Sunday, November 24, 2013

"Missional" Parenting

Multi-tasking 2 year old
 So all parents know how their children imitate them, and it can be super cute sometimes.  The times when it's not is when they are imitating the bad behavior that they see in us.

A few months ago we were going to a new church and seeing if it would fit our family well or not.  It was a new church plant and we wanted to give them enough time to settle a bit along with us to really see if it would work.  They kept talking about being "missional" in the community and so forth though and wanting more and more involvement from people.  Note:  I'm definitely NOT going to be saying that is wrong by any means.  Personally though, every time I heard that stressed I felt like the Holy Spirit was impressing upon me the need to be "missional" with my own kids and that instead of going out I needed to stop and focus in my family.  I needed to be present to them.

Now I get all the info out there about parents who should take care of themselves. The Mom needs to be renewed so she can have something to give to her children, oh, and the marriage needs to be strong.  I really think people can take that too far though and just be selfish.  Or maybe I should just speak for myself.  *I* can get to a point where I feel like I need more "me time" and never seem to get enough. Inevitably,  I don't really feel renewed by getting away from them.  I think the trouble though is in how I view my "away" time and my time with them.
2, 5, and 7 = the triple scoop  :}
When someone tries to tell me that our family can't be all about our kids, on one hand I agree (it should be all about Jesus,) but on another hand, I compare it to what someone would tell a missionary.  Say you go to China to live life with the people there and serve them to show them the love of Jesus.  Sure, you might need a break some times, but is anyone really going to say, "Your job there isn't about ministering to the Chinese people.  It's not all about them."  And if you do take a break, what does that break look like?  Is it going out with other moms, or to a mall, or whatever the other mothers here usually do to "get away" or do they get away to pray and seek God?

I've been thinking about these things for quite a while, and even when I just had one child and she was about a year old, I could see how I felt when I wanted to get a break.  Whenever I kept trying to "get my own time," I just never had enough "me time." However, when I accepted focusing my attention on her and really embracing this calling of ministering to my child, I felt like I didn't need that "away" time in the same way.  God gave me sweet moments of quiet and everything I needed in bits here and there throughout the day.  Perhaps I can be so worried about what *I* need that I can't see or appreciate what God has already given.
One of our lessons this month was "V" for vegetable and remembering that "God gives me all that I need"

I decided to write this blog post because I really, really don't need to read another post about "how mothers need to have time to recharge" and "20 ways to find time away from the kids."  Not saying those aren't helpful or valid to a certain extent.  I'm just saying that, personally, I am far too concerned about *me* already and need to be reminded again of where God has placed me and how important this mission field is.

What's more, we've chosen to homeschool, which puts our children even more in our lives -- and they see me ALL the time.  They see my good days and bad days.  The playing and happiness and the depression and occasional yelling (sad to say).  But hopefully they see me repent and grow as well and seek God when I'm overwhelmed. 

Rather than being told how to feed my own selfish desires to get away, what I need to hear is that my kids are important.  They are my mission on this earth (for this season in their young lives. Obviously as they grow things will change) and serving and teaching them is an act of worship to God.  When I do feel overwhelmed I need to be reminded to seek God and to repent and to pray and grow in Him.  I need to make those moments throughout the day mean something.  I can choose to listen to a sermon while I do dishes or sing praise songs while I'm vacuuming, for instance.  As the girls talk before bed and ask questions about spiritual matters, it can spur me on to keep reading my Bible and learn more myself so I'm always prepared with an answer.  My whole perspective changes when I look at my family in this "missional" way, and it should.  Our society is too prone to wanting something different and coveting in every way that it can. 
The Daddy got his hand traced for our "thankful tree," too.
I see our marriage a little differently as well.  When I view my children as a mission field and the most important job (right now) in my life, how do I view our marriage?  I feel like we are partners working together for a good cause, or warriors on the same side, fighting a battle.  When I think about "me time" and needing to get away, I can get annoyed with my husband and not see us as on the same side.  Just my perspective can cause imaginary "problems" between us that really don't need to be there. When we are on the same side, I see us praying together and praying for each other and overall just caring for each other more.  For marriages, I think it's important to talk about what God has for you and what that ministry is.  When our children grow older, our ministry will change too from what it is right now, but right now with young kids, it really does need to be about ministering to them.

