Oh, Dearest Mother, Sweetest Virgin of Altagracia, our Patroness. You are our Advocate and to you we recommend our needs. You are our Teacher and like disciples we come to learn from the example of your holy life. You are our Mother, and like children, we come to offer you all of the love of our hearts. Receive, dearest Mother, our offerings and listen attentively to our supplications. Amen.



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Angel
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Posted: May 10 2010 at 5:16pm | IP Logged Quote Angel

Once again I realize how inadequately I am planning for my pre-K guys. If I am feeling well or if we are not out of the house a lot, I do ok... not great, but ok. If anything happens to upset that precarious balance, though... I lose all ability to plan and am just reacting to the moment. Right now I have 2 4 year olds and a 2 year old, who will become 2 5 year olds and a 3 year old in the fall, and they are ready to WORK and not just to be after-thoughts. In fact, I can concentrate on no one else but them as long as they are awake. (Which sort of leaves out my 7 year old often, but that's another matter I guess.) As they get older, I do notice that at least one of my twins would be easily diagnosable with ADHD... and probably his brother as well to some extent. Keeping up with them is exhausting.

I honestly have NO idea what kind of situation we'll be in come fall -- what with moving and a new baby this summer -- but I thought I should devote more thought to this question than I have in the past because it is a MAJOR element in how smoothly our day runs. Left to their own devices, the twins lean toward destruction and mayhem. If given something to engage their brains, they're still somewhat exhausting, but at least it's a constructive sort of exhausting!!

Anyway, I'd just like to know how you plan activities, etc to do with your little ones (roughly age 2-5). Do you plan out specific things to do every week? Do you make up a plan for the whole year (or quarter or semester)? Do you build your plans around themes or do you go more with their interests? Do you make checklists or do you write out specific plans for yourself with instructions? How often do you gather materials? How do you keep up with all the materials?

In the past we've used a sort of Montessori-- Reggio Emilia -- bookish mix around here, but I am of course open to experimentation. I know that some of you use workboxes, which I haven't investigated *too* deeply because I know my own difficulties with weekly rotation of material and because I've always tended toward a more traditional Montessori-ish approach. It may be that I need to go look up that workbox thread again, though, and think about it a little more seriously.

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Posted: May 10 2010 at 8:52pm | IP Logged Quote violingirl

We go with a Montessori, Reggio Emilia, CM kind of thing around here too, but with two noticeable differences: A) I only have my 2 preschoolers with no older kids to plan for, B) I'm not expecting a baby this summer. Those are two big things to plan around!

The way I've been working lately is that I keep a list of things I think the boys might be interested in and we mix that with the other topics they come up with themselves. I can get online and order several books from our local library that look promising and pick them up on our next library day. I print pages from a few online resources so they can have something to color or cut if they want it, and I usually find a few activities around the topic if we need something to do.

For Montessori work I do have a checklist of work and I make sure we cover some of it, but I don't change out the shelves as often as I should right now. We've been more oriented toward project work lately.

I like working from a list rather than having a specific thing for each day, so I'll have a list of 10 possibilities for a project and mention 3 or 4 to the boys and see which one sounds interesting to them. I make sure we do at least 1 project-related thing each day or have a Montessori work time.


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Posted: May 11 2010 at 6:10am | IP Logged Quote Becky Parker

Hi Angela,

Workboxes have really helped me get things organized around here. For my older kids, like your 7yo, they allow them to work independently and get some of their work done while I'm herding the younger kids. For my younger kids, after a bit of training, workboxes have given them some direction as well. I have a 2 yo now that will turn 3 in July. I have not done workboxes with him yet but I really need to! If he doesn't have some direction, he just plays "dump and go" all over the house. My plan is to get them set up for him and do a bit of training before next school year.

I will also add that I do a simplified versin of workboxes, meaning I don't change all the activities every day. I tried that at first and it took too much time. My kids are given weekly workboxes and it's actually working better. When they don't want to put a certain activity away, I just remind them that it will be there for them to work on tomorrow.

