Ink Slingers

Moving with Little Ones

While I wish this was a post about getting exercise with children, it’s not. (Although maybe someday, I’ll write about that.) For now, I literally mean packing up everything and moving to a new home. And did I mention with an almost three year old and nine month old?

Here, I am going to outline eight practical tips for moving with children.

  1. It seems so obvious, but sometimes we forget to do it when it comes to events that aren’t religious, per say. Entrust your move to St. Joseph and Mother Mary. They had to flee to Egypt right after Jesus was born so they know how to move on a dime. Ask them to take care of the details; to help keep peace during this time and to let God be glorified through it all. Wouldn’t it be amazing if at the end of the move day, you could say, “Wow, God, that was wonderful. Thank you!” Let us ask St. Paul to intercede for us so we can give thanks in everything.
  2. Get movers. We live in an age of DIY and yes, you can rent a UHaul and yes, you can summon family and friends to help you, but having movers eliminates many worries. Especially with little ones because one parent still has to be all hands on deck, so that leaves one parent doing most of the physical work. Moving is exhausting. Parenting little children is exhausting. Get the movers. You can still be cost-efficient by being prepared and have everything packed so you only have to use them for the minimum time.
  3. Make a packing schedule and list, and start earlier than you think you need to. You can start with the non-essentials and do one box a day. As moving day gets closer, check your schedule often so that you stay on track. Sometimes it’s the littlest things that can take the longest––for example, taking down curtains and curtain rods. A seemingly 20-minute project can be an hour plus once you wash the curtains because in taking them down you realize they were quite dusty! Gradual packing is like spiritual life in that we need to be working on it daily as to not be rushing at the end.
  4. Accept help. If family and friends offer to watch your kids so you can pack before or on the move day, say yes. It’s amazing how much you can pack in one hour uninterrupted as opposed to two hours interrupted. If a friend from church wants to help with a couple boxes, let them. Sometimes we try to keep people away when we don’t feel our home is presentable or that we ourselves aren’t presentable, but it’s humbling to let people see us when we’re less than our best. Let go of the pride and let people in.
  5. As you pack things up, think about if you really use it, want it, or need it. Moving is a good opportunity to declutter and simplify. Do you really use that panini press? Is that second hand coffee table really practical with children? Make the time for deciding now, because we think we’ll have more time once we move, but the truth is that we’ll be getting settled and we won’t want to be deciding about our things then. We’ll end up putting them in the attic and dealing with it later. We all know that later could be in 10 years, at which point we’ll donate or discard them. So save the hassle of moving them and the mental space of keeping of them. Only keep the things you use, want or need.
  6. Lower your expectations. Not to get confused with getting rid of expectations altogether, because that’d be chaos! Lowering expectations is about accepting that things won’t go as you planned, but they’ll still go. Frozen meals for a couple nights will be fine. Boxes overflowing into the living spaces add character to the rooms. Running out of clothes because you sold your washer and dryer makes you thankful for the one you’ll have in the new home. Having lower expectations lets you accept the present state with joy even though it might seem disastrous!
  7. Take pictures. This move is part of your family story. In the future you might have more kids who won’t realize you lived in a different home. They’ll want to know what it was like. They’ll want to see what you were doing before they were born. Pictures always serve as a great record-keeper.
  8. Give tasks to your kids. They like to help and they like to be included. Maybe it’s giving them a marker to label a box with their own writing. Or asking them to hold the tape down as you pull it across the box. They like to see the changes happening around them too. Moving is a family effort and there is something for everyone to do (except the babies, of course), but even they can “supervise” from their high chair.

If you’re moving, you probably want this to end here so you can get started on your packing schedule, but I have just one more thing to add. Moving reminds us that we are pilgrims in this life. Our true home is in Heaven. The home we are moving to won’t be perfect, but we’re thankful nonetheless for what God has provided. May our move be an opportunity to reflect on our eternal dwelling place with the Lord. May it stir in us a deeper desire for Heaven and the things of Heaven.

Holy Family of Nazareth, pray for those of us moving.

