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Monday, January 13, 2014

Systems: Family Work

I love a clean house! Doesn't everybody? What I don't love is pleading, threatening, and cajoling to get children to love having a clean house as much as I do.

Nor do I love cleaning up after all my little piggies without them lifting a finger. Nope. Not an option at our house. Hiring a maid is also not an option, which I think is detrimental to family development anyway (unless you have extenuating circumstances, like new baby, bed-ridden, or health issues that prevent a family from being able to do their own cleaning).

Finding the right system for our home has gone through a few levels of changes over the years. When my children were very small, they loved to pick-up toys while we sang the "Clean-up Song" from Barney.

Eventually their keen little minds realized cleaning was not a game, but was actual work! Oh the shame of it all! Mom tricked us into working!

We have a few systems that I've posted about before:

We are still using the Cleaning Calendar mentioned in "New Plan - Check!" I really love rotating the monthly, weekly, and daily cleaning through my digital to-do list on the Freedom Educators Evernote Template now with the Daily Planner to keep track of meals, appointments, to-do list, and family work.

Daily Planner - Meals and Appointments

Daily Planner - To-Do List and Family Work

I love Fly Lady even though it can be a little overwhelming at first. Starting off on the right foot with some of her simply techniques for getting it all done has helped me a ton. Check out her Baby Steps first.

One idea from her website that I've used extensively is the Zone principle. Each child is assigned a "Zone" for the week. They have to check their Zones several times a day. 

In each Zone is also a detailed cleaning list of what is supposed to be cleaned or checked daily and a list for weekly. I put the list in a clear protector sheet and tape it to the inside of a cabinet or the back of a closet door.

I adapted Fly Lady's list to be specific for each zone (and how the kids use it) and also for the age of the children who will be doing the cleaning. When my children were really young, I had a simple picture list of what to clean.

A couple of free ideas online:

Multiple Kids in One Zone

We have a buddy system with older children training younger ones. Mentoring younger children in how to do family work is a must. If you don't have enough kids, think about borrowing some.

No! I'm not kidding! Once a month give your children a chance to mentor or be mentored by other kids.

We have a "Littles Checklist" and a "Bigs Checklist". The Littles do things like pick-up toys, put small trash bags in the larger can in the kitchen, wipe off cabinets, etc.

Check out these Littles cleaning...

Matching Socks, One of Their Favorite Things

The Bigs can help the Littles learn how to do chores and/or do the big things themselves. I sometimes divvy up the list to help the Bigs learn when a child is ready to learn a new skill.

Since we are a foster family, children come to us with varying abilities even though they may be the same age. We adapt and help them learn. We do not assume they know anything, yet we are always amazed at how quickly they come to like working with the family. Even children that are emotionally damaged and have never cleaned before find new excitement and achievement as they learn to be part of the family and work together. For many of them, working together is a completely new idea.

Worried your kids will rebel? Well...they might.

The key is to talk about "family work" and not "chores". Family work is everyone chipping in to make our house run smoother and have everything ready for the next time we use it.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Systems: Academic Journaling

How do I journal? What should it look like? What goes into the journal? Should I go "old school" paper or "new wave" digital? (See more on digital journaling at the bottom of this article.)

These are very good, but also very personalized questions. One person loves lists and bullet style notes, while another loves to write in complete sentences with perfect punctuation and paragraphs that read like a good novel.

A person may start in their early years with one of two sentences about a book and end up in Scholar and Depth Phase writing a short thesis. Or, a student may be a combination of the two with bullet style notes for quotes and topics you want to remember from an informational book and longer, paragraph style reviews of books for sharing on a venue like Goodreads. (A link to my Goodreads reviews.)

...it just really depends on you...your preferences and where you are in the Phases of Learning.

People are always looking for examples. I do to! I like to see examples. So, here are some from my personal journals.

My Journals - Depth Phase

Just a few...

Right now, I am using 4 regular journals and a couple of "item specific" journals, all of them numbered. I am also making a master list of what is included in each journal. Rachel DeMille says that they leave a few pages blank in the front of each journal to add a table of contents as they fill up the journal. I didn't start out that way and so I created the master list in a blank notebook and list the journal # and page number of each item.

I started with the Master List as part of my binder (back when it was a short list), but moved it to it's own spiral notebook when it started getting pretty thick. I also need to print all of my book reviews on Goodreads and keep them in a binder for the day when technology ends (depends on your point of view here to if you feel this is necessary).

