I need the reminder, apparently, so I’m reminding myself that I have a system and I need to stick to it!
My first piece of advice is to CREATE A PLAN AND STICK TO IT! You can see I’m not so great at that, but I’m working on it.
My plan, for example, is to give all of us something to do and something to look forward to every day. We have responsibilities and I want to enforce those. I want them so ingrained by the time school starts that it’s just a DUH moment after school on the first Tuesday of the school year. This means that we have chores to do, and a set collection of tasks to get finished by the end of the day. I set up a checklist for each kid (and myself) that is tailored to their age and needs (one takes meds every day, for example, so it’s on her checklist). There is an AM checklist and a PM checklist. It includes home-school options, chores, taking care of animals, Yoga time, journal writing, Mindful habits, eating and cleaning up after themselves… it’s one of my more nerdy things, honestly. I printed it on bright paper and used my Scotch laminator to laminate it and put it in their Rise and Shine Notebooks (I’ll write a whole journal entry on that one, because I could go ON and ON about this thing!). They must get everything on their list finished!
Another thing I instituted was a Popsicle stick chore system. Each day, one of the things on their check list is “Room of the Day.” I found this awesome post through Pinterest, where this mom wrote out chores on colored popsicle sticks and the kids grab one, do the thing, and add it to their reward chart. Now, I should warn you that I took this idea and cranked it up to 11. I bought plastic jars with lids and colored craft sticks on Amazon, color coordinated the chores by kid or by room (Peanut has blue sticks, Tadpole has Purple, the Kitchen is yellow, the Yard and Hallway is green… I’m not joking). Then I organized the sticks by room in the jars so that all the kitchen sticks are in one jar, the den is in another, etc. Then I have a jar for “Completed tasks,” where we put the sticks that are finished. Now, this isn’t just for the kids, it’s for all of us. Not all of the sticks have to be done, but the more you do, the bigger the reward. Each stick is worth a point and we sit down when we sketch out our weekly plans and create a weekly reward system. Some things stay the same each week, but the others are flexible. The rewards are in increments of 5 (we don’t round up, either) and they increase in cost/time/effort as the numbers grow. Just like every fundraising event in history, you get all of the rewards under the one you earned, too. So if you have 20 popsicle sticks, you get the rewards for 20, 15, 10, and 5! Even more, you can spend the reward as soon as you earn it! One of the best ones is BURRITO NIGHT (even the guinea pigs love burrito night, people!) and it usually falls on 10 or 15 points, depending on what else is on the list that week. If they clear the popsicle sticks to earn burrito night, we have burrito night whatever night they want (which is usually THAT NIGHT). They don’t have to wait and I don’t have to try to do everything on Saturday when they “Cash it in.” I’ve also found that letting them use their points during the week increases their drive to earn more.
Here’s what my week looks like:
Monday- Groceries and indoor play ground at the mall.
Cleaning Day- Kitchen
We need groceries and this year, my girls have realized that they have choices about what they eat. I let them grab a basket and go get their breakfast and lunches for the week and bring them back to me. Totally their decision, totally in their hands. The youngest one is still sticking to the standards (cereal, pop tarts, and lunchables), but the oldest one is starting to explore options. She’s created a Veggie-burrito that she’s rather fond of (tortillas, lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, and shredded cheese). She puts it together herself, she’s in charge of cleaning up afterwards (we’re still working on this part, btw) and she eats every bite. I’m good with that. My next point is going to be to give them a budget and they have to stay within it. They groan when I start looking for coupons, but I’m betting that will change, soon. 😉
Afterwards (NOT BEFORE. They’ll complain and be slow if you do this first!), we go to the indoor play ground at the mall for an entire hour. You heard me right, a WHOLE HOUR. They run, they play, they get all their wiggles out and BOOM! I get to knit, or crochet, or embroider! They ignore me and I keep an eye on them out of the corner of my eye. WIN-WIN! Today, we’ll also go get supplies for our Thursday activity, but that’s because there’s a craft store in the mall we go play in. That makes it WIN-WIN-WIN!
Tuesday- Library and playground day
Cleaning Day- Den
Again with choices! I take them to a library (we have a few different ones around here, so it’s not a stale collection of books) and they pick 2 books to read. Our local libraries also do a summer reading incentive where the kids earn prizes for reading, so we’re working towards earning those. Barnes and Noble offers a free book for their incentive programs, too, so yes, we do as many of those as we can! See how many you can find in your area and watch your kids grab books! We also have a field trip that we plan (on Wednesday), so we find books we can research with while we’re at the library. So far, we’ve researched Vikings and Atlantic Ocean Fish. We’re going to the Railroad Museum this week, so guess what’s on the list?
Depending on the weather, we may hit an outdoor playground today, or I’ll let them decide to go to one of the two soft-play playgrounds at the nearby malls. Again, they run around for an hour, play with kids and have fun and I knit, crochet, or embroider!
WEDNESDAY- FIELD TRIP DAY!
Cleaning Day- Bathrooms
This is NOT FUN DAY! That doesn’t mean it’s not fun, but it does mean that the goal is learning something. We happen to live in a city with a lot of history and science, given that we’re in the 13th British Colony and right here on the Atlantic Ocean. As such, we have a lot of really cool field trip options that don’t cost a lot of money and don’t require us to be in the car for long distances. Today, I found a list of the Top 10 Things to Do with Kids in Savannah, GA, and printed it out. We’ve already done two of them and they’re not really interested in another one, so we’re down to seven things to do before school starts! They’re excited! I printed each place on a different sheet of paper, lay them all out and the girls decide what our field trip is going to be this week! They’re in complete (sort of) control of the direction we go! This usually takes a while and they get lots of exercise doing it, so there’s no extra trip today. Awesome, right?
Thursday- CRAFT DAY
Cleaning Day- Dining Room
I’m a crafty person, by nature, just in case the multiple references to knitting, crochet, and embroidery didn’t catch your attention before now. Kids love doing stuff, too! Mine aren’t really into long projects, though, so we have to keep them short and sweet. Pinterest is my friend here (it usually is my friend, but that’s a different post!) and we scroll through DIY with Kids projects (that’s what I search for, btw) until we find something that screams US! This week, they decided they want to paint rocks for the garden. One wants to paint ladybugs, the other wants to do geometric shapes. While we’re at the mall on Monday, I plan on going to the craft store in that mall and getting the flat river rocks for the girls to paint on Thursday. I already have the acryllic paints, so no worries, there. I even have spray on sealant, so we can spray them and let them air out outside, then put them in the garden! Their fairy garden needs some love, anyway!
Friday- FUN DAY!
Cleaning Day- Bedrooms
This is the day they’ve been waiting for all week. The goal today is FUN! We have lots of options around here, from movies to jumping places, Chuck E Cheese to Mini-Golf, and my youngest has recently found the glory of… BOWLING. So, we sit down and plan where we’re going for Fun Day EARLY in the week, so they’ve got that to look forward to all week long.
Yes, this is a lot of things all going on at once. However, between their Rise and Shine notebooks, the popsicle sticks, and my weekly plan, we get through the week and manage not to have a house that looks like everyone is on vacation all the time!