Calendars & Planners Feed

My Review: Blue Sky Teacher's Planner

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Hello my friends and Happy Thursday! I hope your week is going well! :-)

Today I'd like to share a review of The Blue Sky Teacher's Weekly Plan Book, the planner I'll be using for our homeschooling next year (as well as throughout the summer). I've shared a couple of peeks over at Instagram and Facebook, but I thought I'd go into deeper detail here, since many of us are currently "in the market" for helpful homeschooling tools!

But first, a full (Thursday) disclosure! I sort of used last year's version of this planner, but abandoned it after a few weeks. Unfortunately, as much as I loved that planner, it just didn't fit the bill for me. It was (and is) an excellent planner, but I really didn't need so much structure this past year. Not only is Little Bear's prek-at-home VERY low key, but I really can't plan out nitty-gritty daily details for Earlybird. (He's more a "big picture" kind of kid - so I plan lots of "potentials" and then choose what works day-by-day.) Meanwhile, Crackerjack is doing all of his studies outside the home this year. (Save for math - and who needs to plan math? Lol, not me. We use Teaching Textbooks.)

All that said, I have a different PLAN in mind for how I PLAN to organize this year!

Ok. Here we go ...

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I bought this pretty planner at Staples a couple of weeks ago. Funnily enough, I didn't stop at Staples for a planner, but one look at those new Blue Sky displays and I was a goner. This is the time of year when academic year planners are available as well as those dedicated to lesson planning. Most are made for professional teachers but I find many can be easily adapted to a homeschooling mom's needs. 

Now, there were several versions of this particular planner available - identical layouts, varied designs - but the "Ditsy Dapple Floral" cover really caught my eye. I'm partial to florals anyway, but couldn't help noticing how nicely it matched my new Day Designer personal planner!

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The planner cover is protected by a "frosted" plastic sheet, under which the colors appear a little less vibrant (a bit more pastel). As someone who lives in a house with four not-always-careful-or-neat boys, I am very appreciative of that protective cover! The cover itself is made of a thick cardstock material.

(If you can't tell in these pictures, the word "teach" is done in a metallic gold. Sparkly and fun!)

The spiral "twin-wire" binding is very sturdy ...

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A spiral binding is a MUST for me. I need to lay my planner flat when I write in it or prop it up on display! And since my planners get knocked around a good bit, I need them to be well-made and forgiving - and reasonably priced!

Just before the title page there is a double-sided, clear plastic pocket ...

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I plan to file school correspondence here, including submitted education plans. The title page, like the cover, is made of a heavier cardstock.

After the title page shown above, there are dated calendars for 2018 and 2019, followed by a page for recording contact numbers and emergency information ...

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I'll mark these dated calendars with highlighters to indicate time on and off throughout the year - aka vacation days and such.

Next comes a spread for organizing monthly holidays and special dates:

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As you can see, there are lots of suggestions listed here for fun, random things to celebrate such as "Tell a Joke Day" (August 16th), "Make a Friend Day" (February 11th) and "Children's Good Manners Month" (September). There is also plenty of space for recording your own ideas!

The next spread is set up for recording "Class Birthdays," but as you can see, I'm using it for listing our seasonal homeschooling themes:

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This is the only planner page I have filled out so far! I'll admit setting up these themes is my favorite aspect of annual lesson planning!

The right hand page is for organizing a weekly schedule. I will use this for listing out ABA times and our homeschooling rhythm. (For example, storytelling day, crafting day, nature walk day, etc.)

And now we get to the meat of the planner - the monthly and weekly spreads!

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Soft green and white shades, and a lovely and neutral design. I like my covers bright, but my planning pages soft on the eye!

And I love, love, LOVE a lined monthly grid! It really helps keep the handwriting neat. This month-at-a-glance has generously-sized blocks which are another must for me. (I write small, but I write A LOT!)

Now the thing I perhaps love best about this planner is that it provides a FULL year of planning! There are 14 monthly calendars (12 are tabbed), beginning with May 2018 and ending with June 2019. There are weekly planning spreads for EVERY week of the academic year, June 25th, 2018 through June 28th, 2019. So if you homeschool year-round this is pretty perfect for you!:

And here is that weekly spread:

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A closer look ...

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Nice tabs, too. I tend to use paper clips and/or binder clips with my planners for marking my page and/or attaching notes and lists.

My strategy for this two-page spread is to use the left side for our routine/rhythm (first, green column) and then notes for each of my younger boys (2 columns each). The right side will be for "big picture" planning and notes. (That probably sounds confusing, so I'll share more details on my plans for this spread in a future post!)

At the very end of the planner, after the last weekly spread (June 24-28, 2019) there are a few note pages ...

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My "plan" at this time is to use these three pages for trimester reviews (in November, March and June).

The very last page is a listing of official holidays for each of the next four years (including 2018).


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And finally we have a very pretty back cover!

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(Also protected by a frosted plastic cover.)

I also bought a matching wall calendar for the learning room wall, since the one we have now runs out of pages after June!

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And there you have it! A full tour of my new lesson planner ... with more nitty-gritty details to come soon!

Are you thinking about next year yet? Do you have a teacher's planner in mind (or in hand)? If so I'd love to hear about it!

I'm off for now, but take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ...

See you here again very soon!


How I use the Day Designer Weekly Planner

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Hello my friends and Happy Wednesday! I hope your week is going well! Last month I promised a peek at how I'm using my Day Designer for Blue Sky Weekly & Monthly Planner - and here it is at last! :)

I've been using this planner since January, and have found it very helpful. I use a few planners (and most of you well know!) and each one addresses a specific planning need. This particular planner is primarily for viewing my whole week at a glance in such a way that I can really see how busy I (we) will be. I like to keep it on display on my kitchen counter (open to the current week, not closed as shown above) so the whole family can see what's going on just as easily as I can. Well, in theory anyway ... I still have to remind them to check the planner when they ask something like, "are we busy on Thursday?" But usually the boys just want to know: what are we having for supper?!

Ok, let's start with a look at the weekly spread itself:

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One thing I really appreciate about the Day Designer planners (including the Day Designer for Blue Sky line) is the subtle and elegant design. This color scheme (white with soft green) really appeals to me, as does the classic black-and-white stripe of the cover shown at the top of my post! And I really like this kind of weekly format - the columns are generously sized but there are still many areas for extra notes.

I'll start by showing you how I filled out this week's spread and then will discuss each section in a little more detail ...

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As you can see, I really use every space on this spread! I also use post-it notes and highlighter pens for further organization. As I've mentioned before, my small handwriting is helpful when it comes to filling in planners - I can really fit a lot of text in those tighter spaces!

Let's start with the To-Do column on the far left edge of the spread ... 

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Here I list the things I need to get done THIS week (not just say, sometime soon). To the left of the check-box I add an initial if the task is someone else's responsibility - I call myself the "family secretary" since it's my job to be sure everyone knows what they're doing and when! - and I also place a dot in the check-box if a task has been started. (Changing it to a check once it's completed, or an arrow if it's being moved forward.)

By they way, both of these "hacks" I learned long ago while using my very first "serious" planner. I haven't used a Franklin planner in many years but I still remember the lessons that system taught me! Of course I completely disregard their first and most important rule: ONLY USE ONE CALENDAR! πŸ˜³

I also have a post-it note here with errands I need to run this week. This note helps me plan ABA outings with my special needs son and his therapist. (Building community skills is a big part of our therapy!)

(How do I come up with this weekly to-do list? Well, most of what's listed here are things that are pertinent to upcoming events and/or tied to a time-sensitive situation. Some weeks I mine tasks from our master to-do list (things that need doing soon, but not necessarily now), but this week is pretty busy as is. We're just coming off the Easter holiday AND this is our last pre-college decision week, so I'm keeping my to-dos as streamlined as possible!)

Next section: the daily columns.

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The lined daily column runs from 6 a.m. through 7 p.m. with a generous, open space at the bottom designated as "tonight" and a lined box at the top (just beneath the date) for listing the day's "top three" things. I use highlighters to indicate type of activity (green for someplace I need to go, blue for someplace the boys and/or Bill need to go, yellow for hosting at home, pink for self-care). I like looking at the week and seeing where the green is because that tells me when I'll need to be out and about. 

