Friday, May 12, 2017

Daily Homemaking Schedule (3 yr. old, 2 yr. old, 3 mo. old)

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   I recently reworked our daily schedule a bit to meet our needs a little better. I wanted to improve it in two main ways- order of activities and one-on-one time.

     First, I created our mornings and afternoons to be the same routines but different tasks. That routine includes: getting ready, eating (plus a story read), housework, activities with the children, one-on-one time, and outside playtime. By limiting things to these main areas, the schedule and day is simplified a bit. Also, the repetition will be much easier for all of us to know what comes next in the day and transition more smoothly. 

     The second change I made was to incorporate much more one-on-one time. With three children three years old and under now, I'm finding much of the misbehavior to stem from a desire for greater attention. Their attitudes and behaviors improve quite a bit when they've been able to have either mine or David's undivided attention. This can be difficult to do in a day though. But, if I plan for it then it's more likely to happen. So, I've paired one-on-one time with time for independent play in the bedrooms. While I'm spending a little time with one child, the other one can be playing alone in a bedroom. We've yet to be successful with independent play, but we're going to really work on it because I know we're all at a point of needing some space (ie independent play) and one-on-one time. I have it scheduled twice a day so that we have ample opportunity to be together and it maintains the repetitive nature of the morning and afternoon routines. 

     Below is a copy of our current daily schedule. (Click the images to view larger).  


  • "Tiny Tot School" refers to activities designed for Annelise's age (1-2 yrs old). This isn't a formal academic curriculum but more so just simple activities. For instance, this week we sang "I'm a Little Teapot," learned the sign for "no," read Llama, llama Red Pajama, stacked blocks and played "cushion crawl" (simply acting silly crawling over and around big cushions/pillows in the floor). 

  • "Tot School" refers to activities for Tennyson's age (2-3 yrs. old). We use the "All Aboard the Animal Train" curriculum from My Father's World. Again, this isn't a strict, formal academic curriculum but just simple activities. For example, this week we sang a song and played a corresponding game, read a story, sang "This Little Light of Mine" with the hand motions, worked on a puzzle, and then ended the week with a yellow water exploration bin outside. 

  • "Morning Jobs" refers to helping to unloading the dishwasher and to helping move laundry from the washing machine to the dryer. Both children are able to do these tasks. My desire is for them to begin to have a role in maintaining our home each day. 

  • "Personal interest" during naptime- If I don't designate or schedule such as this then it likely won't happen! It also likely won't happen if a little one takes a while to go to sleep or wakes early from sleep. I've learned to hold this time very loosely. Sometimes I get the opportunity, and sometimes I don't (okay, most of the time I don't but that's just the way it goes!). 

  • "Afternoon cleaning"- For me, the housework is manageable if I work on a little bit each day. So, I aim to have two rooms tidied and one deeper cleaning task completed each week. I haven't had the children join me in this effort just yet, but I'm going to try to begin incorporating them by assigning them one simple task as I work (such as picking up blocks if that particular room has toys strewn about). We may be successful in them helping, but we may not. They will at least witness that tidying up is a normal part of the day. haha

  • Anything else?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Home Tour: Backyard

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      One really nice aspect of home ownership is the ability to personalize the house or property. Being somewhat 'all or nothing' kind of people, we decided to tackle one room or area each year. We create a plan for the space, save up the funds, and then complete the project in it's entirety. 

      Last summer when we moved into the house, we promptly began converting the existing formal dining room into a school/office/guest room. We knew we would need this particular space to be set up and functional before any of the other areas of the house. This room has been so nice to have! All our books are stored there in the large bookshelf (that's not entirely true, we have books all over the house! haha), our desk is in there and easily accessible, and our guests have used the room during their stays. I certainly will always want a space like this in future homes!

     This year's home project has been our backyard. I love spending time outside. Depending on the heat, I like for the children and I to be able to spend some time outside each morning and afternoon. I also thoroughly enjoy sitting on the patio talking to my husband. I think being outside when the weather is nice is far more preferable than sitting inside all the time! Fresh air is good for the soul, right? Right!

     So, since we spend so much time outside we wanted to spruce it up a bit. David and I both enjoy gardening. We've attempted a container garden outside our apartments every year we've been married. We talked and dreamed quite a bit about the garden beds we would create since we purchased the house! We created three garden beds in our backyard:

1) Herb Garden
     The border bricks were originally lining the side fence in a similar fashion. That garden bed, however, had long been neglected. We relocated the pavers to the side of the house and created an herb garden. In this garden we have: sweet mint, cinnamon basil, greek oregano, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, fern-leaf dill, chives, chocolate mint, fennel, cilantro, mexican taragon, peppermint, spearmint, lemon balm, grapefruit mint, pineapple sage, and stevia. In front of the herb plants are marigold plants. This bed will really be quite nice when it fills out fully. We will also have an abundance of fresh herbs to use now or dry to use later!       

2) Flower Garden
     This is one of my favorites! The border bricks were orginally just stacked beside the shed building. We wanted to create a garden in this particular garden bed for a couple of reasons. One, in considering the potential for snakes and the likelihood of them residing between the shed and fence, we wanted to block off access for the children. We didn't see any snakes last year, but have heard about snakes in Texas. I'd rather be cautious and not encounter one if at all possible, and I certainly don't want the children coming upon one while playing in that area. A second reason for this garden bed is to attempt to naturally repel mosquitoes. The mosquito population is greater here than anywhere else we've ever lived. Annelise and I are particularly tasty to them. So, within this bed are several mosquito-repellent plants. Hopefully, they will be helpful and we'll not fight with the mosquitoes quite as much this year! Beyond those reasons, I'm enjoying this garden bed for it's simply beauty. I really love the finished look!

