TV

This is one of my most popular posts and I like to repost it every year in case you’ve got a houseful of bored (hence, annoying) kids and need to know how to keep them occupied without relying on TVs/vieogames/ipads to babysit them. This is a great way to keep everyone in the house quiet and entertained. It’s really the best thing that’s happened to our summers! We’ve added a few changes to the system as our kids have gotten older. I’ll mention those at the end of the post.

My kids started driving me crazy the day after school got out. There was the constant squabbling, playfighting, and watching each other play video games for hours on end ( I loathe that, but it’s just so peaceful while they do it, that it’s hard to crack down and turn it off). Some people go cold turkey and turn off all screens during the summer, but I think it should still be a fun time of year (especially since we really limit TV and video games during the school year). I just needed to figure out some sort of system.

My friend Amy and I escaped for lunch a few weeks ago. She told me about the system she uses in her house and a giant light bulb went off over my head. I took her idea and ran with it, expanding on it to fit our family’s needs.

This is how it works:

–Our house is divided into six stations (Art, Reading, Computer, Puzzles, Academics, and TV).

–Each station is in a different part of the house (or in separate parts of the same room) so there is very little annoying and teasing of siblings going on.

–Stations last for 45 minutes each (sometimes if we have other plans for the day we’ll only do stations for 20-30 minutes a piece). Then the kids rotate to the next station. Each child goes to all of the six stations every day, Monday through Friday. We usually begin in the late morning after everyone has done their chores. Since we live in Texas which is HOT in the summer, we usually spend the mornings playing outside (after chores!) and don’t waste precious cool time indoors.

–Everyone gets a chance to choose which station they would like to start with. Yes, they will all have a chance at every station, but you know how much siblings like to compete with each other. Currently we are picking popsicle sticks labelled with the kids’ names. I draw one and that child picks where they’d like to begin.

–It’s helpful to have a list of activities available at Academics and art. We have things listed like “work on handwriting”. The kids all tell me they want to improve their handwriting but they forget. Their are workbooks for the littles but the older kids can do it on their own; they just need a reminder. Some of the art things we have are kept in my craft closet and the kids tend to forget about them. Having all the choices on a list makes a good reminder.

Here are the details:

Art (at the kitchen table):
Everyone has a sketch book, so there are minimal amounts of loose paper floating around. All coloring and watercolor go on sketchbook pages. We also have Shrinky Dinks, pipe cleaners, Sculpey clay (for the older kids), Play-Doh (for the younger ones), and brand new sets of watercolors, crayons and markers. I stocked up on the fabulous coloring books that Dover Publishing carries. We also have an assortment of drawing “how-to” books and creativity-building exercises.

DSC_0391.JPG

Puzzles (on a card table set up in the Mudroom): I bought ten new puzzles of all different skill levels. I also got one of those roll-up puzzle savers so the older kids can work on the same puzzle day after day. We also have Sudoko, crossword, and word-search books of different skill levels. My friend Amy and I will be swapping puzzles after a while to keep things fresh.

DSC_0393.JPG

Academics (on the coffee table in the family room):
There is a real variety here since Jasper barely knows his letters and India is taking AP classes. Probably our favorite item is the Flashmaster. It’s a fantastic gizmo that quizzes kids on their addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts. They can be timed or not timed, and the computer remembers which problems they got wrong. It’s been wonderful since my younger kids have never been required to learn their math facts very well. You can get Flashmaster on Amazon for $50.

We also have a Geography Globe from Oregon Scientific, the Phonics Firefly (perfect for helping the younger kids learn their letters and sounds), and some educational Leap Pad sets.

DSC_0400.JPG

In this category we also have workbooks (the great kind sold at Costco that are full of worksheets), handwriting practice sheets and spelling word quizzes. I try to get items that the kids can do on their own so I don’t have to sit there all day. The older kids are working on assignments they were given at school to complete over the summer.