I don't record as much information here as I do in my daily planner - this is more for seeing the week in one glance. It really helps me manage our time, resources and energy!

In the "top three" section, just as in my daily planner, I list any events of note, as well as a little weather information ...

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... and at the bottom of each daily column I write in the night's proposed supper:

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Now, the far right column of this spread is for "gratitude," "notes" and "next week." Here's how I use those spaces ...

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In the top space I list our seasonal theme, which is "April Showers" this week. (I have an upcoming post with ALL 52 themes for our next academic year!)

In the notes section I list the "crafts and comforts" I envision to go along with that seasonal theme. These include nature awareness activities, science experiments, readalouds, recipes, crafts, etc.

And finally, at the bottom of this column, I use the "next week" space just as it is intended:

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A post-it note makes it easy to move this information elsewhere when I'm working on our weekend plans. 

(Also shown in these photos is the bright yellow, flower-shaped post-it note I use for blog ideas. I move that along with me week-to-week.)

A quick tip for keeping your place in this planner ...

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The ever-handy binder clip makes it super easy to flip right to the current week!

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What I love best of all about this planner is its size and feel. It's beautiful, inside and out. It's sturdy and substantial, yet light and extremely totable. The paper is smooth, the palate eye-pleasing and it's comfortable to write in thanks to those firm front and back covers.

(Because I'm often asked, I'll also mention that I use Frixion Erasable pens in my planners - exclusively!)

Well, there you have it then - a peek at my week, and another detailed description of how I use my planner(s) to the best of my ability! Once again, I am just so impressed by the quality and versatility of the Day Designer product line. I am so pleased with the two I use (as well as the monthly "scheduler" I use for habit tracking). And of course I just love the overall look and style of my planners ... so much so that how could I resist this cute little matching mug I spotted at Michaels the other day?

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It was on sale AND I had a coupon so it ended up costing me all of about $4.00. (A pin money purchase!) It has that really nice mug feel, too. (Do you know what I mean? How some mugs are more comfortable than others?) Anyhoo, it's rare to find a "D" monogram - not that Dawn is a common name, but D-names in general are! - so I snatched that baby up right quick! ;)

Ok my friends, I will wrap up now, but as always, I thank you for stopping by! I hope you enjoyed this post and please let me know if you have any questions. As you can see from that bright yellow post-it note, I have lots of posts percolating - thanks, in part, to all of your wonderful suggestions! For now though, please take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I'll see you here again very soon!


And my planner giveaway winner is ... ❀

Day designer giveaway

HELENA!

Congratulations, Helena! I am so happy for you, and will be in touch soon to set up mailing details! I hope you will enjoy using this wonderful planner - I know mine has made a real difference in how (well) I manage all my weekly to-dos!

My sincere thanks to all who entered my "12 years of blogging" giveaway - especially for all the good wishes! I really enjoyed reading through all your comments and questions - your ideas have given me quite a shot of inspiration! How fun to begin my 13th year of blogging with so much encouragement and so many possible posts already in queue!

Here is Helena's question, which I will definitely feature in an upcoming post ...

"My question for you would be this - I think Little Bear will be in kindergarten in the fall, right? If that is the case, I would love to read about your plans for him - not just the seasonal themes, but curriculum, if you use any, and favorite resources."

This is a great question, Helena, and perfect timing - because yes, Little Bear will be starting Kindergarten this fall! (I can hardly believe it!) So next year, because Crackerjack will be ... gulp ... off to college, I will have just two students in our homeschool: Earlybird (16, special needs) and Little Bear (turning 5 in May). So naturally I'm already thinking about my very last year teaching Kindergarten ... and have started organizing a lesson planner for next year. So far it's mostly just notes and pretty tab dividers, but I will share my ideas and a peek at this planner soon!

You all had so many great questions and I appreciate the time you took to share them! I printed all of them out (including comments left for me here, at Facebook and Instagram - 80 in all!) and filed them in my home management binder, right behind my blog planning tab ...

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I will happily refer back to this list as I work on getting back to a semi-regular posting schedule this spring. :)

For now though, I will concentrate on putting my house put back together and catching back up with routine tasks that often get pushed aside whenever we're preparing for a major holiday! The "holiday hangover" I call it, lol! I will also be posting a new Mitten Strings update soon - I'm thinking our next chapter discussion will be on Sunday, April 15th, but will post a firm "teatime" in another day or two ...

Oh, and back to the planner shown above for a moment - I'll have a tour of "this week" coming up soon, but here's a sneak peek. As you can see it doesn't have much in it! I usually have my planners filled out well in advance of a new week, but with the busy Easter weekend, that all got pushed back ... so this morning (after a super early dentist appointment) I finally sat down to start writing out my spread:

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p.s. No cavities!

Well my friends, I hope you enjoyed this post and thanks again for the kind words, thoughtful comments and as always, your lovely encouragement! Congratulations again to Helena, and to all, I wish you a day (and night) filled with peace and joy ...

See you here again sometime soon!


My Daily Spread - Working the Plan!

Hello my friends, and Happy Wednesday! I'm popping in today to share a little Day Designer news with you!

So, last week - on the 22nd at 12 p.m. EST to be exact - The Day Designer held their official Launch for their new line of 2018-2019 day planners - moving from midyear to academic year platform - and not surprisingly there were some fresh, fun designs! This is my fourth year using a Day Designer, and it's always a challenge to decide WHICH cover to choose, because I really USE my Day Designer!! So that cover will be a big part of my "planning life" in the new year ahead!

There were so many lovely styles - some old, some new - and I was seriously torn between sticking with my current style, "Jungle Out There," because I've loved it so much - the black background and vibrant tapestry-like design really suits me - but in the end I decided to go with something new!

And here it is ...

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Isn't it lovely?!? It's called "Climbing Floral," and it makes me think of an English garden. :)

Here are a few more peeks:

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Now, the flagship planner is not an inexpensive purchase, for sure ... not something most of us would buy on a whim. But I truly feel comfortable with the price because I absolutely use this planner, every single day, and really work it to my advantage! I'm all for keeping life simple, but life with four kids - one of them special needs, one getting ready for college, one trying to find a job and one still in preschool - life is pretty much "all systems GO" for me every day!

So, not that I need to justify my purchase, lol (my husband gave me his blessing - he knows how much my DD helps me!), I thought I might break down the daily planning page layout and share how I WORK this planner to suit my rather unique planning needs as a homeschooling, busy and blessed blogger mom!

Ok, in the top left corner of the page, we find the "Today's Top Three" section:

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This is meant to be a place for setting apart the three most important to-dos for that day, but instead I use this space to highlight any events "of note" for that day - say, a birthday, holiday or full moon - or just anything I need to keep in mind throughout the day. (It's too easy to lose track of the "big picture" as I manage all the nitty gritty.)

So on Tuesday, I wrote:

~ Bill home late (due to an evening dentist appointment) - because our whole evening routine is different when Daddy's not home!

~ EASTER PREP - in all caps, lol. I have an "Easter Prep" list that I'm working on throughout the week. I try to fit tasks in when I have a few minutes "free time."

~ 🌞 pics - this is to remind myself to take advantage of the sunny weather and get my photos done! (My pictures come out much better when it's sunny!) So for example, I took the pictures for this post when the afternoon sun was shining brightly through our kitchen nook window!

~ Amazon delivery - Since I had "Easter basket treats" coming in this package, I wanted to be sure I was the one who got it!

(I also always jot down the weather for the day here, because I'm a weather geek.)

In the opposite corner, we find spaces for "Due/Dinner/Dollars/Don't Forget":

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Due - Here's where I write blogging goals to be working on this week. (Posts on which I should be concentrating.)

Dinner - Here's where I jot down what we'll be eating that night. (I could have noted here my older boys made supper that night!)

Dollars - Here's where I note any monies spent that day. (I look back through these during weekend "office hours.")

Don't Forget - In this space I make note of our weekly seasonal homeschooling theme. (There are 52 in all, as described in this long-ago post.)

Now we're getting to the real meat of the planner! In this next section we'll look at the "Today" column:

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As you can see, I really work the heck out of this area! I keep my Day Designer on my kitchen counter and check in frequently throughout the day. I keep track of everyday tasks and do some simple habit tracking here as well. I also use highlighters to draw my eye to specific activities ...

