Balancing Work and Home

 Posted by on August 19, 2013  4 Responses »
Aug 192013

Recently, I was chatting with a few of my friends and realized that, in the past year or so, many of us have gone from being just stay-at-home moms (most who home school) to doing all that AND working (most of us primarily from home).  Working from home is rewarding and beneficial… and has its own set of challenges.  Here are my top ten strategies for balancing work and home:

Balancing Work and Home at www.habitsforahappyhome.com1.  Get up early.  Oh, this is so hard for me!  It’s not really early, but at least 30 minutes before my children get up.  Time to reflect, read the Word, prepare breakfast, take a shower in peace (no, I can’t accomplish ALL that in 30 minutes, but maybe some of it!).

2.  Divide up the chores.  When the house is looking messy, I make a list, divisible by three (that’s me plus my girls who are still at home).  I let the girls each choose a chore, then I choose one.  We grab our tools… perhaps one plugs in the vacuum cleaner, one fetches the duster, and one a handful of plastic grocery bags for the wastebaskets.  I set the timer for ten minutes and yell, “Ready, set, go!”  We work like mad until the timer goes off.  Then, we choose another chore each and start over again.  Usually, after three ten-minute sessions, the house is quite clean and tidy.  Another idea for chores is, instead of setting the timer, give everyone a list and take turns choosing music (one song at a time) to play while we all work.

3.  Do one load of laundry per day.  Ideally, I grab it as I’m headed downstairs in the morning, and toss it into the washer.  Later, I throw it into the dryer, and when it’s dry, carry it upstairs and pile it on my bed.  If nothing else, it gets folded before I turn in at night.  Which takes five minutes.  When done this way, I find that laundry is no big deal.  (It also helps when my husband is trying to get to bed at the same time as me… I get folding help!)

4.  Let go of perfection.  During busy times, I do not vacuum the edges of the carpet or clean out cupboards.  I save those chores for weeks when my schedule is light… OR, even better, for children who want to earn a little extra money.

5.  Manage distractions.  Caller id is a wonderful thing.  Unless it is one of the family members who lives in my house, or a business-related call, I usually do not answer the phone.  When I have a minute, I listen to the message and either call the person back or make a note to do so.  This way, I can think through any questions they had for me, or check my calendar if they’ve made a request to get-together.  As I am now armed with the information I need to address the caller, the call back is much shorter and concise.

6. Do NOT attempt to “multi-task.”  You heard me correctly.  Men do not multi-task.  When I observe my husband, he focuses intently on one project at a time. Whether it’s his freelance business or working on projects in the yard or house, he accomplishes so much more in less time.  In my business, we have a “Weekly Plan Sheet.”  I like to color-code each hour of my day with highlighters for family, church, housework, business, and free time.  When it’s time for each activity, I try to focus on that activity only.  For instance, when I am shopping with my daughter, I enjoy that time and try not to think of all I have to do in the other categories.  When it’s time to make calls for my business, I shut the door of my “office,” and keep calling until the hour is done.  When I am having dinner with my family, I eat and talk to them about their days.  You get the idea.  Now, I must admit, this is how I LIKE to do things, and how I know things work more smoothly.  But I’m still working on doing this consistently.

7.  Let your family, especially your children, know why you are working.  Is it to pay off debt?  What will you do when the debt is paid off?  Some sort of family celebration?  Maybe you’re saving for a memorable family vacation.  Make a chart (I love the kind with rising mercury on a “thermometer” for each increment accomplished towards the goal).  The kids will be begging you to work your business and will be shooing you to your office or out the door as they clean up the kitchen!  (Ok, slight exaggeration… =)

8.  Make a “Six Most Important Things to Do” list every night before you go to bed.  Perhaps even keep a pad of paper and a pen on your nightstand.  Listing things before bed clears your mind and helps you to sleep peacefully and be ready to accomplish your goals the next day.