 


Reading
(in the Living Room which is where our bookcases are):
This is read-alone time. Every few days I rotate the supply of kids’ books so they always have something new to look at. Library books stay in here too. The older kids usually have a novel they’re reading. This is a perfect time for teens to work on their summer reading assignments for school.


Computer
(playroom):
The kids can play whatever they want without someone claiming that “she took my turn!”; I don’t really care what it is, whether it’s Webkinz or something educational (Finn has been doing a teach-yourself-German program). This is their entire computer time for the day. This would probably include Nintendo DS time, if you have those at your house.

TV (in the playroom where our only TV is):
This includes video games and DVDs. Whatever takes place on a TV, this is the time to do it. The best part of this system is that you don’t have children sitting around watching their siblings play games (one of my major pet peeves). Occasionally we’ll watch a movie as a family in the evening, but for the most part this is their entire allotment of video games and shows.

You could tailor the stations to suit your family better. If you all play instruments, you could do music time, for example. Or you could do an outdoor station. With our blazing summer temps, though, the kids stay indoors most of the day but we spend evenings playing outside or swimming. This system would work with a smaller family, too. For the last week India and York have been visiting their grandparents in Oregon and we’ve been rotating four kids around the six stations. It’s been fine.

We have been doing Stations for a couple of weeks now and it has been phenomenal! The kids never complain about being bored and they bug each other so much less. My house is actually quiet during the day! It’s a miracle!

Jasper doing summer stations

UPDATE: now that our kids are getting older, we’ve made a few changes. We’ve combined academics with spiritual stuff. The kids all have goal programs that they’ve been working on at church and this is a great time to accomplish the tasks they’ve set for themselves. We’ve also made a reading plan to for the scriptures this summer and having time during a station for this works a lot better than expecting tired kids to read at night.

We are accumulating a lot of instruments around our house, my new harp being the most popular. So now along with puzzles, we have the option to play an instrument during that station. Not all of the kids are interested in this, though, which is why I didn’t just add another station. My children are finally old enough to use the instruments unsupervised. I would never have done this when I had preschoolers. It would have caused way too much trouble.

Let’s talk about fashion first: Watching the Oscars is a bit lame when you don’t have cable. You can’t switch between four channels to make sure you don’t miss a single dress on the red carpet. Instead I had to sort through pictures on the internet this morning to see if there were some stunners I missed.  There weren’t. My opinion is that color is good. Neutral tones really don’t flatter many people. I mean, some of those grey/white/bronze dresses looked nice but think how much prettier they would have looked in a nice peacock blue. Especially that knock-out Jessica Chastain (At least she had some bright lips to perk things up). And Amy Adams hair? It looks Nanny and the Professor. Ew.


I guess I should amend the above statement to say that white girls shouldn’t wear neutrals. My favorite dress of the night was on Zoe Saldana who is one of the most gorgeous women ever. It’s a pearly grey but it doesn’t look washed out since Zoe has that lovely cappuccino skin. Love the layers at the hem and the flowers up top. LOVE!

 

Normally I hate everything about Jennifer Aniston but she looks 100% gorgeous.

I thought everyone looked pretty decent. This isn’t like the Oscars of the 80′s when everyone looked ridiculous. But there were a few things that caused me to raise my eyebrows:

Oh Anne, the satin and the darts combine to create the perfect storm. I’m sure your nipples are lovely but we really don’t all need to know. Her diamond necklace is adorable but I hope the “necklace on backwards’ trend ends quickly. It’s weird.

And then there are a couple of ladies taking a footnote from the 80′s. Halle Berry gets all Alexis Carrington while Jane looks like she’s on her way to the Captain’s table on The Love Boat.

 

But enough about clothes. Let’s talk about movies. I haven’t seen most of them. Although Mister and I did catch a screening last weekend of all the live action and animated shorts. It was three hours long but completely enjoyable.

I’m still not sure who Seth MacFarlane is but I quite enjoyed him. And what a nice singer. I loved the stage set. So bright and pretty. But I’d have to give the broadcast a thumbs down. Why? Too much singing! This isn’t the Tony’s! It’s like the producers said, “Oh look how popular Les Mis is. People must like singing. Let’s have lots of singing!”