For me, workboxes have been a great way to make sure I include some of those wonderful Montessori Materials that were being overlooked. It also forces me to think a bit about each of my kids and what they need or are interested in.

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Posted: May 12 2010 at 5:08pm | IP Logged Quote Angel

violingirl wrote:


I like working from a list rather than having a specific thing for each day, so I'll have a list of 10 possibilities for a project and mention 3 or 4 to the boys and see which one sounds interesting to them. I make sure we do at least 1 project-related thing each day or have a Montessori work time.


Do you have a regular planning time? How are you keeping track of your lists? I used to keep a sort of notebook, but have let that fall by the wayside.

Part of my problem with the little boys is that they don't follow my schedules. They're always pulling stuff out to do before I'm done putting laundry in the washer, for instance, and then I'm just chasing them... even if I have something in mind for us to do.

Hmmm. There are more questions I want to ask here, but my 2 year is busy trying to push all the keys on the keyboard while I type.

I do wonder if anyone who does have older children to plan for will mention how they go about keeping everyone straight... it seems like I'm always starting with my oldest and then I never have too much time to get down to my little guys (mostly because I'm chasing my little guys!)

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Posted: May 12 2010 at 11:55pm | IP Logged Quote violingirl

Angel wrote:
Do you have a regular planning time? How are you keeping track of your lists? I used to keep a sort of notebook, but have let that fall by the wayside.

Part of my problem with the little boys is that they don't follow my schedules. They're always pulling stuff out to do before I'm done putting laundry in the washer, for instance, and then I'm just chasing them... even if I have something in mind for us to do.


I am home in the mornings and then work in the afternoons, so my planning time is in the evenings after the kids are in bed, usually Wednesday and
Thursday to get ready for the next week. My husband has been in class on these nights until recently, so I've had those nights to myself. I'm needing to adjust that a bit now that he's home and I actually get to spend time with him. :) I think the planning time will end up moving to the weekend and I'll have to plan a little further in advance.

I let the boys do whatever it is they want to do while I do morning stuff (laundry, dishes etc.) as long as they aren't hurting each other or destroying property. So if they rip the living room apart to build houses/tents/forts/whatever (which is the current craze around here) I let them go at it until around 9:30 or so and then we have a big clean up and do our project together, whatever it might be.

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Posted: May 13 2010 at 12:00am | IP Logged Quote Tina P.

Angela:

I'm probably not a good one to reply to this because of what I'm about to tell you. I let the little ones fly ... a lot. I concentrate on getting the older four gainfully occupied while #5 babysits the little ones. She'll take them outside in good weather so that the older ones have a bit of quiet in the house. It's amazing how one little voice can echo throughout a house, isn't it?

Two of the currently three little ones find me for school. "Mama, can you read to me?" The other one I have to pin down because he involves himself in engagingly imaginary adventures. He's the biggest of the littles and actually is required to do school. However, when the older ones have finished school for the summer, Jacob will plod on for about three days per week. My babysitter will also plod on through summer. They don't mind as much as the older kids that they do not get a long break, because they get so much break time during the traditional school year.

So, I guess when I think back on the year, my littler kids (from 9 years down to 22 months) get the bulk of their school in summer and winter. the older kids who want a lengthy summer, do their school fall through spring. And the littles and I sneak time in here and there.

I have #4 (who is 10) read chapters of the Little House series to my 9,7,and 4 year olds for history. The four year old gets a little wiggly and distracting at times. I have no problem pulling her out of the listening ring. They read. We discuss. And sometimes they have art projects or have to research some facet of history.

#3 (12) and #4 do their science together. #5 takes the youngers outside to discover things. We haven't gone on nature hikes yet this year because it's been too cold. Also, considering I'm 31 weeks along ... I just don't think it's feasible this year 'til autumn.

Occasionally, #2 (14) gives me a baby break by sweeping in and scooping her up. Then I take advantage of either scrambling to do a chore that was left unattended or read stories or play with math manipulatives or a game or puzzle with the 4 year old.

Religion for the littles is a lot of reading and a little discussion when questions pop up or opportunities for discovering the glory of God present themselves.

