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Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Comfortable Home

Banana Bread working on a collage this week

Since I started running family daycare last September I have been working to find ways to make life more efficient.  I LOVE working from home, but because we are here so much it gets messy. Really quickly.  In the past, I can remember leaving for my day job, dropping the kids at school and returning to an untouched, tidy home at the end of the day... happy sigh...

To give an honest assessment of how the house looks right now:
  • George is starting paper mache for his Science poster presentation at the kitchen table. Muffin Mouse if there too working on math.
  • Banana Bread is playing (messing things up) quietly in her room.
  • The lunch stuff is on the kitchen counters still.
  • A half-folded bin of laundry is on the couch in the livingroom.
Science project underway

Over the past year I have found some strategies that work toward my goal of achieving a comfortable home. For me a 'comfortable home' is one that is reasonably clean, tidy (only current projects are out), and well organized.

Oh, and I should mention that I did not replace my housecleaner who came a couple of times per month when she moved. I'm using that money to pay for my horse riding lessons instead... so things are more "comfortable" and less clean than they have been!

  • The daycare kids and I tidy the toys and play space three times a day (before outside time, before nap, and before stories at the end of the day.)  This advice came from a long-time family daycare provider and it is so important. It creates an atomsphere of order, but allows for freedom in play (I'm not tempted to tidy as they play.)

  • My bi-weekly toy rotation is a big help. I re-create the play space every two weeks (move livingroom furniture, set-up a new dramatic play theme etc.) This routine prompts me to clean under the couches, find lost toys, and dust areas that otherwise go unnoticed in the day-to-day living.

  • I pretty much do all the laundry one day a week. If I don't prioritize it on one day it becomes a nasty, drawn-out process for the week (forgetting stuff is in there and rewashing etc.)
  • I know I've mentioned it before, but I always come back to it - Flylady is the basic structure I return to when things feel out of hand around the house. Hot darn, it just works.

I've also become a huge believer in home delivery!! 

  • Our dog is groomed in a mobile pet grooming van every 2 months for the same price I paid to drop him somewhere in town. This saves me from spending one of my days-off running the dog around town.

  •  I have my groceries delivered to my door.  There has been some trial and error with this system, but I now have it fine-tuned.  I have an organic food bin delivered every two weeks from Share Organics. I also have other groceries delivered every two weeks from Thrifty'sThis frees me to spend my time menu planning, and eliminates the couple of hours spent shopping on the weekends.  I do still make a couple of trips to Costco in a month, but I find that more fun than work!

OK. I've got to go put the lunch dishes away before the little ones wake up from nap!

Joyfully comfortable,

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Finding Our Groove

Banana Bread collecting treasures on our daily walks.

Good heavens, where have I been for most of September? Well, obviously not blogging! It has been a great month - the daycare kids are happily adjusted to their new routines, and my older kids have found their groove with home schooling.  I've developed a nice rhythm to the days - enough to do that things aren't boring, but not so much that they're overwhelming. A lovely balance.

So what to touch bases on first?  I think we'll tackle homeschooling in this post.  I'm so grateful for the planning I did in early August as the start to the year was pretty seamless as far as what to work on. This freed us to focus on fine-tuning our schedule in September - figuring out where we had overcommitted, and where we can reassign some things.

Some highlights this year:

  •  Muffin Mouse (Grade 7)
    • With Bus Pass in hand Muffin Mouse is out-and-about 4 days a week. She has incorporated a couple of volunteer shifts into her schedule this year, and I managed to shuffle music lessons to a daytime slot to free-up our evenings a little.
    • Her Science class is going really well. She is working through the BC science curriculum with this group, meeting weekly for an hour and a half.  We're using her home-school funds to help cover the $235 cost for the year.
    • Dance has taken a new path too. Due to a rescheduling of a Highland dance class which didn't work for us we have found a wonderful new dance home at Dance on IT studios.  Muffin Mouse is now doing ballet (Grade 2/3) and Jazz on Thursdays.
    • Of course, she'd say the highlight of her year is the inclusion of horse riding lessons.  She is riding twice a week, volunteering at the stables once a week, and taking online equestrian courses this year. Our goal was to mirror the sport institutes that many of the highschools offer now (in hockey, soccer etc) with an equestrian theme.

