Monday, September 28, 2009

p.s. on Michaelmas

I forgot to add: you might also want to check on this link of Renee's, for another idea of something to bake and stab. Isn't that awesome?

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

St. Michael and All Angels tomorrow!

Just a reminder that the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels is tomorrow; for ideas, may I recommend this excellent post by Amy over at Splendor in the Ordinary? I really like her idea of having a special tea with her kids on various high holy days throughout the year!

I'm thinking of making St. Michael's Day Bannock (from the book The Catholic Home) or angelfood cake, but next year, I just might make devil's food cake. There were a lot of ladies at this site who apparently discovered that letting little kids stab devil's food cake with little cocktail swords makes an excellent visual aid to remind them that they must always fight against sin!

From that same site, I also found this collect:

God our Father,
in a wonderful way you guide the work of angels and men.
May those who serve you constantly in heaven
keep our lives safe from all harm on earth.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Anyone else celebrating Michaelmas tomorrow? Having just finished reading Daniel, I'm in a good place to keep it properly I think. Good heavens, that's a scary book.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Saturday chores

We've been trying something new here on the weekends, prompted by our eldest starting kindergarten at home: Saturday chores.

I used to try to get all the housework done during the week, but there are some jobs (e.g., cleaning the upstairs bathroom) which are almost impossible to do with twin toddlers underfoot. Then I remembered that when I was a kid, we'd all have some housework to do on the weekends. We'd spend a couple of house doing it and then, hey-presto, we were done, and could get on with whatever it was we wanted to do that Saturday.

So Adam and I decided to try that, and we've been doing it for several weeks now.


After breakfast, we write down our list of chores on mirrored closet doors in our dining room (with a dry erase marker) and illustrate them with stick figures so the non-readers can figure them out. Then we take turns doing the adult-only chores (e.g., the impossible upstairs bathroom) and supervising the kids-help chores (e.g., watering the patio plants).

Here are the benefits:
1) The housework gets done. All of it. Every week.
2) The kids are learning how to work. May it be a blessing to them for the rest of their lives. (I know I'm glad my parents taught me how to work!)
3) The chores that take an hour with the kids' help (upstairs bathroom!) now only take 20 minutes, 'cause one of us adults can now whip through them while the kids are otherwise occupied.
4) We now have a time scheduled for getting those extra things done - you know, the monthly or yearly or one-off tasks - things like cleaning the fridge or hanging pictures. Once the regular chores are done, if we have some time left, we tackle one or two extras.
5) We don't waste our Saturdays. I don't know about you, but we used to sort of blob around on Saturday mornings - and some of that is fine, but it sort of sets the tone for the whole weekend. We've actually been having more relaxing weekends now that we work for a couple of hours in the morning. We get that nice accomplished feeling, and end up doing relaxing things we really like (like taking family walks) rather than relaxing things that are kind of lame (you know, liking watching too much TV).

This week, our extras included hanging some pictures and mirrors and electronics (the phone is now on the wall!). I also cleaned the fridge and even pulled it out and cleaned the floor underneath it (hey, that's where those magnets went!). We also cleaned up and organized a couple "hot spots": the sewing desk, a side table in the living room, and the bar between the kitchen and dining room. There's now a lot more clear surface area downstairs, which makes it feel so much bigger and more open.

I also like it, because it makes such a nice prequel to the Lord's Day. There's that great feeling of finishing off the week's work, and the clean feeling that the whole house is ready for Sunday. Doing the chores on Saturday means that the day the house is cleanest is also the day we celebrate the Lord's resurrection. That just seems fitting somehow.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

p.s. btw, when I say "housework" in this post, I mean weekly chores. Not daily stuff like dishes and pick-up and wiping up spills. Here's our basic weekly list:

-bathrooms, upstairs and down
-kitchen floor
-sweep patio

Of course, some of these things have to be partly done during the week - spot vacuuming crumbs, wiping down the bathroom, etc. But we do them methodically once a week.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

a homeschool schedule for four under five

It's only our second week, so we're still in the tweaking stage, but I thought I'd post our homeschooling schedule.

It's working pretty well for us, partly, I think, because I scheduled in a lot of breathing room. There is, for instance, a huge three hour+ gap in the middle of each day for . . . whatever needs to happen that day.

One of the nice things about this schedule is that making it made me realize that the babies aren't babies any more. In scheduling our day, I realized that I'm not in the newborn fog anymore. For the first time in over five years, I'm not pregnant or breastfeeding. Our twins are one and a half now, and that means that we don't have to be uber-flexible anymore. Without any babies - who might need to eat or sleep at any moment - we can have a schedule. And I'm enjoying the order.

