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?
We are about 3/4 of the way through our first year of full-blown homeschooling. February, the month of love, seems like a great time to share what I LOVE and what I HATE!
First off, I LOVE all the stuff that I am learning. We just finished a unit on space, and it is seriously blowing my mind. Elementary science is totally wasted on the young. Talk about bringing perspective to my boring adult mind. And ancient history? Its better than a novel. I have really enjoyed seeing how all these cultures that I vaguely know something about fit with each other in history.
I also LOVE planning. Yup! I get excited at the end of the week when I get to mark boxes off and plan something new. When its time to start a new unit, I LOVE gathering relevant resources and activities that incorporate all different facets of learning around one subject. And in my planning world, everything is always well organized and lovely and the children are listening and getting everything done in a timely fashion.
I LOVE the fact that I can make them clean toilets every Friday as part of “life learning”.
I LOVE that we are getting to deal with some authority issues that I kind of brushed away up to this point, before they are teenagers and all hope is lost.
I LOVE that we can pick up and travel whenever we want and give them field trips to exotic places.
Okay, so now the not-so-pretty.
I HATE that I am too tired at the end of the day to want their friends in my house. I’m pretty sure most of their friends think I am a grumpy old woman.
I HATE that I have to make a jillion more decisions every day than I used to, and that my kids know when I am weak from such decision fatigue and ask for ridiculous things that I will probably grant.
I HATE that my planning world is never my actual world.
I HATE that they are picking up even more of my bad habits than before.
And most of all… I HATE the intensified sibling rivalry and irritation that we often have with each other because we are spending almost every waking hour together.
Now that last point has had me thinking for a while now about how to more intentionally speak words of blessing and encouragement to each other. Ideas have been brewing and what has formed is my “Let’s all get along Valentine’s Day unit!” My hope, and prayer, is that as we speak loving things to each other, we will be more grateful for one another, that our defenses will lower a little bit, and that they won’t feel like they have to constantly compete for their piece of attention and respect among so many siblings. But along the way, we’ll learn a little bit of all the traditional school subjects too!
We’re staring this week, the week before Valentine’s Day. We just finished up an English Unit, so we’ll take the week off of English to have time for the extra stuff. It’s split into five days, but you could spread it out over a longer period, or pick and choose just a couple of activities for a shorter period of time.
DAY ONE: THE HISTORY OF VALENTINE'S DAY
We’ll talk about the origin of Valentine's Day, which is mostly legends about St. Valentine from 3rd century Rome. We just started our Roman unit in history, so it is a great connection that I didn't plan. There are a lot of weird videos on Youtube that tell the stories about Valentine's origin. This was probably the most well done and appropriate for kids.
However, she presents everything as fact, and there are a lot of discrepancies in the story. Without getting into too much detail, I will point out to the kids these key points.
-There may have been three different St. Valentine's from which the stories derive.
-There was a Roman pagan holiday celebrating love and fertility and some say the legend of St. Valentine's was used to Christianize the holiday.
-In this story, it is hard to know what is truth vs. legend.
1st grade : Write 3 sentences re-telling the story of St. Valentine.
2nd-5th grade : Write your own legend about the beginning of Valentine's Day. OR Design a comic strip based on the legend of St. Valentine.
Creating a comic strip can be a good exercise for reluctant writers (which all of my children are!) Here's a template I created to get them started.
DAY TWO : TRUE LOVE
Day Two will be all about “What is Love?” We will read the biblical definition from 1 Corinthians 13. I’ll have them copy the verses in their best cursive writing on a nice fancy paper. Then we’ll make these spinning wheels and do this word search.
DAY THREE : LETTER WRITING
Day Three we will talk about the mechanics of letter writing, stamps, post offices, etc. We will learn how to fold our own envelopes from paper, using my template below. We’ll talk about postage, how post offices work, and how to address an envelope.
They will learn their own address and then pick a grandparent to write to. They'll have to do the whole process of making and addressing the envelope.
DAY FOUR : MAILBOXES!