  • George (Grade 6)
    • George is also toting his new Bus Pass and cell phone as he commutes around town this year. He is pumped about his first job volunteering with Beacon Hill Childrens Farm.  Essentially on poo-patrol he and Muffin Mouse spend a couple of hours a week helping care for the animals. After their shift they also try and catch an IMAX at the BC Royal Museum before heading home.
    • We made a switch in music teachers this year. George is continuing with his second year on the Alto Saxophone and has really connected with his new music teacher, Joe Hatherill.  After splurging on some music books by contemporary artists music practice is significantly more motivating - no more watching the clock!
    • Hockey continues to be a main focus for George, although he is showing an interest in being a Farrier.  We are fortunate that he can volunteer with his horse stables when the Farrier is visiting to get some hands-on practice in this field.
    • We're trying a new French program this year through Rosetta Stone. It seems great - an immersion experience online which is more engaging than the pen & paper approach last year.  We got a discounted rate with our school district for the annual access.
  • Banana Bread (Preschool)
    • Banana Bread is delightfully motivated in her home-schooling. Most days I don't have a chance to eat my lunch before she sits down to do her work.  Her reading is coming along and she loves to identify the sounds she hears in the words and songs we work on .
    • Most of her days follow a typical preschooler pattern: free play, snack, outside time, lunch, home school, quiet time, free play. Add some art activities, a dance class, and swim club and that's her week.
We have scheduled our annual home school retreats (I take each child on an individual weekend retreat) in October and November. These are my chance to develop a clear vision for the year ahead with each child, and together we identify the areas of character development we'll each focus on. We really look forward to this time one-on-one - can't wait!

So, here we are.  I hope this doesn't seem overwhelming (I know I can be a bit scary with my spreadsheet!) But, my intent is to share a snapshot of our week for other home-schoolers. I know it was a burning question for me when we started last year - what will our days look like? And, particularly now the kids are older, what does home schooling look like in the middle and high-school years?

Joyfully scheduled,

Here's our current schedule:

2012/13 School Year

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday

George Hockey

06:00 AM

5:30 – 7:35am

(Caz run)

07:00 AM

08:00 AM

George Book Club


09:00 AM

8:30 – 9:30am

9am – 11am

- Math - Reading - Horse Council George & M. Mouse

10:00 AM

- Writing - Music Practice of BC online Horse Stables

- Socials Project
- Reading Volunteer shift

11:00 AM
- Weekly Goals

- Music Practice 11am – noon


12:00 PM
- Personal Planning Noon – 2pm TRANSIT
Horse Riding

- Writing George & M. Mouse 12:30-2:00

01:00 PM
- Reading Beacon Farm M. Mouse Sc. Class - Math

Volunteer shift George – French - Writing

02:00 PM


- George Science

03:00 PM
George & M. Mouse

Music Lessons - Music Practice

04:00 PM
TRANSIT - Reading

B. Bread Swim

B. Bread Swim Club
4:30 – 5:15pm
05:00 PM
5-6pm 5-5:30pm
4:30 – 5:15pm
(Caz run)

George & M. Mouse B. Bread Dance
(Caz run)

06:00 PM
Horse Riding
- Writing 4:45 – 6:15

6:30-8:00pm - Math M. Mouse Ballet

07:00 PM

M. Mouse Highland
6:15 – 7:15

George hockey

M. Mouse Jazz

08:00 PM
7:45 – 9:05pm

(Caz run)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Back to Daycare

It was our gradual entry morning at daycare today. Our plan for gradual entry was pretty informal this year as we have all returning families.  I just need to adapt my plans for the children's new interests, and modify our sleep and bathroom routines a little from when they were last here in June.

I was painting the daycare walls, and giving the house a good clean yesterday as I set-up the play space. It got me thinking about why I love providing family daycare in my home (as opposed to a purpose built space, such as a basement area):

  • In a subtle way it elevates the value I place on children and their right to the best of what I have to offer.  When I ran daycare before it was in a basement suite - it was darker, more enclosed.  Looking back it sent a message that there was prime real estate upstairs which the children couldn't access.
  • I love that my child care and homemaking blend so nicely.  I can make someone a late breakfast in the kitchen, or throw some messy play clothes in the laundry while interacting with the kids. In the past I had thought that my home would remain clean and tidy when I ran daycare in the basement. The opposite was true! The space I spend my time in (play space) remains tidy - homemaking when running daycare in a seperate space did not happen:)
  • Having the daycare in our living room requires that the daycare environment be home-like, clutter-free, and attractive.  I do 'take-down' the daycare stuff at the end of the week, but we live with it for a considerable amount of time. I don't want to look at broken, plastic, untidy toys - and I'm sure the kids don't either.
Here's our space as we kick-off the new school year.  I changed the Eboo Cards - they are my decorating inspiration.  Last year's were the alphabet ones and this year's are the number ones.

Navy Beans in the sensory table.

A new IKEA tent creates some seclusion.

I moved the reading chair into the living room for a while.

Joyfully surrounded by children,