Multitasking isn’t generally considered a good thing, but I can’t help it. I’m a homeschooling mother. Therefore, I love multitasking, especially if it involves learning.
Now, from the title of this post, you may have thought I was going to wax poetical on the importance of sitting together as a family at meal times in order to strengthen family bonds or some such thing. But you already know that.
No, today, I’m going to show you how I combine meal times with School. This is the best kind of multitasking I can think of–eating and learning.
Yes, we eat breakfast together. We eat every meal together. If we didn’t, then my kitchen would be a perpetual mess with kids in and out all day long. Eating together is practical because then every child has a Clean-Up Chore, and I’m not, therefore, slaving away all day.
But I digress.
While the children chew away at their peanut butter toast in the mornings, I commence Religion Class. Over the last few years, we’ve been making our way through the Bible, reading it in its entirety–a paragraph or two in the Old Testament and another in the New Testament. Sometimes I’ll read a whole chapter. It just depends on the content, the attention spans of the children, and how cold I want my toast to be at the end of it all.
After I read, we talk about it a bit. I keep Jeff Cavins’ The Great Adventure Bible Timeline up on the wall for reference. (Once upon a decade ago, I was a high school Old Testament teacher. Did you know that?)
The best part about doing Religion Class at breakfast is that the children are actually quiet, due to the food in their mouths, which is an especially great way to occupy the little ones, who are not always interested.
We always eat lunch with an audio book. I started doing this years ago because my brain was so fried by lunchtime that I needed a break–a break from answering a thousand and one questions from the children about everything under the sun.
My solution? Play an interesting audio book, like, say the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, and play it loudly. This way, I can mentally check out and just serve the food and eat myself.
It’s rather peaceful. And we’ve listened to a score of good books over the years.
Dinnertime coincides with more Religion Class, but this time, it’s Dad’s turn. While his food turns cold and stiff, he reads the Saint of the Day from Butler’sLives of the Saints. This book was originally published in the 1750s and is based on the Traditional Calendar, which we love. The other great thing about this book is that the entries are not too long, which allows for plenty of discussion about the topic at hand and everybody’s day, etc.
As many of you know, I’ve been gone for the last 7 days, attending medical appointments for our son. We are still not done with this process, but hopefully soon we’ll have some answers.
So today, I offer a little essay written by the Eldest, our 12-year-old. The other day she wrote an essay for a competition in our homeschool coop. She worked very hard on it, so I thought I’d share what she wrote for fun.
Without further ado…
Homeschooling With the Faith: An Essay by The Eldest
My family homeschools, so homeschooling is living the Faith every moment of everyday. The Faith is not a subject to be pulled out and then put away. The Faith penetrates everything we do. Here are three glimpses of how my family tries to walk with Jesus throughout the day.
Our family begins each day with prayer. At 6:40 a.m. my alarm goes off, and I tiptoe upstairs to our living room. My parents are already up and they have been praying for a half hour in the light from our gas fireplace and votive candles. I find a blanket and attempt to start my day with God. Pretty soon my brothers also come straggling upstairs and pack themselves like sardines on the loveseat to read saint books. After prayer, I go to face the bane of my existence–math.
At supper, my father reads the saint of the day from Father Alban Butlers’ Lives of the Saints or in Lent he reads the Stational Church for the day. Every night my father makes the sacrifice of watching his family eat their food while he reads and endures interruptions. My family listens and then we talk about the lessons from the saint’s life. This is part of our instruction in the Faith.
At the end of the day our family comes together for the rosary. Everyone drops what they are doing and comes running or walking. All of us take a rosary from the rosary hooks and kneel or sit in front of our picture of Mary. Well, actually the baby generally tries to eat a rosary, which despite diligent practice has never quite come off perfectly. After praying the Rosary, my siblings and I go to bed with Dad’s blessing. And that is the end of our homeschool day!
Today I’ll continue the minimalist discussion with a look at my kitchen.
I’ll say it again, always be careful about comparing yourself to other families. We are all different and are called to different stations in life. No two families will look alike! I am only offering one way that works for us. Maybe an idea or two will stick out for you in the following.
