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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Back to {home} school! An interview with Lisa Pennington {part 1}

Back to school means different things to different people.  Some home-school, so technically they just start back up at their school! 

My friend, Lisa of The Pennington Point, and I couldn't be more different! She's the mother of NINE children and I have two! She lives in rural Texas on a farm, and I live in the big city of Los Angeles, CA!  She has only home-schooled her children.  I have only public-schooled my kids! But, we have become very good blog friends - even from afar. God brought us together and I have enjoyed her as a "big sister" in Christ! We've had a lot of fun emailing back and forth {we even Skyped last week} and I LOVE her great Etsy shop full of wonderful goodies that I've bought for many of my family and friends to enjoy!



Since I do not home-school, I asked her if I could interview her and ask lots of questions about organizing and keeping their household running smoothly - how does she do it and what tips she could bring to my readers since I don't homeschool!


-What are names and ages of your kids? 



Grace (21), Jacob (19), Hope (17), Faith (15), Patience (14), Noah (12), Adam (10), Elijah (8) and Levi (4)

-How long have you been married?  

We just celebrated our 25th anniversary

-How long have you been homeschooling?  

Always. We planned to homeschool even before we got married and none of the kids have ever been to school.

Her dining room/homeschool room!
 
-How did you juggle homeschooling your older ones when you had little ones and babies? 

There were several years when I was having baby after baby and my older ones were still very little. My husband works long hours which meant it was just me and the kids most of the time.
My main tips for that time in life are 1) Train your children to obey, be content and not whine (the children I mean, although technically you shouldn't whine either). 2) Teaching them character and obedience was always more important to me than school itself. If you don't get all of the schoolwork done (WHEN you don't get it all done) don't sweat it. 3) Give yourself a break and don't let outside pressure push you to do things that aren't necessary to your family at this point in your life. Whatever you and your husband decide is necessary is all you need. Just because your over-achieving sister-in-law is teaching Latin to her children doesn't mean you have to.  If all you do for a while is math and a study on spiders....that's perfectly fine!

School room looking the other direction!


-Does your house stay clean even though you have nine kids all over it every single day?  

Yes, our house stays neat and clean. Believe it or not, I used to actually be embarrassed about that because people would act like I was showing off; but the truth is that I enjoy life more when the house looks nice so I keep it that way. It's for me. It really hasn't been that difficult. The key is to clean up everything every day. The dishes get done after every meal. If I get where I am having trouble with dishes then I tweak the plans to include paper plates and foods that aren't as messy. I know that's not "green", but a girl can only do so much. We straighten the whole house each afternoon at 5:00. Each child puts away their things and then we have a quick, playful inspection (more on that at the end). At bedtime I check their rooms and make sure things are straight for the next day. We are so used to it that it's kind of easy now, but I remember when they were all little it was more work but I always felt it was worth it. Now that they pretty much do it on their own I can say that it was completely worth it!

I LOVE her children's silhouettes and turquoise piano in her living room!


-How old were your kids when they started having chores?  

I start them as soon as possible. At 2 they can pick up their toys and put their dirty clothes in the hamper, carry their dishes to the kitchen, be a "helper" as much as possible. My four year old makes his bed, cleans his room and sets the table. By 5 a child can do a LOT of chores. God made us to work and it is good for us to know how important we are to our family. Chores make a child feel needed and prepares them for their future.
Proverbs 12:11 "He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment."



-What is a typical day of homeschooling and your personal schedule? 

OK, I'm going to confess that as much as it seems ideal, I'm not one of those up-before-everyone kind of moms. I roll out of bed about the same time as the kids (sometimes after, sometimes a lot after). We all move about doing our chores and getting ready for the day. Breakfast is at 8:00, school starts at 9:30. The house must be clean, everyone dressed and the chores (including animals because we live on a small farm) must be done by then. School goes until lunch. Each of the kids is assigned a day to make lunch, so I keep working with the other kids until lunch is ready. After lunch we have what we call "rest time" when everyone has to do something quietly by themselves. The older kids do more school work, the younger boys read in their beds and Levi plays in the nursery. During that time I do emails, Facebook, etc. then take a nap. At 3:30 rest time is over and we have free time when they can do whatever they want until 5:00 when we all stop and clean up. Dinner, family time, bed.




- I know you LOVE to nap once a day! How did you teach your children not to kill each other while you napped? 

