi Lisa! I'm guessing I will adjust mine too once baby arrives later this fall. ;)

      No, I don't allow that. For daily items, they can only be done once daily. But if we miss a day, we can make it up on Friday, which we usually have off for nature study. The same goes for readings--I limit to about two per day (with a couple religion readings done on Sundays), but if we are going to be out a couple extra days in a given week, we can scoot things around so that they do an extra reading during their free time on the days we're home.

      Hope that helps!

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  2. Celeste, I have to ask about one of your chores -- wash library books? Can you tell me what you mean by this?

    I was just trying to put together a daily schedule for this year and wondering how in the world I was going to fit everything in, because right now it looks like all I do all day is math. I'm trading a high schooler for a kindergartener, but I'll still have 6 official students this year. I think my problem is that I need to sleep and eat more than y'all do! LOL (Do you have a big snack in the morning so you can make it to a 2:00 lunch?) In all seriousness, it was helpful to see your schedule because it gave me some ideas about how I will need to tweak ours. Thanks for all the organizational posts you've written lately!

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    1. Um, yeah. So my husband is a bit of a germaphobe and insists that we wash all books coming into this house. I go to the library once a week, so I leave the bag of books (as well as any used books I have bought that have come in the mail that week) in the office and Cate washes them the following day before they get shelved. We may be a tiny bit crazy. ;)

      Right now I am doing four levels of math, but my oldest two are pretty independent. I totally understand (even with just those four) how math could threaten to take over your life. LOL And I do think that you probably spend way more time in the kitchen than I do, given that you have a busy garden (at least sometimes) and are cooking with various dietary needs!

      The kids do not have a mid-morning snack, and actually, their lunch is really small too. They eat big breakfasts and very big dinners, and they don't need much in between. I think it's because they have always eaten on roughly this schedule and are just used to it? I, on the other hand, have small meals throughout the day, especially when I'm pregnant, so I don't eat on that same schedule. And neither does my husband, who has never eaten breakfast as long as I have known him. It's definitely the case that not having to prepare three full meals plus snacks a day makes my day feel lighter. Meal prep can suck SO much time.

      Hope you guys have a great start to the school year, Angela!

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    2. I had the same thought, that we spend more time sleeping, eating, and doing math :)!! Do your kids set a timer to stop doing math (or any other subject) after 20 minutes? I don't think we've ever completed a whole lesson in that time (with warm up, the lesson, practice sheets, games, etc). Also, I'm impressed that your family completes so much school work (including math!) before breakfast. I feel like I'd end up saying "Hurry and finish so you can eat!" and then having the kids break down that they can't think because they're hungry....LOL! Or would that never happen because once 20 minutes is up, they move onto the next thing, even if they didn't get very far? It says "Finish math" in the afternoon - would they again work on it for 20 minutes? Or until completion? (I've told myself over and over to not worry about completing lessons...still working on it...) And do all your kids work in the same room? Are your big ones next to you in the morning when you are doing math and reading with Cate? And lastly, is "Picture Books with littles" when you put them down for a nap? Thank you SO much for sharing this wonderful look inside your day!! It is very helpful! I was so excited when I opened up your blog this morning :)!!

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    3. LOL Celeste -- I was just wondering if I was missing something! Although I often do need to wash the books that live in my own home. (Maybe I shouldn't admit that.) So you have a specific shelf for your library books? Our library books stay in a cart right now, and that is not really working very well because the younger kids forget about them. But we have a long history of losing books in bedrooms, etc., so I'm a bit paranoid about the possibility of mixing library books with our own books. A shelf sounds like a *much* better solution to the library problem than a cart, though.

      My kids could probably eat bigger breakfasts, but they try to tell me they are starving roughly every two hours. This is a problem because we could definitely get more done in a day if we weren't constantly stopping so that people can eat. (As I write this, my five year old is looking in the refrigerator saying, "But there's nothing to eeeeat!") We'd probably have to have elevenses if we wanted to push lunch until later, but it's not a bad idea since we don't get started with work until after we do a fair bit of chores to get the house in order.