--> green - I am going somewhere (aka I am somehow involved with an activity outside the home).

--> blue - Bill and/or the boys are doing something/going somewhere.

--> yellow - We're doing something special at home (eg. hosting a party).

--> pink - I'm doing something for myself. β€

It's very helpful to keep everyday tasks listed on this planner page because even though I do the same things everyday (after day ...), I can lose track of what I've gotten done and what still needs doing. ("Did I give EB his morning meds?" "Oh shoot, the cats weren't fed!") To organize these tasks even further I write them in the timezone in which they should be done. ( It's also convenient that I have very small handwriting!)

Continuing to squeeze more efficiency out of this page, I use a large < symbol next to a time block in which I can work on a personal project or "rhythm" activity. Usually, these < symbols appear when ABA is happening (meaning, EB is working with his therapists). As you can see between 10-11 a.m. I did pre-k activities with Little Bear. Normally in the afternoon session (between 12:30 and 2:30) I would have another < space but since I had to take Crackerjack to the dermatologist this time was spent driving and running errands.

Note: The farmhouse trip was cancelled because unfortunately EB was having ... A DAY. He was just not in a good place for a community outing. So, it got crossed out and will be planned for another day this week ... when he's up for it!

Ok, now about those the colored dots? Well, with these dots (which are just pen marks) I set up rough time blocks for myself ...

red/pink - early morning before the youngest wakes up (my "sit-plan-consume coffee" time)

orange (a.m.) - mid-morning, after youngest wakes up and before therapy starts

blue - therapy hours, before tidy-time

orange p.m. - afternoon, after therapy and tidy-time, before supper

purple - evening, after supper

These dots match up times with my to-dos ... :)

And so here's a look at my "To-Do" column:

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I don't do this every day, but when I have a lot going on, and I really need to make the best use of my time, I love this "system" for keeping up with my to-dos! I put a colored dot next to each task to show in which time block I need (or should) be working on it. So when it's 8 a.m. and I'm standing in the kitchen looking over my planner, I can find, at a glance, the "orange" tasks. I don't even bother looking at the big list itself - no blues, purples or reds - just orange! It kind of simplifies that choice for me!

Also, as you can see here, my to-do list starts with the day's housekeeping routine tasks. I have recently started writing these in blue ink to set them apart. Tuesdays are bathroom days (whereas everyday is laundry day!) and this week's extra chore is any and all Easter prep.

As I go through the day I check off things I accomplish and place a dot in a box indicating that a task has been started. If the task is being taken care of by someone else, I place their initial (in a little circle) next the task. 

And finally we have the "Notes & Gratitude" space:

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To be completely honest, I find it a little uncomfortable to write neatly so close to the bottom of the page, so I like to use post-it notes here. I only have two here today (one got moved up to the to-do column). The soft blue note is a list of photos to take and the yellow note is for the day's preschool activities. (Remember, our seasonal theme is eggs this week!) It's very easy to move these notes along as tasks and ideas get pushed back.

Well! I think that about does it for now - though I'm sure I'll have more Day Designer posts in the near future! Speaking of which - I have a post coming up in which I will show you how I use the weekly planner spread, the one I'm giving away to one lucky reader! All the details can be found in the post at the top of this blog! :)

So please stay tuned and as always, I thank you for stopping by! I wish you all a peaceful and blessed evening ... 

See you here again very soon!


Happy 12 Years, Little Blog! (+ a Giveaway!)

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Hello my friends, and Happy Thursday!

❀

Today I have some exciting news to share! Not only do I begin my 13th year of blogging today - but I'm kicking off a super fun GIVEAWAY, too!

And here's the grand prize!

Day designer weekly

This is a: 

Day Designer for Blue Sky 2018-2019 Academic Year Weekly & Monthly Planner, Laminated Cover, Twin-Wire Binding, 8" x 10", Navy Stripe Design

 

Woot! Woot!

This is the weekly planner I use to keep track of our family's weekly to-dos and to-gos. I will do a post very soon showing you exactly how I use it, but here are a couple more glimpses inside:Inside planner 1

Inside planner 2(Note: Mine has a black and white striped cover and a green/white interior - but the layout is the same.)

This is a wonderful planner - slim, sturdy and thorough. There is plenty of room to do a LOT of weekly planning in here, as well as to keep track of all your month-at-a-glance details. I absolutely love mine and I would be so happy to see someone else enjoy this planner, too!

So!

ONE lucky reader will win this planner (along with a few favorite blogging accoutrements), but in honor of the TWELVE years I've blogged so far, I will also choose 12 names to receive a bit of fun "spring" mail from yours truly! Nothing too grand or fancy, just a little-old fashioned "snail mail," from me to you, in celebration of the new and lovely season ahead. :)

Ok, so to enter my GIVEAWAY, here's what you have to do:

  1. Leave a comment below this post (or at my Facebook page) with your name, along with a question you'd like to ask me and/or a suggestion for a post you'd like to read. 

It's that simple!

I will collect names up until Monday, APRIL 2nd - that's the day after Easter! - and then "roundabouts teatime," I will announce the GIVEAWAY winners!

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I think this will be fun! And I look forward to hearing from you! I can't promise I'll answer every question asked or write every post suggested, but I will certainly do my best to make my way through the ideas throughout the year. :)

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(I'm keeping a list for future blog posts - including "Full Disclosure Fridays" - behind the sunny yellow tab shown above!)

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Now, what would a birthday be without cake? :)

On Tuesday Little Bear and I baked "vernal equinox cupcakes," seen below in a recent Instagram collage ...

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I simply frosted yellow cupcakes with ivory buttercream, then dusted half of each top with "spring green" sprinkles and the other half with "snowflake" sprinkles. Because - per New England tradition - Spring almost always kicks off with a good dusting of snow - or more! Hopefully though, having dodged the most recent snowstorm, we will get a little (or a lot of) melting here next week ... because I for one am dreaming of a GREEN Easter! πŸ’š

But back to the cake ...

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Since I only used half of the batter for the cupcakes, I decided to bake my blog a yummy, sunny, sprinkle-topped birthday cake - it's not like I haven't done it before! So tonight after supper, we'll light those sweet-smelling beeswax candles and dig right in ...

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Well my friends, I feel so blessed to be starting my 13th year of blogging and look forward to sharing more of my mothering/home-schooling/home-keeping/seasons-following/nature-loving journey with you all! 

Wishing the very best of luck to all who enter my GIVEAWAY, and to everyone, many thanks for stopping by! Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I will see you here again very soon!


Planner Goodies: Using a Spiral Snap with my DD

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Hello my friends, and Happy Tuesday! I hope your week's going well so far. :)

Today I'd like to show you a neat planner gadget that I've just started using in my Day Designer - it's called a "Spiral Snap" and it's available in sets of four for $5, sold by Anchor Lime Design. What these "snaps" allow me to do is display all kinds of information ... right in the middle of my daily planning spread! Now, truth be told, I'm not always "in the know" when it comes to planner goodies and hacks, but I'm really happy I found these clever little things. I think they have endless uses: lesson plans, menu plans, shopping lists, habit trackers - you name it!

Here's a look at a Spiral Snap before inserting it into my planner:

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So as you can see, these are simply plastic strips that are punched along one edge in order to fit (or "snap") into the coils of a planner. They feature a length of adhesive tape which will securely hold any kind of paper item you'd like. You can easily pluck the Spiral Snap out of the coils as you turn the pages in your planner, thereby moving it along as you go forward, day to day. 

Another great feature? The adhesive is reusable, so as long as you remove your paper items with care, you can re-use your strips multiple times. 

Ok, clearly this is a really neat planner goodie! Now, here is how I'm using it ... :)

I have two stacked in my planner, one for monthly notes and one for weekly routines.

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This top page is made with a sheet from a "March" note pad made by Susan Branch. I have a pad for each month of the year and they are absolutely charming as you can see! On this sheet I listed out our March home learning goals/plans ...

And I'm even using the back side of this sheet!

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Here I listed out March "Events of Note." So it's kind of like a monthly calendar, only vertical! 

Now you might be asking yourself, doesn't she have all this information listed out elsewhere? And well, that's a fair question ... one to which I must sheepishly answer, yes. But I do love having this pretty piece of notepaper here - it's quite inspiring, in both looks and content, and allows me to keep the "big picture" in mind as I hone in on my daily plans.