Charla Ink Slingers Motherhood Parenting

When I am overwhelmed…


aaaThere are many ways in which we all deal with stress, we all experience that feeling that life is just too much and the feeling of “I just can’t…”  I am not talking about the big stressors such as major illness, unemployment, death or other life-changing events. I am referring to the daily grind, the day to day, overwhelming, daunting activities: kid sports or clubs, homework, dinner on the table, cleaning, laundry, workload, dieting, exercise, parents, friends, pets, and the list goes on and on… even prayer feels like it cannot be included in my harried lifestyle.

I am in the midst of this feeling right now. There just does not seem to be enough time to do anything, so I make things worse and even more stressful by doing nothing. It seems ridiculously ironic that I would resort to apathy or outright laziness when feeling overwhelmed, but this mechanism serves me, if only for a short while.

I have stock mantra that I tell my students during the overwhelming times: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

Once I decide it is time to dig in and that I have to stop being complacent, the most effective motivation is prayer.  What happens if that is one of problematic issues that is overwhelming? The inability to pray is always the path that leads to laziness and apathy for me.  I have to begin with a pep talk, and that speech must be a plea to God asking for the motivation I need. Though I feel strapped for time, the most efficient use of that time is spent in Adoration.  Being in Christ’s presence forces me to pray for that pep talk, if only for a few minutes.  That time in Adoration centers me and places me in a state of mind to feel I can do anything.  

Another mechanism I utilize is a pen.  I write it all down.  When I do this, nothing slips through the cracks because I have visual and tangible evidence of what I have to do.  I have a hard calendar listing all events, all duties, all responsibilities.  Now here is the clincher… I have to check off everything that has been completed or accomplished. A simple check mark says a lot to me.  Even cancellations are marked with a line drawn through the words.  This simple act spurs my motivation and allows me to continue on my productivity path.  It makes me feel accomplished and empowered. I have control over what I do and what I need to do.ab

Another method is to speak the things I have to do out loud to someone.  If I say it, I have to do it.  If I tell my students they will have their graded essays the following day, then I have to get them graded and returned. My integrity and me word is at stake, therefore verbalizing my responsibilities is an act of commitment.

This is not to say that I do not falter or drop a few balls, because I do.  But because of the calculated steps I take, I am also able to forgive myself.  Because of the genuine concerted effort I have made, I feel proud of myself and in control.

This sense of control is the driving force behind quelling the feeling of being overwhelmed. Control and self-control are virtuous and what God wants for our lives.  I am the first to admit how much self-discipline I lack, but I am convinced that God wants me to at least try. I make myself do that which I do not find enjoyable.  I have to get uncomfortable  If I am trying to attain some sort of organized semblance and order in my life, my spiritual health will be better for it.  Therefore the whole process is a cycle. For me, it always comes down to prayer: I pray for motivation, I organize my responsibilities, I commit to a witness, and I implement a course of action and plan.

I hope that this little discussion motivates you to also seek Truth and turn to prayer to remove the lack of control from your life and search yourself for the motivation placed inside you by the Holy Spirit,

An Industrious Woman Domestic Church Ink Slingers Proverbs 31 Catholic Woman Rachel M Spiritual Growth

Ode to Feminine Genius: An Industrious Woman

This is the seventh installment in the series of Ode to Feminine Genius: Proverbs 31 Catholic WomanToday’s topic will cover An Industrious Woman.

Proverbs 31 industrious woman

Industrious woman, this theme speaks to me. I love being industrious; checking things off my lists, completing tasks, keeping up my home. Nothing brings me the same kind of joy as a freshly swept and mopped floor. Industrialism is perfect for my type A tendencies because it’s black and white, there’s no gray. You either are or you aren’t.

Except, I also have six children at home with me every hour of almost every day.

So, industrious woman easily becomes nagging crabbypants mom who doesn’t have time to read books when you ask her, because she’s only on number 3 of 74 things to do for the day.

Before we can be industrious women, we must first set our priorities for the day, or even the next fifteen minutes. There are two things I need to keep my sanity- a shower and a swept floor. Walking barefoot on crumbs might just be my purgatory. So therefore, after breakfast every morning, I sweep the floor. But, if I’m being true to my priorities, the cleaning ends there. I stop and move on to mommy things- doing hair, playing games, homeschooling, going outside. Every wife and mother has her things that must be done, a bare bones, and it’s important to figure out what that is for you.

Here’s the thing though, being industrious does not trump love. And, for me, that’s hard to remember.

taking care of familyWhat being an industrious woman means, at the heart of it, IS love. Because I love my husband and our family, I keep up with the chores, I cook meals, I am diligent with our housework. I attempt to be self-disciplined. And because I love God, I try to offer it all up to Him through Mary.