No, people just want to see the awards. And who could possible agree that Chicago is the best musical of the last 10 years? I hate Chicago! And that lady singing Goldfinger? She rocked the last note but what a waste of five minutes. Same with Barbra Streisand. I was like, “I’m going to go make some cookies. Tell me when the singing’s done.”

I love that Jennifer Lawrence tripped on the stairs. She is such a funny, honest person. She recovered beautifully. I’m sure if it had been a prima donna like Catherine Zeta-Jones she would have promptly committed suicide.

Daniel Day Lewis is the best actor ever. Anyone who could give us Abraham Lincoln, Cristy from My Left Foot, Hawkeye from The last of the Mohicans and Cecil from A Room With a View is completely brilliant. Tommy Lee Jones, on the other hand, was nominated for an award despite playing the exact same grumpy jerk that he plays in every single movie he’s ever been in. How is that even acting?

I was really hoping Ben Affleck would win because I really feel for him because of all his struggles. And I love Jennifer Garner. His acceptance speech was so humble and touching.

And the whole Michelle Obama thing? Odd. Especially with that passel of footmen (and footwomen?) surrounding her. Although it makes sense considering the love affair that Hollywood and the Obamas have with each other. That relationship also explains how Obama can blame everything and everyone for the violence that is exploding in our society EXCEPT for blaming Hollywood. People like Quentin Tarantino aren’t chastised for making horrendously violent films that glorify murder, torture, anger and revenge –they’re celebrated and honored for it. It really sickens me.

OK, sorry for the outburst.

Let’s lighten the mood by discussing the ubiquitous aging European men with flowing blond hair. In case you were wondering what Legolas would look like as a middle-aged man:

 

Even more bizarre? The mystery of Renee Zelweger’s scrunched up face. Maybe she needed a Claritin? And Kristin Stewart? How does this person have a career? She is peevish, sullen and thoroughly detestable. She couldn’t even pretend to be charming for three minutes while presenting an Oscar. I think I hate K. Stew more than any other actress.

What were your highlights and bombs of the Oscars this year?

Because I am a total expert on all things involving children, my opinion is extremely valuable. Which is why I was consulted for this story on a local news channel.

OK, fine, I’m not a parenting expert.

I just happen to be friends with a reporter (Jen from Baby Making Machine). And if she’s doing a story that involves teens, guess who she calls?

So you should watch this and learn about teens on Facebook. Also, check out my sweet ‘do. I had no idea I was going to be on TV; I just coincidentally looked cute that day. I love when fate smiles on me like that.

My kids started driving me crazy the day after school got out. There was the constant squabbling, playfighting, and watching each other play the wii for hours on end ( I loathe that, but it’s just so peaceful while they do it, that it’s hard to crack down and turn it off). Some people go cold turkey and turn off all screens during the summer, but I think it should still be a fun time of year (especially since we really limit TV and video games during the school year). I just needed to figure out some sort of system.

My friend Amy and I escaped for lunch a few weeks ago. She told me about the system she uses in her house and a giant light bulb went off over my head. I took her idea and ran with it, expanding on it to fit our family’s needs.

This is how it works:

–Our house is divided into six stations (Art, Reading, Computer, Puzzles, Academics, and TV).

–Each station is in a different part of the house (or in separate parts of the same room) so there is very little annoying and teasing of siblings going on.

–Stations last for 45 minutes each (sometimes if we have other plans for the day we’ll only do stations for 20-30 minutes a piece). Then the kids rotate to the next station. Each child goes to all of the six stations every day, Monday through Friday. We usually begin in the late morning after everyone has done their chores.

–Everyone gets a chance to choose which station they would like to start with. Yes, they will all have a chance at every station, but you know how much siblings like to compete with each other. Currently we are picking popsicle sticks labelled with the kids’ names. I draw one and that child picks where they’d like to begin.