This is where we take out all of the boxes I've been saving up and each kid will get to design their own mailbox. They can decorate it any way they want. I remember doing this as a kid and covering an entire box in conversation hearts for the competition at school. They will also get to make up their own address and keep it in outside their bedroom when they are finished.
DAY FIVE : CARD-MAKING AND SENDING
Now we will get to work making Valentines for each other and sending each other encouraging messages. Since we are staying in a foreign country and I’ve not quite figured out the postal system, we will pretend mail the letters. I’m going to set up a box where they can put the letters and each day they can take turns as the postman delivering them to each mailbox. There will be a small fee for each “stamp” (heart sticker), and we will put that money toward buying candy for a Valentine’s Day party.
On Valentine’s Day we’ll actually be starting a unit on Anatomy, which as luck would have it, begins with the heart/circulatory system!
What do you do in your homeschooling, or life in general, to encourage healthy sibling relationships? What are your LOVES and HATES about homeschooling?
We are just finishing up an English unit, and with Christmas season in full swing I wanted to take a break from the usual curriculum and doing something different. In our history unit, we are approaching a chapter on Homer’s Odyssey, so I could feel all the stars aligning for a Christmas Poetry unit! Its still very much in the works, I don’t have any cute printables to share with you. But I wanted to get the idea out there before Christmas was done and gone and I would have to wait for another year. So here’s the framework that I’ve been coming up with. My kids range from pre-school to 5th and I am trying to incorporate something for everyone. If you are still scrambling for a good December plan, feel free to join in on the poetry fun!
I’ve organized what I want to teach into six lessons. For each lesson, I will introduce a poetry term, a type of poetry, a Christmas poem (when possible), and have the kids do a range of activities from writing, to STEM projects, to art projects. I cut a big Christmas tree out of green poster board and wrote each term on an ornament. We'll hang them up one by one as we go through the lessons.
Poetry Term : Poetry
Poem Type : Epic
Poem : Homer's Odyssey
We would have done this anyways in history, so it will kick off our poetry unit. We’ll be listening to Mary Pope Osbourne’s audio edition and be coloring these great printables from TeachersPayTeachers. This will be a filler activity for several weeks as we go through the ancient Greece portion of Story of the World Volume 1.
Poetry Terms : Rhyme, Stanza
Poem Type : Narrative
Poem : How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Activity : Grow the Grinch’s Heart 3 sizes! (Science project) and the Grinch paper plate (Art project).
Assignment : Write a 2 stanza, rhyming poem that tells a short story.
Poetry Term : Alliteration
Poem Type : Limerick
Poem : Still googling some cute Christmas one's that I'll put in a short powerpoint. We'll also use Dr. Suess' A-Z to really learn the alliteration.
Activity : Melting Snowman picture -->This was my inspiration!<--
Assignment : Write a limerick about a snowman to match the above mentioned picture, using your own name and some alliteration. I’m going to be flexible on the syllable count for this because I don’t want that to stunt their writing at this point. I came up with my own as an example!
"There once was a snowman named Julie,
Who loved to consume good coffee,
But coffee is hot
so before she was not
She solemnly switch to sweet tea"
Poetry Terms : Simile/Metaphor
Poem Type : Narrative
Poem : The Night Before Christmas (We’ll listen to Jim Weiss’ rendition, which is on sale this month over at welltrainedmind.com for a whopping 99 cents! We’ll also check out a copy at the library and identify as many similes and metaphors as we can.
Activity : Sleigh Building Challenge
Assignment : Write a few similes or metaphors. For the younger kids, I’ll start specifically with colors, eg. “Santa’s coat was red like a tomato”. It can be very, very simple!
Poetry Terms : Repetition
Poem Type : Sonnet
Poem : Joy to the World (not technically a sonnet, so don't yell at me. I'm not ready for Shakespeare yet!)
Activity : Identify repetition in Joy to the World
Assignment : Cursive writing practice - copy the carol in cursive and add a decorative border.