9.  Say “no.”  Look in the mirror and practice it.  “No.”  You can do it!  There is no reason to feel guilty.  Remember, your family is your number one priority, and having a part-time job or other commitment takes time away from them already.  It’s easier to do things well when you aren’t doing so many things.  Even requests to lead or participate in church activities (outside worship service) need a pause… I’ve realized that though many ministries and activities could use my help, not everything needs to be done by me.

10. Plan meals ahead of time, using the slow-cooker and other time-savers:  these Simple Strategies are a great source for meal planning and preparation.

Lastly, know that nothing ever goes smoothly all the time.  When you don’t accomplish everything on your to do list, simply cross off what you DID accomplish (to give yourself a sense of satisfaction), and move the other items to the next day’s list.

Prayer and a little coffee never hurt, either.  =)  Happy working from home!
Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

~written by Kim A.

The Healthy Habit of Laughter

 Posted by on May 14, 2013  1 Response »
May 142013

Then our mouth was filled with laughter, And our tongue with singing. Then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”  Psalm 126:2

Studies have shown that laughter is healthy, healing.  It may even have benefits similar to a light workout!   And we all know the verse  “A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones.”  (Prov. 17:22)

The Healthy Habit of LaughterHow can we bring laughter into our homes?

Laugh at yourself— I do this on many occasions, because I am by nature a klutz.  I trip over my own feet, spill things, and knock full glasses off tables regularly.  Laughter helps to diffuse the situation and any tension that might arise with it.

Laugh with your children— What you are in essence doing is teaching them to laugh at themselves.  When they do funny things as mentioned above, have a good laugh with them, but not at them.  Make them feel better by sharing a time something similar happened to you.

Laugh in the good times— that’s easy.  When a prayer is answered and I just didn’t see how it was going to happen, when Dad gets a raise, when we finally book that trip to Disneyworld after years of saving… we laugh.  Not a long, lingering laugh such as when you witness something hilariously funny, just a short, happy laugh, reminding you that God is good.

Laugh in the bad times— when we have had financial trials, when several things around the house are broken and we can’t afford to repair them all, when we are under a tornado warning… my husband and I often resort to light joking about our situation.  In our family, it is ok to make jokes about serious things.  We tread lightly here, cautiously.  This would not work for some families but it has helped ours make light of what would normally be stressful situations.

Make jokes!  Nice ones, clean ones.  Just to let a little laughter into your day.  Read jokes– I love to read “Laughter, the Best Medicine” in Reader’s Digest.

Watch funny tv shows in your leisure time— My all-time favorite is I Love Lucy.  I often insert one of my dvds after a tiring or “down” day.  Who wouldn’t laugh at that?  My family does… even though we’ve seen each episode multiple times!

Watch Christian comedians— we have our favorites.  Sometimes I will just pop over to YouTube and watch a two-minute segment of one of them.  Ah, that relaxes me and helps me get on with my day.

Play board games with your family— want to have a long laugh session?  Play Balderdash.  I still have the picture I took of my parents, sitting at our kitchen table when I was in college, with red faces and tears running down their faces because what someone had just written as a “definition” in Balderdash was hilarious.  I treasure this memory!

Never laugh at another’s expense— if it does not edify, we don’t do it.

Laughter heals— One of my favorite memories of the terrible, yet beautiful ordeal we had with our daughter’s accident was the 5th day she was in the ICU.  Her youth pastor had flown up to visit us, and brought her a number of homemade cards from the youth group.  All were sweet and caring, with Bible verses and artistic drawings.  Except one.  One young man, known for his precociousness, wrote a funny anecdote.  Having been cooped up in the ICU for too long, I probably thought it was even funnier than it was, and started laughing so hard tears ran down my face.  I took a break and then read his card aloud again, and laughed again.  My daughter soon joined in with me, and as I looked at her precious, bruised face under the oxygen mask, my heart swelled with joy.  My little girl was healing.

Ah, the power of laughter.

 ~ Written by Kim A.