So these general thoughts about purpose and ministry that I've had as a Mom of young kids brought me to thinking of more specifics. You know how you can let tiny things slide and don't notice how things get worse and build up until it's really terrible?  I was already seeing some issues building but didn't realize how serious they were until I listened to a sermon on the ten commandments about coveting.

quote -- short, coveting is when you don’t want what God wants for you. The simplest definition I can give you of coveting is, God says, “This is what I want for you,” and you say, “That’s not what I want for me,” and then there’s conflict between what God desires for you and what you desire. That’s where coveting finds its inception. That’s where coveting starts to give birth to death.

He describes later what it looks like even in small children, and we can see it sometimes even more in little ones than we can in adults.  We've learned how to function in society and not snatch something away from another person or cry if we can't have it.  As parents, do we feed our child's covetousness?  Do we aid them in that sin or do we help guide them towards thankfulness?  What example do they see in us?  Coveting is the start to all the other sins.  If we start coveting a thing, we might be tempted to steal it; if someone covets another person's spouse, they can be tempted to commit adultery, and so on.

Another quote from the sermon to illustrate the main thing I got last week -- How many of you have seen kids playing together, let’s say in a playroom at somebody’s house, two little kids. One kid has got a red truck, and the room is filled with a thousand other toys. What does the other kid want? The red truck, OK? The red truck.

So now, the parent’s got a really important decision to make. Am I going to nurture their coveting? And parents will nurture the coveting by saying things like, “Well, wait your turn, and then you’ll get the red truck,” which is, “Coveting is fine, but you just need to add patience to coveting,” which isn’t really a virtue, right? Sometimes it is, “I’ll go get you a red truck. I’ll feed your coveting.”
“I’ll get you a blue truck. The blue truck’s even better,” which is, “You should covet bigger.” It’s nurturing a greater coveting. “Oh, you think the red truck—I’ve got a bigger truck. “The red truck’s little; the blue truck’s big. You know, here, take the blue truck. It’s better.” You haven’t even dealt with the coveting problem. You’ve fed it, you’ve nurtured it, you’ve increased it. 

What if you say, “Well, I’ll look around here. I’ll bet you there’s a red truck.” These are ways that we just train children to covet, which is a hard cycle to break when they grow up and get their own debit card. They’ve been nurtured, right? “Train a child in the way they should go and when they grow old, they will not depart from it.” The same is true for bad parenting. You’re setting them on a trajectory, on a life course, on a direction, of what they think is normative.

How many of you have tried this? How many of you have actually gone over and taken the red truck and given it to your kid? What do they do with the red truck? They don’t want to play with it anymore. Why? Because the issue wasn’t the truck. The issue was the desires in their heart.

Good parenting looks at the child and says, “Why can’t you be glad that they are enjoying it? Why is it not enough for you to be satisfied with what you have?” See, that’s biblical parenting. 
[emphasis mine]

Our thankful tree this year.  It's amazing how much happier and content the girls (and I) are when we focus on what we are thankful for.
So after hearing that sermon, I realized that the issues I saw in my two year old weren't just a "Please and Thankful" issue or a property rights issue (fighting over toys) and that I'd been feeding her covetousness.  I'd asked myself where my sweet happy girl went?  It was getting so bad that giving her anything fun wasn't fun anymore. Chocolate? No, because the piece was never big enough. God is generous and loves his  kids and wants to give generously to us, but if we act spoiled and keep wanting more or something different, He's got to back off, and that's what I needed to realize. I needed to be consistent with the little one and not reward her covetousness. I also need to fully make that mental shift into realizing that she's not a baby anymore.  When they are babies, I (rightly) give them what they need when they need it, but she's two and a half now, and I hadn't fully made the jump into looking at her like a child and not a baby.  I was trying to take the easy way out by not following through or not being consistent when my two year old would throw a fit over something she wanted and would even throw the thing down that she was given. 

Now I KNOW I have to take that thing away.  If I give her a piece of chocolate and she complains that it's too small, she doesn't get to keep it. End of story.  I needed to know what a big deal this was. In little kids, it just looks annoying or frustrating or like they are "fighting" too much, but call it what it is (covetousness) and now the parent has a choice to feed their sin or not -- and that's is a big deal in this mission field.
Sunlight shining in.
The start of last week felt awful.  I felt like it was a ongoing battle of wills as I tried to be consistent and kind to my littlest child.  The thing is though, that they don't even want what you give them if you give them what they say they want.  Just like the quote from the sermon.  They don't want the toy until someone else has it and if you give the toy to them (giving into their covetousness) they don't want it anyway. 