Now, underneath those monthly notes, I have a second Spiral Snap ...

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... and this one is holding a weekly routines list. I gave a thought to using this sheet as a current agenda, but since I already have - not one, but two - dedicated week-at-a-glance planners in action (as detailed rather obsessively here), I decided use this as a general reference.

A closer look:

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This sheet is from a set of planning pads made by momAgenda. I bought it a while ago on Amazon but could only find it listed currently at the momAgenda website. (Anyone here use momAgenda planners? I did for a couple of years and they were lovely.)

I used blue ink here for my housekeeping tasks, and black ink for our weekly homeschooling rhythm. It's all pretty basic information (things I've written out enough times I'm certain I know by heart), but still nice as a reference when I go to plan out a new day's page.

As for the backside of this sheet ...

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I thought it would make a handy spot for ongoing to-dos. I used a few post-it notes for this ... you all know how much I love post-its!

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Now, the sheets I used are made with rather thin paper, so they do seem a tad fragile. So I'm careful when I turn them but not overly concerned. If I were going to make up my own sheets for these Snaps I'd probably try using cardstock instead to give it a bit of heft. If I did make one up, I'd also like to add a "topper" of some sort that could serve as a bookmark or page-finder. I'll probably fiddle around with some of my scrapbooking paper and random planner supplies when I have a chance.

Ok, full disclosure - I've only just started using these Spiral Snaps and so far I'm finding them quite fun and helpful - a real novelty! I'm not yet in the habit of moving these lists along with me as I turn the pages in my planner - I sometimes forget and then have to retrieve them! - but I think that will just be a matter of time. 

So that's that! I'd love to know if you have something like this in your planner and if so, how do you use it?

Well my friends, I hope you enjoyed this little peek into my planner today. I have a couple of new posts in the works and will do my best to get them up in the next week or so. Until then, take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I'll see you here again very soon!


My Primary Planners & (March) Planning

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Hello and Happy Weekend, my friends! I hope your week's been a good one! 

Well as hard as it is to believe, March is arriving at the end of next week, so I thought I'd share a peek into my planners as I start looking ahead to "what's what" next month. I try to do this around the third weekend of each month - in hopes I'll have enough time to gather my thoughts and any materials we'll need for the coming weeks. These items would include library requests, craft supplies, educational resources, ingredients for special recipes, holiday/birthday cards, and any special books we have set aside in our seasonal bins ...

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(Our seasonal theme next week is "thaw/sap" and our March world culture is Germany.)

Now, note I said planners (not planner) and that's because (as I described in this post from January), I find it a challenge to limit myself to just one! Most of the time I'm just fine with that - because I really do enjoy all my planners and each one of them really does meet a particular need. That said, I also feel like I spend a lot of time juggling all these planners - time I don't really have to spend - and often find myself yearning for a much simpler system. In my heart I'd like to be a one-planner gal but I'm not sure if I'll ever get there ...

So if you use just ONE planner, and it works well for you - well, I am in awe of you! (And perhaps even, a wee bit jealous!)

Anyway, all this planner soul-baring will have to wait for a future post - for today let me get on with the ones I'm using at the moment. And first up is a planner I'm not sure I've shown you before!

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This is my sweet and special 2017-2018 Katie Daisy planner! (It can also be found - for a little less money- at Amber Lotus Publishing here.)

Now, very often one of my planners takes the lead in the ongoing race to be "lead planner," and currently this is the one - because I am just SO in love with this lovely little book! It is, without a doubt, the prettiest planner I have EVER seen. It's the one I reach for most often, and the one I prefer to take with me when I'm running out somewhere. It fits perfectly in my purse ...

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(This is actually a rather roomy tote, but as you can see I can easily fit both my KD planner and a slightly larger notebook in this bag.)

Now admittedly, when I first bought this petite planner last summer, it was one of those purchases I absolutely recognized as extraneous but I simply could not help myself. It's just that pretty. The size of it intrigued me, too - but more than anything, I was completely enchanted by the gorgeous seasonally inspired pages!

So I used it on and off beginning last August, but when I added a set of pastel monthly tabs to the edges I found it even more useful!

(And PRETTY!)

(Note: I paid far less for these tabs at Staples, but I can't seem to find them elsewhere online.)

I also added, along the top, more adhesive flags and tabs marking spots for seasonal planning. Honest-to-goodness, I find myself a little obsessed with these tabs, those flags, and this planner ...

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Happily, Katie Daisy - a brilliant watercolor artist whom I follow on Facebook and Instagram - is publishing a 2018-2019 version of this planner! I was able to pre-order mine here ... and I am positively swooning over that new black floral cover!)

To make this planner work even more efficiently, I use a coordinating binder clip to connect the front cover to the current monthly spread. Then I use a simple gold paper clip to do the same between the month-at-a-glance and the current week's spread. This makes it very easy to quickly get to the place in my planner I need to be! 

Here's a closer look at those clips in action ...

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Now, I'm going to "flip" through the pages of my planner, starting with this week (shown above) and moving forward through March - just to give you a sense for how I'm using it and just how LOVELY it is ...

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The last February weekly spread is split because March begins on a Thursday ... above is an example of one of the many inspiration pages found throughout the planner.

And next comes another pretty pair of pages, with one side for notes. I decided to make this my spot for Spring Cleaning notes, and as you can see I have only just begun to plan it out - beginning with a post-it note outline ...

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(I begin so many things with post-it notes ... what would I ever do without them?)

And now here is the March calendar spread:

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The blocks are a bit small, but I found it comfortable to write all the things I need to write here. (It helps of course that I have tiny handwriting.)

And now here's the first weekly spread in March:

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On the left there is a soft green note page which I'm using for "Vernal Equinox" planning, and on the right, the second half of the first week of March. (Also, note - at the very top of each right-hand weekly page I'm writing out our weekly seasonal theme. This way I'm able to find a week I'm looking for in a jiffy!)

Isn't the green and cream palette just perfect for March?

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Each month is similar, in that, the colors and illustrations match the feel of the season perfectly.

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(You can see more page examples at the publisher's site here.)

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And though you can hardly see it in my pictures, the planner paper (which is very smooth and lovely to write on) has a very faint quad-grid - which is SUPER helpful for those of us who appreciate a little help with keeping our handwriting straight!

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Ok, the very last week in March features a small note space where Sunday would be (because that Sunday is APRIL 1st!) and then the next turn of the page leads to another one of those wonderful inspiration spreads  ...

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And then we are in April!

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(This note page is where I'll be writing out Easter Sunday plans.)

So as you can most likely tell I am very much head-over-heels in love with this Katie Daisy planner! I would really like to use it exclusively because it feels so simply sufficient - and E-fficient - but most of all, it's so very ME. I've toyed around a little with trying to make it meet ALL my planning needs - but alas, I have an awful lot of those and it would be a rare planner indeed that would be able to accomplish that!

So with that pronouncement, I turn to my next planner - my Day Designer!

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So this is my 2017-2018 midyear flagship Day Designer - a daily planner (with monthly calendars included) that runs from June 2017 through May 2018. I now only have a few months left to use in this planner and I can honestly say I've used just about every (daily) page!

The monthly spreads however, I don't really use ...

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... though they're great! And since I hate to waste planner space, I've been trying to come up with other uses for this spread. I think I might keep a reading log here! :)

Here though is the meat of this planner ...

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The daily planning pages! There is one for each day of the year (although weekends share a page) and the layout it absolutely perfect for my daily planning needs. Here's today's page for example:

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I took this picture quite early in the day so I hadn't earned too many checks! As you can see I use this page for essential information pertaining to just that one day. Things I need to remember, and do, and places I need to go. If I was paring down to only one planner, this would be a hard one to do without. It's not as portable or endearing as my Katie Daisy planner, but it is a real workhorse when it comes to the nitty-gritty details of managing my family and home every day!

For more about this particular planner, please see my Day Designer archive here, but now let's take a look at my homemade seasonal planner ...

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This too is a planner I've shown you many times before, but here are the March pages:

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The very first pic at the top of this post shows you the charming divider paper I use for each month in this planner (part of this collection), and above is the back side of that sheet (left) and the March title page I created using some vintage clipart I found on Pinterest (right).