10 Things My Mother Taught Me

 Posted by on April 16, 2013  2 Responses »
Apr 162013

My wonderful mom is turning 72 this month!  In honor of her birthday, here are…

10 Things My Mother Taught Me at Habits for a Happy Home

10 Things My Mother Taught Me

1.  Have consideration for others… siblings, store clerks, those next to you on the bus, the garbage collector… Everyone is one of God’s created beings and as such deserves respect.  No exceptions.

2.  Keep a clean house.  Keep it, as my mother’s mother said, “Clean enough to be healthy, and dirty enough to be happy.”  We got to make messes… but we were required to clean them up.  She wasn’t uptight about housework, but had a weekly routine of dusting, vacuuming, and cleaning the bathrooms.  That, combined with putting things in their place, made our home clean yet comfortable.

3.  Get dinner on the table.  She was great at that!  Dinners were simple, but regular.  Every night at 6:00, we could expect a well-rounded meal.

4.  Practice forgiveness.  My mom is a great example of one who does not hold grudges.

5.  Don’t worry; be happy.  I’m sure my mom could have written that song.  Her life has had several major challenges which got her down.  But she always bounces back with her sunny outlook.

6.  Cherish happy memories.  Her parents both passed away at relatively early ages.  But her special memories live on, and she shares them regularly so I can know and delight in my grandparents, too.

7.  Make holidays special, even when you don’t have much money.  It doesn’t take much money to dye pancake batter green for St. Patrick’s Day or bake heart-shaped sugar cookies for Valentine’s Day.  It does take effort, and my mom put hers into remembering even the “little” holidays to make our childhood sweet and special.

8.  Laugh at yourself.  My mom does this regularly, and has us laughing at her funny stories!  “A merry heart does good, like medicine.”  (Proverbs 17:22)  At 72, my mom is still pretty healthy… and she laughs and is merry often.

9.  Love thy neighbor as thyself.  When I was five, a very young, “hippy” couple moved in across the street from us.  Other more established neighbors may have turned up their noses, but my mom marched right over and introduced herself, taking this young wife under her wing as an older woman mentoring a younger.  Their friendship continued, and one day, several years later, this friend was the one to love us with two full bags of groceries delivered to our door at a time when finances were exceptionally tight.

10. Judge not.  She doesn’t judge others or hold them to an impossibly high standard.  My mom just enjoys people for who they are, which is why she is loved so much by her children and grandchildren.

Happy Birthday, Mom!  I love you!

~Written by Kim, The Daisy Muse

We invite you to subscribe so you won’t miss any Habits for a Happy Home.

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

Mar 122013

Preparing for College - 10 Steps at Helping a child apply to college and all that goes along with it can seem overwhelming to any parent, but the homeschool parent has the added responsibility of being the educator as well. You can do it, and without much stress, if you take it one step at a time. I’ve outlined below what I did to give my girls a college preparatory education and help them apply to and choose a college.

Grades 9-12

1. Teach college-preparatory courses. Use curriculum designed for the high school level. At this point, you may need to separate older students if you usually teach unit studies involving the whole group. Their material should be meatier and require more study and testing, papers, and projects. Most colleges require a number of years of English and math, two years of foreign language study (the same language both years), and science and history. Electives are also usually required, and at the very least an asset on your child’s transcript.

2. Keep a record of your child’s grades for each subject each year. This will later be the child’s transcript. There are many sample transcripts on the internet that you can pattern yours after. The college my daughter applied to had its own sample on the website. I made mine exactly like theirs and just typed in my daughter’s classes and grades. You can also find a G.P.A. (grade-point average) calculator on the internet. It is important to know your child’s G.P.A., as this affects academic scholarships. The higher the G.P.A., combined with SAT or ACT score, the more scholarship money the college will offer. If your child’s grade are not top-notch, don’t despair… colleges are looking for average students with other abilities as well.