So here we go. The above is my kitchen, which you can see is one big room with the dining room to the east and the living room to the north. (You can’t see the living room, as I’m standing in it to take the photo.)
I probably don’t need to say that our kitchen is used for preparing food, (I do have 7 perpetually hungry children and 1 husband who is grateful to eat anything) and the dining room is for eating in. Except that I feel that I do have to mention it. Not all families cook and eat together. We do. So this space is important.
A Note on Beauty
Beauty matters. Beauty is objective, and it affects us. I learned this in grad school, studying art and reading what St. Thomas Aquinas and others had to say about it. But really, I didn’t need to study those great thinkers to know that I am influenced by my surroundings. Walking into a clean and simple room has a calming, peaceful effect on me. Walking into a dirty and chaotic room will instantly overwhelm me.
Since I am at home all day, with 7 loud children, I find it very important to live as neatly and simply as possible. And if I can, I add a touch of beauty. Maybe it’s a candle; maybe it’s a few flowers for the table. Wild flowers are readily available where I live in the warmer months, and during the rest of the 10 months of the year, my husband can pick them up from a florist very cheaply, if they’re bought by the stem. (It’s only arrangements that are expensive.)
I’ll say it again, beauty matters, especially in our culture of throw-away, plastic ugliness. We are not utilitarian communists after all. We are Catholics. Do you suppose Jesus ever picked a bouquet of wildflowers for his mother? I’ll bet he did.
Back to the Kitchen
So in the kitchen, I’ll point out 3 things I try to do.
I try to put very little on the countertops. In the above photo, you’ll notice that only the items that get used daily get a place there. This is for both practical and aesthetic reasons, for it allows for more space to cook, and it makes the space seem cleaner and bigger.
Everything in the kitchen has a place. If it doesn’t have a place, then it doesn’t belong. And I try to put things in a logical spot. For example, since my husband and I drink a bottle or so of wine per week, these items need to be easily accessible. (See the photo below.) Of course if wine isn’t your thing, then get rid of all those wine glasses taking up space!
And lastly, #3. If I haven’t used something in a year, then I get rid of it. I’ll highlight that for you again.
If you haven’t used it in a year, get rid of it!
Seriously, if you haven’t used that egg separator in over a year, get rid of it. If you’ve never used that brand new juicer, get rid of it. If you have two ice cream scoops, get rid of one. For that matter, how many large, cooking spoons do you have? Or when’s the last time you used all those cook books crammed in your cabinet? Or how about those 52 water bottles?
It’s freeing, living with less. And who knows? Maybe someone will be overjoyed at finding your mini-muffin tins and champagne flutes at the secondhand store.
Lastly, I’ll point out a few other practical things that I do in my kitchen.
Here’s a shot of the island.
Like the countertops, I keep this as clear as possible too, so that it is a space that can be used throughout the day. Children will do homework here, work on a puzzle, or just sit and watch me chop vegetables.
The other notable thing about the island is that I put all the plates, cups, and bowls in the lower righthand cabinet. I did this so that the little children need not climb the cabinets to set the table.
The other thing I’ll point out is a shelf by the dining room table. (See photo below.)
We keep our laptop here, so that we can listen to audio books during lunch. (The speakers are on the middle shelf.) My husband I also enjoy listening to jazz music in the evenings too, so it’s nice to have it readily available.
Next to the laptop are our prayer books for meal times. This includes the Magnificat for the Mass readings and Butler’s Lives of the Saints. I also keep the children’s current poetry there too, since we review them at breakfast.
And next to the speakers, you’ll notice a white basket. This is where we keep our cloth napkins during the day. After supper, Child #5 empties it into the laundry.
That’s all for today. If you have any questions, be sure to ask in the Comments Section below. Others may have the same question! Or if you have any great ideas to live more simply in the kitchen, post them for us to see.
*Two notes here. 1. We enjoy drinking wine out of proper wine glasses. Hence all the different stemware. 2. Did you notice all the glass bowls? It also may seem ridiculous that I own that many. And I agree with you. I think I’ll give away one or two. But I’ll also have you know that I’ve made progress in this department. I used to own about 25 beautiful glass bowls. Not kidding. People were very generous to us at our wedding.