Poetry Term : Personification
Poem Type : Haiku
Poem : When Cindy Lou Who / Caught the Grinch with the presents / She believed his lies. - from 365 Christmas Haikus
Activity : Watch the book "Wish to be a Christmas Tree" on Youtube. Build a gumdrop Christmas Tree.
Assignment : Attempt a haiku about a Christmas object, using personification.
I made one of these up too! If I couldn't do it, I couldn't ask the kids too. Here we go. Don't laugh!
Christmas Lights Sparkle / Little elves dance on my tree / Delivering joy
And there it is! If I get through 4-5 lessons I will consider that a big success. What are your favorite Christmas poems?
We have never celebrated Halloween with our kids. Not out of any big conviction, but just because we have never been in the United States while our kids were trick or treating age. That is... until last year. Last year they got the full, candy-filled, costumed-out, Halloween experience. We went to Halloween parties, a Halloween parade, and trick-or-treated in our neighborhood (yes, our OWN neighborhood, which I came to sadly find out is rare these days). I was glad that they got to experience all of that at least once, even though it did start a steady stream of candy into the house that wouldn't end until after Easter.
So now, for the first time, I feel somewhat obligated to give the kids at least a little dose of festivities this year. Since the kids are in Pre-K, 1, 2, and 5, I'm trying to find activities that will be fun for everyone, with a little bit of art, science and math mixed in without them noticing much. And of course there will be candy, lots and lots of candy.
1. Halloween Bingo
This Free Bingo Download will engage all of your kids from Pre-K to fifth! There are 4 levels that include different mental math problems from Number Recognition to Order of Operations. But the best part is, they all end up in the same numbers, so that everyone can play together!
Level 1 - Number Recognition, suitable for Pre-K to 1st, depending on skill level. Even if your Pre-K student doesn't recognize numbers all the way to 50, this is a party, so let bigger siblings help them out!
Level 2 - Addition and Subtraction up to 20, Doubles, and Near Doubles Facts. For numbers over 30, its Missing Numbers. Ideal for K-2, depending on skill level.
Level 3 - Addition and Subtraction up to 100, a few Missing Numbers and a few Adding 3 numbers. This is good for 2nd-3rd.
Level 4 - Multiplication, Division, and Basic Order of Operations. This would work for 4th-5th.
Depending on your students' mental math skills, you could choose to let them, or not let them, work the problems first and write the solutions in the square. I love that it is so flexible, and I've kept it simple because ink is expensive! There are two different cards for each level. Click below to download!
2. Graphing M&M minis
My mom teaches sixth grade and has been doing this project with them for the 15 years! The key is the M&M minis! This means kids will have more candy to count, organize and graph, with less candy to eat. Sneaky, right? And this is great for all ages too!
Pre-K - Organize the colors and match them to a colored cup or square.
K-1st - Count the candies and organize them by color, least amount to the greatest amount. Older learners can also make a simple bar graph.
2nd-4th - Make a bar graph or line plot by color.
5th-6th - Make a pie chart of the color ratios.
3. Candy Science
Its definitely a win if you can use up some candy without it actually being eaten, right? So maybe these are great after-Halloween experiments to use up some of that trick-or-treat treasure in a way that doesn't involve cavities.
We are going to try Steampoweredfamily.com's Layered Lollipops, but she also has a whole 31 days of Halloween STEM projects that are worth checking out.
4. Pumpkin Art
My 2nd grader recently told me that we don't do enough art in our schooling and I have to admit that she is probably right. So I'm looking for easy, low-prep, low-cost ideas that I can incorporate on a more regular basis. When I came across this Pumpkin Apple Stamping from frugalmomeh.com, I thought it was so cute and perfect!
5. Candy Corn Fractions
I saw this on pinterest as an easy way to make a Halloween banner. But we are going to make it the day before and do some fraction lessons with them first. Then we can hang them for the next day's party!
So that is the PLAN for Halloween! We get back from Malaysia just two days before, so I am trying to prep now and cross my fingers that I will have the energy and togetherness to get everything ready for the big day!
You can follow on Instagram @thetypetree to see the final results!
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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