I like to keep a seasonal schedule to help keep myself on track in terms of homeschooling, meals, housework and so on. I am not any good at all with rigid structure, but a loose schedule helps immensely with a family of our size and with all the pans I always have in the fire.
Each day has a general theme in terms of food, activities and homeschooling focus. We are free to deviate from it, but it helps to keep things running more smoothly to have it as a general guideline.
Here’s our winter schedule, which I have posted above my desk.
Each day has a theme next to it, and the lunch is listed under it (kids make it when they can). The dinner (or dinner theme) is listed at the end of the line. I also list what area to clean and what HS area to focus on, plus anything unique to the day. Along the side you can see what we have to do every day, chore-wise (dishes, laundry, pets, tidying) and at the bottom is the HS/personal stuff we do every day.
And in case you’re interested, here was the fall schedule. I loved having it to refer to all during autumn. I found that it made things just seem easier.
Since I cook from scratch and we have a lot of dietary needs in our house (various members are gluten free, dairy free and vegetarian, not to mention general tastes), it really helps me to have a general weekly meal rotation for the seasons.
Some of the benefits of this system are:
- Weekly shopping lists are easy to compile since they don’t change that much during one season.
- Meals are centered around seasonal foods, which are cheaper and fresher. In the winter, that means a lot of root vegetables and dried beans. I also rely on the foods we put up earlier in the year.
- It’s easier for me to quickly make suppers, since it’s rather routine.
- Having a general theme instead of a specific meal plan lets me shop the sales and account for extras we have to use up. For instance, stir fries can include just about any vegetables and proteins. Mexican can mean anything from burrito bowls to enchiladas to tostadas. Baked potato night usually involves a horde of possible toppings, including any leftovers that sound like good toppers. And obviously soup night leaves thousands of possibilities.
- The meal themes are loose enough to still allow for variety. “Use it up day” lets me make use of things in the pantry and fridge, so foods aren’t wasted and I need to buy less. Feast night on Sunday allows us to have a little fun and satisfy our cravings.
- The general meals are incredibly frugal. With a family of 7 and our budget (and my insistence on still buying healthy, whole foods and lots of organics), this saves me a ton of money. On Saturday nights, we have the comfort food from my childhood — cabbage, potatoes and carrots. We just boil it up in a pot and top it with butter and salt. A lot of families survived on that type of food five nights a week or more in the past, and while it’s not a favorite for any of my kids it gives me a night off of cooking (Daryl takes care of it). Other meals in our rotation are heavily reliant on affordable staples like rice and beans.
- Having this system lets it become routine to do prep work. For instance, knowing that Monday night is always Mexican night, I automatically put some black beans in the pressure cooker to soak overnight.
- The kids know what to expect, which they like.
- I don’t have to panic at 5 p.m. about what’s for supper. That’s the biggest plus for me!
The same holds true for the homeschooling routine and the chore routines. They are loose, but they allow for a little bit of predictability and just enough structure. It is too easy for me to feel overwhelmed at everything that needs to be done in the house or all the things I “should” be doing with the kids, but if I can look and see that today is a day to focus on poetry, making the day magical and cleaning bedrooms, I can handle that!
Winter is actually our calmest season. We don’t have any work to do in the gardens and all of the harvests have been put up. It’s too soon for starting seeds, the snow keeps us from going too far from home, and there are not many activities even offered this time of year.
In Homeschooling Through the Seasons I talked about the possible winter homeschool environments:
Winter is an ideal time for slowing down and doing longer projects. You can introduce lots more read-alouds of both fun fiction and history, science and other educational subjects. Winter sports can include ice skating, skiing and playing in the snow, but can also incorporate more inside activities like Wii fitness games, yoga and using mini trampolines. Homemaking skills can be part of the learning, teaching kids skills like bread making and knitting (if you don’t know how to do these, this is a perfect excuse to learn along with them!). Computers can play a bigger part in homeschooling this time of year, using educational sites like Khan Academy, online curricula such as the free ACS chemistry curriculum and educational online games. This is also an ideal time to use educational videos from Netflix or the library. The Christmas season offers its own challenges and opportunities. Homeschoolers are lucky that we can take full advantage of the season without having to squeeze in the same schedule as usual. Many homeschoolers cut back on the traditional lessons during December and let Christmas (from baking to budgeting to religious education) be a main part of homeschooling.
Today, however, our routine is off a bit because we’re deviating by traveling to Sioux Falls to pick up Victoria from the airport. She’s back from a fantastic week and a half with friends in Oregon so we get to bring her home.
What do you think of the new hair?
I swear Fiona is more of a fan than she’s letting on there!
And now I’m off to tidy the bedroom and grab some poetry books for the car……