I hope you can glean some wisdom from this mishmash reply to your question.

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Posted: May 13 2010 at 5:33am | IP Logged Quote Erin

Angel wrote:

I do wonder if anyone who does have older children to plan for will mention how they go about keeping everyone straight... it seems like I'm always starting with my oldest and then I never have too much time to get down to my little guys (mostly because I'm chasing my little guys!)


Angela
I have been struggling to answer your questions for days. The problem is I have these great ideas, they work for a short time and then I have to come up with a new plan. So I need to think some more.

I can however answer this part. On 'my ideal' day I work with the littles first. after prayers and a 'game plan talk' I send my highschoolers off to work independently, my primary aged children spend the half hour or so that I need doing their independent table time. This half hour is spent listening to dd5 'read' and reading 2-4 picture books to dd5, ds 3 & 1.   It is like their 'love meter' is met and then they'll happily play outside or with their toys. Somedays they actually head out to play on their own and I switch gears and work with my primary aged ones. Then when they drift in I be prepared to drop work and switch focus back to them.

Now I'll be really honest, I seem to juggle the littles and the primary aged but I'm having a sneaking suspicion that I haven't my finger on the pulse as strongly as I should with some of my more reluctant highschoolers. But ideally to fit them in I need to 'meet with' them just before or after lunch.

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Posted: May 15 2010 at 6:51am | IP Logged Quote Alcat

My sil has 10dc and when she had a few older ones and several small ones (some with ADHD) she set up her house very differently. She had her husband make higher-than-normal gates that the small peeps couldn't climb until about 4yrs. She put all toys (except for the really bulky stuff) in individual containers. She put locks on all doors. She kept them outside as much as possible.

This allowed her a little bit of breathing room from her home and the contents there-in being completely ransacked on a daily basis. It gave her a little control.

While the gates may be a bit much I highly recommend keeping toys and school stuff stored workbox style and kept in a closet you can lock (eye hook or chain lock). My sil took a linen closet for this purpose. I understand the possible space issues and taking a closet may seem impossible but my sil lived in a tiny house and to keep her sanity she sacrificed the closet space for this purpose.

After containing and controling what her kids could get into, then she went about planning a routine for the little ones. She gave them focused time first, right after morning chores while the 8yrold and 7yrold's did math and anything else they could do on their own. This took about a 1/2 an hour, then they would go outside if it was nice. She would have them do chores with her during the day too so they were with her most of the time.

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Posted: May 15 2010 at 7:27am | IP Logged Quote Angel

Alcat wrote:
My sil has 10dc and when she had a few older ones and several small ones (some with ADHD) she set up her house very differently. She had her husband make higher-than-normal gates that the small peeps couldn't climb until about 4yrs. She put all toys (except for the really bulky stuff) in individual containers. She put locks on all doors. She kept them outside as much as possible.



Yeah, see -- this is my problem. (One of them anyway). I can't lock my closet doors. They slide on tracks and are continually getting knocked off. And my laundry room doesn't have a door, so we've put gates in to function as a door... but in 2 or 3 years we went through about 5 of them and they really tore up the wall.

The thing is, of course, that I *completely* agree with you, that all of that would make my life easier! Including the outside time. The boys really need 4 hours or more of time outside every day in order to be calm. Sleep is also an issue. This is one of the (many) reasons we've decided to move from upstate NY to a warmer climate. Not only will we be closer to family, but the boys will be able to go outside far, far more of the year. We just had snow last week. I think some of their nutty behavior lately just stems from wanting to be outside more. After all, it is May! I want to be outside, too!

It seems from the replies to this thread that:

1. Most people do not plan for preschoolers... or at least not very much.
2. If you have a lot of preschoolers, some solutions might be to set up your house for limited freedom and/or to assign one (or more) of your bigger kids as babysitters.
3. Do something with your little ones first. Or keep your little ones with you while you do your chores, etc.
4. If you do plan for preschoolers (or set up the house for limited freedom) it involves rotating both work and toys. In other words, you probably need decent closets and a system to keep up with the rotation.
5. Checklists over more written, themed plans.
6. Judging by the number of views vs. the number of replies, either nobody knows what I'm talking about, lots of people don't know how to plan for preschoolers either, or they read the original post and think my kids and I are entirely off the deep end.

