Teaching Time Management

I should say upfront, that I have no idea what I’m doing.

That goes for a lot of what I do in parenting/homeschooling.  But I know what I’m trying to do, and I think that counts for something.

I’ve been working for months on trying to teach my kids time management.  It’s practically become a school subject.  I think the hardest part is getting myself better at time management, so that I can be a good example.  The trouble with that is I have 5 kids who are constantly interrupting what I feel I “should” be doing.  My kids do get disrupted by their younger siblings, but for the most part, I act as the gatekeeper, and keep them away while they are working on their schoolwork.

This also has been connected with our New Rules that I wrote about awhile back.  My kids waste time and then somehow it becomes my fault.  It annoys me.

Part of the difficulty with this, is I hold to 2 strong beliefs about parenting: 1)Parents should set them up with healthy habits from the beginning, 2)Natural consequences work better than all other kinds most of the time.

Because we have so many diverse personalities, challenges, and goals with our kids, I have found that routines work better than schedules.  Some of my kids need lots of breaks in school.  Some don’t.  They are all different ages and abilities.  To make some kind of defining-across-the-board-rule is tough.  I want them each to excel where they are at.

So the goal: make them want it.

Make them want to manage their time well.  Help them to see the value of managing their time well.

Because if I know anything about my kids, it’s that they are passionate, stubborn, ornery people, and if they want something, they won’t quit.  So get them to want it.

Enter: natural consequences.

Oh, this is the painful part.  I’ve been working overtime, trying to get through to my kids about this.  The hardest part is doubting whether or not my kids are mature enough for this lesson.  Am I trying to teach it too soon?  This is what Knut and I debate about.  Should I still be ultra-controlling of their schedule, so that they don’t miss out on anything fun, or should I hand some of the responsibility over to them, risking that they may misjudge and miss something fun.  I don’t know.  But I know I feel compelled to try.

Here are some things I have found to be helpful in teaching time management:

  • Have a printed routine on display for all to see.  Let them know the plan for the day.  Some of my kids have a daily assignment book.  My job is to make sure that everything on this list is done.  Allow them the freedom within this routine.  Our routine is loose with lots of white space so that I don’t let them fall behind, but they have the freedom to move ahead faster if they’d like.  Do they want to take 10 hours to finish their list with lots of breaks?  OK.  Do they want to get up early, take no breaks and push to have all their playtime at once?  OK.  Did they finish their math early, and do a good job?  Well, then I tell them, “You can have free time until the next item on the list.  You can choose to use this free time to work ahead in other subjects, or you can just go play if you like.  I’ll call you when we’re starting up the next thing.”
  • When they get distracted because of daydreaming, or whatnot, because I was working with a different child in another room, I don’t shame them for that.  Just say that they’ll have to work it into their schedule later in the day.  Point to that part of the routine where they can work on their reading, or writing, or whatever it is.  Just say, “You chose not to work during this work time.  So you’ll just have to work during your play time later.  The only time I see is right here.  Do you see a different time on the schedule today you’d like to do it in?”  This is where it gets hard.  Sometimes they have to give up something they really wanted to do in order to finish what they should have done.  Teach them that the more white space in their day, the more wiggle room they have for goofing off.
  • Start a list of “fun things I want to do” when they mention it.  “Hey Mom, can I work on a sewing project right now?”  “That sounds fun!  But you have science on your routine right now.  Can you find a good spot on your schedule to put in sewing?  Put it on your list.  That way, when you are trying to figure out what you want to do someday, you can have a list waiting for you.”  If your kids are like mine, their list will get insanely long.  They want to build a treehouse, train the dog to do something, explore the woods, ride their bike.  Put it on the list.
  • When the kids want to do a new, regularly scheduled activity, like instrument lessons or sports, we look at the schedule, and look at the list.  I find myself asking them a lot, “What on your list are you willing to give up in order to fit in this activity?  Remember you don’t have to give it up forever, just as long as you are in this other thing.”  This is painful for them.  They don’t want to give up anything.  Ever.  Do they want another animal?  Great!  Let’s talk how it will be paid for, and where in the schedule they plan to care for it daily.  What are they giving up to do that?  Free time?  Play time? Instrument time?
  • Teach them to schedule in white space.  I remember my mom had a rule when we were growing up that we needed at least one night a week at home.  I remember being so mad about that as a teen, because there would be something I’d want to go to, but it was the last white space on the calendar that week, so I knew it would be a “no.”  As a mom, I’m stricter than my mom.  I require 2 white spaces a week on the calendar, at least in the afternoon/evenings.  That’s partially because we have so many littles still in the house who just need to be home and taking naps, and not constrained in carseats constantly.  2 white spaces a week for my older kids teaches them to respect the needs of others, as annoying as that lesson is for them.