3) Vegetable Garden
     This is the main focus of our gardening! David spent several weekends creating four 4x8ft. and one 4x4ft raised bed gardens. We then determined the vegetables we wanted to grow and created a plan according to the principles of square foot gardening. We were able to plant and grow a lot in these beds! We're excited to grow and preserve some of our own food! We're also delighted to be able to raise the children with an experience of where food comes from (beyond the store)!
The large beds line the fence to make the most use of our small backyard. 

brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach, collard greens, curly-leaf kale, red swiss chard, sweet potatoes

red onions, scallions, yellow onions, romain lettuce, lima beans, crook-neck squash, zucchini squash, corn, green beans

purple hull peas, zipper cream peas, okra, japanese eggplant, butternut squash

green bell pepper, red bell pepper, jalapeno, sweet banana pepper, grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, bradley tomato (good for canning), red beefsteak tomatoes (good for slicing and eating), Cherokee purple tomatoes (good for slicing and eating), sweet basil, lime basil, purple basil, picking cucumbers, cucumbers (for slicing and eating)


(The hangers were already on the fence. We thought we'd make use of them by growing strawberries in baskets. Plus, they should also attract some pollinators to the garden beds)
 Other Areas
The back patio:

Outside Activities/Toys Organization
     I cleared out half of the shed for use in storing the children's outside activities and toys. We can now easily choose activities and then put them back away. 
Activity/Toy bins include: gardening, chalk, bubbles, water, sand (shovels, molds etc), construction trucks, and sports (balls). Tools used in the exploration bins are stored within those bins. 

The gardening activity bin
   We would still like to add a screen door to the house. The grass will also need some attention as it did not come back as nice and full as it had been previously. Otherwise, we're finished with this home project. It took us a few months of work, but we are now thoroughly enjoying the result. It's such a nice space of our home now! Gardens are just happy places, don't you think? 

Monday, April 24, 2017

8 Non-toy Toys

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     Sometimes the best toys are non-toys. They're those bits of random objects around the house that can be repurposed for play. After all, don't you know that the best part of a new toy is the box?!

     The following is just a few of the activities I've created over the last few years. Some have been more successful than others. They have all been wonderful to offer the children when they need something new and/or interesting and interactive. 

1) Coin Drop
     This activity is made from a baby oatmeal container and milk jug caps. The bottom of the container is metal and makes a sound when the coins are dropped into it, which has added to the enjoyment. When noise isn't desired, though, I added a piece of felt to the inside. The children have played with this activity so much that the slit in the top is nearly worn out. 

      Also, this activity pairs well with a tot school unit on the book *Corduroy by Don Freeman. It's a safer alternative to using real coins for little ones. 

2) Jingle Bell Socks
     This activity has been great for our 0-1 year olds. It is made from a package of infant socks (0-6mo.) and small bells. I placed a single bell in one sock, two bells in another, and three in the third sock (that fourth sock walked away from me and I never found it!). I then sewed up the top of the sock, leaving the cuff intact. The cuff, actually, provides a great place for little hands to hold. Who needs fancy plastic rattles when you have socks?! haha!

3) Foam Bead Lacing
      The idea of this activity is to practice fine motor skills by lacing the pieces onto the string. It's made from a foam pool noodle and shoe string purchased from the dollar store. 

     This has been one of our least successful activities. First, the tip of the string was more difficult than expected for them to string through the beads. I think they would have been more successful if the end of the string wasn't so floppy. Or, simply wait until an older age than when I had introduced it to them. Second, if you notice there are bites taken out of the bead pieces. This was the main reason this activity isn't brought out very often and if it is there must be close supervision. I don't care to pick up dozens if small foam bits from the floor or have the activity itself destroyed! 

4) Scent Bottles
     The children really enjoyed these! These are simply a set of travel bottles within which I added a scented element inside (essential oils, extracts, pieces of herbs or other aromatic plants). The children have enjoyed squeezing the bottles and smelling the various scents! 

5) Velcro Sticks
     The children call these "sticky sticks." They are simply the largest colored craft sticks and pieces of velcro. These are fantastic for creative play, and we've often brought them in an activity bag for church. We've also used them to create various shapes (triangle, square, rectangle, pentagon etc.). They will hold the shapes up to their faces like frames and giggle. 

6) ?
     I'm not sure what you'd call this activity. It consists of an empty container (formerly filled with peppercorns) and cut pieces of pipe cleaners. The idea is to insert the pipe cleaners into the small holes of the lid. It's a great fine motor skill activity!

7) Pom-Pom Drop
     This activity is similar to the Coin Drop activity, but easier for younger ones to complete. It's created from an old dairy container. I purchased a value bag of various sized pom-poms from the craft store to accompany it. The nice thing about the container being something ordinary is that I can always get another lid and cut smaller holes for smaller pom-poms. So, it can increase in required fine motor skill as they do. 

8) Ribbon Pull Box
     This is also a favorite! I simply poked holes in a small box and inserted stripes of fabric (could do ribbon, but fabric strips were what I had on hand). The fabric piece are strung through two holes on different sides of the box. When one side is pulled the other goes in, and vise versa. We have played with this activity so many times. The children really enjoy when I add silly sound effects when they pull on one end causing the other end to move as well. 

     Like I said, these were created over the course of the last three years. I don't have near as much opportunity to create activities these days. It's nice that once created, we have them to play with for the next few years. Although slower, I still enjoy adding to our collection. It's so fun to offer the children activities that promote skill building and exploration (not to mention, free reused materials!). This sort of thing satisfies my creative spirit. 

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