And now here is my homemade March calendar spread ...

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When I made up this planner, I made sure to give myself PLENTY of room for monthly planning! I wanted to be able to add stickers and quotes and all kinds of information (days of note, full moons, weekly themes and ideas). And lined calendar blocks were an absolute necessity!

This month I went with a Beatrix Potter theme, and used colored pencils to softy shade in the quotes. So it's different from my Katie Daisy monthly calendar in that I'm able to include much more information - and yet they both appeal to me visually. And they both make me happy!

Now moving on to my next spread you'll see I have YET ANOTHER monthly calendar here! But this one I use specifically for menu planning. Or nature notes, depending on my mood. (It will be the latter this month so I haven't yet written anything down. I've found I can't really plan out a whole month's menus at a time - too impractical. It's a week-to-week thing for us these days.)

And on the right hand side of this spread I have a monthly overview page for to-dos, home and garden notes, seasonal ideas and goals ...

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I had hoped to have this spread filled out to show you but alas - I have not had the time! (Probably spent it all working on those monthly calendars, right?!)

And here is the weekly overview and agenda for next week, the first week in March (2/26-3/4):

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This is also still a work in progress - I just filled in things that quickly came to mind yesterday and will work on it more over the weekend. The post-it note is our weekend to-do list which I will use when I fill out the next week to-dos. (Whatever doesn't get done over the weekend + whatever needs doing next week!)

I like to start my "next week planning" on Thursdays, though I very often end up scrambling to pull it together over the weekend. Ideally if I begin my forward planning at the end of a week, that gives me the weekend to gather resources and prep materials and devote a little more attention to writing out actual lesson plans. The page on the right-hand side of this spread is for these details.

(Note: I plan "lessons" - or better to say, "learning activities" - for my younger two boys. Four year old Little Bear is doing pre-k and 16 year old Earlybird, who has autism, is working at various grade levels. We are blessed to have two wonderful ABA therapists, who come for two hours each (four hours a day, Monday through Friday) to work with Earlybird on all kinds of things. It's up to me to plan and organize most of these activities - which target all kinds of learning and growing experiences: life skills, behavioral management, sensory challenges, community outings, etc. It's a lot of work for sure, but extremely rewarding and it has been a super fit for our son!)

Happily I'm able to coordinate many activities that will appeal to, and include, both of my younger boys - and to an extent, the whole family. My ongoing goal is to weave our seasonal homeschooling themes into as many aspects of learning and living as I can!

So for example, next week, the first week in March, we will be exploring the theme of "thaw/melt/sap," and here are a few of my thoughts ...

Late February and early March is maple sugaring season in New England! A time when the daily temperatures might reach 50Β° while the nights still dip below freezing. When this happens the earth begins to thaw and the sap begins to run - and local sugarhouses open up to visitors! To my mind, this is a wonderful, and most welcome, first sign of spring! And according to my Weather Channel app, next week looks to fit the bill rather nicely, temperature-wise ... so we'll observe the concept of "melt" and "thaw" here at home and of course, try out some "maple" recipes. In addition, our homeschool group has an annual maple sugaring activity and whether or not that falls in our "sap" week, we'll definitely be participating (as we try to every year)! We'll also observe the Full Sap Moon on Thursday night - just after we enjoy a special St. David's supper (potato-leek soup, Welsh Rabbit and daffodil cake). These are all things we've seen/done/eaten before, but happily embrace their familiar and instinctual joy every year. :)

After all the March weekly spreads, I have a page for a month's end review as well as planning pages for special events such as the Vernal Equinox shown here ...

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My entire planner can be found in my printables archive, but I am working just as hard as I can - which means in fits and starts when I find time! - to make this into something I could publish and sell to interested parties. I thank you all for your patience, and will hopefully have something to share with you before too long (or at least, before the academic year begins!). In the meantime, feel free to help yourself to those free printables and let me know if you have any questions!

Well, now - I'd say it's about time for me to wrap up! But I thank you, as always, for stopping by and I wish you all a very nice weekend. Thanks so much for reading and please leave me a comment if you have a moment! I can be terribly slow at responding, but please know I read (and appreciate) each and every comment!

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ... see you here again very soon!


My Homekeeping Planner Pagefinder

Hello again, my friends! I'm back today with another quick planning post - just a few things I've been sharing on Instagram as part of the #planneraddictpotd challenge. Yesterday's prompt was to show your planner "dashboard," and so, here is mine!

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Now, I really don't have a true planner dashboard as I think it was meant for this challenge, but I figured my homekeeping binder page-finder kind of fit the bill! In this binder I keep information related to our household and my "job" as a homekeeper. So I guess one might call this my homekeeping planner.

What do I keep in this binder/planner then? Well I have three main sections:

1. My DOMESTIC JOURNAL, which is simply a place for jotting down any ideas re ~ our home, garden, the kids, weather, etc. Pretty much any random thoughts that pop into my head. (You could call it a brain dump I guess, but I'm not too fond of that term!) Anyhoo, I've blogged about this journal many times before so I won't go into great detail right now, but in addition to my handwritten notes, I also tape clippings here from various sources - mostly magazines and newspapers, but sometimes I print things out I find on Pinterest to add to my journal. (Which kind of defeats the purpose of "pinning" I guess, lol - but I am such a paper gal I find I prefer this kind of visual instead of just looking at something on my computer.) I keep the current month's papers in here and then archive them before a new month begins. As you can see on the left, my journal cover page is a piece of scrapbooking paper. This is the backside of the January design from Graphic 45, "Time to Flourish." I switch these up at the beginning of a new month as well.

2. My MONTHLY HOMEKEEPING CALENDARS, which sit behind the journal. Remember the master cleaning calendar I created a few years ago? I am in the process of transferring all those tasks to these handy monthly calendars. Yes, it's a bit of a chore (no pun intended!) but I like to see my tasks listed out in this way. Makes it easier for delegating, too!

3. My HOMEKEEPING TABS for storing information relating to what I like to call the domestic arts: routines, natural cleaners, home remedies, garden crafts, etc. I love these pretty pastel tabs made by Martha Stewart and found at Staples. (Amazon has them too but at a much higher price!) I haven't labeled my tabs yet because I want them to be super-neat and haven't decided if I should write directly on them, or perhaps use printable labels of some sort.

Ok, here's a closer look at my dashboard/page-finder:

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To make this I used some pretty scrapbooking paper with colorful pineapples (the Colonial American symbol of hospitality) and trimmed/punched it to fit my binder. I added an adhesive tab at the top ...

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To make the dash more useful, I added a printout of our weekly routine: homeschooling & housekeeping rhythms listed by day of the week. I then add little sticky notes to remind myself of current tasks to add to my housekeeping agenda.

Now, does all of this mean that I get ALL of it done and keep up with all those tasks every week?

 

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Well, no. But I do think this helps! I keep this binder open on my kitchen counter all day so I can easily jot/tape down a thought/clipping as I think/find them. So in that way this "dashboard" is very much a launchpad for my planning!

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Do you use a dashboard and/or page-finder in your planner (or binder as the case may be)? I'd love to hear about it - let me know below if you have a moment! :)

I'm still working on that "planners-in-action" post for - hopefully - later this week. I wasn't up to my usual planning the past week as we all succumbed to the stomach flu! Things seem to be getting back on track now though so I should have some fully utilized planner pages to share soon!

Hope all is well with you all! Enjoy your Tuesday, my friends ...

See you here again very soon!


My Planner Giveaway: We Have a Winner!

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Hello and Happy Monday, my friends! I hope you are all doing well ... :)

I am very sorry that I had to delay this announcement an extra day ... things have slowed down here a bit lately because we here are in the midst of ... stomach flu!

ARGH, yes. Ugh. Not fun. AT ALL. sigh ...

>> insert exhausted face here <<

Thankfully, though * knocks on wood * we seem to be pulling through the worst of it and a return to normalcy is on the horizon ... but boy, lemme tell you. New Year's really started out with a bang around here - what with the BLIZZARD and the Arctic weather that followed and then this wretched virus that settled in first with Earlybird early on New Year's morn ...

(We're pretty much hibernating for the rest of the winter, just FYI.)

ANYHOO!