Part of our difficulty in this lesson is that I require these 2 open spaces a week because I’m an introvert too.  My husband does not require these 2 spaces a week (or at least won’t admit it yet) and so he will book his schedule more full than I’d like, and take the kids out on days I have marked blank.  The thing is, that’s ok too.  It’s good to be consistent, but it’s also good to recognize the personalities of each parent.  Each one is important, and one should not trump the other.  The kids go on way more adventures because their dad takes them when I have no more energy to do so.  I will often stay home with the little girls and enjoy peace and quiet on those times.  That’s our usual compromise.  But I’ve also learned to let my husband know, “You can, but I’d advise against it.  The kids are exhausted and this is their rest day.  So take them at your own risk.  Tomorrow they have to do _______ and you’re risking a meltdown then.”  I don’t (and shouldn’t) control him as a dad, but he deserves a good “heads up.”  Communicating the kids limitations to him is part of the equation.  Letting him be a dad and make his own decisions is part of the equation.  I have to live within my limitations, but that doesn’t mean that everyone else has to live here in them too.

But this does require a lot of conversations, and negotiating back and forth in our marriage…which also makes it tricky to teach the kids.  Tricky…but realistic.  They might someday be married too, and need to know that time management does not always revolve around them, but it’s a give and take.  I think when we work to make a lesson perfect and easy for kids, we are setting them up for an unrealistic view on life.  All those complexities make the lesson so hard, but it makes the lesson that much more important.

These are all things I have learned, but it’s been a road.  It’s still a road we are traveling, not a place we’ve arrived.

I feel like I constantly frustrate people in my family by pointing out that our time is finite.  We can’t just shove it full and hope it works.  To live with integrity, and keep our word, we have to recognize our limitations.  I say often, “I am not God.  I did not invent time, nor do I control it.  I’m just asking that we live within it’s limits.”

To live with integrityand keep our wordwe have to recognize our LIMITATIONS-3

That’s not to say we will always have these limits.  I want everyone in my family to grow and mature, and get a greater capacity to do more things.  But we can’t live outside reality.  We have to work to grow it, not just wish it.

My kids will miss activities sometimes because of their poor time management.  That’s really painful for me to see, but I let it happen.  I let it happen.  Who let’s their kids miss out on fun stuff?  Me.  Who lets the kids feel the consequences of a job poorly done?  Me.

They will have to opt out of some things that are fun, but not important enough to them to give up something they already do.  I do get a lot of flack for this outside our home too, because as you know, my kids are homeschooled.  Therefore, if I keep them home to finish their schoolwork, chores, or commitments, I’m keeping them from the all-important socialization.  I think I frustrate other people that I’m prioritizing learning time management over the mysterious “socialization” that apparently doesn’t happen in my house.  We don’t speak together, play together or anything I guess.

If I had a nickel every time someone who barely knows us says to me, “but you have to let them come out and be with other kids sometime” because I said “no” because we can’t fit another activity in our schedule…

So my kids are annoyed with me, my husband is (occasionally) annoyed with me as his personality loves to be out and about more than mine does, and people outside our home get annoyed with me because of their prejudice against our schooling choice.

Sometimes I feel like training my kids is an uphill battle.

And I don’t know what I’m doing most of the time, or at least know that what I’m doing is working.

But the last few weeks?  I’m beginning to see a glimmer.  I’m beginning to see my kids anticipate the questions I will ask them, and prepare ahead of time their plans, and how the plans will work out.  I see them work ahead in their schoolwork, forfeiting their breaks so that they can do a project on their list that keeps getting pushed back.  I’ve even overheard them tell someone, “That sounds like fun, but I don’t think I’ll be able to do that right now.”  They’re starting to take ownership of their time.  They’re starting to want it.

They’re not there, but I can tell you that seeing them start to want it…

and that’s all the encouragement I need right now.