Is that a decent summary or have I misread?




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Posted: May 15 2010 at 11:54am | IP Logged Quote joann10

Quote:

6. Judging by the number of views vs. the number of replies, either nobody knows what I'm talking about, lots of people don't know how to plan for preschoolers either, or they read the original post and think my kids and I are entirely off the deep end.





As one of the people checking this post everytime I am on the computer, I need to say that my lack of reply is based on the fact that I haven't a clue how to more easily manage my preschoolers.
I sure have appreciated the replies that have come, because I am in the same boat as how to deal with my very "active" younger kids--(right down to last weeks snow )

In our tiny house there is nowhere to store things or any hope to keep gates up--where ever we are trying to do school, the 4 and 5 year old are right there with us.
It is definitely the main reason our days don't run anywhere near as smoothly as I would like.
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Posted: May 15 2010 at 12:45pm | IP Logged Quote Becky Parker

I guess in all honesty I have to say that my attitude is "this is just one of those seasons in life and it will soon pass". But then, I keep getting pregnant so maybe I need a different approach?! It doesn't appear that it will be passing anytime too soon.

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Posted: May 15 2010 at 1:01pm | IP Logged Quote Angel

Becky Parker wrote:
I guess in all honesty I have to say that my attitude is "this is just one of those seasons in life and it will soon pass". But then, I keep getting pregnant so maybe I need a different approach?! It doesn't appear that it will be passing anytime too soon.


Exactly. I *do* know it can't last forever... and when this stage of my life is over I imagine I will be sad... but right now I am just really, really tired. Kwim?

Anyway-- I figure I need to improve my battle plan. I have 6 kids (7 in June) but only 2 of them over the age of 7. That means my house is weighted by far in the direction of littles. 5 of my 7 will be age 7 and under.

So much of it does seem to have to do with space and climate, though. I am constantly amazed at how much my house works against me... and it's a reltively big house! (certainly nothing like what you have to deal with, Joann... I don't know how you do it!!) And once we can go outside... everything is much better.

I do have the day set up in terms of littles and olders, though. Aside from our morning catechism/history read aloud time (which I obviously need to tweak because the little ones wreak a lot of havoc then... even though it only lasts about 45 minutes with all the havoc included)I work with the 4 year olds and the 2 year old in the morning, and save the sit-down work for the older ones (including my 7 yo usually) for the afternoon when the little ones are asleep. (However, I live in terror of the day when the twins will give up their naps!!)

This is a start, I think, but I really need to make the mornings work better. So much of the time I am only reacting. Trying to occupy 3 or 4 kids with short attention spans who want to all do the very same thing at the same time means I have very little time to do anything but react during the hour or so that they like doing "work".


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Posted: May 15 2010 at 1:37pm | IP Logged Quote Becky Parker

Angel wrote:

Aside from our morning catechism/history read aloud time (which I obviously need to tweak because the little ones wreak a lot of havoc then... even though it only lasts about 45 minutes with all the havoc included)


Angel, we do catechism, history and copywork in the morning and by the time we're done I'm not a very pleasant person . Most of it had to do with my 2yo and the 6yo. I finally realized the 6yo had more years to get history and we could do his copywork during our school time together, or as one of his workbox activities, so after a bit of catechism his new routine involves watching Starfall with the 2yo. I didn't want to resort to something electronic, but with Starfall, the 6yo is getting review with his letter sounds, and the 2yo is building vocabulary since he repeats whatever they say. That has helped keep the peace here, in the first part of the morning anyway.

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Posted: May 16 2010 at 11:28pm | IP Logged Quote Summer

I have six littles, 11 and under. The 2yo is a dynamo that can destroy a room in 5 minutes. Dd 4 wants to do school like the big ones and dd 7 really is supposed to be doing school.   

