My honey will be the first to tell you, this family must have a schedule!
In order to do all that has to be done, everything has to have a time slot. He and I only have each other. We get no help from grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. We are it. We must successfully manage doctor appointments, dental check-ups, soccer practices, grocery shopping, school-work, cooking, visits to the eye-doctor, cleaning, laundry, haircuts, his more than full time job, and everything else that goes on in a family of eight. We are often envious of families where the grandparents baby-sit, or take the kids to the dentist, or teach a subject of school, but that is not the circumstance the Lord has us in.
We have learned that if we are going to manage everything, and do it well, we must maintain a schedule. If things don't get put on the schedule, they won't get done.
There have been periods of time when we have abandoned our schedule (a move, a new baby) and things quickly turned to chaos. The key to success for us is to have a good schedule and stick to it.
We have to know who is doing what, and when, and make sure that everything that needs to be done is getting done.
Before we go any further and you start thinking we pull this off perfectly everyday let me assure you, we don't! The schedule is our goal. It is our plan. It keeps us focused. There are many days we get off track but since we have a plan we are able to get back on track if we derail. We can jump back in where we should be. We know what the plan is for each day but we allow room for grace. When company comes, or someone is sick, or we have an opportunity to do something special, we alter the schedule or just get the bare bones of it accomplished.
Here is our current family schedule. It changes frequently as we tweak it throughout the school year, as seasons change, as babies get older, and as sports seasons begin and end. This is what we are doing right now.
6:30a.m.- Mom up, shower, dress, start laundry, read bible and pray. I put a load of laundry in the washing machine before going downstairs. Once I am downstairs I start coffee and then have my bible/prayer time.
7:30a.m.- Kids up. Mom - feed baby. Kids - shower, dress, make beds, chores. The 2 oldest kids shower in the morning. We have 2 other kids that shower at night and the 2 youngest ones take baths at night. So, for the 8 of us we have 4 of us that shower in the morning and 4 that shower/bathe at night. It works for now. The children have morning chores like feed the animals, empty trash cans, swiffer the floors. They work on getting ready and doing chores while I feed Clare Grace.
8:00a.m.- Breakfast and clean-up (Ethan), switch laundry. Every Friday I wash sheets. We have 7 beds so I do 3 beds one Friday and the other 4 beds the next. Each bed is getting clean sheets every other week. After breakfast one child unloads the dryer and another one puts what is in the washer into the dryer.
8:30a.m.- Kids - Bible time, Mom - tend to baby, get everything ready to start school and start dinner. When Dad is here he does catechisms with Olivia while the other children read their bibles and spend time praying, journaling, and working on memorization. They do this alone in separate locations and I use that time to do any little quick thing I need to do before we start school. Sometimes I answer an email, or return a *quick* phone call, or make copies of a worksheet, or gather materials, or whatever I need to do. Clare Grace usually lays on a blanket with some toys near where I am or swings in her little swing in the family room. I also use this time to do any sort of dinner prep I can do. I like to go ahead and start dinner in the crock-pot if I can and let it cook while we work.
9:30a.m.- Language Arts - Ethan, Nic, Eli, and Olivia. Colin - Algebra with Dad. On the mornings Dad is here he does Algebra with Colin and gives him plenty of work to do independently for the mornings he is not here. I do Language Arts with the other children and just move around from one to the next. I use this time to do Olivia's reading lesson also. Baby naps.
10:30a.m.- Math - Ethan, Nic, Eli and Olivia. American Lit - Colin. At this time I feed Clare Grace but I am available to the children if they have questions or need help. It takes about 1/2 hour to feed and change the baby and then I put her on a blanket near us and help the children with their work.
11:30a.m.- Printing/Cursive practice younger ones, Bible for the older boys. The younger children copy verses from the bible to practice their handwriting while the older boys work on their Bible. We use this time for Balancing the Sword, and Christian Character, or Plants Grown Up. While the children are doing this I start lunch prep. It only takes Olivia a few minutes to do her printing practice (she's 5) so I bring her in the kitchen with me to help get things ready for lunch.
12:00noon- Lunch and clean-up (Colin), switch laundry. After lunch one child unloads the dryer and another one puts what is in the washer into the dryer. The baskets of clean laundry are put in my room to fold later. Every time the washer is open I start another load. *Yes, we do that much laundry everyday!*
1p.m.- Read aloud. I read to the children during this time, or sometimes one of the older children will read. We read all different kinds of books. Sometimes we read a book about a missionary, sometimes a history book, sometimes a classic that is on our "to read" list or a good biography.
2:00p.m.- Mom- feed Clare Grace, Little ones nap, older ones work on science lessons. I'm available to the children if they need help with their science lessons and after I feed Clare and put her down I usually have someone to work with. Sometimes we are doing a science quiz or a science project. Occasionally we will have a science video to watch. Colin is doing Chemistry, Ethan - Physical Science and I combine the younger boys' science lesson.