We're all getting better, the temperatures are finally rising and now I have a winner to name! (Please remember this current giveaway is sponsored by dear reader - and previous planner winner - Lisa E. ❀ I am very grateful to Lisa for assisting me in another chance to share my planner!)

So without further ado ... the person who won my seasonal planner this time around is ...

BARBARA H.!

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Congratulations, Barbara!! I'm very happy for you and I hope you will be happy with the planner! I will be in touch soon to arrange mailing details. We can also talk about planner preferences like start dates and such ... :)

Now, before I go, I'd love to share a few more pics if I could ...

And to start with, here is my afternoon tea the other day, a delicious cup of white hot cocoa complete with a marshmallow snowflake!

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(Note: That snowflake was a fun treat in my Christmas stocking, but I have it on good authority Santa found it at Barnes & Noble.)

And here is the January divider page, one of my favorites ...

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These vintage papers really make the planner for me, and that is one of the big sticking points in my quest to make this a product I might sell. I am trying to determine if I can sell a planner I've made using papers such as these. I think it's ok, but obviously I want to be absolutely sure it's legal before I move forward ...

You know, I've been using my planner for six months now and I am really enjoying it very much. In fact, after I make up Barbara's planner (and finish another for my friend who also has been patiently waiting) I am going to start right in on making my next planner which will begin with August 2018. Bill has been working on making the printing and assembling process more efficient so hopefully that will allow me to churn out planners in a more timely fashion. And since several of you have asked if I might sell this planner at some point - the answer is still yes, I hope so! We'll be looking into that possibility much more earnestly over the next few months. I'll share news on that front as I have it to share! 

(In the meantime, I've shared all of the planner pages in PDF form for free and you can find them in my Printables archive.)

Here are a few closer peeks ...

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Love using paper clips to keep the monthly spreads quickly accessible!

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These monthly tabs are no longer made by Avery which is a real bummer because I LOVE them and hoarded them for as long as I could. I'm looking for another style now, and did come across some made by Erin Condren last time I was at Staples that might work. I may even try my hand at crafting my own ...

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Last weekend I got my February calendar set up and as you can see (and as I have shared before), I treat this planner as a seasonal journal as much as I do a planning tool. As the months go along though, I've seen some things I'd like to improve - and I'm taking notes! - but for the most part I'm pretty happy with how this planner works for me!

Now, it clearly isn't for everyone - humble and all as it is - but I'm thrilled to hear that it appeals to others as well. So let me know if you have any suggestions ... I'd love to hear what YOU'd want to see in a seasonal planner! Drop me a comment below or send me an email at ...

---> drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

Next post will have a closer look at those primary planners I posted about last week and I will also be announcing our book study schedule SOON. I hope to be back here again before the end of the week!

For now though I'll wrap things up and let you go. But first I'd like to thank Lisa one more time and congratulate Barbara one more time - AND thank all of you for taking part in my "happy" planner giveaway. I loved reading all your thoughts and I thank you for those kind birthday wishes for my son! 

And now I'm going to head over to the couch where Little Bear is hoping for a little Wild Kratts and snuggling on the couch with his Mama ... but first I'll start the kettle for tea!

Wishing you all the best my friends, stay well and be at peace ...

I will see you here again very soon!


My Primary Planners for 2018

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Hello my friends, and Happy Wednesday! It is in fact a very happy day here because we have FINISHED with Crackerjack's college applications! Well - I'm done with my part, anyway. He still has one essay to finish, but other than that we're good! And so now, we wait ... :)

Well today I thought I'd share a little about the planners I'm using for 2018 - and as the picture above would suggest, there are quite a few! But really, there are three primary planners I use each week to keep on top of "what's what" in my life. And here they are here!

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My homemade seasonal planner is in the middle, and it is flanked by my two Day Designer planners. The one on the left is my original Day Designer, and on the right is a NEW planner I bought last month (also made by Day Designer). I hemmed and hawed over this one for quite a while because I really didn't want to add one more tool to my planning repertoire - but, I decided to give it a try because I think it will fulfill the one area of planning I was missing!

Ok, here are the three planners set up at my kitchen counter - aka command central:

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Now how about a closer look at each one?

First, my daily planner ...

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This is the 2017-2018 (mid-year) flagship Day Designer. It's my third DD in three years and I can honestly say it is my most valuable planner. I use it EVERY day without fail, and if you've seen my Instagram then you know I work the heck out of that spread!! This planner is filled with planning pages for every day of the year as well as monthly calendars. (Weekends are combined into one page, and while I wish they weren't, I understand this keeps the size of the planner manageable.)

I use my DD for keeping track of the nitty gritty of my daily life: Where am I going? What am I doing? What had I better not forget? I list the night's supper, the day's spending and our current seasonal homeschooling theme. I use my DD for managing those everyday household tasks I need to see to remember even though I could probably do them in my sleep (and wouldn't that be something?). I write these chores in the time slots where they're best to be done. Also in the time-slotted column, I list appointments, classes, therapy sessions, etc. and in this way I "see" my day in chunks of time when I look at that agenda all filled in. I wrote a very detailed post about using this page in this post here if you'd like to know more about how I've made the DD work best for me.

Next we have my newest planner, one that shows one week at-a-glance:

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This is a 2018 Day Designer for Blue Sky Weekly/Monthly Hardcover Planner (Black Stripe), and I found mine at Staples. But first, a quick word a about Staples ...

Staples is one of those places I find reasons to visit more often than is truly necessary, but such is my addiction to office supplies. Oh sure, we might only need more copy paper ... buuuuut ... I'll just see if they have any new post-it designs or maybe my favorite Frixion pens are on sale while I'm here.

Ahem.

To be honest though, I'd been wanting a weekly planner like this for a while. Though I've used other week-at-a-glance planners before (and my homemade seasonal planner does in fact have a day seven-day agenda as part of its weekly spread) none were in a vertical format like this. I like seeing the days lined up side by side with all the commitments laid out in a row. This view gives me a good feel for just how busy our week will be.

So long story short, I splurged and grabbed one of these nifty planners on one of my Staples runs ... and told Bill to knock one of my Christmas gifts off his list. πŸ˜‰

I plan to use this one as seen above in a standing fashion, so that the whole family can see what's what for the week. I am tweaking how I use the boxes outside of the agenda columns because it would be very easy to repeat a LOT of the information I'm writing elsewhere in my other planners. So stay tuned on how I'm working all that out!

Ok, now for the last of my three top planners for 2018 ...

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My homemade seasonal planner! :)

This planner is divided by months and each month has its own planning calendar, menu calendar, overview and then four or five weekly spreads followed by a few event planning pages. At the beginning of the planner itself I have pages for mapping out annual homeschooling goals, housekeeping routines and seasonal brainstorming. This is the planner I grab when I'm jotting down a date to remember. I like a big monthly spread so I made mine span two pages! And I lined those large boxes so I'd be able to fit in a lot of writing and still keep my handwriting neat.

This is the planner I use over the weekend to get a grip on the week that's on its way. I like to get a feel for the week - not just how busy it will be, but where we are in the year, and how we're observing the season at that time. For example, this week's seasonal theme is "winter stars" and that is a nod to Epiphany as well as the clear bright skies at this time of year. I like to look at the feast days and choose favorite books to read and plan special meals to savor ... and of course, I love making plans for crafts and comforts that connect my family with the season in a meaningful way.

Now ...

Any one of these three planners could be used on their own, of course - and I've definitely given serious thought to doing just that. Despite all appearances, I really don't like to have too many tools in my planning mix! But for me this all seems to work. I don't mind juggling the planners, because for one thing, they're fun - but more importantly, each one is used in its own way and allows me to assess unique areas of my/our life. By keeping all these planners near one another I can easily switch planning modes - seasonal/monthly, weekly, daily - depending on what kind of information I'm seeking or recording.

I will say this ... I have been known to give up on planners when they stop working as well as I'd hoped. All you have to do is comb through my calendar/planner archive to revisit many planners and systems that have since fizzled! But my flagship Day Designer has truly proven its value over the past three years and I am as eager as ever to order my new planner during the March launch.

Psst ... the new covers will be revealed next month!

The DD weekly planner is new and a novelty right now but will it prove to be too repetitive? Will it serve my family well, keeping everyone in the loop? Will I come to rely on this planner as much as I do my flagship? Only time will tell ...