I want to give good things to my children.  I love giving gifts and making cookies and treats for them.  Most parents do, right?  But what happens if they act spoiled?  Is the answer to take everything away?  Paul said that he'd learned to be content in all circumstances. Whether wealthy or with nothing, he said, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  Yes, that verse, quoted for practically every sort of ability we might need help with, is actually talking about being content, no matter what you have or what you don't have.
The girls enjoyed Grampa's visit a couple weeks ago and made good use of the pictures that Gramma sent along
 So what is the answer to coveting?  It's learning to be content. I know that I have not been content in many ways in the past three years and seeing that reflected in my youngest is a big deal.  I'm modeling life to my children, and I want to model thankfulness above all because it seems that everything else falls into place when this becomes a habit.
I'm thankful for my family.  Even though they are far away, I'm thankful that I miss them.
And just a little bit ago, I was interrupted by another issue with the little one.  She knocked over a lamp and I asked her big sister to pick it up and the little one says, "No I do it!" 

Normally I might have told the older one to just let her do it, but after all this changed perspective I couldn't let her.  "Oh thank you for offering." I said, "but I already asked Lily to do it." At which point, she got mad and threw a bowl of dry cereal on the floor.

What I would have done before might have been to ignore her bad behavior and clean it up myself (no wonder I was so exhausted, right?) But this time I stayed there. She fought me and cried and freaked out and wouldn't pick up the cereal.  Then an amazing thing happened.  I confessed to her.  I said something like, "When you were littler, you saw me throw things when I was angry didn't you?"  She seemed to put on the breaks and nodded. I explained that it was a sin for me to throw things when I was angry. The Bible says, "Be angry but do not sin." I also talked to her about sins and how yucky they make us feel inside. We talked a bit more too, but it was really neat to see how she responded when I owned up to my own sin.  She was just copying me after all, and I was being a hypocrite by telling her to not do something that I'd allowed myself to do in the past.

I felt like we'd be sitting on the floor for hours, but it didn't take hours. 

I was ready to wait with her that long but she responded so much quicker, especially when I told her of my own sin and made sure she knew I was not mad at her.  She needed to obey me and pick up the cereal, but it wasn't about who was in control.  It's a matter of the heart, and I needed to show my love for her in a difficult way. 

I see the sweet girl again under there more and more as we deal with these things.  It's not easy.  It's been terrible, but it's also been encouraging to see some positive changes this week.  I don't want my children to be good to make me look good or to become something I think they should be. 

When I work at training them and seeing them as my ministry and as people, discipling them as individuals, my whole perspective changes.
The two year old LOVES to scribble little pictures, then fold the picture up, put it behind her back and say, "Mommy, I've got something for you." Then she'll pull it out from behind her back, unfold it, and excitedly hand it to me. Notice the stack she created by doing this over and over again? Yep, that's how she rolls.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