Girl, I have GOT to have that nap. Like I said, they have no interaction with each other during that time. But even if they did, we don't have a big problem with them fussing or not getting along. They are very loving and kind to each other. I say that not to sound like I have it all perfect because I definitely don't. I say that to let people know that it is possible for brothers and sister to really get along great.


-And how long do you typically take a nap for?  

I take about an hour total: half an hour for a nap and half for other things I need to do like check emails and have my own thoughts.


-Did you do this even when the kids were little?  

It's definitely easier now that the kids are older, but I did this even when they were all very young. If one of them was having trouble being quiet I would have that one stay by my side for rest time and look at a book or play with a quiet toy. I'd lie down when the baby was napping and take a quick rest. Of course there were days when it didn't work out. That still happens. But overall I took a nap every day.


-What is your advice to a mom who wants to be organized and have a clean house, but finds that having all the kids home all day and homeschooling makes that impossible?  

One thing about home schooling is that you really USE every inch of your house. There is a lot of wear and tear. There is no point during the day when it's just you at home so you can straighten and get ready for the next round of kids. It's constant. Getting organized is the easy part. Reading blogs like this one with all of the great organization tips really helps. It's keeping it that way that is the real struggle. One thing I'd suggest is getting rid of anything that you aren't using. Last year's school books and every art project don't need to be kept in the living spaces. Once you've done that, find a spot for everything and teach the kids where it belongs. If you don't have a spot for it then either get rid of it or get rid of something else and use that spot.


I have been very, VERY firm that the kids must put away what they are playing with before they get something else out. When they are babies I just do it for them. As they get older I will walk into a room covered in toys and say, "Let's put away the dolls and cars." You can keep playing with Duplos but the rest needs to be put away, then I will do it with them. The older they get the more I expect them to do it themselves. With an older child if I see that he has left a mess but has moved on I will tell him to stop what he is doing and go clean up the old mess. No whining, just do it. To give a realistic idea, my 8 year old still struggles with it, my 10 year old thinks about it most of the time and my 12 year old wouldn't even consider getting out a new project/toy without first putting away what he was using (and he used to be the worst!). 




Sometimes there's a bigger job that I need to do alone, so I have taught them to sit quietly and play at the table. I can spend an hour or two working on something (like straightening a closet or scrubbing the kitchen) while they stay out of the way. This happens about twice a month and it keeps me from losing my mind completely. While we do own videos and a Wii, I don't use them for this. We watch a movie once a week on Friday night and they each get a designated Wii day once a week when they can play alone during rest time (i.e. from lunch until 3:30 Adam is Wednesday, Noah is Thursday, etc.).



Then like I said earlier, we clean it all up at the end of each day. You wake up with a clean slate so no matter how messy it gets it is doable. At 5:00 I announce it is time to clean up. After they say they are finished we get in a line and march around the house. I shout, "March! March! March! Halt!" We stop suddenly crashing into each other and I point, "pick up that sock in the corner!" or, "Elijah, straighten those books!" then the rest of us keep marching while he runs to do it then get back in line. We go all over the house like that until it is all picked up and tidy. The house gets cleaned, we are having fun together, everyone loves it.




I don't want to leave the impression that we have a perfect life or that I don't have problems. Living in a house with 11 flawed people has its challenges. I make constant mistakes and have a meltdown occasionally. It is Christ that holds me together and teaches me what my priorities should be. I want to encourage you that it is possible to have a happy, neat and godly home. Homeschooling, while it adds extra challenges to keeping a tidy home, also give opportunity to work together as a family. Putting God first, then family, then home keeps everything in the right order.

Lisa is truly a great example to me and to YOU that we must teach our children to be responsible and independent, training them, to do things for themselves and for our family {and home}. She also sounds like a really FUN mom! I bet marching around at the end of the day like that is a super fun way to get the house picked up! She has a great post with her "Top Ten Child Training Tips". She also has the cutest house! I love all her decor - especially her turquoise painted piano! Lisa is also the funniest writer...I mean, seriously, I can't read any of her posts without a good LOL laugh! Sometimes REALLY loud laugh!

Are you a homeschooling mom? Do you face any challenges {whether you have kids in school or at home during the day} trying to keep the house cleaned up? Maybe you have a "bad attitude" kid who doesn't want to do it? What ways have you found to keep things running smoothly?

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