I believe there are two main tenets of industrialism in the home. Each is important, and it looks different in each person’s home of course, but without these two things it is difficult to employ this virtue.

1. Keep A Schedule and Plan for Rest – We all know that running our homes on a schedule is beneficial for everyone. The children are always better behaved when they know what to expect out of each day, more things are able to be accomplished by everyone, and at the end of the day, Dad doesn’t always come home to a frazzled wife. But, moreover, being industrious is using our time wisely. Having a schedule means nothing if you don’t follow it. If you are supposed to be folding laundry and instead decide to check facebook for just a few minutes first, things surely start to fall apart. The few minutes turns into 15 and then just as you pull the laundry out of the dryer, baby wakes up and now the whole schedule is pushed back. Of course we must be flexible, but flexibility is not the same thing as purposeful lethargy.

All moms have experience with putting off naps for just a little too long. We really need to finish grocery shopping, or get big brother to karate, or even something fun like a family trip to the zoo, but inevitably, the baby takes the brunt of it and eventually turns into a crying, cranky mess. Well, us moms are the same way. We all know when we’ve pushed too hard and our bodies and minds start pushing back. Part of using the gifts and grace God has given us is knowing when to rest as well. A mom’s schedule should include a reasonable bedtime, down time, and prayer time.

2. Minimalism and Waste –  Our job as wives is to build up our husbands as the leader of our family and our home. One important way that I believe is often overlooked is letting our husbands know that we both appreciate his income and feel that it is enough. Whatever the amount of money in the budget, the industrious woman puts it to work for her. She budgets effectively, spends only money that is there, and creates little waste. The industrious woman lives richly within her means.
Our tomatoes seemed to fruit really late this year after having a cool and very wet summer, so now that it’s officially fall, our plants are full of green tomatoes. My initial thought was to just compost the whole lot and be done with it, but I knew I couldn’t rightfully throw away food that could nourish my family. Instead I composted the plants for future use in the garden, and have picked all the tomatoes that will soon become canned mincemeat. It’s about using what we have to it’s fullest benefit.

Keeping the home neat, is much easier when you have fewer things. It’s that simple. If something is broken beyond repair, get rid of it. If there’s something you never use, donate it. If something you own is causing you stress or the inability to properly keep your home, give it away. Personal belongings are not important, not really, and when they cause you to lose sight of the bigger picture it can be a slippery slope towards sin.

“She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.” -Proverbs 31:27

What ways have you employed in your home to use your blessings to their fullest benefits?


Faith Formation Ink Slingers Marriage Martina Vocations

19 Shockingly Simple Ways to Live Your Crazy Catholic Life


I know it, you know it.

Our lives are filled with “busy.” My definition of busy varies from others. I know at times I look at what friends and family are doing and I think to myself


Recently, I was asked that very question – how do you do it? – by three different people in three different ways in one week. I’m shocked and dumbfounded that I have fooled people into thinking I have my life in order humbled that people think I have it all together. How DO I do it? And what exactly is it that I’m doing? I’m pretty sure whatever I’m doing looks way better on paper than it does in action! Appearances can definitely be deceiving. Just ask my kids what they think I do all day and I’m sure you’d get an earful of the real deal at La Casita.

As a wife and mom to six kidlets who homeschools, blogs, runs and manages said blog, a small business owner, and a person who can be found putzing about church on any given day attending a meeting, or Mass, or photographing the grounds, my life is a perpetual boxing match between organization and chaos. I detest chaos, but I also get a good case of the “lazies” – I suppose one motivates and keeps the other in check. Once a huge slob, I was forced to take on more organization, not because I like it or am good at it, necessarily, but because it contributes to my ability to function. I spend a lot of time in prayer, but after that I attempt to employ some shockingly simple ways to live my crazy life while retaining some semblance of sanity and structure. This is not a perfect list that is perfectly tackled each day! But, with any goal, it is unchanging, even if I fail when I fail. I hope to be some inspiration for the organizationally challenged – it might help knowing I am not naturally inclined towards being organized. In fact, my natural default is to sit on the sofa and watch t.v., and eat bon bons, naturally, but at some point when you decide to ask God to place certain things on your heart and for a change in attitude, you have to be prepared when that message comes through!!