 "If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." ~Albert Einstein

I always tend to feel inadequate about almost everything, but most lately I've struggled most with being a homeschool teacher because that's my main job these days.  I put so much pressure on myself because I'm their example and so much of their life is riding on what happens now. If I can't get it together then how are they to learn to be consistent or diligent or (dare I say) patient.  I often feel lost and confused in the sea of schedules that most teachers find comforting and solid, and there are so many voices of what to do or what not to do.  The fear is always there of wondering when or if they will ever like to read and if I'm teaching them enough math, yet being afraid of bogging them down at such young ages with TOO much of this stuff because I don't want them to be burned out before they even begin.  I've read so much information about the best way for children to learn and it goes against our cultural norm, but it can be hard going against the grain (at least for me.)
Why does everything look so much more amazing in pictures?  This is my desk that I've been working on more and more to find that right balance of order and "schedule" as a teacher.  To me it feels like trying to stand on top of quick-sand or trying to hold water in my hand that keeps trying to slip through my fingers.  The children grow and change more quickly that I can figure out what I'm doing.
  I remembered recently though that it's not about me or what I'm doing or not doing.  The best of parents or teachers can turn out terrible children or students, so what is it really about?  We do our best, but in the end we need to just trust all of that to God.  He's taught me to live in His daily grace as a Christian, then as a mother, but I guess I needed to learn it in this area too.  We can't get to everything every day and I'm going to be stumbling along this path of parenting and teaching, but that's actually okay.  Just like the other times when I learned this, it's not about what I can do, but rather what God can do through my weakness.
The colors are to remind me of the mood of the day.  Notice that red is at the "wake up" stage of the day and purple is at the "bed time" place?  The afternoon is green because I'm supposed to rest during that part of the day.  I'm still not great at taking my own time when I need to.  My own projects are ignored and I've been standing up far too much now that the little one isn't nursing all the time.  Anyway, the colors are helpful because all the words can bog me down when what I really need is a reminder of the general flow of that time.
 So what if schedules scare me and I have to color them in crayons to not have a panic attack about them, right?  God made me this way and gave me the children that I have and some how he's going to take all the good and bad and ugly and turn it into something lovely in the end. 
Part of adding more structure with the workboxes has been helpful and creating some posters for the girls is especially fun for the two younger ones, though the oldest likes to help her little sister with them.  (You just get two posters from a dollar store or something and then cut out all the pictures and put velcro dots on them.  I used clear ones so that the pictures would be more visible.)  I was having a hard time finding a time to do the workboxes and then decided to tie it to when I make breakfast.  I always make a big breakfast every morning so why not get them going while I'm working on breakfast!  It totally works and then it's easier to move on to other parts of their school (which is usually my reading books to them and playing a game and then maybe doing a project.  They do art projects and play toys on their own.)

Today I was reading a book about "healing stories" and the author was explaining how important stories and the imagination are and also how adults have a weakened imagination muscle.  I remember the moment when I suddenly became aware that I wasn't as imaginative as I'd been (when I was shifting from child to adolescent) I remember thinking at the time how sad it was.  You know what though?  You can work that muscle out more and more and get an imagination back!

Not only is it the most helpful for my kids growth and intelligence to tell them stories and be imaginative with them, but it's also really fun!

It's finally been cool enough for the girls to play outside.  For about 5 months out of the year we have pretty bad cabin fever and are trapped inside by the heat.  It's even too hot to SWIM during the middle of the day, people!  This is a view of the girls outside of my kitchen window.  They like to play on the little strip of grass by our apartment there and around the air-conditioner outside that is fenced in because it's almost like a little fort.  Grace (2) calls it her "house"

They are finally not begging me to let them go back inside because it's too hot!  yay!  They had so much fun this day finding worms and playing under their umbrellas.  Still warm enough to go bare foot.

Today was the first day that really felt like Autumn.  They actually had to wear socks with their shoes and hats and jackets.  We took a few walks around the apartment complex parking lot today.  First outing was with our travel mugs of chi and the second was after lunch to gather leaves for an art project.  Grace and I made up the one above.  We pretended that the leaves were very sad that they had to fall from the trees but THEN they turned into fairies and started dancing around in the frost.  She said that the little fairy was her and the big one was me.  Some times being imaginative with them is as easy as that.  :) 
Tonight when I was trying to put Grace to sleep I told her about my imaginary friend as a kid (starting when I was 3.) I folded my favorite blanket like a little hood and said that there was a little friend inside of it.  I told my dad and he said that there was a little "fellow" in there.  I had no idea what "fellow" meant but thought it was a good name so called him "feddow" from that moment on.  I told Grace about the little invisible blanket people and asked her what she would name her blanket person.  She instantly called it "Hoadle" and later said that Hoadle was a princess.

I love how quickly little ones can imagine things.  She said that the blanket people were in the clouds and on the roof tops and I continued with how they look for little boys and girls who make little hoods in their blankies for the imagination people to come and live in.