And as for my homemade planner, well ... that is a labor of love and something I just feel compelled to create. It gives me a platform for planning the kinds of thing one might not find the room for in a traditional planner. Much of this was done in a binder before I made up this planner but I really love having it all in a convenient spiral-bound book. And I keep just tweaking that planner! One day I'd love to get it to a point where I'd be confident in offering it for sale ... and I am getting closer to that. (I think!) Bill has been exploring options at Etsy and Amazon Handmade for me. I'm going to give it all some earnest thought this winter and see if I can't get something pulled together for a late spring/summertime offering. So here once again I find myself saying ... stay tuned! And look for a mailing list to go up sometime soon(ish) for those folks who might be interested in purchasing a seasonal planner such as this. :)

Ok, now let me wrap up ...

(Don't laugh but I had meant this to be a "quick" post - though I'm not sure there is such a thing here at my blog!) 

In my next post I'll share a spread from each of these planners all filled out. I would like to show you how I use each one in different ways and where I do find some overlap. And in other blog news, don't forget this Sunday I'll be brewing up a pot of midwinter's tea and announcing the winner of my Homemade Planner giveaway! (All the details on that can be found here.) And I haven't forgotten we have a book study to get back to! Our discussion of Mitten Strings for God will get back on track this month - I'll have some dates to share very soon. :)

Enjoy the rest of your Wednesday my friends ... see you here again very soon!

p.s. In case you're wondering what all the other planners are in that first picture - on the bottom is my gardening binder, resting on that is my home management binder and at the very top of the stack is a lovely notebook I'm trying out as a bullet journal. :)


Happy New Year! Now, Howsabout a Giveaway?!

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Hello my friends, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!! I'm popping in quickly to share a few fun things that I've been busting to tell you about. :)

First of all - I hope you all had a wonderful Advent and Christmas! I can hardly believe (as is true most years) that it's come and gone so fast. Well, we're still in the season of Christmas for another week or two, depending on which calendar you follow! But I'm sure you know what I mean ... it seems like it flies by more quickly every year!

Anyhoo, let's talk about planners for a moment because I have some very exciting news to share!

So, you all might remember last Fall I held a giveaway with the winner receiving one of my homemade seasonal planners? Well, that winner was Lisa E. who kindly waited ever-so-long for me to get the planner printed and assembled and bound, and off in the mail to her before the New Year began! And she's allowed me to share a few pictures of her planner once it arrived ... (see top photo as well)!

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Gosh, do I love those vintage papers!! And Lisa, I really LOVE those color-coordinated paper clips! :)

Now, here's the really swell thing ... oh, I'm so happy to say this ... Lisa has very generously offered to sponsor another PLANNER GIVEAWAY! And what that means is, I'll be making up another one - just like mine and Lisa's - and sending it to someone else who might be blessed by such a planner!!

How incredibly generous of Lisa! How fun to create another "BS&C" planner and send it off to another mom to enjoy! I am dipping my toe ever-so deeper into the planner-making waters and hope to have more news to share on that front very soon ... :)

But for now, here's what we'll do, thanks to Lisa's kind offer. If you're interested in winning my homemade planner, please leave me a comment below, telling me something that makes you happy. It can be anything at all - a pack of gum you like or a person you love. Whatever you feel on your heart to share, please do. I'm all for filling up our new year with all kinds of HAPPY!

I'll announce a winner this Sunday, January 7th! That's in a little less than a week!

(And since the planner will probably go out near the end of the month - it takes me a bit of time to pull together - I can have the planner begin with January or February, or really, any month you'd like. Just let me know.)

Hope to hear from you, and thank you again, Lisa, for such a generous offer! I am so glad you are enjoying your planner so far - I truly love mine and find myself using it every day in partnership with the other planning tools I use. (Post to come soon on all that! Plus ... how about another Planner Party? Remember how much fun we had with that?!)

Now, before I let you go, here's my own HAPPY for today ... 

I wanted to share some pictures with you of something AMAZING that happened to us at the end of this year. Our Earlybird, who, as most of you know is autistic, celebrated his 16th birthday on December 14th. (Longtime readers might be wondering, like me, how on EARTH can this boy be SIXTEEN?) Well, as you can imagine he was pretty darn excited about, and anxious for, his birthday ... so we had a countdown going, and party lists of what to make, who might come, etc. Well, a dear friend of mine (someone I've known since my days at 4Real Forums and online ever since) decided to make EB's birthday even happier! After I mentioned that EB doesn't get much mail and that he doesn't really have many friends of his own, Maria asked me if she might send him a birthday card and perhaps a few from her kids. Of course I said, Yes! I knew it would make EB so happy. Then Maria turned to her homeschooling friends (and beyond) and mentioned EB's story ... and what started as a few cards coming his way ... turned into something truly amazing!

EB received over 200 cards!! β€

So here's a little tour of the card project, starting with our boy at the table surrounded by a batch of cards that arrived on his actual birthday. (The cards came in every day for over a week!) I hung them all over the house!!

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Well, I could show you a few more corners of cards, but I think you probably get the gist! Isn't this just awesome?? :)

Not only did this project make our special boy's birthday even more special, but it reminded us - in the midst of a rather hectic and draining month - that there is SO MUCH good in the world. And that really, people are so happy to be given the chance to show kindness to someone else. So many of these cards have wonderful drawings (reflecting his love for trains and planets) and beautiful messages of friendship and encouragement ... a few kids even offered to be pen pals! These cards came from homeschooling families, and CCD classes and a men's choir and even an ENTIRE high school in New York. Oh my goodness, I wish I could hug each and every person who did this for EB! 

Well ... we'll never-ever forget this ... it filled us with so much support and encouragement. Every time I walk through my house and see all these cards I remember how many folks thought of our son and wished him well, perhaps said a prayer in his name. And going forward we'll make sure Earlybird (aka Riley as you can probably see from the cards) never EVER forgets how much he means to those who know him. He's a special boy and his beautiful light is meant to shine just as brightly as anyone else's. I'm so glad others can see that just as his own family can!

We may never be able to thank the folks who participated in this project enough ... but I hope that their participation blessed them as much as it did us. I certainly have asked God to bless these folks for their kindness!

Thanks for letting me share all of that, friends ... may I ask you to say a prayer for these dear folks who worked so hard to make our son feel so wonderful? What a beautiful world we live in ... and what a happy feeling to begin a brand new year feeling this way!

Wishing ALL of you the happiest and healthiest of New Years! Hope to hear from you - if you're interested in the planner or otherwise!

I will see you here again very soon ...


My Thanksgiving Planner + a Giveaway!

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Hello my friends, and Happy Weekend! I am still wrapping up this week's Mitten Strings post (hope to have it up sometime tomorrow) but in the meantime, I have two quick things to tell you about! I was going to post this next week but then figured since the holiday is coming so quickly I'd rather get this to you sooner than later!

First, I wanted to share an updated version of my printable Thanksgiving Planner. The dates were off so I tweaked those, and then, because the original PDF took so long to load, I broke the planner down into individual pages. So here are the links for each page of the planner and hopefully these will be easier for you to view and print!

page 1: Thanksgiving Blessings

page 2: RSVPs & Menu Planning

page 3: Savoring the Season

page 4: Holiday Bits & Bobs

page 5: Cleaning & Considerations

page 6: Week-by-Week Planning

page 7: Holiday Errands

page 8: Turkey Day Timetable

(Let me know if you have trouble with the links!)

Now, about that GIVEAWAY!

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Since I have extra copies of the three Thanksgiving books pictured above (all favorites of ours), I'd love for another family to enjoy them! And since the holiday is just around the corner, this will be a quick contest - I'll take comments through this Thursday (11/16) and then announce a winner of the three books that afternoon. Then I will pop the books in the mail Friday morning so they will get to their new owners before the holiday!

To enter this picture book giveaway, just leave me a comment below telling me your favorite part of Thanksgiving. That's all you need do! If your name is chosen, I'll be in touch to arrange mailing details. :)

Ok, my friends, I'm off now! The sun is dipping low in the sky, and it's nearly time for our lantern walk ...

Happy Martinmas, everyone!


November: A Month in My Homemade Planner!

