Blogging since 2009, I'm a 1950s housewife to the bone and I love to share what I've learned with others. I'm a lifelong foodie, raised with Sunday dinners at my grandmother's and daily scratch cooking in my childhood kitchen. I'm a nerdy homeschooling mama of 3, and a wife of 17 years.

I drink tea when I knit and coffee when I do everything else.

From Memorial Day to Labor Day!
Day 1 - Skirt Steak w/ Chimichurri
Day 2 - Top Sirloin w/ Homemade Rub
Day 3 -
Rib Eye w/ Herbed Butter
Day 4 - Rosemary Chicken
Day 5 - Top Sirloin Gyros
Day 6 - Kansas City Style Pork Chops
Day 7 - Steak and Mushroom Kebabs
Day 8 - Dad's Hamurgers, 2.0
Day 9 - Top Sirloin w/ Mushrooms
Day 10 - Kid's Lunch
Day 11 - Chicken Souvlaki
Day 12 - S'mores Cones
Day 13 - Short Ribs

Kitchen & Sewing Skills!
Intro - Syllabus
Lesson 1 - Running & Whipstitch
Lesson 2 - Cookies

Managing Your Children’s Activities – Part 2 (homeschooling)


This is the second (and a half) post in my 10 post series, 10 Areas to Master For Managing a Household. Join me every Thursday for a new installment! This post focuses on homeschool activities and working on a homeschool schedule, see last week for after school activities for kids in school.

I wouldn’t dare write a post telling any homeschool mom how to make a schedule because I know that not only is it a very personal thing, it can be such an intense hot button issue. Anyone reading this right now that does not homeschool will likely not get why it’s such a big deal. It’s a big deal because taking on the sole responsibility to educate our children can be stressful and scary at times. Being told we are doing it wrong through a lack of planning can make perfectly capable homeschool moms second guess themselves. That is not what this post is for at all. My intention in writing this is to share some ideas and maybe a few warnings on ways to schedule, not what to teach or when.

Much like over scheduling after school activities for kids in school, homeschooled kids are even more likely to be over scheduled with enrichment activities and homeschool classes outside of the home for two main reasons. First because we want them to have as many enrichment opportunities as possible and also because of the dreaded S-word of homeschooling – socialization. I find that my kids have more interaction with both kids their own ages and kids of other ages and adults now than when the two older kids attended school, but the stigma is still there of course. So, the urge to put homeschool kids in tons of activities, enrichment classes or not, is strong to ensure they make friends, spend time with their peers, etc.

The issue with over scheduling homeschooled kids spills into two other areas. One being there are only so many hours in the day to work through all the curriculum that needs to be worked through, and being in classes all day instead of at home actually doing your main school work stops you from being productive in that way. The second being that even though one of your many daytime jobs is educating your children, it is one of many daytime jobs! Laundry needs to be done, sinks, bathtubs and floors need to be cleaned, pets need to be cared for, and on and on and on. These tasks are generally done during the day, either while the kids are breaking between subjects or for lunch, or while they are working independently. Either way, those tasks are not getting done when you’re not home.

First, you have to look at your tasks for the day, both your chore lists that you’ve made up for each area of your home, and your task list for school. Again, I’m not going to tell you how to plan your school day, your courses are your choice, but I will say you need to take all those courses and plug them into a schedule of some kind. If you are a very laid back homeschooler, that’s fine, but bear in mind that if you want to meet a specific benchmark or goal, you will need to set aside time to do the work.

The most common way is to look at how the materials break down into lessons. For example, maybe your math textbook has 100 lessons. Most school years go for 180 school days, so when you plug math into your schedule you’d know you wouldn’t have to do math every day, but you would have to plan out when you’d do it, so you wouldn’t fall behind. Or you could choose to schedule math every day, and give yourself 80 review days.

There are some electives that you don’t really need to finish. If you’ve chosen to teach piano or classical art for example, you can look at the number of lessons the book you’re using the same as you’d do for math, or you can just decide that after everything else that has to be done in a week, you only have room to do music or art every other day. This would apply to things like photography or digital art, or even an additional foreign language. For example, we do French through our charter, but we do Latin as well because we choose to. So when I plan out French I make sure we finish on time, but when I plan out Latin it’s ok if we don’t finish by the end of the school year.