She was so delighted that a PRINCESS blanket person chose her.  I told my older girls what Grace and I imagined and they loved hearing about Feddow and the Blanket people.  Pretty sure this is going to turn into a childrens story - stay tuned on that one.  Maybe I'll publish on Kindle like my husband.  If I do though I'll need to actually finish the illustrations (which tends to freak me out for some reason.. probably more feelings of inadequacy.)
Renna (5) named her blanket person "Star"

Lily (7) didn't name hers, but she kept saying how she loved "Feddow"

Cutest little snuggle face ever.  :)

So, what is this all about?  I'm just still trying to make that mental shift in what is important and what balance our family needs.  I feel like most of my teaching goes towards breaking up fights and training them to respect each other (if she says "no" about your getting in her area where ever that is, you need to listen.)  The "no" from the little one turned into screaming when the middle one wasn't listening and then pulling and pushing and everyone crying and the middle one getting hurt and then the Daddy trying to pull them apart which caused more crying.  The drama can be exhausting.  But I need to take pictures and write my thoughts to see those little moments, the bright spots that make it all worth while.
My oldest makes models with her beeswax clay for over an hour (at least) every day all on her own.  She just loves to do this and often is inspired by something we talk about or read about or see on a show (Wild Kratts is a favorite) and with the picture above she asked me how many legs ladybugs have so she could make her model accurately.  She could even lift the outer shell to show the wings of the ladybug.  I'm always so impressed with everything she's come up with.  I've taken a lot of pictures of what she makes and need to print them out for her!

This bee-hornet is a pretty recent example of her skills.  The pictures never do them justice.
 Amidst the drama and tears from one girl not getting to wear the fancy velvet dress to Pioneers club tonight and the two year old screaming (playing, but just way over the top loud) in the car as I'm navigating home in the crowded city traffic, and the difficulty in getting them all in bed and asleep every single night, and trying to make three meals a day on a really tight budget with allergies and varying tastes, and just the overwhelming feelings of not doing enough for their school, and dealing with a shy baby that has yet to be baby-sat by anyone, missing the relief and quiet the mountains and pine trees bring and missing the company of my favorite people back at home.
---- I'm continually trying to remind myself to focus on the good things.  The things that I like and the things that I can put into place to enjoy.  Getting old musicals from the library has been super fun because I get to hear my 2 year old say how much she loves "singing in the rain" and I get to hear my girls laugh about and enjoy the shows I always loved as a kid (like "seven brides for seven brothers")  I can do origami with my 7 year old as part of our school and teach her how to make friendship bracelets.  While I feel like I'm starved for close friends where we live right now, and rest in general, I need to just keep reminding myself of the blessings I have (exhausting blessing perhaps, but blessings still.)  Too often I focus on something that is missing or "wrong" instead of focusing on what I can change and what is good.  It's too easy for me to regret instead of staying in the moment.
This morning I noticed that the flowers my husband got me from the other day (when I'd been feeling really depressed and he wanted to cheer me up) were drooping a bit.  What to do?  I hate to throw flowers away, so showed the girls how we could float them in water in this pie pan with a candle in the center.  And "ta da" a lovely autumn arrangement that we all enjoyed.  Pretty good picture-metaphor for what I need to be doing in our life right now.
I'll leave you with something totally not serious at all.  I've been watching a lot of Tim Hawkins on YouTube recently and getting some VERY needed laughter!  And one of his jokes was this, "You never see Atheists homeschool because if they did they wouldn't stay atheists for long.  After a few days they'd be like 'Lord help me!'"  Which is so not as funny written down.  Check some of his stuff out.  :)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Organizing Spontaneity

I feel like I'm always talking about organizing, but if I haven't said this before, it's not because I'm actually good at organizing.. it's because I'm terrible at it that I keep trying to get better at it.  That's why I write about this subject, not because I have it figured out, but because I'm trying to figure it out.  For those of you that are great at organizing and need to lighten up perhaps this will help you too?  I have no idea if it will help you, but you never know.  I'm trying to organize just enough so our days aren't just totally out there, so this post will probably help people more like me who want more structure, but are those "odd" homeschooling mother's that do NOT like to schedule their school.  I've seen so many blog posts where Mom's are totally into the scheduling side of things and planning the school and all that and I think that is GREAT.. it's just definitely not me.