Deep Fall

Knut is home again.  Well, at least he’s home around supper or so.  He’s busy catching up on chores non-stop when he is outside, so we don’t see him much more yet.  When he is home, he sits a lot and zones out, and then feels awful for not getting stuff done.  He has so much to get done at home.  I told him that one does not rest after harvest for just a day.  He needs a deeper rest than that.

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From my end of things, I’m still running everywhere.  Harvest, no harvest…either way I still have 5 kids to care for and educate.  Silje and David are both in this really beautiful spot where they can handle lots of responsibility, (with oversight and help) and I feel like at long last I can focus on doing some things with Elias.  Oh, the sorrows of the middle child, ever stuck in that middle ground of not being a little kid, and not being a big kid.  He’s in sore need of attention, and he’s just lapping it up.

Knut, Silje and David somehow have it in their minds to help me get back to writing my knitting patterns, and I’m even able to get some writing done for my Bible study too.  I feel so out of practice for knitting patterns, and it’s been slow turning my brain on to those equations again.  Silje is saving for a new iPod touch, too, that is new enough to allow her to use our wifi to text, so that could have something to do with her constantly asking if I need a babysitter, even if I just go back to my sewing room and let her take over.

(Apparently she is the only 11 year old on the planet without her own phone.  I know.  Poor thing.)

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Halloween was different this year, as Great-Grandma’s house was no longer our first stop for pictures and goodies.  We did visit Oldefar (Great-Grandpa) in his communal home in town.  He was looking so good, and loved the visit and activity.  It was the first holiday without Alice, and everything already felt off.

 

Solveig and Elias are playing “funeral” a lot lately.  Solveig will pretend she dies, and Elias will run the funeral service, where all the stuffed animals come to pay their respects.  Kids process death so uniquely, I can tell both of them are still trying to wrap their minds around their Great-Grandma’s recent death.

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David did so well with his gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, peanut-free, coconut-free Halloween. (Sigh.) After we trick or treated at an elderly neighbor’s house, and then went through the nursing home circuit (the nursing homes are our kids’ favorite trick or treating places!)  The nurses bring out all the residents in their wheelchairs and line them up and stick a big bowl of candy in their laps.  The kids just go up and down the aisles of grandmas and grandpas who get all dressed up and look forward to this day when hundreds of kids come to visit them.  Then we went to a local church party where there are lots of games.

I had stuffed my purse with specialty candy I had bought that David could have, so that when the other kids were digging into their candy, he could dig into his.  He was just running around playing the games, though.  I kept checking on him and saying, “Hey bud!  You want some of your candy yet?”

“Mom!  Stop asking!  I’m playing a game here!”

Sometimes indifference is such a blessing.

With Knut being home, I see more bike riding, more roller skiing, and more getting out into nature in my kids’ future.  He’s constantly getting them active and getting them outside on adventures.  He took some of the older kids out on the farm with him for an afternoon here and there as well.  Both Silje and David learned how to weigh sample corn, and check the moisture content as the kernels go through the process of drying and storing in the bins.  They love being out on the farm with him.

 

Memories

Sorry I’ve been absent most of this week on the blog.  We’ve had a big loss in the family.  Knut’s grandmother passed away.  Knut grew up just a few miles from her, and Knut and I lived next to her and Knut’s “Bestafar” for the first 2 years that we lived on the farm until we moved out to this house that Knut grew up in.

She was my friend.

We all just loved her so much. Knut is having such a hard time with it, and we are still in the thick of harvest.  Of our kids, Elias is grieving more obviously.  After our dog, Missy passed away, and now his great-grandma, he’s asking a lot of questions about death, and is beginning to wonder if everyone he loves will start dying now.  She went fairly quickly.  She had some kind of episode last week, and was brought to the hospital, and then a nursing home to recover, or at least to see if she would recover.  She was 96 years old, and is survived by her 99 year old husband, Jorolf, to whom she had been married over 70 years, along with 5 children, 18 grandchildren, and 21 great-grandchildren.  (Silje is the oldest of the great-grandchildren at age 11, but the majority of them are age 6 and under.  So get togethers are very active in a very good way.)

