Decision fatigue is a real thing. When we first started homeschooling, I was exhausted by the end of the day purely from the never-stopping stream of questions I was asked. In the beginning I coped by buying lots of cereal (to eliminate at least one food decision) and giving the kids two "question sticks" during individual work time to eliminate the unnecessary questions that were born of laziness or boredom.
Those things definitely helped, but a little bit of decision fatigue is always going to be there when you are making parenting and teaching decisions for multiple kids all day long. Lately, this has really been bothering me when it comes to screen time, or in our house, iPad time. I felt like every hour of the day someone was asking me if they could play. My 4 year old was asking constantly during our morning school time, and the others seemed to be rushing through afternoon work to be the first one to ask. I felt guilty for letting them OR I felt guilty for not letting them. Lose, lose for me. Constant confusion and frustration for the kids because there was no consistent expectation and inevitably I would give one kid too much and another kid not enough.
One week I'd finally had enough and came up with about the simplest thing I could think of, but it has turned out to be really effective.
I first thought about what an appropriate amount of time for each kid would be in a week. Then I broke it down into 3-5 time slots. This varies per age. For instance by 10 year old has 5 slots, "15 min, 20min, 25min, 30min, 35min" and my 4 year old has 3 slots "10min, 15min, 20min".
If they are done with their work for the day, it is an automatic YES, that they can use one of their time slots. They pick the amount and set the timer. I NO LONGER HAVE TO WATCH THE CLOCK AND WORRY ABOUT EVERYONE GETTING EQUAL. HALLELUJAH!!
Now, here is what I found to be the most brilliant. This was on the fly, because Luke asked "What if they have a bunch left over on the last day and they are fighting for time?" If they have any time slots left, they have the option of trading it in for money. Right now we are in India, so a 20min time slot is worth 20 rupes (about 30 cents). And it is working! They are monitoring themselves, spending less time on the screen, and earning some money! This extra value of saving/earning/self-discipline was not something I was aiming for at all, but it has been a nice surprise.
You can get a copy of this great resource over at my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Let me know how it works for you. If you are interested in any other kind of personalized form for your classroom or home, let me know!
How do you help alleviate Decision Fatigue in your daily routines?
I worked in the printing industry for eight years and had the privilege to learn all sorts of cool stuff. I worked at an old, old printing operation in Downtown Omaha my first year of college. I did everything from operate auxiliary machines to type out invoices on an actual typewriter. Did I mention it was an old operation? The next seven years I worked at a big corporate print store, where I got to learn everything from how to un-jam a copier, to operating huge 10ft solvent printers and vinyl decal machines. I love paper and I love printing. I even love printing black and white copies of my kids worksheets from my little Canon inkjet printer at home. Holding a fresh stack of copies makes me smile.
One printing method that I have always wanted to learn to do is screen printing. When we got to Chapter 32 of The Story of the World Volume 1, which talks about ancient Chinese block printing, my brain started churning. We had already learned all about block printing (which it talks about in the chapter) during our trip to Jaipur last fall. So I started researching exactly what you need for screen printing and if it was something we could do at home. It turns out there are some expensive equipment and supplies required to do it the pure way, but it also turns out there are some great substitutions.
Most of what we did came from this great Youtube Tutorial.
I managed to do this for even cheaper than the video by making the following substitutions.
1. Because I do not own or wear stockings, my friend gave me an old 'dupatta' (scarf) of hers to use for the screen, so that was free!
2. I used white glue instead of Modge Podge, just add *a tiny* amount of water to make it spread more smoothly.
-Any material that is thin enough to transfer the paint, but not too thin to tear. Our old scarf worked great.
-An embroidery hoop
-A template. I downloaded these worksheets from Education.com, enlarged the character, and printed them out.
-A good permanent marker for outlining the design
-Glue or Modge Podge
-An old plastic card or index card
Step ONE: Prepare the Hoops
I did this in advance for the kids. If your kids are older, they could probably help with this step. You need to make sure the material is as tight and wrinkle-free as possible.
Step TWO: Copy the template onto the "screen"
Step THREE: Fill in the Negative Space
This is the trickiest part, and there are a few things you need to watch out for.
1. Don't paint the glue from the backside, where the screen is touching your surface. When you pull it up, you will be left with a mess. We definitely learned this by experience. Put the glue on the top side, so that the hoop creates a small space between your screen and work surface.
