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Aspasia

Time management tips?

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I'm having a really hard time accomplishing everything I want to accomplish every day. I KNOW there are enough hours for these tasks (I don't think I'm being overly ambitious), but I'm just not making it happen. One problem is that we have activities a couple days a week that begin at 1:00. I just want to get all our table work (three R's stuff), read alouds, and history/science done between 9:00 and 1:00. That's not crazy, right? So why do I never (or rarely) accomplish it? I need some time management tips from the wise, please.  

 

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I would say math for all 3 school age kids could be done in 90 minutes or so.

Another 90 minutes to do WWE/WWS and ETC/OPGTR with all 3 kids.

That leaves an hour to get lunch made and eaten and then get ready to go to your activities that start at 1:00pm.

And that is with no distractions and cooperative kids which is rare that those things happen together on the same day when you have 4 or more kids.

When my older five kids were little, I would either need to make cold lunches before school starts or give myself 90 minutes at least to make and eat lunch and get everyone ready to go.

Starting an hour earlier may help or listening to history as an audiobook in the car on the way to your activities. For the 3r's, I would dedicate at least 30 mins to each child for each of the 3r's to account for distractions and uncooperative children. If they are cooperative and there are no distractions, they get the extra time to do what they please. And some days 30 minutes isn't even enough to get through a lesson but that is where I have to decide if I'm truly teaching the child in front of me or if I'm trying to meet some kind of outside expectation or if it's distractions that are preventing us from reaching the goal.

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Do you have to fit lunch in there too so you are ready to go to the activity?

My kids are 9, 7, 5, and 3, and we would not be able to do that.

My 9 and 7 year olds are early risers, and they like to have their afternoons free, so they start independent school at 6:30.  They read from an assigned book for 30 minutes, write a narration, and then empty the dishwasher.  By the time they are done, I have breakfast ready and the younger two kids have set the table.  Breakfast starts between 7:15 and 7:30.

We do an audio/video morning time during breakfast.  They all listen to a couple poems (via audiobook), watch a couple short vocabulary clips, watch CNN10 current events, and then watch Spanish YouTube videos.  Total, this takes 30ish minutes, and then sometimes the stragglers take a few more minutes.  By 8:30, the kitchen/table/floor should be cleaned up, everyone should be washed with brushed teeth, and each child starts on their school list.  The 7 and 9 year old work on independent work (handwriting/typing, Xtramath, Anki memorization, Quizlet flahscards, piano practice, Spanish reading, etc), I get the 5 year old started with his handwriting and math, and I settle the 3 year old at the table for about 20 minutes of a busy bag, playdoh, an art project, a "job" like ripping open junk mail, etc.  I circle back to listen to the 5 year old read to me, and by 9ish he and the 3 year old are released to play.

As soon as they are settled, I gather the older two to do their more mom-intensive subjects: writing, Spanish, history/science (we only do one of these each semester).  As soon as those are done, I breathe a sigh of relief, because we only have odds and ends to finish up, so we can cope if the younger two get tired of playing and want to "help" with school.  Depending on the day, the older boys might finish up with spelling, grammar, challenging word problems, programming, outlining/note taking practice, etc.  The 7 year old doesn't do all those subjects, and each of the boys only does a few of those subjects each day.  My goal is to finish this schooling block up around 10:30, because we have an extracurricular almost every day either right before or right after lunch.  We listen to audiobooks in the car, and since we go somewhere almost every day, we make good progress listening to about 4 hours a week.

After lunch (or the extra curricular if we have one after lunch), the two younger kids have a rest time and the two older boys tackle their math.  It typically takes the 7 year old between 20-30 minutes and the 9 year old between 30-45 minutes.

Overall, that means we are "schooling" from 6:30 to 10:30, then listening to our audiobooks, then working on math after lunch.  It's not that any individual child is working for that entire time, but that is how long it takes me to shepherd all of them through school each day.  We would not be able to comfortably squeeze it into 4 hours total, especially if we had to fit lunch in there.