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    4. We used to have a separate shelf for library books when my littles were very little, but we don't anymore. They aren't allowed to take them out of the family room, though, which is where all our picture books live and where the littles do their "reading." So they stay in one room, and when I'm ready for my weekly library trip, I gather the kids and call out titles and they find them and bring them to me. :)

      I actually wish in some ways that my kids would spend *more* time eating! They are all great eaters and eat really fast, and I like to read while they eat, so if they ate for longer, I could get more of our dinner done over mealtimes. LOL But I am very, very glad to not have the extra meal prep. :)

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    5. Hi Julia,

      Yes, the kids start a timer to do math for 20 minutes in the morning. After that, we move on, no matter what. I have found that essential for keeping their minds fresh--both of them are great at math but only for a focused time. They then finish the lesson in the afternoon, which takes between 0-20 minutes. During that time, I'm available for questions and help, so if they're not getting something, I take a few minutes to explain it and they continue on the following day. And just to be clear: these two kids aren't doing RightStart anymore--they finished it last year and have moved on to other books. So what would have been their RS "warm up" is their "math drill" now, which is a separate five minutes that is part of "binder work." They also don't have games anymore, nor do they have a full scripted lesson. Even when we did, though, I broke our math into two sections when necessary: lesson + warmup + games for 20 minutes, and then 10 minutes or so later to work on their worksheets. We end up finishing much more in the same amount of time when we observe those hard stops. ;)

      All that to say: I am able to avoid hurrying them along in the mornings because all their pre-breakfast work is timed. That is something that really struck me in the CM world last year, and I found it to be really effective to move to timing more of their work. Very little of what we do is "work til you're done," and especially not any of the work that has a very firm stopping time, because that just creates stress for us. We all work better when we're only working for a set time and then moving on.

      In the mornings, Cate (and Xavier too sometimes) is working with me at our kitchen table, and the big kids are working in the dining room or office. Otherwise, there are too many distractions.

      And no, picture books with littles isn't when I put them to nap. That's when I read to the littles and the big kids are doing chores. Then we do our memory work together, and then I take the littles to nap while the older four get set up for our Naptime School block (bathroom, drinks, getting out books and binders, etc.).

      Let me know if I missed any of your questions or if you need something clarified. :)

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    6. Thank you SO much for answering everything! That is very helpful!!

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    7. I wondered about naptime as well - it doesn't take very long to get them down? I know you have sleep trained. So basically, after reading picture books, you just take them to their beds and they go to sleep? I nurse the baby down for a nap and the next oldest is 4, and doesn't exactly nap these days, but I bet he could quietly read laying on the couch, and I could insist on a nap 2x per week. We also have a 2:00 standing dance lesson that also serves as a social time for the boys, two days a week - starting in a few weeks, plus speech one morning followed by piano. Those are my annoyances in the schedule. Trying to account for those times we must leave is challenging. Its so helpful to see everything you do to think through our own plans!

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    8. Sorry, Amanda--I missed your question here!

      Basically, I read picture books downstairs with the littles while the big kids do their chores. Then we all meet up to do Memory and Movement, and the two littlest have their cups of milk and get diaper changes. Then I take the youngest three upstairs, say goodnight, put them in their beds, and leave them in their rooms (the two girls in the girls' room and Drew in his crib in the boys' room). They pretty much go right out and I am back downstairs in five minutes.

      Last year, when I had a 4yo, he quietly read on the sofa for about 45 minutes during part of our school time, then spent another half hour or so playing with something from our "naptime toys." I'll do the same thing for almost-4yo Bridget when she stops napping. (She still naps every day, which I think is the latest any of mine have given up naps!)

      I totally agree that the outside commitments are the real obstacle to a smooth routine (but, of course, serve their own good purposes too!). We actually have several: park day one morning and nature study with friends on one morning. We used to have to go to piano lessons too, but now I have found someone that can come to the house--and his wife does art lessons while he teaches piano. It's a wonderful set-up and I am super thankful for it because even just getting in and out of the house takes a chunk of our day away (beyond the lesson and travel time!). I don't schedule anything to disrupt naptime, though, pretty much no matter what. :) I really need naptime for my sanity. ;)

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    9. Thanks for the reply! I'd love to get someone to come to our house and might but I also like the studio because it helps them focus and our teacher is very good. Once the boys test out of speech, we will hopefully be more flexible.