Right, so, there was a post in the past where I think I said how I'd taken pictures of most of our school stuff (manipulatives or art things or puzzles and games, etc.) well, the little album worked well to show to the girls when they didn't know what to do, but recently I bought a book all about "workboxes" about how to organize homeschooling.  It's really quite a good book, but as all advice is -- it's not a one size fits all.  It might fit YOUR schooling perfectly!  Which would be great, but what with my style of almost unschooling with the "learn all the time whenever you want" thing, it was a little too ridged... combine that with the artistic (very involved) teacher doing group times, the independence of the system wasn't a perfect fit, BUT I really wanted just a little order in part of our school.  Lets walk through the pictures because I need pictures to explain anything.

I took sticky notes to the album that I already made to mark all the stuff we already have that I COULD put in work boxes for independent work.  Basically, our house is too little for me to have a room with everything visible for them to pick and choose at their own convenience-- enter the album.. yet they still don't necessarily "feel" like doing the things in there.. and being the thrifty Mom that I am, I really don't want to buy more stuff when we have stuff already!  So, how do we start using what we already have.  I realized we have a LOT of stuff to use for our school right now.  That doesn't even count all the free pinterest ideas that I've already pinned.  So, filling workboxes isn't a problem.  We needed a way to plug in what we already had in a manageable way.

I know she says that the best plan is to use shoe box size clear containers on a shoe rack.  And yes that's a great idea if you have the space. It really is better because you don't have to worry about the books or whatever fitting into a drawer like I have to deal with, but what with how I already have a space for each girl for their own art work and projects following the ideas of "fostering the independent learner"I really couldn't (truly) find room for an entire shelf with 12 shoe box size boxes all filled with only one thing each... for even just my older two.  The lady that wrote the book on Workboxes is pretty adamant  about how important the boxes are and seeing them LEAVE the shelf.  Which totally makes sense if you are exclusively using it.  (Note: I have the book to borrow if anyone is interested.)  But I'm not exclusively doing her system, so I had to figure out what would help us and what wouldn't.  The picture above is what I came up with to use drawers that show when they are finished.  Instead of taking the drawer out, I had the girls stick on the colored strips of paper (they all already had velcro dots on them) and it sort of looks like a stop sign with green at the bottom for "go play."  But doing all 12 drawers in one day didn't work for us.

This was our trial day this Monday, and I quickly realized that while I COULD have them do the system just like the book described -- emphasizing independence and being quiet and serious during school time-- I really don't want that as our motto.   I changed the "quiet" tabs on their school folders to "Listen, Laugh, Learn" the next day because that's what I want our school to be!  I don't want perfect silence and totally independence.  I want them to come to me when they need help instead of doing something wrong and getting frustrated.  It was great to work through though because it helped me pin down what I really wanted our school to be and what I didn't want it to be.

The 5 year old was the most excited about the new school.  Motivations of finishing things and getting to that carrot work REALLY well for this one.  My oldest is more interested in the process though instead of "getting it done" and wasn't quite as excited about doing things this way (Though, interestingly, the oldest actually likes to have a schedule more than the middle one because she wants to know what is next and what to do.)

The first day with the 2 year old trying to do this system.  It worked okay for her, though it was really too many boxes for her (or me) to handle.  I'm not sure how anyone plans that far in advance and keeps their sanity.  You know.. the little one can be really "into" something for a long time, but depending on her mood she can switch from one activity to another much too quickly for me to keep up trying to use a set plan.  I needed a way to use this plan WITH flexibility because I need the workboxes for independence while I read to or help the older ones... which I guess is turning them more into "busy boxes" but- whatever.. I'm going with what works.

Enter the second day we tested this new plan out.  I decided instead of doing 12 drawers a day we'd do 12 a week.  So, only three a day four days a week.  Honestly this will work much better for us because I have a bunch of books to read to all of them each day (as a group) language arts is going to be with the older two together, and a few other things that I need to do WITH them together apart from the workboxes.  BUT I do like the workboxes for review pages and practicing their penmenship and for some math manipulatives or puzzles and so on that we have, but forget to use.

This is how the 5 year old's desk area looks after her school is done for the day.

This is where she hangs her schedule and keeps track of things. 

This schedule is just like the book showed and I got the printable from her website.  Each box (or drawer in our case) gets a number.

Each number on the schedule matches the number on the drawer and a Velcro dot is already stuck to the numbers.

So, she takes the first number off her schedule strip and velcros it to the corresponding numbered drawer.  Then she takes the drawer out of the shelf and takes everything out of it and DOES everything that is in it.  *note, you are supposed to have all the supplies they need for that, so pencils or rulers or whatever need to be all in there.  I quickly realized I didn't have enough pencils to have a pencil for every time they needed one.  Sort of overheated my pencil sharpener, but it's all good.