2. Use 1/2tsp of water to make the glue spread more easily, but not more or it will be harder to cover the entire area. You may even want to do two coats, and let it dry in between. I had to help some of the smaller kids fill in some of theirs.
3. Remember, whatever space is not filled with glue will transfer paint!
Step FOUR: Let it Dry
It will take at least two hours to dry, so plan your day accordingly. You could even split it between two days.
Step FIVE: PRINT! :)
To 'print' your images, lay the embroidery hoop so that the screen is flush to the paper. Dollop some paint in a few key spots of the design. Use the card to scrape the paint across the entire design. Then gently lift the screen off to see your design! We used scrap cardboard and paper before printing our designs onto nice paper.
Step SIX: Clean :(
This will be messy, messy, messy. Let all the paint and glue dry overnight and scrape it off the next day. We are blessed with tile floors in our school room. Do not attempt on carpet!
If you try this, please let me know how it goes. I would love to invest in some more technical equipment when the kids get a little older. Maybe one of them will discover their own love of printing!
What passions of yours show up the most in your schooling?
Sometimes I put a homeschool activity in my planner and know that there is about a 50/50 chance that I will actually feel like doing it when the day comes. The percentage goes WAY down if I have never done it or am unsure about some aspect of it. Such was the case with the "Make an Aqueduct" activity from the Story of the World Activity Book (Volume 1, Chapter 28). They don't give pictures and I couldn't quite wrap my mind around how it was supposed to look in the end. Thankfully, I felt motivated enough that day to give it a try, and step by step we figured that thing out. It ended up being pretty simply, so I thought I'd share the step-by-step photos in case anyone else is feeling as lost on it as I was!
Step ONE: Make the Dough
We used a basic salt dough recipe because I was not actually sure where to get play sand in the city that we are currently in. Salt dough is SO very easy and the ingredients are almost always on hand.
1 cup of salt
2 cups of flour
3/4 cup of water
Just stir and knead. If you are feeling stressed going into the activity, just knead a little longer. Its a great stress buster!
Step TWO: Roll and Cut
If you have every made sugar cookies, you can do this step too! Print the template from the activity book and cut along the outline. The picture really explains it best.
Step THREE : The First Bake
Bake your archways at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. We had a lot of dough left after this, so while it baked, I let them use half of it to make Roman coins. You will need some of it for the next step.
Step FOUR : Build the Aqueduct
After letting the archways cool for a couple of minutes, you can start building. Even if it came out a bit funky shaped, just use the clay to fill in some of the gaps. If I were to do it over, I would have used my other baking sheet, because this one is not quite flat. Use as much dough as you need to make feet. Then, make a small curved cavity for your toilet paper roll to sit on top. This was the trickiest part because the dough wanted to droop. But it still ended up working in the end.
Step FIVE : Build the Pipes
We only had one paper towel roll, so I made the remaining portion out of a piece of construction paper. I wrapped the whole thing in contact paper since we would be pouring water through it and it wasn't very thick.
Step SIX : Build the "City"
We took a small take-out container, but I think they recommend a yogurt cup in the Activity Book. The hardest part here was making a hole big enough to get the straw through (and not crinkle it), but not took big to leak. Probably some electrical tape or play dough would have worked great for that but we didn't have them on hand.
Step SEVEN : Let the Water Flow!
Let them take turns pouring water down the pipe and see how the water flows to each "house" or plate. If its not working, this can be a great STEM project to make them trouble-shoot why its not flowing (for ex. the incline is off, the straws are scrunched, the straws aren't inclined enough, etc)
Step EIGHT : Reality Check!
When your oldest pupil makes up a song about how boring this activity is, make them write a sentence about aqueducts 100 times. Hopefully I am the only one who got to this step, but you know, that's the reality of things sometimes! If things are still going well at this point, you could also have them paint it instead :)
If you do not have the Story of the World Activity Book, or are following a different curriculum all together, you can still make this aqueduct very easily by following the visuals. The most important thing is to make sure that your archways are higher at one end and gradually (about 1/2 in total) slant down.
Luke and I are married and have five little munchkins that travel the world with us. I blog about living overseas, travel, kids, homeschooling and graphic design.
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