3. Along with the record of grades, I also keep a portfolio of my student’s work. It’s simple: a three-ring binder is divided into sections—one section for each class. After a math test, the student places the graded test into the math section. English papers are put into the English section, and so on. I do not save everything… mostly just tests, quizzes, and papers, and maybe a few pages of daily work. The rest goes into the trash at the end of the school year (but that’s for another post on avoiding clutter).

At the end of the year, the portfolio is finished, except for two tasks:

  • I have each child design a cover for the year, including pictures of them throughout, and
  • I print a copy of their grades (their “report card”) and put that into the binder as well.

I have never had to show this to a potential college, but we have these to look back over in future years, and they are available just in case.

4. Look for scholarships, as early as ninth grade. Colleges usually offer their own internal scholarships, but there are many more. Websites such as Fastweb customize your scholarship search for you after you fill out a questionnaire. They email scholarship matches, which prevents much wasted time. You can also do a Google search for “scholarships for _____________ “ and fill in the blank with whatever makes you unique. I kid you not, there is actually a scholarship for people who speak Klingon!  Also check your local paper. Businesses often provide scholarships for students in the community, and more are becoming open to homeschooled students. Some scholarships require that you give household income, some do not. Apply to as many as you can, but avoid the ones you know you would most likely not win. Also, never apply to scholarships that require money up front. This is usually a scam. Who handles the scholarships? In our house, I find them, and my highschoolers apply.

Grades 11-12

5. Have your child take the SAT or ACT test. I recommend once during the junior year, and once or twice more during the senior year (unless the first score is phenomenal!). Have the scores sent to any college he is interested in (you can send scores to up to four colleges for free). This, combined with the G.P.A., is important in getting into college and getting scholarships both inside and outside the college. I’d have them take one of each, then take the one they scored higher on a second or even third time. Prep classes for these tests can be beneficial as well. These classes are usually geared toward how to take the test rather than a review of the information on the test.

  • has all the information on the SAT
  • has the information for the ACT

6. Have your child choose colleges he’s interested in, and apply to the ones he is really serious about. Check out the college’s website. A visit to campus helps, if that is possible. Talking with current students and alumni is extremely beneficial.

Questions to ask:

  • Does this college fit your student?
  • Will he feel comfortable there?
  • If he will be living away from home, do you feel comfortable with the environment?
  • What is the teaching philosophy?

Everyone has their own opinion about choosing a college, but realize that most young people form their life-long friendships and philosophies during college. After homeschooling them with a certain worldview for 12 years, are you comfortable with a philosophy that is diametrically opposed to that? A good school in my opinion will present a number of ideas and opinions but hold to the same worldview my student has been brought up with. Our children made their own decisions, but we guided them toward colleges in this realm. We also made sure the college was accredited, which could be necessary in the future for a graduate to be considered for certain jobs.

7. The FAFSA…. Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This must be filled out each calendar year of college beginning Jan. 1 of the student’s senior year of high school. It’s a good idea for the person who does the taxes in your family to be the one who fills out the FAFSA. My husband does one right after the other (taxes first). Submit the FAFSA to the schools you are applying to as early as possible.  We do this for our kids, as they do not handle the family finances, but it’s a good idea to get them involved, at least let them see what you’re doing.

8. Once you’ve received an “award letter” (telling your student how much money he will be awarded in federal aid, scholarships, and student loans), make a decision. Ultimately, our daughter had her heart set on a certain school since age 16, and chose it. Your student may have a more difficult time choosing. This is where the most important aspect comes in … prayer!

9. Apply for special programs – honors, musical ensembles, athletic clubs. Many of these offer extra scholarship money, reducing the student and parent load. Some schools also allow students to register for classes and apply for on-campus jobs online, ahead of time.

10. It’s a good idea to make sure your student has a personal computer before sending him off to college. Sure, the school will have a computer lab, but a PC is almost a must these days. We made our daughter’s her graduation present.

~Written by Kim, The Daisy Muse
We invite you to subscribe so you won’t miss any Habits for a Happy Home.

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

Do you have any questions or concerns about getting your child into college?  If you’ve already been through this, what tips do you have for the rest of us?