After they do everything in the "workbox" the original system has them put everything back in the box and put the box to the side (so that the shelves look emptier and emptier as the child works = great motivation to finish!) I needed a way to "block out" the drawer so it felt done.  I didn't want to take it out and leave it on the floor as she indicated though partly because I'm trying to teach them to put stuff AWAY when they are done with them.  SO, they get to put a strip of paper over the front of the drawer (that was in the drawer with the rest of the stuff) to indicate that they are now *done* with that drawer.  It's a good way to remind me as well.  I thought of using just black or something to "block it out" but this works for now.

And again, the next thing she does is look at her schedule strip and go to the next number and match it up like before and do everything in the drawer and put it all back and cover it with the paper.

I forgot to put the paper over drawer two when I took this picture, but you get the idea.. the number 3 box has a picture of me with her to show her that this is a drawer that she does with me instead of all by herself.  We are only doing three a day and each day both girls will have something to do with me.  Sometimes it's a work book type thing like this "early learner" book in my 5 year old's drawer, or it could be doing origami or even a brownie mix to do together!  Really, it can be super fun and feel "spontaneous" even though it's organized.

End of one day it looks like this, plus I forgot to say how I deal with things that don't fit in the drawers.  You don't have this issue if you use the boxes and shoe rack like the original system uses.  I used dry erase paper stuck to the box on top of the stack of drawers to hold things that don't fit in the drawers and wrote the number of the box.  This time there was just something for drawer #2.  Easy to pull one thing out to use with that drawer and put it all back when you are done.  Not a problem.

You can also put things on their schedule that isn't a number for their "workboxes" the book has some great ideas, but I wanted to add my own as well.  I already got some leapster explorer games (that are fun and education - especial for the right brain dominant learners) but noticed that the girls had stopped playing them since they weren't "new" anymore... enter the Leapster card onto the schedule strip.  I don't have a time limit for them to use it, you might want to do that if you think they spend too much time on it.

Right, so where do you put the card that doesn't go on the box?  This wasn't really talked about in the book, so I made up my own thing of where to put it and put it on their school desk folders.

This wasn't talked about really in the book either.. where to put the schedule when they aren't holding it?  I got hooks from the dollar store to attache to their school folders.  This is what it looks like when she's done for this day.  Notice that the next day up has three drawers again and then she gets to do Wii fit!  I wanted to encourage more of that.

The "check in" and "check out" pocket thing was from the original book and I printed them out from her website.  Here's how Renna would "check out" of school for the day.

My biggest problem that first day was not being able to re-fill the workboxes easily because our school stuff was upstairs in their room or here or there and I needed a better place to house their stuff.  Also, I didn't have a place to keep puzzles out as we work on them (it's nice to have something for my very active 7 year old to do when I'm reading outloud to everyone.  So, that's why I moved this folding table out of the dinning room.

And these built in shelves with the useless space under them is now super useful!  I'm still planning on hanging some fabric in front of this because I don't want the 2 year old to  get in there and pick whatever she feels like.  Sometimes I'm okay with her picking play dough or  a messy rice box, but at other times I really don't have time to clean up after a mess like that and having it hidden so that I pick out what she can do is probably a better idea.

She now has 6 workboxes instead of 12.  I also put a dry erase paper square on each one under the velcro dot so that I can fill the boxes and then when the time comes to use them I can easily write whatever number I want and set out 3 or 4 at a time for her to go through in order.  More then that was just too much for her or me to handle at one time.  I have things in there like color sorter ideas (with all different things, like poof balls or buttons) and other education toys or games or just fun stuff.
This was another printable from the website ( So that you can write what is in the workboxes.  I can't seem to decide BEFORE I put stuff in what is in there, but I wanted to keep a record of what I'd done, so after I fill the drawers I write them all down in this list.  It's nice to know what we've done and also nice to have ideas for future reference.  Notice my planning is looking more professional though I'm still using crayons for their names.  It's now not ALL in crayon.  ;]  I'm actually to a point where I might even write out other things that we are going to do... or at least write it out AFTER we do it.  :]

My seven year old got to do Wii fit as her fourth thing for today which is really GREAT for her because she's enjoying it and learning to balance and use up her energy in a great way.  This particular one that she's doing she has to time her movements just right which is something she's needed to learn (as all kids do) and balance and rhythm is important in the Waldorf philosophy, though I'm sure they weren't think of Wii fit, but hey... we are using what we have in the culture we live in.  My husband couldn't do without video games of some kind, so it's nice to have some that are useful.