3:00p.m.- History While the younger ones are napping I help older kids with History. Right now Colin is studying American History while Ethan does World Geography. I teach Eli and Nic a combined History lesson. On Fridays we don't do Science and History and I use that time to grocery shop. I take two helpers and the baby with me and the rest of the children stay home with Dad. The children who are home get to read books or do art. We rotate the helpers each week so that everyone gets a turn to go. For some reason our kids love to grocery shop.
4:00p.m.- Snack. Kids-free time, Mom- cleaning. We do a light snack at 4p.m. and then the kids are free to play. They usually head outside. On Tuesdays and Fridays we leave at this time for soccer practice. If Dad is home he takes the boys to soccer and the girls stay home with me. If Dad is at work, I take all the kids with me to soccer practice. On the days that I am home during this time I clean. I take an hour each day and clean something. I have different zones to clean each day. I do not ever have 6 or 7 hours straight to clean house anymore ( I used to have a cleaning day when the kids were little). I work on cleaning 1 hour each day. That adds up to 5 hours of cleaning during the week and I do additional cleaning on Saturdays if I can (depending what we have going on). By cleaning a little each day the house never gets terribly dirty. The kids clean their bedrooms and their bathroom once a week. One child is in charge of cleaning the hardwood floors each day with the Swiffer. I work on dusting in each zone and deep cleaning the kitchen and the other 2 bathrooms.
5:00p.m.- Mom - dinner prep. Sometimes there is a lot to do, other times not. If dinner is in the crock-pot I might just cut up a salad. On the soccer nights when I will be taking the kids I make sure to have a crock-pot meal so once we arrive home dinner is ready.
6:00p.m. Dinner and clean-up (Nic). We try very, very, hard to stick to this. Soccer may delay it slightly but as soon as we are home we eat dinner together as a family. Usually we are home from soccer by 6:30 at the latest and if dinner is ready in the crock-pot, or if I stayed home while Dad took the kids, then we can quickly sit down to eat. On Wednesday nights if we are going to church we need to leave by 6:45. Tuesdays and Fridays are soccer nights. Wednesdays are church nights.
7:00p.m. Baths/showers. After dinner and clean up 2 boys head upstairs to their bathroom for showers and the 2 girls are given their baths in another bathroom. The 2 oldest boys usually take the dog for a walk during this time or work on "homework". We all meet back up at 7:30 in the family room for devotion.
7:30p.m.- Family Devotion. We read the bible and talk about it as a family, discuss prayer requests, pray, and have a family meeting. I feed Clare Grace while we are having our devotion time. She is diapered and in her pajamas and will usually sleep until her next feeding.
8:30p.m.- Read aloud. Most of the time Dad reads but if he is not home I do or occasionally one of the older boys. This is when we read Jotham's Journey or some other book like that. (This may turn into my exercise time since I don't really know when else to do it. Just last night I walked from 8:30 to 9:00 and it worked out well except I missed read aloud time. I'm still working on where to put my exercise time.)
9:00p.m.- Kids to bed, Mom - fold laundry, work on checkbook/bills, correspondence, baby book, etc. This is the time when I get to work on all of the things filling up my to-do list. Answer email, write out the bills or write a thank you note, or catch up Clare's baby book or work on the kids' scrapbooks or fold clothes and put them away or balance the checkbook or........the list is never ending. I do run into some trouble here if I have a lot that I need to get done and I will work for hours and hours. The house is very quiet and I am able to concentrate and I enjoy the peace. I have one teenager who likes to stay up later and work on things he wants to do and we allow him to choose his bedtime for the most part. He is pretty responsible.
10:30p.m. Mom - feed Clare Grace and put her to bed for the night. I should probably go to bed here but I have never gone to bed at 10:30 in my life! The ideal amount of sleep to me is 6 hours so I try to be in bed by midnight. If I work from 9p.m. until midnight with a half hour break to nurse the baby I can sort of stay on top of things. I like to do a coupon match-up and make a grocery list on Thursday nights and I like to at least jot a few notes in the baby book periodically. If I am sending a thank you note or birthday or get well card this is a good time for me to write those out because I can think about what I am doing since only me and the washer and dryer are up,and sometimes that teenager I mentioned :). Once a week I will use this time to clean out my purse and balance the checkbook and write out the bills that are due. I try to avoid turning the t.v. on since it can be a major distraction. This time has also been nice for private talks with my older kids if they have something private they need to talk to me about when everyone else goes to bed. I will put down whatever I am doing if they need to talk because I see that as more important than pretty much anything else.
Well, there you have it. That is our current Monday-Friday schedule. We fully realize that Jesus Christ is the power behind the schedule. Without Him we are nothing. We ask God to help us when we fail, show us when we are wrong and bless our feeble attempts to be organized. He is so faithful! Feel free to shoot me an email or comment if you have any questions!