The homeschool year is progressing and the calendar is getting fuller by the day. As a family of four we are busy with many trips and events but we are also continuing our year of saying “no” to invitations. This pull back has allowed us to focus on what we truly want in our days and what is just too much.
Day-to-day things are as intense as ever with our two whirling dervishes learning everything at break-neck speed. With the constant bombardment of great ideas that the kids feel need to be done NOW, and the endless educational and fun projects we do, it is easy to get lost as a homemaker. With a spouse who works full time and has his own full schedule, we don’t have a lot of time to work on our home. Where we once had a fully weeded and thriving vegetable garden and cared for home, we now have an abundance of dandelions and pine cones littering our yard. To complicate life further we are also a house of sensitive diets and special needs in many areas. After a few years I finally found the trick to balancing at least two major aspects of our lives.
Life Skills Monday
Every Monday is dedicated to our home. We put a pause on homeschool or other projects and we clean up. We pause the books, the paperwork, the life shuffle, play dates, etc. and we just clean up. The kids will even bless me with a rendition of Kindermusik’s: Clean up! Clean up! Everybody, everywhere!
Even little babies can spray a bottle with water or simply use a dust rag. Toddlers can help make beds, put away laundry, and pick up the dishes. We sort and pick up the toys and listen to music all day long. Laundry machine spins, the dishwasher whirrs, and the house gets ready to serve us for another week. By spending one day a week dedicated to all the cleaning projects I don’t have mental space or time for during the rest of the week, I can feel better in my own home. As a family of sensory folks we don’t deal with with clutter yet we excel at creating it. Monday is our great healer. It is a peace revival. Monday is also a great day to take the time to teach our kids how a home is run. Our kids don’t get the chance to truly have hands-on lessons when I am cleaning daily. When we slow down and make that our mission, the energy changes and it becomes a fun event. A little Weird Al, Kylie Minogue, or Kenny Chesney certainly helps keep the energy up too.
We’ve been doing the Monday clean up for over a year now and it has eased the burden on me tremendously. I know that if something doesn’t get done around the house today I can have confidence that we will tackle it on Monday and start the week fresh.
With the increased demands in our house, our diet was become much more processed and as a result our health was in decline. With Celiac and 2 members of our family being mostly carbohydrate intolerant, we have to cook a lot of meals from scratch. We also have to pay particular importance to showing our kids how to eat well and listen to their bodies. If we feed them quick snacks it may ease a few days of stress but we develop kids who have a taste for “quick”. They lose the perspective of real flavors and textures. They lose the appreciation that food takes time to appear.
Years back we had been 2 full years without a single processed food in our home. It was a lot of work but it was something that we were really proud of doing for our (then) corn, gluten, dairy, soy, and chemical intolerant son. The very first time I bought a gluten free pancake mix box he looked quite confused. In his sweet toddler voice he said “this not food. Food is not in box.” Admittedly I was quite proud. With time and the addition of another intense kid, I just ran out of time and energy to be so vigilant. Life happens and our ideals don’t often match our time or budgets.
As a family we have paid the price in health and choices that aren’t where we want them to be. We decided to correct our priorities to reflect how we truly feel about nutrition. I have gone back to meal prepping for the week and combined it with our house cleaning. I go grocery shopping in the morning and then I clean up most of the house. Once the afternoon gets started my kids come and help me cook.
I love getting the chance to talk about our food. We deal with a lot of food fears which can be totally natural for children. The whole world is new to them and sometimes that is scary. Textures play a big role in our family as well. By talking through foods and learning the many ways we can prepare them, the fears are removed and kids can be adventurous. They get the opportunity to develop life skills that most public school children are lucky to learn if they get the chance to take home economics. As we move forward in our mathematical skills we will be doing more list making (handwriting and organization too), and cost estimating. After paying we can adjust the balance. We are already working with our kids to keep the budget balanced and understand the cost of household care.
By cooking our meals together our children know what food is called, what it looks like, how to cut it, and cook it. Sadly this isn’t something that all adults even know how to do. I am constantly amazed when I have to tell the cashier what the item they are holding is called. A recent article showed that the potato is still reigning as the most consumed vegetable by American children. The Atlantic posted a series of studies showing that most kids don’t even eat the fruit they take in the lunch line. We know that the first 1,000 days of a child’s nutrition set the path for their whole life. When the french fry is the single most consumed item by a toddler, we have a national crisis.
Our kids know that in our refrigerator there are celery sticks, apple slices, cole slaw, homemade apple sauce, cheese pieces, pitchers of water on tap, yogurt, and fruit whenever they want it. Things like granola bars, veggie straws, or any other processed food is a luxury item that we keep on standby for special occasions. If kids don’t like to eat their broccoli at first, just give it time. My husband didn’t learn how he liked a salad until mid 20’s. Not every meal will be a total success but at least the positive feelings about real food will develop.
Our last bonus to life skills Monday is having a totally clean kitchen for the rest of the week. On Monday I spend a solid 4 hours of chaos as I chop, peel, prep, cook, simmer, etc. all the foods for our week. My counters are COVERED in pots and pans. It takes another full hour to clean everything up. During much of this time I indulge my kids with a free tv day. We really limit technology in our home to some educational programs and 1 hour a day for the whole family. It just has too many negative effects for our kids. On Monday I make a trade. I balance one afternoon of kid marathon PBS watching with a full week of stress free lunches, evenings, and no clean up at night. I don’t have to worry that I will get the kids to bed then come downstairs and see Mount Dishorama waiting to be scrubbed. I can just relax. The day is done.
What time saving tricks do you use in your home?