Unit Studies by Amanda Bennett: Your Passport to Learning Adventures!

Feb 122013

10 Ways to Spice Up Your Marriage at Habits for a Happy Home I love being married.  But let’s face it… there is always something that tries to put a damper on the romance so carefully kindled during courtship and the newlywed period.  Whether it’s dirty diapers, screaming toddlers, financial troubles, a leaking septic tank… I could list 100 things, but the fact is, God designed romance in marriage and it’s in our best interest to keep the fire kindling, no matter how low the flame has dwindled.

At first, I couldn’t think of ten items to list.  Then I began chatting with my husband about it, and between us, we came up with about twelve!  Since several involved food, I edited some out.  These Top Tens are from the wife’s perspective, though I’d love to see what was on the husband’s list!

1.  Admire something about him.  Make sure it’s genuine… there’s nothing so unflattering as an insincere compliment.  Does he have muscular arms?  Artistic talent?  Business sense?  Even if it’s something such as bringing home a paycheck, every man loves to be praised for his accomplishments.  They thrive on it!  Make it specific—“You’re so good with people… of course they gave you a promotion!  You deserve it!”, “Because you are so good at fixing things, we saved money by not having to take the car to the shop!”, “ I love the paint job in the dining room!  How did you get the lines so straight?”  See if he doesn’t beam at your admiration.

2.  Flirt.  Whether or not you flirted before you were married, do it now.  It’s fun, and adds a bit of spice to a marriage.  How you flirt is up to you!  Just have fun with it and enjoy the man God gave you.

3.  Snuggle up to him in public.  In our church service, I see the younger married couples do this.  So I scoot over closer to my man. Why should there be space between us just because we’re in our forties?

4.  Fix yourself up.  Put on that perfume he bought you long ago that you stashed in a drawer for a “special occasion.”  Brush your hair.  Put on decent clothes.  When he comes home, don’t let him see you in torn sweatpants, sighing as you clean a toilet.  He’s worked hard all day, too, and deserves a pleasant wife, not a martyr.

5.  Fix his favorite foods.  Buy the snacks he likes, and keep them at eye level in the pantry.  Listen to his culinary likes and dislikes, and cater to them cheerfully.  He’ll notice!

6.  Pull a surprise once in awhile.  One morning, as soon as he got into the shower, I got into the car and drove to Chick-fil-a, bought my husband’s favorite chicken biscuit and orange juice, and brought it home.  It was at his desk when he came downstairs to work.  The delight on his face was worth the trouble I took to do it!

7.  Write him notes… in his lunch, emails, private facebook messages… even a special “love” card mailed to his work, scented with perfume.  Mention little private jokes known only to the two of you.  He’ll feel special and know that you’re thinking of him throughout the day (and you’ll probably get a note or two from him!).

8.  Be interested in what he’s interested in.  Oh, this is hard for me.  But I try.  I ask questions about software programs and graphic design terms, and know a surface amount of information about them, enough to understand what he’s trying to tell me when he wants to talk about work.  The sci-fi movies are another story.  I just do my best, knowing that I can enjoy the action and costuming without really understanding the plot (or why anyone would want to watch it!  Shhhh!)  We can’t always enjoy things at the same level, but I can appreciate that HE enjoys it.

9.  Say thank you.  For his bringing home a paycheck, helping you with dishes, washing your car.  A little thanks goes a long way, especially when it’s for something typically done out of duty.

10.  Be mysterious.   Don’t always talk about yourself.  Let him find some things out for himself.  Get a hobby, or read up on a new subject, and spend some time developing yourself in that area.  Make time to be that interesting woman he first fell in love with.

As Valentine’s Day approaches and the subject of love is on our minds, what are some things you would add to this list?

~Written by Kim, The Daisy Muse
We invite you to subscribe so you won’t miss any Habits for a Happy Home.

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

Hearts and Trees: Art, Handicrafts and Nature Study for your Homeschool