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    10. How do you wash/ what do you wash with for the library books? I love the idea of washing the books!

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    11. We just wash them with a rag and warm water, occasionally a bit of white vinegar when they're in library plastic. :)

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  3. Another question: how does recitation differ from memory work?

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    1. "Recitation" is review of prior memory work (ie reciting of already-memorized pieces) and "memory work" is learning our current selections. I split it up on my schedule because although we usually do both at the same time (in our "Memory Work and Movement" block before nap), we occasionally split them because we need the binders for the memory work part but we don't for the recitation. So, for example, if we're going somewhere in the morning, we'll do "recitation" in the car on the way since all I need for that is Evernote on my phone. And then we'll do the "memory work" portion later on when we are at home. We end up doing that a couple times a week or so, so it's worth splitting into two categories for me. Hope that makes sense!

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  4. This is wonderful!! I'm so inspired.

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  5. Thank you so much for sharing, Celeste! I wish I were this organized. Maybe I can hope to be and use some of your inspiration to get there :-) This is exactly what I need right now. Gee, between you and Brandy I am getting off to a great start this year!

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    1. Brandy helped me get off to a great start this year too! Even though she and I don't schedule in the same way, I found watching her videos about how she prepares her matrix and whatnot to still be really motivating for me. :)

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  6. Reading your comments on Math to Julia was VERY helpful in regards to some of my math questions for ya :) I would love to hear more of your thoughts on RS Math and merging it with other things/grouping students (I mentioned some of this in my email). I would also love to know how you set up doing calendar work and some simple things in Italian for just a short time when you were just beginning. We are diving into Chinese this year (we lived there for a year when my kids were little) and I'm trying to think through something simple we can work into each day together that won't take so long. Thanks for taking time to walk through your day and let us into some of your prep. I find such encouragement when getting to peek in on the way other mom's are doing things...My own lightbulbs and ideas start flowing!
    Bessings.

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    1. Hi Miranda -- For our calendar work in Italian, we do a question/answer for a few different topics:
      day of the week
      date
      weather
      season
      season in the liturgical year
      liturgical color for the day

      I have a little calendar board with pockets that display those categories. So, for example, it has separate pockets for the day of the week, the month of the year, the date, the season, etc. The children take turns asking the questions in Italian, getting the answer from their siblings, and putting the right cards into the pockets.

      So the leader asks in Italian, "What day is it?" The siblings answer in Italian, "It is Thursday." The leader displays the Thursday card. Then the leader asks, "What month is it?" and so on until all the slots are filled. In the very beginning, I asked and they repeated, I answered and they repeated. After a couple months of that, they were able to do it themselves.

      Does that make sense? As for your math question, I will answer you via email along with the other questions you emailed me. :) And I agree with you about the encouragement in reading others' methods and systems--I feel the same way!

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  7. HI Celeste. So I never see sweep on your chores. Sweeping is the bane of everyone's existence here, but MUST happen after every meal. Right now my 7 year old has this on her Table Chores for the dinning room 3 times a day and my 10 year son sweeps the kitchen once a day (he has other chores that take longer so he only sweeps once). But I do see you have minivac. What minivac are y'all using? Are you saying it works so well that you do NO sweeping? I need to look into this if so. Because if we could relegate the broom usage to every now and then, everyone (not just the kids) would be so happy.

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    1. Sorry, this is Virginia. I did not see that I was signed in under my husband's account. (vlcjrogers@mac.com is me, oops)

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    2. Hi Virginia! :)

      That's right, we never sweep here--the minivac takes care of it! One of the kids minivacs the dining room after every breakfast and dinner and then they cycle through the rest of the house 1-3 times per week depending on how high traffic the area is (as shown on the Floors/Bi-Weekly sections of the chore chart). The minivac we use is this one:

      http://www.amazon.com/Dirt-Devil-SD20000RED-Simpli-Stik-Lightweight/dp/B002KCO96C

      We end up replacing it every year for one reason or another (a plastic piece broke one time, the cord started to unravel another time, etc), but we just keep buying the same kind over again because it works great and the price is right! :)

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    3. We bought this vac at Celeste's recommendation over a year ago. My 4,5 and 6 yo will often argue about who gets to vacuum after the meal. I rarely sweep anymore! Granted, I still need to figure out how to teach the kids a systematic way to vacuum so that they actually clean the entire floor, and not just random areas. They are blind to the mess...