Wendy

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Start the stopwatch on your phone and time yourself to see how long it IS taking for each of those subjects, plus any transitions.

FWIW, I set the timer on my phone often.  Especially on our busy days.  I allot about 45 minutes for each of the three major lessons plus 15 minutes for stretching and transitioning.  If we don't get done with a full lesson, we pick it up again the next day.  If we get done early, we can do a bite size of a lesson that I didn't have on the schedule: a quick history game or an easy Latin page.

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14 minutes ago, HomeAgain said:

Start the stopwatch on your phone and time yourself to see how long it IS taking for each of those subjects, plus any transitions.

FWIW, I set the timer on my phone often.  Especially on our busy days.  I allot about 45 minutes for each of the three major lessons plus 15 minutes for stretching and transitioning.  If we don't get done with a full lesson, we pick it up again the next day.  If we get done early, we can do a bite size of a lesson that I didn't have on the schedule: a quick history game or an easy Latin page.

I agree with this.  I also use a stop watch quite a bit.  We never work for a set amount of time (at my house that would just lead to dawdling to avoid work), but I often surreptitiously time how long subjects are actually taking so that I can make sure I am not overscheduling us.  If mentally I am allotting 15 minutes for spelling, but several days in a row it is actually taking 20 or 25, then I either need to cut back in another subject or reduce the daily spelling work until I get it back to the 15 minute goal.  For math I have an average amount of time I am aiming for for each child.  Some days take longer and some shorter, but if I time every day for a week and see that we are averaging more than the goal, then I know to start assigning less pages or problems each day.

Wendy

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Thank you! These are such good insights and suggestions!

I like the idea of doing some audio stuff during breakfast. We can't do them in the car, because we live in NYC and don't drive. One of the challenges I'm dealing with is that DD11 really struggles with math and needs me to be right there the entire time, mainly to make sure she doesn't get off track. If she starts doing a problem set wrong, the whole day's work gets thrown off and we just have to fix it the next day. It's a better use of my time to just stay close while she works. I am looking into Kumon or Sylvan or something to lighten that load a bit, because dang.  

I like the idea of setting timers to see just how long everything is actually taking us. I have noticed that whenever I'm working one-on-one with a kid, other kids take advantage of my busyness and wander off. I'll find them playing or otherwise just being distracted. I realize this is my own failing, but I just feel like my head is spinning all day and I'm still not accomplishing what I want to accomplish. The kids have checklists, so they know what they should be doing when I'm not working directly with them. When I see an aimless kid, I'll ask, "What are you working on?" just to direct them back to their checklist. But it seems like they've figured out ways to get me off their back long enough for me to get distracted by another need somewhere else, and then they go back to whatever they were doing. So maybe this is less a time management issue and more a discipline issue? 

Edited by Aspasia

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14 minutes ago, Aspasia said:

Thank you! These are such good insights and suggestions!

I like the idea of doing some audio stuff during breakfast. We can't do them in the car, because we live in NYC and don't drive. 🙂 One of the challenges I'm dealing with is that DD11 really struggles with math and needs me to be right there the entire time, mainly to make sure she doesn't get off track. If she starts doing a problem set wrong, the whole day's work gets thrown off and we just have to fix it the next day. It's a better use of my time to just stay close while she works. I am looking into Kumon or Sylvan or something to lighten that load a bit, because dang.  

I like the idea of setting timers to see just how long everything is actually taking us. I have noticed that whenever I'm working one-on-one with a kid, other kids take advantage of my busyness and wander off. I'll find them playing or otherwise just being distracted. I realize this is my own failing, but I just feel like my head is spinning all day and I'm still not accomplishing what I want to accomplish. The kids have checklists, so they know what they should be doing when I'm not working directly with them. When I see an aimless kid, I'll ask, "What are you working on?" just to direct them back to their checklist. But it seems like they've figured out ways to get me off their back long enough for me to get distracted by another need somewhere else, and then they go back to whatever they were doing. So maybe this is less a time management issue and more a discipline issue? 