Here are the details:

Art (at the kitchen table):
Everyone has a sketch book, so there are minimal amounts of loose paper floating around. All coloring and watercolor go on sketchbook pages. We also have Shrinky Dinks, pipe cleaners, Sculpey clay (for the older kids), Play-Doh (for the younger ones), and brand new sets of watercolors, crayons and markers. I stocked up on the fabulous coloring books that Dover Publishing carries. We also have an assortment of drawing “how-to” books and creativity-building exercises.

DSC_0391.JPG

Puzzles (on a card table set up in the Mudroom): I bought ten new puzzles of all different skill levels. I also got one of those roll-up puzzle savers so the older kids can work on the same puzzle day after day. We also have Sudoko, crossword, and word-search books of different skill levels. My friend Amy and I will be swapping puzzles after a while to keep things fresh.

DSC_0393.JPG

Academics (on the coffee table in the family room):
There is a real variety here since Jasper barely knows his letters and India is taking AP classes. Probably our favorite item is the Flashmaster. It’s a fantastic gizmo that quizzes kids on their addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts. They can be timed or not timed, and the computer remembers which problems they got wrong. It’s been wonderful since my younger kids have never been required to learn their math facts very well. You can get Flashmaster on Amazon for $50.

We also have a Geography Globe from Oregon Scientific, the Phonics Firefly (perfect for helping the younger kids learn their letters and sounds), and some educational Leap Pad sets.

DSC_0400.JPG

In this category we also have workbooks (the great kind sold at Costco that are full of worksheets), handwriting practice sheets and spelling word quizzes. I try to get items that the kids can do on their own so I don’t have to sit there all day. The older kids are working on assignments they were given at school to complete over the summer.

 


Reading
(in the Living Room which is where our bookcases are):
This is read-alone time. Every few days I rotate the supply of kids’ books so they always have something new to look at. Library books stay in here too. The older kids usually have a novel they’re reading.


Computer
(playroom):
The kids can play whatever they want without someone claiming that “she took my turn!”; I don’t really care what it is, whether it’s Webkinz or something educational (Finn has been doing a teach-yourself-German program). This is their entire computer time for the day. This would probably include Nintendo DS time, if you have those at your house.

TV (in the playroom where our only TV is):
This includes video games and DVDs. Whatever takes place on a TV, this is the time to do it. The best part of this system is that you don’t have children sitting around watching their siblings play games(one of my major pet peeves). Occasionally we’ll watch a movie as a family in the evening, but for the most part this is their entire allotment of video games and shows.

You could tailor the stations to suit your family better. If you all play instruments, you could do music time, for example. Or you could do an outdoor station. With our blazing summer temps, though, the kids stay indoors most of the day but we spend evenings playing outside or swimming. This system would work with a smaller family, too. For the last week India and York have been visiting their grandparents in Oregon and we’ve been rotating four kids around the six stations. It’s been fine.

We have been doing Stations for a couple of weeks now and it has been phenomenal! The kids never complain about being bored and they bug each other so much less. My house is actually quiet during the day! It’s a miracle!

Remember all those months ago when I went to Utah to film an episode of a show on BYUTV called Fresh Take? No? You can read about it here.

The show is finally going to be on! June 16th (tomorrow evening, as in Thursday) is the lucky day that you will actually get to see me blathering on about blogging. I can’t really remember what I said. I don’t think it was funny. But I do remember that my hair was cute. You can check the BYUTV schedule to find out when it will be on where you live (make sure you enter the proper time zone. In the Central Time it’s on at 8:30 pm)

Now I just need to find somebody with cable who will let me come over and watch it.

UPDATE: if you missed it, you can watch it here. I like the blurb for the show: “some of the most influential writers in the blogosphere . . . ” Well, if you say so! And my hair that looked so cute in real life? Not so cute on TV. And I have beady little eyes. And a whiny voice.

Snippets

November 10, 2010 · 6 comments

in IMO, Misc., TV

I finally finished knitting my one sock. Socks take forever! What was I thinking? Maybe I should donate the sock to someone with a peg leg; it will save me from having to knit its mate.