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    4. Yes, that's true--I had to implement a strict "tile line by tile line" method or crumbs get left behind. ;)

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    5. Ok, so I have this vacuum!!! I need to get everyone using it now. :)

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    6. I'm glad, Amanda! It's been perfect our needs. :)

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    7. Here is my affiliate link for the minivac, as you suggested, Virginia. Thanks, lady! ;)

      http://amzn.to/1Kuui69

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  8. Another question, Celeste!

    On your weekly planning page you listed "read through study guides for Kingsley and Fabre". I have the guide for Kingsley, but I can't seem to find one for Fabre. I did come across a thread listing links and things for Fabre, but it's pretty random. Do you have a link to the Fabre guide?

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    1. I was referencing a thread on the AO forums for The Story-Book of Science, probably the one you saw too:
      https://amblesideonline.org/forum/showthread.php?tid=5432

      I cut and pasted it into an Evernote document in order of Fabre's chapters so it's a bit more organized. I would share that "neater" version here, but I think I would need to get the permission of all the ladies that contributed to that forum thread to be able to do that...and that's not possible. ;) But yes, that's the one! We have enjoyed the links so far.

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    2. Ah, ok. I'll have to see about trying to organize that then. Thank you very much! :)

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  9. For chores: do your oldest 2 alternate bathrooms and other? Like green is for one and purple for the other?so each day they are doing one or other at same time? I like the look of it.

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    1. Yes, that's right. Right now, Gianna is purple and Vincent is greeen, so they alternate bathrooms and other.

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  10. Wow, Celeste! How did I miss this post when you first posted it in August?! I am so glad you linked to it in your This and That post yesterday. I'm still struggling getting our school done during the day with the now 4 month old and the two year old. My other two are year 1 and Year 3 students. I feel like we've been floundering for the past 3 months. We finally figured out all the nursing issues so I no longer have to pump and nurse, but now she's awake more during the day and the kids get so distracted by her and the toddler. I am sending my Year 3 upstairs a lot to work at the desk in the master bedroom, but she doesn't prefer being sent away like that. I am off to peruse the download and see how I can tweak it to work for us. We tried a weekly checklist but my daughter (Year 3) and I really need a daily checklist. I used your weekly as a stepping stone to develop our daily checklists which also double as a kind of "schedule" but we never stick to it because inevitably the baby or 2 year old interrupt it! I type them out at the beginning of the week and if I don't, we don't end up doing school, which is why we are on a semi break this week. This mama needed to recharge and figure out how to make this work. Thank you so much for sharing all your planning and schedules!

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    1. I hope it helps somewhat! I know it's always a challenge to tweak the schedule until it works when you have a new baby in the house. I'm glad to hear you're getting a little more sleep overnight now, but I totally understand the distractions from school with babies and toddlers awake and underfoot. It is no easy task! Prayers for you!

      And yes, a semi-break is usually a very good thing! :)

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  11. Celeste, on the chore list, what does "fill everything" mean? And do they use the minivac for all vacuuming jobs, or just the hardwood floors?

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    1. "Fill everything" is a refill of all paper-ish products in the house. They check each bathroom for toilet paper, paper towels, and wipes; the kitchen for paper towels; and each diaper bin (we have one downstairs and one in each of the kids' bedrooms) for the appropriate sizes of diapers (we have two kids in diapers right now plus overnites to keep stocked), wipes, and diaper cream. Eventually, I'll also have them fill the soaps dispensers in the house at this time too, but right now I do that when I bleach the toilets weekly (which they also don't do yet--they just do around the rim and such).

      The minivan is only for the hard floors (we have wood laminate and tile). They use the big vacuum for the carpets.

