My name is Esther, I live in North Alabama and I have 3 kids 11, 9 and 7.

I thought I would send you my schedule and you could look at it, I know our kids are not the same ages/needs but it has worked for years for us. I am not sure what all you have to work in to your day, but here is a typical week for us.

It is sort of long, so here goes.

Kids in bed by 8:30 p.m., all of them every night except Friday, when they can stay up until the next day if they want. : )

After they go to bed I do two things-unload the dishwasher from the dinner dishes and reload with whatever is left laying around to be added to the next morning and run again. Then I change out the laundry-fold and put away one load, put a load on to dry and one on to wash. It takes 15 minutes for both chores.

My husband gets up at 4:30. I get up around 5:30 and see him off, change out the laundry again and check e-mail and piddle around or just go back to bed. By 7:30 the kids are up and I am back up or at least in action. They eat without me, I have no appetite until 11 or later. They trade off chores each day, only 6 between them-cleaning off the table, unloading the dishwasher, laundry helper, pet check, special helper for things like dusting or other non-regular chores and watering the plants.

The one cleans off the table, I load the dishwasher and run it, go change out the laundry. The laundry kid brings me clothes from the hall bathroom basket and runs around putting towels and dishcloths and sheets away. I moved all of their dressers to the laundry room, so each kid puts away their own stack of clothes, which I just pile on top of the dressers. The hubby puts away his stuff and I put away mine.

It is usually 8:30 by now, so they run around and do what they want until 9:30 while I do bills or check e-mail, plan grocery lists-you know--household stuff.

From 9:30-11:30 we do school work. The kids do math and history Monday and Wednesday, reading and science on Tuesday and Thursday. That takes 90 minutes, the last of the time is spent doing handwriting. From 11:30-1 is lunch and play time, again they take care of their chores and unload the dishwasher, I reload with lunch dishes.

I have a focus room a day that I clean, along with my 'special helper' if required. Monday I scrub the kitchen and get everything put away, fridge cleaned up with the expired food tossed and sweep and mop. Tuesday everyone does their own room, just a general straightening, getting things put where they go. Wednesday is the bathrooms and they get scrubbed and restocked with paper and soap/shampoo as needed. Thursday the living room gets cleaned up.

2 days a week from 1-3, we do art or music. The rest of the week, we are done by then. We have hikes, nature study or play days some days, or have friends over to play. On Friday, we 'run the chart' which gets the whole house clean for the weekend. That involves starting off with beds made, kitchen table clean and all the shoes and jackets and extra blankets put away. Then all the random clothing in the house is either put in the laundry or put away. Next all the books and videos get put in their places. Then all the stuffed toys, wooden toys then plastic toys. Then trash gets taken out and floors swept and vacuumed. That's it-the house is clean by then.

We do yard work as needed, usually in the afternoons that we don't have anything else going on.

We were running back and forth to various park days and having people over it seemed like nearly every day. So I consolidated and we have a park day in Cullman with the people that live near there one day a week on Wednesday from 1-5 and that is when I return library books and pick up groceries. We meet our nature study group on Tuesdays or Thursdays for hikes and such, and that covers 90% of our friends in the 2 days, so that makes less running around for me.

It sounds like a LOT, but it only takes maybe an hour a day to keep everything taken care of.

The #1 goal is to declutter your house. If you don't LOVE a thing, get rid of it unless you have got to have it. Kids need 10 changes of clothes per season-any more and it piles up. You can get rid of toys, clothes, shoes, extra furniture, add some bookshelves and get bins for toys and only allow one bin at a time out. It takes about a month to get everyone going according to the plan, but I have never heard back from anyone that this set-up did not work for. You don't HAVE to do every subject every day and drill and practice, the more laid-back and simple things are around your children, the more laid-back they will become-all kids learn and seeing something 2 times a week instead of 5 times really does nothing to slow that down.

Get your oldest 2 in on helping, get that 2 year old putting dish towels in the drawer and putting her dishes in the sink, she can put away some of her toys and match shoes to put away, stack books, etc. If she is in the way during school time, set her up with paper and crayons and have her trace shapes or make a stack of blocks by colors, read to her while the older girls are doing handwriting and have her do 'handwriting' while you read and work with them. You may have to get a really cool toy that she can only play with during school and after that, it goes up.

You certainly have a haul ahead of you until the baby is potty trained, you will be more stressed than other moms and that's okay-take your time, they grow so fast. I remember feeling like I was underwater when the kids were smaller, like I could surface long enough to gulp air and sink right back under the endless needs of those around me. When my second was in the hospital, I heard one of the nurses tell another that she had stayed home with her kids. She said her house was a mess all the time and they sat on lawn furniture because they could not afford a real couch. She said, "My kids today can't tell you what color that furniture was or if they ever had clean clothes, but they remember I was home with them." It's that easy, anyone that freaks because your house looks like children live there is not worth inviting back over and your kids will certainly appreciate your presence more than your ability to balance everything and still find time to volunteer or do crochet.

Let me know if this helps or if you have any questions.