Most days, I feel that I am reacting and running after too. On good days I have: 1) a plan for my preschoolers and toddler. I do not write extensive plans for the little ones because I never know what will hold their interest. However, if I have an idea and an activity, or two, set aside for them then the day is much smoother. 2) I focus on them in a positive manner first thing in the morning. Happy little songs for brushing teeth and hair go a long way. 3) I remind myself that this too shall pass and then I will wax nostalgic about the days of chaos.

Strategic use of Signing Time videos and and shooing them outside are mommy sanity savers too. I understand that the cold makes this tough. We installed a set of rings, swing, and a slide on the back porch just to help keep the 2yo safe and contained. It works great when I can't send them out for whatever reason.

I used to do far more planning for my little ones but it was a tough year with ds #6 being born in August. In the end, a plan for an activity as needed and a happy morning have been my best bets this year.

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Posted: May 17 2010 at 8:04am | IP Logged Quote *Lindsey*

I think I can empathize with you, Angela. My five kids are ages 6.5 and under, including a set of 2.5 year old twinadoes.

I am watching this thread with interest for ideas. I'm not entirely sure how we're going to make next school year work with a newborn, toddler, and non-napping twins. Maybe I should devote these next few weeks to getting them to take a nap again...



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Posted: May 17 2010 at 8:23am | IP Logged Quote mooreboyz

Angela,
I love reading your posts because you are so honest and your life is so much like ours. With all of the boys in this house everyday it is a madhouse. I try different things and they work for a bit, but then fail to the overwhelming needs of the boys to run, scream, fight with swords, and wrestle.

Having some sort of plan for my preschoolers does give me a feeling of order to the day though and so when my 4th was almost 4 I began making plans. I used to plan day by day for the littles thinking very much like Becky
Becky Parker wrote:
I guess in all honesty I have to say that my attitude is "this is just one of those seasons in life and it will soon pass". But then, I keep getting pregnant so maybe I need a different approach?! It doesn't appear that it will be passing anytime too soon.

And so a started planning for them in the summer as I plan for the others. I pick a theme for each month for science, art, math (for 5 year old), practical life. I also pick out fun holidays over the month to celebrate with crafts, food, books, or games. So, for example, April we'd study forest animals for science, painting for art, and money for math. Then I flesh out a short list of things to do like animal track identification, defense mechanisms, food chains, babies. This much is what I plan out ahead. Then a week before the new month starts I will order books from the library, find some fun things to do specifically and sort them out by week so I have a good variety of sitting work and active play. Finally the weekend before the week I write down in my calender which days we will do what according to our plan for the week (errands, appointments, outside work). I started making my first set of plans nice and thorough enough so I can pull them out and reuse them when we are ready to cycle through it again with the next couple kiddos.

So, this gives me a plan of action for the day. On a daily basis I have found like others that working with the little guys first is very helpful. In fact this year the whole period before lunch I am with them except for a quick question here and there from the olders who work on their own. Then in the afternoon the littles occupy themselves with an activity I put out like blocks and animals or a movie while I do group studies like botany, history, or whatever with the older group.

Of course there are several interruptions throughout the day and of course things don't always get accomplished as planned; but, we do our best and that's all we can do.

Since our newest was born I'm seeing more that you just have to roll with it and expect the crazy. It is the norm not just a bad day. It is tough though especially when dh gets upset since he is home and has to listen to it.

Good luck to you and take care.


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Posted: May 17 2010 at 9:38am | IP Logged Quote Angie Mc

Angela, I'm just so proud of you and all moms who take on this enormous calling!!! How blessed you are to have many littles and how blessed they are to have you as their mom!!

Angel wrote:


It seems from the replies to this thread that:

1. Most people do not plan for preschoolers... or at least not very much.
2. If you have a lot of preschoolers, some solutions might be to set up your house for limited freedom and/or to assign one (or more) of your bigger kids as babysitters.
3. Do something with your little ones first. Or keep your little ones with you while you do your chores, etc.
4. If you do plan for preschoolers (or set up the house for limited freedom) it involves rotating both work and toys. In other words, you probably need decent closets and a system to keep up with the rotation.
5. Checklists over more written, themed plans.
6. Judging by the number of views vs. the number of replies, either nobody knows what I'm talking about, lots of people don't know how to plan for preschoolers either, or they read the original post and think my kids and I are entirely off the deep end.