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    2. Thank you. I like that job "fill everything" but I keep all the refills in cupboards they can't reach, lol. I also only have two that can do jobs, so I am rearranging some of your chores. It is so nice not to have to reinvent the wheel! And what is "Move Items"? Do you think the minivac could handle carpeted stairs? Do you like the big vacuum you have? Ours is quite heavy and the kids have a hard time maneuvering it. What do they use to wipe around the toilet rim? I have my 8 year old clean the counter, sink, and mirror in the kid bathroom, but I still do the toilets and bath. I have her use vinegar and water to clean because I am a bit scared of her using harsh chemicals. I am also a germaphobe and don't particularly want her touching the toilet! Except, I don't wash library books! Did you ever go through a time when training them up in chores in which they refused to help? My son (just 6) is very oppositional about everything (except reading to self and read alouds) and refuses to help when I want him to (but he will help if he feels like it, so he does help, just not necessarily when or what I want).

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    3. Yes, I had to move around my cupboards so that they could access everything they needed. But it is worth it! They do that three times a week and I never go into the bathroom and find no toilet paper or go to grab a diaper and find we are out! :) I also have them tell me when we are getting low on any of those items, so it helps me make my shopping lists as well.

      "Move Items" is when the person who isn't vacuuming moves all the items in the room for the person that is. This is a great task for the younger ones: they just move things out of the way and then put them back.

      The minivac will do the surface of carpeted stairs but won't do a thorough cleaning. We don't wear shoes in the house, so the minivac is sufficient for our stairs most of the time. My husband does go over the stairs with the big vacuum's attachment every month or so, just to be sure. (He is the biggest germaphobe in the house. ;))

      I allow my kids to use glass cleaner to clean the bathrooms but leave the bleaching to me. So they use glass cleaner on the mirrors, the sinks, the faucets, the counters, and the toilets, outside and inside to the rim. I do the bowls and sinks with bleach 1-2 times a week. I am like you in that the thought of them cleaning the toilets and then potentially touching other things with their hands gives me the chills. ;) I have a very precise order of tasks for the bathroom (written on a posted list!) to make sure that they're not touching the towel they have cleaned the toilet with to anything else in the bathroom, that they're washing their hands immediately after cleaning the toilet, and that they're washing their hands after putting the cleaning supplies away (to avoid their having chemical residue). I am pretty specific when it comes to bathrooms. :) Oh, and I still do the showers and baths too.

      Refusing to help? No. Being less than enthusiastic? Yes. ;) I will get whining and fussing on occasion, and one of my kids loves to dawdle to show that he doesn't want to do the task. :/ It's an ongoing training of the will, but if you stick to it and work with them to train their own wills, habit eventually wins over. Sometimes I have to have my husband talk to them about doing what Mommy says right away. Sometimes I have to discipline unhelpful attitudes...with more chores. That usually works well. ;) Most of the time, they just go ahead and get it done without much complaint. My 6yo is similar to yours in that she loves to help but only when she *wants* to help. I think that is a stage: they like the extra responsibilities of being a "big kid," but they aren't sure older when those responsibilities actually become mandatory. That's a natural part of growing up and happens with each bump in age. (Even adulthood!) I just stick to it, keep things firm but friendly, and make sure they're trained well and only asked to do what they can realistically handle. But so much depends on personality too in terms of how to handle opposition. :)

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  12. Sorry, more questions. What kinds of things do you prepare for breakfast?
    And what is "Cate's mail"? And I noticed the big kids have "mail" that you prepare as well.

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    1. Gianna and I did cooking lessons together over the summer focusing on breakfasts and lunches so that she could take over those tasks for fall, when the baby comes. Our current breakfast options: oatmeal (with various add-ins), oatmeal bars (with various add-ins), tortilla wraps with cream cheese and lunchmeat, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, lunchmeat and cheese sandwiches. We also occasionally make a big batch of granola together and she serves that up with yogurt and fruit. I'm hoping to add in some more hot breakfast options later in the year when we're having more breakfasts at home. (We have been out and about lately, so portable breakfasts are good, and everything but the oatmeal and granola meets that requirement.)