There’s a little country church about a half mile from our house where she was baptized, where she was married, and where her funeral will be tomorrow.  I have a hard time even imagining what this family will look like without her.  I won’t get too much into sharing about her.  I just can’t right now.  It’s not in me.  But Knut’s cousin, Hannah, wrote a post that is just beautiful and perfectly captures who she was.  If you’d like to read it, it’s over here.

But really, since I’m not going to get into that much here, I wanted to share something happier with you. My sister in law took some new family pictures of us.  I didn’t get around to getting them done last year.  They just turned out fantastic, and I just got them back and I just want to put them everywhere.  I’d love to sit under her teaching and learn all her photography genius.  So today I’ll be updating my “About Us” page, but while I do that, I’ll share even more here, because they’re just so gorgeous.  If you want to go and “like” her Facebook page, you won’t regret it.  Her work is amazing.

On the day of the photo shoot, the boys especially had slumped shoulders, and were like, “Mom, do we really HAVE TO take pictures?  This is going to be so boring.”  I told them, “Have you ever been with Aunt Kristin and ever not have a blast?”  They paused and thought about it.  Nope, Aunt Kristin is a blast.  Her parties are the best.  Her hugs are for real.  Her love of wild children runs deep.  They can be themselves around her.  So it went really well.

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There’s about 20 more I want to show you.  I’ll leave it with just some highlights.

Have a blessed weekend, friends.

20 Fall Date Ideas for Farmers

It’s that time of year again!  The leaves are changing color, there’s a chill in the air, and sweaters and all things cozy come out of the closet.

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Coming up with fun date ideas can be tough, but I’m here to help.  First, let’s set some ground rules.  First, don’t worry about planning these dates.  In fact, try not to plan them.  It will jinx it.  These dates must be absolutely spontaneous and last minute.  If you plan the date, the combine will break down, or it will get stuck, they’ll have to change fields or there will be a line backing up the trucks at the grain elevator.  So have a babysitter on call, and ready to sweep in and watch the kids at a moment’s notice.  So the good news is that you likely won’t need all 20 of these ideas.  The stars of everything working, and in a big field, and weather cooperating, and a babysitting available, and no family activities bringing you to town will rarely align, but every once in awhile they do.  So be ready.  Just don’t plan on a specific time.  “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” Matthew 25:13.

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Are you ready?  20 Fall Date Ideas for Farming Couples

1. Bring a thermos of hot coffee out to the combine/tractor/semi-truck.

2. Bring some apple crisp out to the combine/tractor/semi-truck.

3. Bring some pumpkin pie out to the combine/tractor/semi-truck.

4. Bring some ice cream/milk shake out to the combine/tractor/semi-truck.

5. Listen to talk radio while out on the combine/tractor/semi-truck and get in a heated political debate.

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6. Listen to a football game over the radio on the combine/tractor/semi-truck.  (Best to bring your knitting to this one.)

7. Talk about the futures of the grain market on the combine/tractor/semi-truck.

8. Have a parent/homeschool teacher conference on the combine/tractor/semi-truck.

9. Play “I spy” on the combine/tractor/semi-truck.  (I spy…something that looks like corn.)

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10. Read out loud a book to him on the combine/tractor/semi-truck.  Try not to get combine-sick.

11. Scan the horizon looking for animals like deer running through the field while he drives the combine/tractor/semi-truck.

12. FaceTime family from around the world while on the combine/tractor/semi-truck.

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13. Give him a juicy kiss while waiting for whatever contraption you are on to unload the corn into another contraption.

14. Plan the kids’ Christmas presents while on the combine/tractor/semi-truck.

15. Debate the pros and cons of getting a new type of animal for the kids while on the combine/tractor/semi-truck.  (Just a hint, whoever says “it would be great for 4H/the fair” wins the debate.)

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16. Giggle at the banter going on between farmers over the hand radio of the combine/tractor/semi-truck.  Send a couple messages that make the older generation shake their head.

17. Bring him an ice-pack for his back while riding the combine/tractor/semi-truck.

18. Bring him an enormous bag of your homemade popcorn for him to snack on as they work through the night.  Tell him goodnight, and try not to rub it in too bad that you get to sleep 6-8 hours.

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19. Turn off Netflix, pick up the phone and call him, and tell him all the details about your day as he’s driving the combine/tractor/semi-truck.

20. Discuss the new diet you will both go on after harvest, and the pros and cons of various diets in general.