Once you have laid out your core classes and your at home electives, you can add in enrichment classes and social activities. Generally two classes a week, especially if they do not require homework, is a safe number that should fit within the rest of your schedule and still leave time for a social day and downtime. Unlike after school activities, enrichment classes that happen during the day for homeschoolers are often family oriented, so they may have multiple classes going on at once where all your children can participate. If not, you can always bring your most portable subjects with you to do with the other kids while they are waiting, I tend to bring language arts with us when we are in situations like these. If they are distracted or don’t feel like working in a different environment, we can at least read.

When it comes to social activities for homeschoolers, I have found that these park days are very popular because they are simple and the kids and all just ‘go play’, but they are often chaotic and kids don’t really get a chance to connect in any meaningful way. So I like to host social activities for our homeschool friends. If we do not know them well, I tend to choose an indoor playspace or similar environment. Sometimes, I have suggested a new friend try out a class one of my children is taking. Most places have a ‘bring a friend’ option where your friend can attend a class for free to see if they like it. Once we know them though, I like to host an ongoing weekly event. It can be hard to get others to commit to a weekly date. You will come across moms that love having a standing weekly date and you’ll never have to make plans with them again. I have a few friends at both extremes and several who just cannot commit to once a week. I tend to see these friends more like once a month or so. For my own sanity, I have a day set aside specifically for rotating friend dates. Occasionally, no one can get together that day and it ends up being a relaxed day at home, not exactly a bad thing!

The most important thing to remember when it comes to planning out kid’s activities when you’re homeschooling is to make sure you have scheduled (or at least set aside time) to complete all your core courses. Then really think about how much time you want to devote to classes, park days, the library and social activities before you map out what your week looks like. I try to keep some spontaneity in mind, (I know, I know, I’m lame for planning to be spontaneous). I just want to leave room for it. If my weekend is jam packed and my daughters friends are over on a Friday night and ask if they can sleepover, I want to be able to say yes without worrying about moving everything else around. Many of our friends do not homeschool, so we try to be as flexible on the weekends as we can so we can spend time with them, too!

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Managing Your Children’s Activities – Part 1 (after school activities)


This is the second post in my 10 post series, 10 Areas to Master For Managing a Household. Join me every Thursday for a new installment! This post focuses on after school activities and social plans for kids in school, next week we’ll get into working on a homeschool schedule.

This installment deals with managing kid’s activities, but not in the same way that 100 other blog posts deal with it. I am a firm believer in finding and maintaining a healthy balance between my kids having active social lives and having so much going on that they get burnt out. If your kids are involved in activities almost every night of the week and you’re looking for ways to manage those nights, that’s not what this post is about. This has a lot more to do with deciding what is important and necessary and what isn’t, and most importantly, what fits your family.

I’ll start this out by saying that I have lived both extremes. I have been the mom with kids in public school and a baby in a sling across my chest running all over the city to different activities and putting dinner in the slow cooker every morning because I was hardly ever home to make it at night. I’ve also been the homeschool mom with three kids in several different activities, running them to all their classes and having long school days at home to make sure we got everything done. I’ve found a balance in the middle and I’ve learned to feel out our schedules, really listen to my kids and know them and what they actually want.

Even when kids request to be in several activities at a time, and seem to understand the commitment level involved, there’s so much more to it than that. As you probably already know if you have ever had multiple kids in multiple activities, it brings a lot of unnecessary stress and logistical nightmares to family life. On an average week, if you have two kids with activities twice a week, you either have an activity almost every week night or you have more than one activity on any given night. When does after school cool down time happen? What about homework? When does dinner happen? Is dinner a relaxing time or is it rushed or happening super late? If you have a younger child as well are they just getting carted around to all the drop offs and pick ups? Extra curriculars affect more than just the child enrolled in them.

So, what’s necessary and for who? You know your kids, the more social and overachieving they are, the more likely they are to want to get involved in activities. The more introverted and relaxed they are, the less likely. Of my three kids, two are really laid back and would rather not do multiple activities and one likes to be busier. We make this work for our family by not over scheduling the kid that wants to stay busy and not just letting the other two not do anything.

