Mary Kate's kids range from 16 to 2, and her family is joyful in the midst of many activities. In her own words:
"First of all, I believe in routines, not schedules, for family life. Jean Collins Kermode, Montessori teacher, wrote a super article about this. Routines are patterns; schedules tie those patterns to the clock, which does not allow time for me to hear all about a child’s dream last night or about how so-and-so is being mean or to answer my mom’s call when the phone rings. Routines make patterns for living while still allowing us to be present."
"I get up first, usually around 5:30, except for Saturdays. This allows me quiet time to pray and exercise and then (hopefully!) greet my family with an energetic “Good morning!” rather than a sleepy “Ugh!” I have not always been this way. But this tip from Fly Lady has been a life-changer.
The kids rise anytime between 6 and 7:30, when we wake any late sleepers. The little ones tend to rise early and the teens rise late. Morning is family time when Dad reads books and plays games and we all visit while Mom makes breakfast.
We start breakfast as a family 7:30ish, everybody in jammies except me in my exercise clothes. When breakfast is over, the kiddos each have a family chore and 3 grooming jobs. (Really, for years I did not do this. I am not naturally like this. But it, too, has been a life-changer. Mother’s Rule of Life says to tie chores to before-and after-meals and have all kids working at same time on routine chores. No child feels put upon. Everyone is working simultaneously, even if begrudgingly at times.
We keep the same chores per child for a duration of anywhere from 6 mos. to 2 years! Then they can truly get good at it and do it without thinking about the details.) Family chores, from youngest to oldest: tidy living room – nothing on floor, couch, surfaces, everything away, vacuum if needed; clear and wipe table and put away all condiments; rinse all dishes and wipe left counter; load and start dishwasher and wipe right counter. Teens begin school right away but have mega laundry job later. Three grooming jobs: get dressed, make bed to Mom’s standard, brush teeth. (During this time, Chris and I shower and dress, talk, and take care of the baby’s needs. We aim for no interruptions during this half-hour. LoL!)
Homeschooling mom Beth Schuberg says kids deserve to start school without sticky stuff on the table or gross stuff under their feet. I also found, maybe since our home is cozy, that a made bed brings much peace to the whole environment and makes for a neat and peaceful personal retreat place for each child. (We did not do this for the first 14 years of my parenting!!! But it has become life-changer #3, another blessing from Dominic (age 2). Made beds seem to order souls.)"
"We start school when Dad leaves for work, but some kids opt to start earlier as soon and their chores and jobs are done, as they see the wisdom in starting fresher and finishing sooner. Little kids (K-1) tend to play after jobs are done but before Dad leaves for work. Teens and middlers work at individual desks in their rooms, except for my 15-year-old son who works individually at kitchen table. Little kids (K-1) school at kitchen table, too, but they do it together and with Mom."
Since Mary Kate has always been an excellent mother, it's reassuring to me to hear how many routines she DIDN'T have in place for many years, and how new elements are being added even in the last few years. I really appreciate that she can remember some of the changes over time so that I can trace the development. Thanks, Mary Kate!