PRAY. When my life is off the rails, the first question I ask is “how is my prayer life?” It seems so simple and yet it is a common component of our lives that is all-too-easy to overlook when determining where our spiritual pitfalls are. I heard a FAB-U-LOUS homily recently by Father Brian McMaster. He zeroed in on prayer being the core of all we do. Without prayer, we tend to lose our spiritual alignment, and fast! I notice a HUGE correlation between my prayer life and what I get done on any given day. This isn’t to say my days are without problems, but prayer always helps center me in such a way that I can respond to whatever happens with more patience and charity. I find my focus is in the right direction and I am resting in His plan because I spent time talking to our Father. Each day, I spend time in prayer before I get out of bed each morning. I have six kiddos, so timing is important. I find that my energy toward prayer is very different than at the end of the day {at the end of the day, it just feels like something that has to be crossed off the to-do list}. Father Uche said once that if you love someone, you want to spend time with them, just like those of us who are married should feel toward our spouse. Make prayer…God your number one.

*BEAR* MINIMUM. I came up with this phrase recently. Bear minimum should be at most a handful of things that you absolutely must get done each day to feel some level of accomplishment, otherwise the result is a GROWLY momma, which leads to cranky kids and hubby, hence the title bear and not bare minimum.  This will vary from person to person, and even from day to day or month to month. My current top three are 1) prayer {preferably before I get out of bed}, 2) make up my bed. This is my one chore that even if I get absolutely nothing else done for the day, if I haven’t made up my bed – the day is a total and complete WASTE, and 3) getting my daily chores done. Years ago, I brought FlyLady into our home and eventually created my own daily schedule of daily chores. I highly recommend checking out her website for inspiration to determine your bear minimum.

A typical lazy homeschool morning.
A typical lazy homeschool morning.

CHORES. Is there anyone who actually likes doing chores?? I hate chores with a capital H ::shaking fist at dirty toilets and Mt. Washmore, piles of unsorted mail, floor that needs to be swept for the eleventy billionTH time!:: but, there has always been something so ridiculously satisfying about cleaning the house that leaves me feeling a sense of accomplishment. Through the years I have contemplated and almost begged for someone to come in and help clean our house, but pride and…well, lack of funds pretty well dictated that I would need to get over my cleaning hatred and get the family on board with helping. Our mornings are usually very lazy – we start school around 10:30 a.m. when the little man goes down for his nap. We spend his awake time doing our daily chores, cleaning and straightening, breakfast, and then crack the whip once he goes down for his Zzzz’s.


DRINK COFFEE. Need I say more?

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 5.38.52 PM

SPEND MORE TIME WITH JESUS. Though I spend most of the day in some sort of prayer – usually in some kind of casual where are you {in these chores} God, it’s me, Martina? type conversation – I invite you to find out how and when God is speaking to you and embrace that and make it part of your daily conversation with Him. It could be conversational prayer, attending daily Mass, going to Adoration, etc.

The day I forgot to take him to his class, I was on a momma high from this event: PROUD momma moment! Jonathan moved up to gold cross today, something typically reserved for 10th graders. He tells me he is the youngest to receive it - he's in 7th grade. At our parish, servers advance as they gain experience, starting with a wooden cross, then moving up to silver cross in middle school and gold cross in high school. The college-aged men wear a blue and red St. Benedict cross.
The day I forgot to take him to his class, I was on a momma high from this event: PROUD momma moment! Jonathan moved up to gold cross today, something typically reserved for 10th graders. He tells me he is the youngest to receive it – he’s in 7th grade. At our parish, servers advance as they gain experience, starting with a wooden cross, then moving up to silver cross in middle school and gold cross in high school. The college-aged men wear a blue and red St. Benedict cross.

CALENDAR*. Whether it’s paper or electronic, storing your important events and activities, yours, hubby’s and the kidlets can be a HUGE time saver. Case in point: One day early in the year, I forgot to put a timer on my phone calendar to remind me to, oh…I dunno…take my middle schooler to his faith formation classes. A couple of hours after it ended, I had my ‘AHA!!!’ moment. I’ll never forget the smug look on the tweenager’s face. Never again, friends. That bad boy is locked in my calendar now – the appointment being the bad boy, not my son. 😉

*Can I interest you in purchasing my downloadable and printable Catholic planner?