Before you fill your calendar with classes from the Y or your local community center or dance or martial arts or whatever else is going on around you, think about all the ‘other’ stuff you want to do with your kids that are hard to fit in. Teaching life skills like cooking or sewing? Family field trips to the zoo, museums, art galleries? A weekly library day? Having friends over for sleepovers where no one is being rushed out in the morning? Even just wanting to block off a time of night to really sit down and help with homework, going over the lesson and making sure you’re up to date on all your children’s assignments, permission slips and notes. Maybe there is something you want to share with your children that you are passionate about, like playing piano or working on cars. Not all of these things fit every family, but even just adding one or two of them to your family’s routine takes time! Would you rather your children be involved in another outside activity or do a weekly trip to the library, for example?

Downtime is really, really, really important. I can’t possibly stress this enough. Since I’m yet another rando on the internet telling you that downtime is important, I suggest you do a little research and see just how important it is. So try to keep that in mind too when you’re choosing what activities to put your children in and what family activities you want to do with them, they need some nights and weekends with nothing scheduled at all.

Remember that even if each kid is only doing activities twice a week (assuming they are not happening on the same day) that puts you out of the house four night a week. That’s four nights you’re not helping with homework, four nights you’re not starting dinner when you normally would, etc. Of course, one of your children may fall in love with something like my Helena fell in love with competitive dance. It was fairly short lived, just under three years, but she was ALL IN. It was expensive and time consuming and even though my husband has very little free time, he was left to pick up the spilled over duty of caring for the other two kids when I couldn’t take them with us to competitions or rehearsals. I know a lot of parents live the life of competitive dance moms, swim team moms, soccer moms, jiujitsu moms, etc, but it is all encompassing and exhausting. If your child isn’t totally in love with it, it’s ok to just take classes once a week to enjoy it without the added stress or pressure.

This school year, my kids only do structured activities part time, by choice. We have a weekly library date, we go ice skating every other week and we participate in the monthly field trips organized by our homeschool charter. We have memberships to several local museums and children’s museums, so we go on field trips there when they have special activities or when my children just want to go. We also just started an independent Girl Scout troop, and the part time activities they participate in are parkour / freerunning and painting classes. They take these classes once a quarter.

This is a far cry from three years ago, when our oldest was taking jiujitsu three days a week (two weeknights and Saturday morning) and competing in tournaments, our middle was taking dance classes almost every weeknight and every Sunday afternoon and competing in competitions with her team, and our youngest was taking one dance class a week, one library activity a week and several play group meetups a week. It. Was. Insane. Two nights a week the two oldest were both at classes at almost the same time, so the drop off / pick up was a delicate maneuver! Weekends did not belong to the family really, since jiujitsu took Saturday morning, the library took Saturday afternoon and dance took the majority of the day on Sunday. The kicker for me was that my kids were happy in these activities, and even though I was exhausted and running around every night, I didn’t want to tell them to pull back. The following year though, I suggested exactly that and they both scaled back to less classes a week and we had one weekend day free! Eventually, they moved on to other activities and then chose to part time their activities and I think everyone is a lot less frazzled.

So start by deciding how many nights you really want to commit to being out of the house with your children, and decide as a family what activities you’d like to do together. If you’re practicing Positive Discipline or doing just the family meetings, that’s a good time to do some brainstorming together. You can also decide as a family for how long you’ll commit to these choices before you reevaluate and add or remove things later. Keep in mind what you already know about your children. If you have a reader, a library day is a great addition to your week. If you have a little scientist, getting a monthly science kit subscription and doing one activity from it a week is an inexpensive and at home way to fuel a passion. Get creative, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune and it doesn’t have to always be out somewhere. Just having your children’s friends over to play is fun for them and depending on their ages you can set things up for them to do or they can be left to their own devices and come up with something creative.

On top of all this you have to remember your own daily responsibilities and how they come into play when filling your calendar. If you’re homeschooling and planning enrichment activities during the day, when will you do your daily chores, and get your daily load of laundry done? If your kids are in school, and these activities are all happening between school and bedtime, when will you make dinner? When will the kids have time to do their own chores, or their homework? It is a lot to think about, for sure, but once you really weigh what matters to you as a family, you can make smart choices about what to include in your schedule and what you would rather not have in your lives.

I’ll talk about using a planner in week 9, but in the meantime it is important to keep all your plans on a calendar of some kind that everyone can see. Even a plain wall calendar from the dollar store will do, it just needs to be in a central location (the kitchen is always a good idea), so everyone can see what’s going on – and use it!

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