LoveToKnow was thrilled to conduct this Homemaking 911 interview with Malia Russell, homeschooling mom and organizing maniac. I had the pleasure of meeting Malia through my local homeschool support group and our friendship has grown over the years. I can honestly say that Malia eats, sleeps and breathes homeschooling and organization in the home.
Homemaking 911 Interview with Malia Russell
LoveToKnow (LTK): Malia, you are one of the most organized people I know. Were you born that way or did you develop these skills over time?
Malia Russell (MR): I was not a bit "naturally" organized. I had to learn to get organized when I started working in Public Accounting. I basically watched and learned from those around me, and soaked in everything I could regarding good practices with work papers and filing. My desk was very neat. When I came home, I had no one else to model good homemaking skills. I studied books, talked to a lot of women, prayed about it, studied scriptures, and spent a lot of time in trial and error. Over time I developed my "own way" of doing it. Now I help other women learn how to find their own way to keep their homes organized and managed.
Organization and Homeschooling
LTK: You have four children that you homeschool. What are your favorite tips for keeping your homeschool organized with so many different ages to teach?
The Russell family
MR: I combine subjects when possible. This reduces my preparation time and my materials. I also work very diligently with helping each child do his or her work independently. This includes chores, school work, basic grooming. I am always around, but they do not need me to sit captive at the table as they do math drills. Instead, I can make sure they know what to do and how to learn and serve in an advisory role. Of course, some subjects require more "mom time" than others and I have to allot time to those appropriately. Setting deadlines and having a "normal" schedule helps everyone keep on track.
LTK: You have some really interesting articles on homeschooling on your website. Tell us what other resources you offer for homeschoolers.
MR: We offer several audio workshops (some are recorded and folks can buy them in MP3 or CD form). We have CDs on the following topics:
- Managing the Multi-Level Homeschool
- Chaos to Order
- The Joy of the Lord is My Strength
- Keeping Young Ones Happy and Occupied During School Time
I also have a book that accompanies my Chaos to Order talk called: "Chaos to Order: 25 Tools Bringing Organization to Your Home." Finally, we have copies of our oldest daughter's complete high school transcript for folks to download if they need help planning their high school years or creating their own transcripts for college admission or scholarships.
Speaker and Presenter
LTK: You give presentations on different topics. What is your favorite topic to talk about and why?
MR: I have three favorites:
- Freezer Cooking is my favorite to the "Moms" groups.
- Chaos to Order is another favorite.
- One of my newer talks is "Managing the Multi-level Homeschool." I think that may be my favorite now because it is "fresh." I have not presented this one for too many groups.
LTK: One thing I love about your website is that you cover the "home" part of homeschooling. I believe a big part of how successful homeschooling is involves the home environment and how organized it is in some cases. What are your thoughts on this?
MR: I have been in homes that were terribly disorganized and the mother was in a constant state of guilt, frustration, and discontent. In homes where the environment was orderly and neat, people just seemed more calm and secure. Routines were usually in place to keep the home nice, and children typically thrive on routines. That is not to say that a home must be a showplace to be a good home school. But few people thrive in complete disorder.
LTK: If someone was so disorganized with clutter and such, and needed just a single place to start to begin the huge task of getting organized, what would your advice be?
MR: The first thing I talk about with any woman is how she handles her planner and schedule. Highly organized people have and use planners. They keep them updated and they keep them with them. Using a planner helps a family know what to expect, when it is expected, and can be the place to keep all the information needed at her fingertips. A good planner will have a calendar with room to write pertinent information for events, a phone book for frequently used numbers, and a place for grocery lists and meal planning. Once that is in place and being well utilized, I talk about deciding what is most important for the family to function well, and look for ways to improve it. For some families, that may mean their evenings need to be simplified. For some, that may mean putting an evening routine together, or simplifying their mornings. Meal planning is another huge help for women. Start where you feel the most stress and look for what to do to reduce it. Then, systematically do those things until they become habits.
In the Trenches as a Homeschooler, Malia Offers Common Sense Advice
This bookshelf is a perfect example of how organization is a part of Malia's everyday life and a big part of her homeschool.
LTK: I attended one of your workshops on freezing food ahead and getting organized with meals. Tell our readers a little about this and how it can help the homeschooling parent...
MR: Freezing food ahead does three things that our family loves: Saves time, money and sanity. We save time by creating meals in bulk and packaging them in family sized portions. When I make a meatloaf it takes the cutting board, a mixing bowl, knife, etc. When I make eight meatloaves, I use the same bowl, cutting board and knife. Just the time savings in cleaning up those items becomes obvious. I also only shop once for the ingredients, and wipe my counters once. We save money by taking the time to look for the best prices on things we buy for these bulk meals. You can be sure I check the price on chicken when I am buying 15 pounds for a few different recipes. We also save money, because I am not so tempted to buy carry-out or buy expensive and unhealthy convenience foods. Sanity is saved every time I open the fridge at 4:00 p.m. and pull out a meal I did not have to prepare that day.
LTK: Finally, why did Malia Russell start homeschooling and what is the one thing you hope your kids learn from their homeschooling experience?
MR: The reason we started homeschooling is not nearly as important as why we continue. We love the freedom of scheduling. We love being able to teach our children at their own paces. We love having specialized classes for special interests or skill levels. We love letting the children sleep in on cold days, eat when they are hungry, skip school when we have something more important to do, and keep learning certain subjects in the summer when we have some down time. We love spending time with the Bible each day. I enjoy having the children with me for the most part of each day, and I enjoy truly knowing them, and helping them discover the Lord in the daily routine running of our lives.
A warm thank you to Malia Russell for taking the time to share her wonderful organizational tips with us. For even more tips, you can visit Malia's website at Homemaking911.com.
Duncan and Malia Russell