PLAN YOUR TIME EFFICIENTLY. For the Kreitzer home, this meant moving to an almost strict diet of no morning appointments after a year of doing just that. Year two of homeschooling I was gone in excess of three times each week in the morning for my own doctor appointments, and I liked to meet with friends for lunch and plan my pastoral council prep meetings with the priests, and anyone else on staff I needed to talk with in the morning. It just got to be too much and the result was that those interruptions of schedule were severely disrupting the flow of not only the homeschool day, but also basic tasks and mundane chores suffered to the point of low to no productivity. And that led to grouchy momma and grouchy kiddos and grouchy hubby. ::see bear minimum::

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 5.22.36 PMLISTS. In the same vein as my bear minimum, writing a list helps me focus on what needs to get done for the day or week. I don’t know about anyone else, but when I have a ton of stuff floating around in my head, things tend to feel chaotic. Writing it down sort of puts an anchor on it and helps me gain perspective on what is on my “immediate” list and what can wait. Consider writing a list as a way to de-stressify {is that even a word?} your life.

MAKE YOUR YES MEAN YES. And your no mean no. When I commit to a project, activity, etc., whether for my kiddos, myself, my family, or me and my husband, I make sure I am in it for the long haul. During my three years serving on our parish pastoral council, and two of that serving as the chairperson, it came with a time price tag. I became very good at saying no to things I couldn’t do because, just after my obligation to my primary vocation, I opted to make my role as chairperson the top priority {that included being present for all meetings during my entire term, planning the agendas and retreats, assisting and making my help available for our priests as needed}. Everything else had to come second. That’s not to say I didn’t participate in other activities, but rather I gave priority to being on the council and all else fell in line, after.  I quickly learned firsthand how to apply that approach to everyday situations. Pray and discern before you give your answer so that you can be confident that you are either committed or are confident that now is not the right time. Avoid the temptation to do too much.

FAMILY FIRST. This seems like a no-brainer, but when considering your yes and no on a project, ask yourself will this activity or project help or hurt the family dynamic? At my parish, there is ALWAYS something going on – the sign of a very healthy and vibrant parish! But too much, even of a good thing, can have disastrous consequences on the home front. I work really hard {or try, at least} at not being too involved in activities at church because it’s important for our family to be together, first. What keeps me focused is knowing that my husband and children each have their own activities. We start by nurturing the domestic church and then ripple out into parish activities. Pray, spend time together as a family and God will bless how you spend the rest of your time. 🙂

EAT TOGETHER. In the spirit of family firstno matter how busy you are or think you are, make time to eat together. We have been guilty of not employing this simple tip for many years and moving to a much smaller home sort of forced the issue. We eat almost all of our meals together now and the bonding time is unrivaled. Are you too busy to eat together? Pick one meal each week in which everyone must be present for dinner, no exceptions – dads included. Once this small change to the family dynamic occurs, you’ll start to see how much more you’ll want to eat together.

GO ON DATE NIGHTS. In or out of the home, make it a point to connect with your spouse…often. My husband and I have a standing date night. We usually eat in, but occasionally go out. We treat ourselves to a nice dinner, and I pick up some wine for my hubby or occasionally get a mini-Keg because that’s what he likes. He usually washes the dishes – because that’s what I like. 😉 It’s not always about getting dressed up and going out, but spending time together and connect, unwind…and usually fall asleep because the kids have been banished errm, lovingly redirected to their bedrooms. Click here for some date night ideas.

Cute kidlet strikes again!
Cute kidlet strikes again!

ENJOY BEING AT HOME. As a homebody and introvert, this now comes easy for me. Even if you are an on-the-go extrovert who LOVES being away from home, it’s nice to be able to relax when you are home. I used to love leaving the house to do almost anything away from it because I found the amount of work involved with being home to be too…suffocating. I always felt very anxious at home because the state of my physical and internal prayer life was not in right order. Once I prayed for guidance on how to handle my anxiety about it all, I discovered that my own attitude was largely at fault for my lack of enjoyment at home. My home is not picture perfect – and it never will be with a constant stream of babies and toddlers {cute ones, mind you!} drawing all over my walls, but I am learning to just be at home and know that if I bless my children and home with my time, time I spend elsewhere will be blessed as well.