      We have a little family mailbox, and I write a little note for Cate, who is learning to read, each morning to practice her reading. I used to do that for the Big Kids when they were small and decided to add that to my schedule this year. She writes me back sometimes too. :) That led to the Big Kids wanting mail also, so a couple times a week, I write them a note in Italian to read and respond to.

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  13. What a great post. I was reading about your daily schedule and school with littles and I have to say I am now energized to redo my daily schedule for the new year. By taking your three parts, Morning basket, Naptime School and Independent work and tweaking them to our family I can see how this will benefit our daily struggle to get all the work done with the little interruptions that come along with having so many littles at home. You would think that by having homeschooled for over 20 years and having graduated 5 students so far!!, I would have everything worked out to a science. No. Not me. LOL! My mind needed a quiet time but I feel like dedicating it to our homeschool will be of great help for us! Thanks so much for sharing all the scheduling info posts!

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    1. You are welcome! It can be so energizing to see how other families are fitting things in, I agree. And yes, I would LOVE a quiet time during naps too, but the stress-free time it allows us for school is also really welcome to me. Too many good options! ;) Thank you for stopping by!

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  14. Hi Celeste! Would you mind elaborating on the color coding for the chore chart? I am suffering from chronic sleep deprivation; forgive me if it is something super obvious or if you have, in fact, explained it in the post and I've missed it. I have a feeling an "ah-ha, of course!" moment is coming soon...

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    1. Hi Maria! They are color-coded by kid: so Vincent is green, Gianna is purple, Cate is pink. (As you can see, Cate's are all in a row anyway and don't actually need to be coded, but, well, she would have felt seriously offended if I had left hers white, so pink it is! ;))

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  15. That was my suspicion. Thank you for the confirmation, Celeste. And I love Cate's cheery column!

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  16. Oh my, I just found you and you are blowing my mind. I have become a bit lazy on the "unschooling" instead of purposeful. I am just learning about Charlotte Mason and the like. I am just amazed at how purposeful you are. Obviously necessary with so many kiddos... but I have no excuse with just 3! Thank you for all of your sharing. I am delving in...

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    1. Ha--well, I will say that my personality definitely tend toward the more scheduled side of purposefulness! :) And definitely yes, the number of kids I have and their ages plays a big part in needing this level of organization. I'm glad I can help, Jenny!

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  17. This has made every organizational bone in my body tremble with joy!
    Thank you so much for going to the trouble of sharing all this. Is it exactly the kind of info/idea/starting point I was looking for to get a handle on organizing our own routine.

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    1. I'm so glad you found it helpful, Heather! :)

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  18. Hi Celeste,
    I'm just curious... as a homeschool mom of five, ages 8-newborn, to another homeschool mom who's been there... do you have consequences for incomplete or ill-completed chores? That's the one area of Charlotte Mason's philosophy where I struggle. I want to push through a job until it is done (ahem, to my expectations... something I'm working on!), ignoring the time set for the task, especially in the cases when dawdling or whining are the main hinderance. But I know that's not the CM way, really. She talks about "natural consequences" instead of external motivators (i.e. punishment or parent-imposed consequences). I just wasn't raised that way, so it's really hard for me to catch a vision for what that looks like practically. Because of this, I have typically taken on the vast majority of housework upon myself. The kids all have their morning chores, but as far as general housekeeping it's all me.
    I'm trying something new this year before baby #5 arrives so we can hopefully establish a good habit, where we spend <10 minutes after our breakfast/morning time doing "quick clean-up" chores around the house, and then spending another <10 minutes after lunch on different "quick clean-up" tasks. I can't assume this will be a smooth and easy process for a 2, 4, 6, and 8 year-old though. Any words of wisdom for a mama in the trenches?

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    1. A few things: first, I think you are totally on the right track! I have found that tying chores to mealtimes has worked really well since it's a natural time of transition and it's tacked to something that happens every day, no matter what (eating!).

      I'm not sure what you have in mind for quick tidy -- if it's just a tidy throughout the house, all working together, then I'd put on music and make it a game. :) Your 2yo and 4yo can definitely be involved -- I usually assign specific tasks right at the moment for those ages and they are happy to help. :) And you and the older kids can get quite a lot done in a ten-minute time slot working together!