I'm not sure it is a discipline issue as much as a nature of the beast issue.  I think it is inevitable that kids will get distracted and off-course if left to their own devices for too long.  

Two ideas:

1 - Try to break one-on-one time into smaller chunks so that you can check in with the others more often.  Instead of attempting to have 20 uninterrupted minutes with a child, plan to spend ten minutes with that child, set them up to read the next section or do a couple practice problems, and then rotate around to check on and refocus everyone else.  Then go back for 10 more minutes of one-on-one with the child.

2 - Keep everyone closer.  Any child who is supposed to be working is kept in my sight.  I'll position myself at the dining table to work with Child #1, I'll set Child #2 up with independent work at the kitchen table where I can see him through the doorway, Child #3 will be playing piano which I can oversee from where I am sitting, and Child #4 will work independently at the dining table near me listening to classical music with headphones to keep them from being distracted by my work with Child #1.

Wendy

Edited by wendyroo
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You already got a bunch of good advice. Environmental control on the 6 yo, keeping them closer, decreasing their options, so it's easier to keep them on track. I would think 9-1 with that many kids is 3Rs plus read-alouds, no history/science. And it's probably also necessary to have some logical/natural consequences. Are these appts replacing school? Maybe you can feel good about not doing history or science or whatever those outings will hit? You might need to eliminate some duplication there.

If each dc has a checklist, do you have a master checklist that shows everyone at once? Beyond that, environmental control that makes it obvious. Turn the desks a certain way, make the work flow through the space, whatever, so that if they're in the space they're working (without other options) and if they're not in the space it's pretty obvious. 

Are these outings worth the stress? We go out to therapy appointments, but I'm always having to calculate whether they're worth it. Reality is kids like flex, sometimes like to sleep in, sometimes want to read, etc. 

Also, remember it's FEBRUARY. Never hurts to consider vitamin D, get outdoor time, take a break, and be kind to yourselves. Sometimes people get so cooped up nothing is working.

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On 2/22/2019 at 11:13 AM, Aspasia said:

I like the idea of setting timers to see just how long everything is actually taking us. I have noticed that whenever I'm working one-on-one with a kid, other kids take advantage of my busyness and wander off. I'll find them playing or otherwise just being distracted. I realize this is my own failing, but I just feel like my head is spinning all day and I'm still not accomplishing what I want to accomplish. The kids have checklists, so they know what they should be doing when I'm not working directly with them. When I see an aimless kid, I'll ask, "What are you working on?" just to direct them back to their checklist. But it seems like they've figured out ways to get me off their back long enough for me to get distracted by another need somewhere else, and then they go back to whatever they were doing. So maybe this is less a time management issue and more a discipline issue? 

 

When they do get off track, do they have to come home after the activity and finish their work, or are they "done" for the day? For my kids, one thing that helped was making it very concrete that they were wasting "their" time. I would announce, "Now it's free time, unless you have homework." "Homework" had to be done at the kitchen table (not sprawled on the floor or on a comfy couch etc...) That announcement that it was "free time unless" coupled with a reminder at the beginning of the day about the schedule (make it visual--this is school time, this is activity time, then we're home and it's free time unless you have homework...) can really help.

But honestly, 6 and 8 year-olds are not likely to work well independently, so do know it's pretty normal too! At that age, mine really needed me sitting with them. We didn't go to early afternoon activities more than once a week because it was just too hard to get school done before then. But if the activities are important, I think I would plan that you are going to need to do some school some other time too. 

I'll also say that by 5th grade, my kids were needing 4-5 hours to do all of their school work, and with needing to go to an activity, you probably really only have about 3 hours for school in your mornings. I wonder if you could plan on doing math at a different time of day with your oldest so that you could be more available to keep everyone on track for the other subjects instead? 

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