What’s in a Name?

I’ve come to realize that names, or titles, are extremely important to my children.

“Is it “Family Movie Night?” Because just watching a movie is different from “Family Movie Night.” If it’s “Family Movie Night” that means they can get their blankets and pillows and set up in the living room. And there should definitely be snacks. But if we’re just watching a movie, there are no expectations. So you know, important titles like that.

When I first introduced the idea that this year after breakfast Abby, Noah, and Daddy would be in charge of cleaning up the kitchen while I did “preschool” with Emmalyn and Eli, there was groaning. Mostly from the kids… 😉 But the next day, when asked if they *had* to clean the kitchen, I said, “Yes! You guys are the ‘Kitchen Crew!'” No joke, everything changed after that. They have not whined about cleaning the kitchen after breakfast ever since. They have a title. They are a team. With Daddy. Some mornings, he even announces, “Kitchen Crew, spring into action!” Now it is fun. Just. Like. That. One title became a game-changer.

For Emmalyn, it’s the word “school.” Whatever activities I call “school”, she is eager to do. It helps her feel older, included, important. Puzzles. Blocks. Singing songs. I’m a big advocate for learning through play so, it is her school. 🙂

This is why I jumped at an idea I read in a book about a month ago. I was struggling to find a rhythm for our homeschool. Not only that, but I was struggling to get the kids excited about what we were learning. They bemoaned whenever I said the word “geography.” I get it. It’s a boring word. But it’s the very essence of what this year is about: exploring countries and cultures. The geography lessons are supposed to be the best part! I was already following a “block” schedule, meaning I wasn’t doing every subject everyday; instead, lumping science for the week into 1-2 days, geography into another, etc. Yet, I still wasn’t fitting everything in and housework wasn’t getting done at all. I felt like I was just spinning my wheels and worse, the year I was really looking forward to teaching wasn’t turning out to be much fun so far. It didn’t seem like I was really tapping into the freedom and beauty that a homeschooling lifestyle is supposed to afford.

In the book, The Call of the Wild and Free*, by Ainsley Arment, she mentions a schedule one of her friend’s follows that has a theme for everyday. In addition to math and language arts on Monday through Friday, her days look like this:

  • Sweet Sunday: worship, hospitality, family walk, board games
  • Magic Monday: art, music, poetry, baking, tea
  • Time-Travel Tuesday: history and geography
  • Work & Wonder Wednesday: household chores, letter writing, and time for wonder
  • Thunder Thursday: adventure, nature walk, nature collecting, audiobooks
  • Favorites Friday: library, nature journaling, science at Grandma’s house
  • Skillful Saturday: homesteading, prepare for Sunday

Sounds amazing, right?! And totally doable, when tailored to my schedule. You see, we already made it a point in our house to worship, practice hospitality, and have family game night on Sundays. By some coincidence, writing a letter is already built into our curriculum for every Wednesday this year. I had already resolved to go on a nature walk once a week, Fridays we have co-op and library (a big favorite among my kids), and Saturdays have long been the day we make it a point to prepare for Sunday. The rest I could easily make fall into place. We may not have a homestead, but we have skillful soccer on Saturdays! We don’t do science at Mimi’s house, but we have co-op and other favorites built into our Fridays. We are big lovers of audiobooks. And now I could fit in the beautiful things like art, music, poetry, or baking first thing in the week rather than put them off and then wonder if I’m ever going to get to the “fun” stuff that I long to do with my kids. “Geography” has been replaced with “Travel Tuesday” and I can’t begin to tell you how wonderfully freeing it has been to have household chores built into our school schedule! It’s a mid-week reset that is much needed.

Following this new “schedule” has been refreshing and fun for our homeschool. Each day is purposeful and special in its own way and I am constantly hearing how much the kids love “Work Wednesday”, “Magic Monday”, or any of the days, really. When you have little kids, life is constantly changing and once you find something that “works”, you usually have to change it shortly thereafter. The nice thing about having themed days like this is that the themes can probably stay the same, even if the specifics need to change. Either way, I’m really happy that we’re finding our rhythm… for this year, at least.

Here are some pics from a few of our “Work Wednesdays.” I love that I have built in time to teach my kids how to really clean something. I instruct them on how to organize their papers, their rooms, their toys. I demonstrate how to wield the vacuum and the toilet brush. We have a weekly checklist with rotating “add-ons” which are bigger chores that don’t necessarily need to be done every week such as cleaning the refrigerator. We blast whatever music we’re in the mood for and go to town…

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Backpacks, Baguettes, and Babies

I have finally solved the major issue I’ve had with summer field trips since I can remember: lunches! I only wish I had thought of the idea myself.

I hate making lunch. I hate it. With a passion. Which is weird because I love making breakfast and supper. (I don’t love being interrupted by all of my children while I cook, but I really do love all the planning, prepping, chopping, sauteing, frying, baking, and everything else that goes along with making a meal.) But I would take a hard pass on making lunch everyday if I could. And even more than making a PB & J around noon, I hate packing lunches for field trips. It puts a major damper on my morning. And before you suggest it, I’ve done it the night before and it puts a damper on my evening, too!

But recently while listening to a podcast, a nature-loving homeschool mom said that to solve her lunch-making problem, she simply packs a baguette, some salami, and cheese. And voila. When the kids get hungry on their hike, she tears off a hunk of baguette (that’s been sticking out of her backpack so perfectly because where else would it be) and her kids rip it open and stuff in a slice of cheese and salami themselves and then wander off with their sandwiches while they explore. Cue lightbulb moment!

So that’s what we did today. Before hitting the trail, we pulled in at Hannaford (and then I had to unload, tote around, and reload 5 little children–will definitely be doing this part the night before in the future when I plan ahead, but this was a last minute hike), picked up a baguette, some salami and some pre-sliced cheese, a bag of cherries and a bag of Swedish fish (because it’s me) and we were off. And the lunch was a hit!

Not only did they love their handmade “gourmet, European-style” sandwiches; there were no napkins or little baggies to worry about and they just took their hunks of stuffed bread with them and continued their explorations by the water and in the woods.

I’m surprised I didn’t think of this myself because when I backpacked through Europe, this was literally how I ate all. the. time! I wandered through France with my baguette, cheese, and maybe a splurge on meat or mustard. A bottle of water and a bottle of wine. Had I forgotten that or did I just not think that a simple bread/meat/cheese combo made by hand instead of a butter knife with mayo could suffice for my kids’ lunch until I heard it from another mother?

Either way the success of today’s lunch brought back that memory and more. I’ve found the start to a simple solution of a problem that has plagued me about our summer day trips and who’s to say it can’t spill over to our in-home lunches, too? And I’m starting to remember things about myself from my pre-mommy days. That’s a bonus. I’ve been knee-deep in diapers and spit-up for a long time and I still have time to go before these days are gone, but I’m liking the direction we’re heading.

More on the diapers and spit-up and how a surprise fifth baby has rocked my world in many ways in an upcoming post…

For now, here are some more cute pics from today’s hike…