The short and long answer of it is: ROUTINES!
Having a good routine leads to good habits. Having a good routine leads to having more time. Having a good routine..... I know, I know. Many fight the urge, and I do to, because you don't want to be bogged down by a schedule! Homeschooling should be freeing, fly by the seat of your pants, do what you want to do when you want to do. Yes, it can be and is depending on what method you are using, but at the same time having a routine is not horrible. You most likely already have routines that you don't even think about and do because they come naturally. Like washing your hands after you use the bathroom, putting your dirty dishes in the sink or dishwasher, tucking the kids in at night, reading bedtime stories, and going to Church Sunday mornings.
Some routines come more naturally than others and some routine form bad habits. Either way having a routine is key to keeping things balanced. I like to get up in the morning, after spending time snuggling with the dogs (Puggy and Onyx), to put a load of laundry in the wash. At lunch time I switched it over and from there it piles up in the laundry room. I haven't found the good routine to getting it folded, but at least for the most part our clothing is getting washed and dried.
In addition to establishing good routines having some organization helps to. What is your go to place to check and keep track of appointments? What is your go to place to keeping records, EM numbers, doctor numbers, etc? Where are you going to find your important information when you need it?
Several years ago, because balancing household chores and homeschooling has been my struggle along with lesson planning, I came across Flylady. She introduced me to the idea of a control journal. Then later I read A Mother's Rule of Life and she talked about the 5 Ps and routines and writing it all down, doing your best to stick to a schedule/routine. Not to be a slave to it, but know if you establish good habits, routines, you will find you have more "time" to do what you love. -- Flylady, Holly, and everyone else I read all pretty much say the same thing. Routines, Schedules, having some kind of home management/control binder/journals.
I made a huge binder. Writing things down, making plans and routines on paper is not my issue following through is my issue. I have poor follow through. Working on it. It's getting better. I liked flylady, but then I got bogged down with all her emails. I got bogged down with feeling I was behind because I couldn't keep up with the emails, reminders, etc.
The control journal while helpful I was using less and less, because I was going digital. I got a smartphone. I found that I like things like google calendar. Flylady, Holly (author of A Mother's Rule) and everyone else I was reading and following made it clear having a family calendar is good. Having a calendar where everyone can access it is good. My husband and I getting smartphone made google calendar a no brainer. We both had google accounts, the smartphones we got were (are) android based (google owned). It just made sense. --- well back track prior to getting my smart phone I had a Palm PDA (digital personal assistant). Hubby got that for me as soon as I started homeschooling. I told him I wanted something small and digital that I can carry with me everywhere. Easily. Something to sync with the computer and device. The Palm was doing that. I just got tired of carrying TWO devices. Phone and PDA. I wanted one device. The only way to get what I wanted was upgrading to a smartphone.
So while I used a paper control journal/binder. I never used it for calendar. I used the PDA and manually synced it (plugging it in to the computer) as needed and then printed out paper calendars. When we upgraded to the smartphones a benefit of using google calendars was discovered. I didn't have to print out calendars and updates from the computer and phone are done automatically via google. That and I now had the power to SHARE the calendar with hubby and HE could write or add things to it and SEE it from his phone or computer. NO more having to call me and ask if it's okay if he goes here or there after work (making sure we/I didn't have plans already) No more calling me while at the doctors office asking if this day would work for an appt. He had complete access and he could add things like HIS own doctor appts, going to confession, meeting up with his friends, working late or going in early to the calendar without running it by me. Don't get me wrong we still communicate with each other daily, but it is rather freeing to add something to the calendar and not have to worry about it conflicting with plans your spouse may have already made.
Getting the smartphone made me dive into the apps and other features to see if I could meet my "home management binder" needs with the smartphone. I also wanted to move away from Flylady. While I learned some available things, I wanted something as simple as a check list. Sure I could make my own check list, but I wanted something a little bit more automated; where I didn't have to think. I tried several free apps and while they were okay they didn't fit my needs exactly and some of them were just pure garbage. Good thing they were free.
After searching I found the Motivated Moms App. Yes, you have to pay for the app. I didn't sign up at first because I didn't want to pay, but in the end I did and I found it to meet my needs the best.-- It is worth every penny. The days (because routines is stills a struggle) I do the things on the app my husband comes home and is amazed the most. He truly thinks I worked hard all day cleaning --- shh... It's our secret that the items on the app listed for the day take maybe an hour at most. Of course you can personalize it: add to the list or remove the ones that don't fit your needs. For example the app comes pre-loaded with feed pets as a daily task. If you don't have a pet you remove it. If there something you want to do that's not listed you just add it.
Using the calendar app and motivated moms app on my phone made me ask: Is there way I can make the control journal more digital? Can I do away with the binder? The answer was Yes, mostly! I found this ebook to help me with the process: Paperless Home Organization: How to Create A Digital Home Management Binder. I say mostly, because there are something that I just go totally digital with like bills for example: So that's where the binder comes in handy.
Mystie's ebook, paperless home organization, centers around 3 different apps/programs: Google Email and Calendars (already using), Evernote (heard of it), and Remember The Milk (what's that?). All of them are free apps/programs. The ebook really talks about maximizing the use of these apps/programs and how to get the most out of them. It was a huge help to me. Although I found that I do not care for Remember The Milk (RTM).
RTM is basically at it's core a task management app. I was already using Motivated Moms for chores and the only other thing I would need task management for was those things that were NOT on my calendar (because you don't want to clutter it up with wishful thinking), and NON-Chore related items, that popped up as needed: like helping Superstar with scout project, collecting library books for hubby to take back to the library, call my mom. etc. I found that a simple check list in evernote or memo on the phone worked. I could even use google task which is apart of the google calendars (but for some strange reason google won't let you access google task via the phone --- really google you should fix that!).
The way to get it done and find balance between chores and homeschooling is to establish good healthy routines, use some kind of home management control binder/journal, and just enjoy life with your family.
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