That's one way to bond with your kiddo!
That’s one way to bond with your kiddo!

BLESS YOUR CHILDREN WITH…YOU. Be with your kids. Sometimes the best gift you can give them is just being in their presence. Consider how contemplative prayer works and apply that with the time you spend with your children. Kids don’t always want or need to talk to be with you. Sometimes just being with them, holding them, hugging and kissing them is all you need to strengthen that bond. You know what brings me back to this? Hearing my kids talk about how busy I am with this project or that meeting. Even though my activities are always faith related, their sweet little voices remind me to strive for balance, to be at home more than I am other places, whether physical or mental.

REST. Get a good night’s rest. As I write this, I am coming off multiple nights of not following this simple advice. You’d be surprised at how much of my daily problems could be solved by a nice, homemade meal and a good night’s rest!


If you have a face, and sister has a marker, you *will* be drawn on.
If you have a face, and sister has a marker, you *will* be drawn on.

LAUGHSeriously, don’t take the Faith so seriously that you lose your ability to relate to others. Laugh with others and be kind. I find that a great deal of my time talking about the Faith does require me to take such a serious tone that I literally have to laugh in order to balance things out. So, laugh. Smile at others. Disarm them with your charm. Throw in a hug, too, if the three-foot bubble doesn’t apply.

BE KIND TO YOURSELF. You didn’t get things done on your to-do list today. Today’s accomplishments consisted of getting out of bed and maybe brushing your teeth before you went to bed. You might have slapped deodorant on…one armpit. That’s ok, mijos! When you can’t get to your usual list of things to do, adapt to meet the demands of the day and forget the rest. Which leads me to my next point…

MATTHEW 6:34Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.



What are some things YOU do to tame your crazy life? Share in the comments, please!

::Instagram pictures pulled from my personal account – find me and join the fun with me @MartinaCatholicSistas::

Erika D Homeschool Raising Saints

Getting Over the Free-Range Chicken Syndrome, Order in {Catholic} Homeschooling

For me, homeschooling was about pride for a long time. We were going to do everything differently from schooled children, every day, and all the time. There was no way I was going to teach my children like school systems teach or keep such a tight schedule. We will school in our pajamas and we will wake up when our body is ready to wake up! We will go on field trips at least once a week! We will do arts and crafts every day! Free range chickens vs. those chickens in those super crowded, mega sized coups. We are free range chickens!!! At least we were… until I realized that we are not.

I realized that my family has needs that free range chickens do not have. By my family, I mean the mother hen (the rooster kinda goes with the flow most of the time when it comes to homeschooling issues. He mostly steps in to discipline when called upon by a frantic mother hen). Two years ago I gave in and took another look at my Free-Range Chicken Philosophy. Even though we were getting all our schoolwork done, there was an overall feeling of chaos throughout the day. From meal planning to lesson planning to crisis management, it was all improvised.  Day in, and day out…free range chickens!

So what was not working with this free range chicken philosophy?  Well, lets just say some of our “policies” needed revisiting, here’s why:

1.  The Freedom of Attire Policy:  Realizing I have three girls who changed outfits at least three times every day and, later, a son that actually required changing outfits at least three times a day forced me take another look at the “Freedom of Attire Policy” in our home.

2.  The Letting Your Body Wake Up When It is Ready Policy:  Having four children wake up at different times of the day meant they would get hungry at different times of the day so the “Letting Your Body Wake Up When It Is Ready Policy” started losing popularity.

3.  The Get Your Chores Done Any Time Before Bedtime Policy:  We were struggling with diligence and willingness (with a good attitude) so the “Get Your Chores Done Any Time Before Bedtime Policy” got sent to editing.

4.  The One Field Trip Per Week Policy:  Spending one whole day out of the house every week started to mean spending one whole day packing and preparing for the next day, so the One Field Trip a Week Policy got in line for the axe.