It seems to me (and my nether regions) that Charmin has been revamped. It is so soft I just can’t quite get over it. I’m off to Costco to stock up. I’m terribly afraid of running out of toilet paper, so we have large stockpiles. If you live near me, do not assume that I will share with you if the world ends or we have an influenza epidemic/ice storm/truckers strike. I will not. I will be miserly and chuckle softly to myself while you have to wipe your heinie with leaves. You could have been buying toilet paper all along but instead you bought lots of Christmas decorations and signed your kids up for the fancy football league. Serves you right! Uhhh, what was I talking about? Oh, toilet paper. Charmin is good. You might want to buy a little extra.

I feel slightly better about the whole Country Music issue since I saw Gwyneth Paltrow singing at the CMA awards last night. Even though she looked like she belongs in a big city. And probably has never been to most of the states in America where Country is popular (just jumping to conclusions here, but she eats macrobiotic and is married to a rock star. You decide.)

We own eight waffle irons. Mister is just a teensy bit obsessed with making waffles. We have a big Square one, one that makes waffle sticks, two belgian waffle makers–the kind that flip over when there’s a beep, and four Texas-shaped. It’s a little crazy. Ironically I don’t even like waffles.

It’s amazing how cold 75º can feel when you’ve been sweating your brains out for the last five months.

I found out yesterday that in order to even apply to grad school for a degree in architecture (my lifelong dream which you can read about here), I have to have taken calculus and physics (insert primal scream). My immediate thought was, “guess I’ll never be an architect.” But I refuse to be intimidated by numbers! Math will not win the battle! (wait, physics isn’t even math, right? It’s science? But it has numbers? Can you see the disaster this is shaping up to be?) I may have to spend a couple of years catching up at the Community College, but I think I’m going to do it! But I may not so don’t hold me to it.

I have watched every season of Mad Men in the last month and am finally up to Season 4 (remember I don’t have TV so I am the last person to know about good shows). Every night the people in my dreams are smoking and wearing 60′s clothes. I have several things to say: 1) Joan is my idol. She sounds so sweet but is tough as nails. She’s also a full-figured gal who rocks it to the max. 2)Does any woman ever say no to Don? There has got to be at least one female who sees through his skeezy ways. I had high hopes for that teacher last season, but no. What happened to her anyway? Is she coming back? 3)Betty Draper (that cold, dysfunctional fish) said my favorite line ever in TV:

Guy at riding stable who has a crush on her: “You are so profoundly sad.”
Betty: “No, it’s just my people are Nordic.”

Speaking of full-figured gals, when I gain weight, I gain a lot in my chest. Small-chested girls, listen up: big boobs make you look fat. The only way to not look fat is to wear tight clothes so that people can tell that you really are thin everywhere else. But tight clothes makes you look slutty. So these are your choices: fat or sleazy. A plastic surgeon is not going to tell you that.

*If you’re looking for the chore chart, it has morphed into it’s very own post. I’ll put it up tomorrow.

I’m in Utah for a whirlwind 48 hours; trying to get everything and everyone squeezed in.  I’m all by myself and although I love Mister dearly, nothing beats staying at a hotel with nobody around.

One of the greatest things (besides no one to hog the covers or wake me up in the morning) is to watch TV.  Remember that we are, for the most part, a TV-free family (we can get PBS on one of our TVs so we’re not total wackos).  There are so many amazing shows out there!  I know you all know this because I read your blogs talking about Lost and Glee and that sort of thing.  But nobody ever told me about the wreck that is 16 and Pregnant or Celebrity Rehab. I love people with messed up lives; they make me feel so successful and mentally stable.

Hey, did you know the Olympics are going on right now?  I just saw them on TV. Who knew?  Just kidding, I did know they were going on, but it’s amazing how little it matters if you haven’t seen a single minute of any events.  

I still don’t really care that much about the Olympics (it is sports after all),  but if there’s a life in a downward spiral, I’ll be watching as much as I can.