This is my 7 year old's school folder.  The "check in" pocket is on the left and the "check out" pocket is on the right.  I found some pictures just doing a search on line for the alphabet and the number chart and the multiplication chart.  She has a little calender above the hundreds chart.  Above her schedule strip she has some "help me" cards velcroed to her folder so that she can ask for help when she needs to with her workboxes.  The original system was trying to keep the kids from asking for help too much, but I want to encourage them to ask for help when they need it.

And this is how the drawers look when the 7 year old is done with her workboxes for the day (Note; this is a small part of their school as I'll be doing at least three other group things with them separately from this.)

Half of our dinning room now looks like this.  School and projects are totally taking over.

When I started this blog post they were all playing play dough.  As I'm finishing the blog post they are watching a "Wild Krats" show about kangaroos.  While ideally I'd rather send them outside to play in the dirt or something I've got to work with what I have and they can't play much outside without me and I need a break on occasion, and so I'm going to go with shows like this that teach them something in a great right-brain dominant way. 
 Confession-  first day we tried this system as a test day was REALLY stressful for me!  The book makes it sound pretty easy and quick to set up, but it took several late nights to get all the parts put together, the numbers here, the velcro there, the plan of what to put in them and so on..... it just took some time and I was really really tired from doing it.  It wasn't "hard" necessarily and would probably be much easier for someone who is already doing a basic school schedule each day, but as we weren't doing a schedule at all it was forcing me to really look at what I wanted to do and how to do it.  Which was good, but that first day felt a little like trial by fire for me.  The girls didn't notice how tired I was, but my husband did when he got home.  By the time he came home though I'd pulled out practically all of our school stuff and had it spread out all over our house as I worked on figuring out where in the world to put it all to make this system work better.

As we do more school I might find that I want to add more work into their drawers or even do more drawers a week, but right now I wanted to make sure that I didn't get bogged down with this bit of it (which for us is more "extra" than the main part of school.)  My husband is excited about this as well since it adds a bit more structure to our extra stuff (so we don't forget to use them.)  He likes to come home and ask "what did you do in school today?" which always frustrated the kids and me because our "school" is going on all the time and often they couldn't distinguish  their living and learning.   Sure, I could tell him what they learned and what we did, but a better question is "what did you do today" and then they'd talk all about going to the zoo and seeing the elephants who like apples as a special treat or building a 750 piece puzzle or whatever.

I feel a little silly to be the one that needs this organizing system more than the kids.  I'm a right-brain-dominant visual person that is scared of lists and schedules.  I was so stressed out as I was trying to set all this up and it didn't quite make sense about why I was so stressed about it, but I just have issues with pinning things down.  I like to be spontaneous when we learn because when the girls actually ask about something it means they are ready to learn about it.  They are listening and it's an opportunity that can be missed if I'm too caught up in teaching something else when they aren't ready to learn it.  But on the other hand it's stressful to have three kids all wanting to learn all at the same time.  I'm pulled in too many directions to keep my sanity at times.

In conclusion:  My thoughts on the workbox system are favorable.  For us (with some tweaking) they are a great place to start adding more organization.  It's forcing me to plan out some of their school each week and keeping up with some basic review of skills.  While I don't want to do textbooks and tons of book work with them I do see the value in a few pages of penmenship practice and so on each week along with our read alouds and games and so on.  I can't seem to organize by writing out what we should do and then doing it, but I can come at it from the other way of planning all the physical stuff (in this great way by putting it into their workboxes) and then writing down what is there.  It's nice to have it planned out farther than in just the moment of doing school (which is what I'd been doing) because now I can make it more balanced by just opening each drawer and looking at what they have next up.  Is there a good balance going on?  Is there something else they might want to learn about that I can print out and have for next time?

It's helping with all of that and that's great!  I'm official an "eclectic homeschooler" by now for sure.