That said, we do have two toddlers, a preschooler and a kindergartener, so our order, while not bubble-gum flexible, is at least Femo-clay-flexible. I'm bolding the parts that are actually school-related. Here it is:

6 AM - Jess up, and writing her novel.
7-9 AM - kids get up somewhere in here. Everyone's diapered and pottied and breakfasted. Morning chores are done, and Bess works on her poetry memorization with me while I work.(I try to do some supper prep. in here too.)
9 AM - reading and writing lesson with Bess. (This is a good time to start school, because the twins always want to run off and play after breakfast)
9:30 AM - read to all the kids. (This is the just-for-fun storytime, where the kids get to pick the books)
10 AM - kids have snack while I read a Bible story to them. I get Bess started on her Bible story illustration and then put the twins down for their quiet time.
10:30 AM - twins' quiet time, and Bess' math lesson.
11 ish - twins up and make lunch.
11:30 - lunch and memory verse and play and chores and going out . . . **
2:30 - twins down for nap while kids watch a movie and I get a break.
3:00 - School storytime (this is where I pick the books, and they have something to do with science or history or they're in Spanish - usually one of each.)
3:30 - Bess and Gamgee have a quiet time, and I have my devotions.
4:00 - I work out (older kids still in quiet time, twins still asleep).
4:30 - Bess' Spanish lesson. *
5 - make dinner.

** On Friday, Bess has her outside P.E. class during this time.
* on Tuesday, we have art during this time. Supposedly science too, but I think I need to find a different place for it.

Tuesdays are our off days, where we don't do reading/writing/Bible/math/Spanish, but do art and science instead. I think science is actually going to end up being in the morning.

I'm really blessed, because my Dad has agreed to do Bess' art lessons (he's a great teacher and a good artist) and my sister has agreed to come once a week to have a Spanish tea with the kids (she's a professional Spanish teacher - and at the tea they have special snacks - but are only allowed to speak in Spanish). This week was the first time both of those happened, and they both went really well. I love watching my family interact with my kids, and both my dad and sister are such good teachers, meeting Bess where she's at and helping her go just a little further. The outside P.E. class is a blessing too - it's a chance for her to run around with lots of other kids her own age, and do things like play with parachutes and run relay races and throw beanbags.

So, that's what our schedule looks like right now. It doesn't go perfectly every day, but so far, it seems to have a mix of hard stops and flexibility that make it very do-able. The big gaps of time that are for chores or whatever needs to be done allow lots of time for the three younger kids to get the attention they need, and for Bess to run and jump and climb and play.

It also helps me, because after scheduling my kids' time, I took the opportunity to schedule my own, thinking about what was really important to me, and what I really wanted to get done each day (apart from the things which must be done each day). My incentive to keep to the schedule is that if I do a good job keeping to the schedule, I get to write everyday.

Anyway, I enjoy seeing how other people do homeschool, so I hope you've enjoyed seeing how we're doing it!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, September 21, 2009

look for me, baby

It's been a bit more than a month since my old computer died, but now I'm all set up on a spiffy little (and I mean little) new one. I love it; I've christened it Baby Ivan.

The past month has been full of good things, and a lot of them, I think, have been helped by being offline. There's been more breathing room in life, and in that time, I've:

-got our homeschool organized and started
-got some peace about having to leave our old church
-finish plotting my next novel (so excited about this one!)
-start a new housework routine
-thought about how I need to change how I use my computer
-read lots of books (reviews upcoming)
-learn how to care for long hair

Yes, the last one is a little weird, but doing the research was fun. I've been growing my hair out for a year now, and I thought that since I was planning on continuing, I ought to find out how to do it properly. Most interesting tip I found? That long hair ought to be treated as if it were old lace. Why? Because if your hair is very long at all, it's also very old, and so it's got to be treated gently or it will fall apart (i.e., start to split).

Most practical tip? Um, don't cut it. No, honestly, that's apparently what most people get wrong. They're always told to trim ever 6-8 weeks, but if you do that, you're probably cutting most, if not all, of your growth. The truth is, if your hair is healthy, you don't have to trim it more than about every six months.

Huh. I didn't think my first blog back would be talking about hair. But, there you go. I can braid it all the way around my head now, and I'm very happy about that.

Anyway, I missed you all. Though I've kept up on reading blogs (and so many of you are so encouraging), I've missed being part of the conversation. I'm looking forward to sharing more books, and homeschool plans, and kid stories, and church year celebrations, and novelist adventures as the year (finally! I hope!) slips out of summer and into the glorious, crisp, lovely clean air of fall.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

p.s. the title of this post refers to a song by Fiction Family. It's good. Buy it on iTunes. :)