A list of my current journals:

  1. Fiction reading
  2. Non-fiction reading
  3. Religious reading
  4. Mentoring - "Student Whisperer Journal"
  5. Food Storage & Emergency Preparedness
  6. Marriage (I have a small notebook that I have recorded specific things about being a better wife and mother.)
  7. Everyday life - personal journal
I have a mixture of how I record my reading epiphanies. 

I have some bullet style lists of quotes and topics I want to remember from the book.

Quotes from "The Jackrabbit Factor"


I have details of answers to exercises...

"Student Whisperer" exercises

I have full book reviews, many of which I duplicate on Goodreads.

I have diagrams of topics discussed...

Notes from a lecture on Child Development &
Foundations of Great Education

Digital Journaling

Technology has a lot to offer as well. I personally use Evernote and I have also used SpringPad. Both are free and come in PC and App formats. Both have unique things to offer. For journaling purposes, I find that Evernote has the most to offer, which is why I developed the Freedom Educator Planner Templates. The planner includes forms for book reviews, lecture notes, etc.

Evernote also prints nicely if you wish to print hard copies for future use or storage.

Evernote - Books Read 2013
I keep a list of books read by year and then add tags for the topic of the book. My reviews are copied from what I write in Goodreads, saving me a step in copy-and paste.

I also keep notes of other topics, especially website information that is hard to convey into a paper notebook.

Evernote - Curriculum Plans and Notes on Books we are studying

However, using a digital system can be in any method you wish. Any software that allows for typing up the information you want to store will work.

The beauty of systems is YOU decide what works for you and just start recording your information. It is not hard and it does not take a long time. Just start something and adjust as you learn what you like and what works for you. There is no right or wrong...just progressing and growing.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Common Core vs. Classics

We've all been hearing about Common Core, the newest government-based idea of what education should be, and we have probably taken a stand in one way or another. We either care or we don't, right? As people delve deeper into what books, textbooks, testing, and criteria are covered in Common Core, we find more and more to like or dislike about the program.

Some feel assured that Common Core has higher levels of expectations and that our children, through being required to perform at these higher levels, will automatically be more educated. Some are deeply concerned with the content required in Common Core and the apparent tracking methods that will be implemented. "The Great Conversation: The Substance of a Liberal Education", which was published in 1952, touches on many of these very same arguments that abound in today's conversations about education.

Questions such as:

  • What are the Traditions of the West and do we need to still uphold these traditions?
  • Can we expect the same level of education for all citizens in America?
  • If we do expect the same level of education for all, can we provide to all equally?
  • What should be included in a person's education?
  • Is government responsible for providing a person's education?
  • Do the classics of the past have anything to offer the modern day student?
  • What standards does the current educational program transmit to our youth?
  • What will the student lose/gain by a set curriculum rather than a diverse reading of the Classics?
There are many more, but these questions beg to be answered. Are we doing a disservice by adopting Common Core? What will be lost if we do adopt Common Core? What will be gained?


I have not extensively researched Common Core, but what I have learned is disturbing. We need more time as a society to study the materials presented and approve or disapprove of the content. What the experts are presenting to us leaves most of us questioning their motives. Is everything in Common Core bad? Probably not, but we are finding some things which should be questioned.

Such articles as these give a glimpse into some of the negative information surfacing about the materials included in Common Core:


What Common Core is missing the Classics have!

While we groan over what we feel Common Core is missing, or even worse, adding to the education of our children in the terms of pornographic material and bad character building, there are tried and true documents and books that have already been read by millions of people and deemed appropriate. These materials have all that develops the higher thinking that the government says they are trying to provide with this major educational change.

Why are we deviating from the Classics?

Why are we re-inventing education again in the wrong direction?

Why is the government spending millions to produce something that cheapens education?

In my humble opinion, they feel they have to do "something" so they choose anything over doing nothing. Yes, there are those that feel Satan has a plan and is using our corrupt government officials to do his dirty work (I am in that camp, but for the secularist I will continue to discuss facts as well.) Many also believe that these individuals may be misguided or even just really want our children and youth to learn this particular set of materials which they value themselves.

Whatever the reasoning behind it, WE have a choice. WE have a voice. I encourage everyone to invest in building your home library with the Classics from the TJED lists, get a set of The Great Books of the Western World, and any other books you feel can be added to your personal Classics list. Some day, this may be the only place to find them...

..and then READ THEM!


"There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Ray Bradbury

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