At about the same time, a dear friend kept saying that we must train our children’s will so that they do not have the same internal struggles that we do. Another friend, kept mentioning the importance of actually being at home. I tended to agree with all they were saying and yet, it just did not occur to me that these were essential for a joyful home schooling environment in my Free-Range Chicken world. Then one day, it did, and the idea of a big modified and highly efficient coup for my free range chicks started to grow on me.  It was time to revisit our policies!
I started looking at what other people were doing in their homes. Two of my closest friends, Mimi and Christine, had just come home from FPEA (Florida Parent Educators Association) with Accountable Kids’ chore tabs which the children switched from one wooden peg to another as they completed them. I thought they were amazing! Another friend, Theresa, had passed out a list of age appropriate chores at one of our mom meetings. I was awed by what she proposed little ones could and would do.At our Little Flower’s meetings lead by the most awesomest ( yes, that is a word if you really mean it) leader on earth (yes, you are Jenny) the kids were learning about self-motivated industry, humility, love of neighbor, love of God and many other great virtues. The wheels started turning in my head and the question popped in my head: How can I implement all these great things without sending my free-range chickens into shock? Tabs would never work in our home because I have seen what they do with the loose parts of toys and games. (I mostly find that they do not survive the washer and dryer.) I had a lot of questions desperately needing answers, like:
  • What to do about all those outfits the girls seem to need to change into every day?
  • How does one train a will exactly?
  • How do I get them to want to do the things that I have to repeat thirty times a day everyday like it was the first time I said it to them? (Yeah, because Catholic home schooling moms never yell and never lose their patience…when strangers are watching!)
  • How do I reinforce everything they are learning at Little Flowers at home, constantly?

I am a definite visual learner and suffer from very acute CIADD (Child Induced Attention Deficit Disorder – okay fine, I just invented that!) so if I was to stick to a new plan, it needed to be on paper, a big colorful paper… Here are a few things we have been doing in the past four years in order to address these Mother Hen needs.  So what changed?

It was time to bring order to our little coup.

First, I scheduled a wake up time. If they were tired in the morning, that only meant they would appreciate their bed time a lot more. After a few days of waking up at the same time, they adjusted nicely.

Second, The Little Way Chore Chart was born! A system built around St. Therese of Lisieux’s Little Way. A chore chart that teaches self-motivated industry, love for others, accountability, diligence and humility at the same time that it teaches them to run a house efficiently. It also teaches them the value of things. They earn tickets to cash in for different rewards either for themselves or to gift to their siblings. They can see immediate repercussions on the family if they miss a chore or do it poorly. They can also see their progress through the week right on the chart. It includes grooming, house chores, prayers, chores which relate directly to other family members, school work, and bonus stars for helping mommy and doing things with a good attitude. It is very simple and they keep track of their own progress. This also develops a sense of honesty and honor.

The third thing I did was create a target daily timeline; “target” being the operative word.
In homeschooling  life happens while you are living it. Because you are not in the car dropping them off here and there, there are lots of opportunities for spills, falls, fights and other non –scheduled events. That is why it is a target and not set in stone.
The target timeline allows us to move forward on our day in segments divided by prayers. We start with the rosary at 7:30 am and work our way through the different time blocks of the morning. The afternoon starts with the Angelus at noon and the school day ends with Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3:00ish. Then we move through the late afternoon until we get to the Angelus at 6:00pm which marks the beginning of our evening block. This block ends with prayers of adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and supplication, then a session of good night kisses and the day is done. This target daily time-line gives the children a clear view of what the day looks like. I have one for each day of the week and include extracurricular activities on each day as they are scheduled. Here is what it looks like: )
The fourth and last great change we made was the institution of uniforms for school days. Yep, you read it right, uniforms. This year I decided that the fashion show was highly overrated. I had also not had my laundry epiphany yet so the less laundry I had to do, the happier everyone at home would be. Now, getting dressed in the morning is joyful and efficient. There is no more looking for shoes to match or the other sock that goes with that outfit. No need to change from the dress to the shorts before going out to play. I do not even care if they get grass stains or paint drips or holes in their pants. These are their uniforms and they were instituted for that purpose. It is carefree attire to be worn all day, no matter what the circumstances and I LOVE IT!So in short, I have found freedom in structure. I have found peace in schedules. I have found growth in training my will to stick to this new way of homeschooling so I can train my children’s wills. I have found that even with all the planning we do and all the scheduling we do, there are those days, sometimes weeks, that are just impossible and everything falls apart. However, I have also found that because I now have a plan, a solid base to go back to, it is a lot easier to get it all back in order and start over.
So the once “Free Range Chicken Home School” is now measured and structured and we have more freedom to do the things we want to do because all the things we have to do have already been done. All with God’s grace, always!!