Thursday, June 11, 2015

What Works for Us

I was inspired by this post and this one to brainstorm some of the things that work for our family. A few things came immediately to mind, and after discussing it as a family, we came up with several more. (Sorry, kids, I'm not including all of them here.) Interestingly, most of what we came up is really just stuff that makes the logistics of everyday life easier, rather than family culture / philosophy of discipline / etc. stuff. Thus, many of these are just apps, but they seriously help our family function better.

- Time of Learning: This is probably the most unique but definitely one of the most valuable things that we do as a family, that really works for us. We used to do scripture study at night, and when we moved that to morning, we found that we really missed being together for a few minutes before bed. So, we began having "Time of Learning" every night. We have studied ham radio and sign language, watched Crash Course World History and random youtube videos on blood type, and listened to audio books. Our goal is to spend 15 minutes - though it is frequently more like 30-45 - but we love the opportunity to share interesting stuff from our lives and to learn and grow together. It is awesome.

- Exercise: Eight and a half years ago, I herniated two disks in my back. I spent most of that first year in bed, and I've been back down many times since then. I am fortunate to now be able to control my pain entirely through consistent exercise; I have learned this because, when I don't exercise, I loose the ability to walk. I list this as something that works for our family because 1) I need the support from my husband and kids to be able to exercise, and because they respect the positive impact it has on all our lives, they give that support willingly and 2) now that I've really been consistent for about three years, I see my children consistently trying to exercise!
5k race, March 2013
5k race, March 2015

- Family Council: When we don't have family council, the kids really feel the lack because this is when we discuss schedules and they learn what is going on each week! The agenda includes discussing calendar, finances, menus, Library books due / books on hold to be picked up, who changes the cat box that week, when to go to the temple that week, when each person can exercise (and who keeps the babies at that time), and any other stuff that needs to be addressed. I think everything else on my list comes into play during family council.

- Dinner Duty and Dish Duty: Each of the older kids takes at least one night a week for cooking dinner, and 1-2 nights a week of "dish duty". They have complete control over when they do the dishes... mostly. They can do them at night after dinner, or in the middle of the night, or when they get up in the morning - but at 3:00 pm, if the dishes aren't done, all other activities become secondary because the dishes need to be done before dinner starts being prepared at 4:00 pm. Even with this standard it doesn't always happen, but it's tremendously better than it used to be, and for me, only cooking a couple nights a week has brought joy back into my food preparation.

- Google Calendar: When we first started using this, we realized that it stopped marital arguments before they began, because it increased communication with no additional effort from the people involved. Now, as I tell my children, "If it's not on the calendar then it doesn't exist."

- Chore Wars: We started out using this to track all chores, but we've given that up; we have been using it to track chores that kids get paid for, and that's been working for over a year and a half. We tried time cards before, but it was just to hard to keep track of them. With chore wars, they just log each chore that they complete and then on pay day they "use" the "gold" on their virtual account as we transfer dollars from our bank account to theirs. They only get paid for the jobs I would pay someone outside the family for - namely mowing the lawn and scrubbing the bathrooms, and babysitting if it's so that mommy and daddy can go on a date - and that works well for us. For all other jobs, everyone is required to contribute because we all live here.

- Mint: This (free) website has done more to improve our finances than anything else we have ever tried. Even on the months when we spend way more than we make, we know how much we are spending and where it is going! Being able to track this in real time while at the store has allowed us to make far better decisions than we could before.

- Kids Place app: I got a new phone in February, but my old phone still works. By installing this app, I've been able to give my kids access to whatever apps I choose (library, mint, calendar, our Kindle account, our Nook account, scriptures, etc.) without giving them unlimited unfiltered internet access. The phone stays in the house to be shared between the kids, but it means they always have access to these things without having to ask to be logged in.

 - Our Groceries: This website & app keep track of our various shopping lists and keeps them updated between phones. This means I can call or text Tux Man and say "I'm going to the store, do we need anything?" and he can update the list, and I can then check it while in the store and get what we need without having to make an extra trip. :)

Incidentally, except for the pictures of the two 5k races, all of the above pictures have happened during / as distractions from family council / time of learning / scripture study / etc. Lest you think too highly of our functionality... well, anybody who knows us well shouldn't have that problem. :)

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