      If your goal is that everyone is going to go to complete his own pre-assigned task, then I'd go through the following steps...

      I would suggest first that you focus heavily on the training period for the chore before considering the consequences. (Not that there won't be any -- there probably will be, now and then! LOL But the goal is to have to dole out as few as possible simply because things get done well the first time.) Choose a task to focus on (either a different one for each child or the same one you'd like them to both learn), get any materials you need to make that task successful, consider your own expectations for the chore, and then work alongside your child for as long as it takes to achieve success -- success being his doing the chore correctly the first time, all the way through, without your help. Then you can move to his doing it without you there. And expect that there will be hiccups in that part of the training process and you may have to take him under your wing again. ;) I find that training takes a bit longer than I think it "should" even for the easy things. But putting the time in so that the child knows how to execute well and is in the physical and mental habit of doing that the first time is worth it in the long run.

      I would guess that you could give your 8yo and 6yo chores that will really help you in the household! They are probably capable of a lot! But not at first. :) That training time will be key.

      The most likely consequence here for ill-done chores is having to redo it plus do a simple extra chore. I wouldn't recommend that for little kids -- only older ones that have been well trained. I consider that natural consequences in that if they can't complete their assigned chore properly, they need "extra practice." ;) But that is only when I've set the child up for success and made my expectations VERY clear.

      Hope that helps a little, Bethany! :)

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  19. Maybe this was already asked but, can you explain the "handle baby" section?

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    1. Haha! It does sound kind of funny put that way! LOL It just means that I hang out with the baby inside while the kids play outside. Occasionally I put the baby in the ergo during that time and head outside with them. :)

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  20. Celeste you have saved me so much time! Thank you we will be doing AO2 and AO1 this year. Last week we completed AO1. Pleased to have Mommies who will share their work for the mommies who do not have the talented to create this. Thank you and God Bless you and your family!

    Thanks from Japan!

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    1. You're welcome, Nicole! Thanks for your kind comments. :)

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  21. I've downloaded these before but I'm giving another look through all of your weekly planning posts and I'm excited! I'm going to revamp our weekly plans and hopefully give my students better direction, independence, and accountability. Thank you so much Celeste for all that you do! What a blessing!

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    1. I'm glad you find them helpful and am happy to share, Jessica! :)

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  22. I LOVE that you have "handle baby" in there! I am only on number 4, but she is a definite jump from the older 3, in how much time and energy I naturally dedicate to her, as compared to how much I dedicated to them. I have been feeling so guilty about it, and making a point of spending time with her, but I was feeling guilty that I felt the need to include that on my own schedule. Also, 2 years ago I built myself the first schedule that actually functioned exactly like I needed it to. Of course, I had to tweak it from time to time because, as I tell my friends & family, I am not going to be a slave to my schedule, I am going to make my schedule work for me. And in the natural ebb and flow of life, little tweaks are needed here and there to help me attain my best. However, even with tweaks and then a major overhaul, I haven't seemed to be able to make it work for me right the last couple months. It has been very frustrating. I have a three-and-a-half-month-old, a new house that we moved into a month before she was born (so I've still got boxes all over), and we've just been so busy and overrun with church functions and lots of out-of-state family staying with us to enjoy our family with the new addition, and all the NEW going on here. SO. MUCH. NEW. (big house, baby, first grader, kindergartner, and preschooler, farming... what else is new? I forget.) And so many projects, too. But looking at your scheduling resources has me excited. With some tweaking for our family's needs, it might be just the thing I need! I know there is SOMETHING that will work for me again, and I hope this really is the thing!

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    1. I know what you mean. I am constantly needing to sit and think and tweak, and sit and think and tweak again. :) Sometimes I need to just NOT have a schedule for a week and take notes on how the natural flow of our home works with these particular kids at this particular time. It's amazing how much we want to cling to things that used to work but aren't working any more! Or is that just me! LOL :) I hope you find something that works soon, for your sanity and your family's joy. And with a baby in the mix, things are likely to be a bit crazy anyway, perfect schedule or not. :)

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