Is that a decent summary or have I misread?




Working from just this list of great ideas, and seeing if I can add something that may be helpful, or at least give some reassurance or consolation...

I do very little formal work with my young children. Once my children are ~8, that's when I look to kick up the formal work. Just having the developmental thought in my head that, once the typical child reaches 8, he/she will likely be able to do more for themselves, more quickly, eases my mind. Until this time, I count "everything" as a learning experience for my children...all the free play time, floor time, chores, cooking, outings, singing, dancing, talking, watching, observing...reading!

For the littles, I focus on mothering and running a household (my philosophy and discipline) - not teaching. I foucs on child habit formation, character formation, and improving my mothering skills, such as discipline. I focus on habit formation and routines that help the family, such as household chores, meals, and time management (keeping a to-do list, placing realistic expectations on a calendar, then getting tasks done according to the calendar.) Once each of my children have reached 8, they have many strong skills from which to help themselves and the family. From here I start to integrate formal academics.

Feeling confident with this approach because I'm watching my first baby graduate from high school as a wonderful young adult with a bright future, I will go as far as to say...I feel that any program or approach that puts too much emphasis on formal academics at a young age, is setting families up for undue anxiety, worry, burn-out, and possibly failure. So I like to encourage beautiful families who have been blessed with many littles to, find ways to enjoy those littles! Know the principles upon which you make your decisions. Find ways that make the most of this very special and short time.

So my planning for littles ones is to meet their needs first and then integrate them into the bigger family plan in ways that are doable and enjoyable.

Praying you find just the right plan for your family, Angela .

Love,

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Tina P.
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Posted: May 17 2010 at 9:47am | IP Logged Quote Tina P.

*Lindsey* wrote:
non-napping twins. Maybe I should devote these next few weeks to getting them to take a nap again...


Perhaps instead of calling it a nap, get them used to a quiet time where they can read books or play quietly with soft toys? This may lead to a good time for you to be able to do Adoration later on ... just a thought.

mooreboyz wrote:
Then a week before the new month starts I will order books from the library, find some fun things to do specifically and sort them out by week so I have a good variety of sitting work and active play. Finally the weekend before the week I write down in my calender which days we will do what according to our plan for the week (errands, appointments, outside work).


I like your plans. I'm great at the overall plan for the year, and even month-by-month planning. But when it comes down to nitty-gritty daily planning, I lose my momentum. I usually run to the library the day we start studying something. Even if I plan a library run in advance, I often have to wait 'til it comes to our library from another city library. But I'm absolutely worst at remembering to include appointments, leaving pockets of time for minor emergencies, and errands. The rhythm of our days is rocked when we have to do something outside the house. And I *never* write out in my calendar (this could be because I don't have one ) what I'm doing for the week. That's why I bolded that line in your quote. It's something I need to greatly improve about my planning.

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Tina P.
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Posted: May 17 2010 at 9:49am | IP Logged Quote Tina P.

Forgot to ask this quick question: do you ever plan in Mommy nap times? I already needed one this morning! When I'm pregnant or have recently had a baby, which has been all but the first year and a half of our marriage, I need a bit of down time myself.

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Becky Parker
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Posted: May 17 2010 at 1:06pm | IP Logged Quote Becky Parker

Tina P. wrote:

Perhaps instead of calling it a nap, get them used to a quiet time where they can read books or play quietly with soft toys? This may lead to a good time for you to be able to do Adoration later on ... just a thought.


Yes! My friend has 4 children and is currently fostering 2 more. She swears by quiet time. I remember when she first started implementing it, it was a little rough getting the kids to stay quiet. But now that she has been doing that for a while it's as much a part of their day as dinner. I'm jealous!
I just recently told my kids we were going to start quiet time here as well. I'm hoping that if we can make it a habit over the summer, it will just be part of our day when we start up with school again.

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