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Hello, my friends and Happy Wednesday! It seems I'm on a bit of a blogging roll lately ... thanks for joining me here again today!

In this post I'd like to show you the November section of my homemade planner. I feel I'm really hitting my groove now with this planner and using the pages a bit more thoroughly than before. Plus, November is one of my favorite months for seasonal planning - because not only does it feature my favorite holiday, but one of my favorite feast days as well ... AND my dear mother's birthday to boot! Also, while there is an air of Advent anticipation building, we still have some time to think, plot and plan. November is a quiet pause in the year when we can just take a breath and be thankful ... there's no need to panic just yet!

The other reason I'm so happy to turn to the November section of my planner is because finally I'm past all those darn water-damaged pages! YES! I made it through to the other side! :)

Ok, so here we go ...

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We begin with November's divider page, made from that pretty vintage paper I love so much. I have a monthly tab on this thicker page and I use a small paper clip to attach this page to the monthly calendar (bypassing the title page seen below). This just makes it easier for me to quickly get to the current month's calendar - so if an event or appointment comes up, I reach for this planner first.

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And here's November's title page, made with some vintage clipart found on Pinterest. (In case you can't tell, I love a "vintage" look!) And isn't the back of the divider page pretty? Love that soft brown floral ...

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Next comes my two-page monthly spread (left, right) ... and yes, that's a whole lot of stickers! Which is not really the norm for me, but I found a very old pack of Hallmark Thanksgiving stickers (seriously, I may have had these as a teen) and knew I just had to use them here. They were so old the adhesive had mostly worn off, so I used a little glue stick to help keep them in place.

I also added some floral washi to the left edge and alphabet stickers spelling out "November" on the right edge. Finally, I filled in any open spaces with handwritten quotes, and a little soft shading with seasonal colors.

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Aren't those stickers the cutest? β€

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After the monthly spread I have, on the left side, a page for menu planning - and as you can see, I have not yet filled out all of November's dinner plans! (Working on it!) I use the sticky notes to brainstorm seasonal foods and side dish possibilities. On the right side I have a general monthly overview: this includes to-dos, house & garden notes, seasonal activity ideas, and a place for noting upcoming books/movies as well as our monthly home schooling goals (on yellow post-it note).

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Now come the weekly spreads, and here is the first for November (overview, agenda). This is the section I keep open on my command center throughout the day. Our theme this week is "our own cozy dens - aka hibernation." The small yellow sticky notes are for planning each day's "rhythm" activities. (For example, since Monday is our "Nature" day, we took a walk looking for nests, drays and dens. We also explored an oak tree that came down in last week's storm.) I find having a weekly rhythm really helps me smoothly fit seasonal ideas into our week. I use that vertical sticky note on the far right for explaining the week's theme - why I picked it and what it means to me/us. I can't find a link but that is an Erin Condren product I picked up at Staples. :)

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After the November weekly spreads, I have a monthly review page, (hidden beneath the book list), and then come the special event planning pages. For November this includes a page for planning out "Our Gratitude Project" (explained in more detail in my last post.) ...

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... and a notepage for "Martinmas Day" ... which I filled with plans AND memories, plus a passage on Martinmas from a favorite parenting book. And then on the right side of this spread you see the first page of my Thanksgiving planner ... and clearly I'm still in the early stages of holiday planning!

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And finally we arrive at the December divider page!

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So there you have it, my friends! A page-by-page tour of my November planning pages ... I hope you enjoyed it! I tried to link the PDFs for each page as we went along - but please tell me if I missed something or if you have any questions. I am really enjoying this planner, I must say ... now that I'm in my fourth month it's filling out nicely (with memories as well as plans) and it seems to be fitting my planning needs really well. It's FAR from perfect, to be sure, but I'm finding it quite useful!

(Remember: My planning pages are currently available FREE for your personal use - please check out my Printables archive for these pages and more!)

Well, thanks again for stopping by, everyone! Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I'll see you here again very soon!


In November: To Read & To Do!

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Hi, everyone! As I mentioned in this post, we are keeping our Thanksgiving countdown pretty simple this year. I love setting a mood of gratitude and purpose in our home throughout the month of November ... but the reality is, we're just as busy as ever, plus, we'll be hosting the holiday dinner at our house again this year! And I LOVE getting ready for that, but all the prep (which begins early in the month) does kind of elbow out any "extras" in the weeks leading up to the big day. Nevertheless, I am always determined to celebrate this special time of year in a meaningful - and manageable - way!

So here's what I decided to do: I chose one book for each day leading up to Thanksgiving and assigned a simple activity to that day as well. Most of these activities, and some of the books, tie in with our seasonal homeschooling - which is quite handy! Two birds, one stone! So I looked at my seasonal themes for November and then made note of any special days on the calendar - starting with these two guideposts, I was able to organize the books and activities in an order that made sense for us - and for the season itself!

I did most of this planning by scribbling in a spare notebook, but then I decided to keep these plans neatly filed in my spiral-bound, homemade planner, and make them into a PDF so I could share them here at my blog. And so, here it is!  

November: To Read & To Do (PDF)

(A quick reminder: I'm part of the Amazon Associates Program so anytime you use one of my links to visit (and then shop at) Amazon, I get a little commission! Thank you in advance if you do follow-->shop-->buy!)

As you can see in my top photo I taped my printable plan in my spiral-bound planner for easy access. I only taped the right-hand side of the sheet, along the inner edge, so the page beneath would be accessible.

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(True fact: the "Happy Thanksgiving" sticker, a recent purchase and part of a calendar pack, was meant for another project, but I found it - and a few others from the pack - torn out by somebody this morning. Ahem! So I decided to use it here to hold down that PDF!)

My book/activity list page is sandwiched between the "November Review" and a page titled, "Our Gratitude Project."

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Did you catch my typo? πŸ˜‰

I created this page for my planner so I'd have a place to brainstorm this year's gratitude project. (One of the big reasons I decided to make my own planner, was so it might contain pages for this kind of personalized planning! Have I mentioned how much I love my homemade planner?) I also decided to add some pictures of our project, along with a fitting page from my ME Page-a-Day Calendar. Finally, I wrote out my thinking behind this year's "Tree of Blessings."

This page is one of the extra planning pages in the back of my November section. Each month's planning section ends with a "review" page and then come the extras - like in November it's "Gratitude Project" (seen above) and then next is a "Martinmas Day" planning page. And finally, my "Thanksgiving Planner" finishes off the monthly section.

Speaking of which ...

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Here is a link to my Thanksgiving Planner (PDF) if you're interested! It can take a while to download because it's several pages long and there are some pictures peppered throughout. (It takes about 10 seconds on my desktop computer.) I'd like to make this easier to access, so I'm going to try to break down the initial set of pages into a few PDFs instead of just this giant one. So please stay tuned and if you just can't get it to load at all, please let me know! We'll figure something out ... :)

As for the Books & Activities list, I'm trying to read each book at the start of the day - over breakfast or as lesson time begins. The corresponding activities occur at different times each day depending on our schedule and if the activity is meant for a specific time of day (for example, a lantern walk at dusk). Each morning, as I work in my Day Designer, I decide where the daily activity will work best ... then I do my best to make it happen!

✨ πŸ‚ πŸ’› πŸ‚ ✨

Well, my friends, I hope you've enjoyed this peek into our gratitude month plans! Please feel free to print the PDFs for your own personal use if you'd like, and please let me know if there are any wonky links. I'd love to hear about your own gratitude project and/or your Thanksgiving plans - drop me a note below if you have time! :)

In a day or two I'll have a post up with a look at all my November planning pages and then at the end of the week we'll have our next Autumn Tea (discussing Mitten Strings for God, chapter six,"TV") ...

I might even have a little giveaway to offer in that "TV" post! :)

So please stay tuned, and please take care ... I'll see you here again very soon!


Planning for Seasonal Joy!

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Hello my friends, and Happy Friday! Our weekly Tea, as I mentioned yesterday, will be a day (or so) late, but I just shared this rather lengthy post on Facebook and thought - why not share it here, too?!
 
Anyhoo, I wanted to show you all a corner of my Day Designer page today, because I think it's a good example of how I work "seasonal planning" into our everyday life. (And how my daily planner helps me out with that!)
 
So, up here in the "Top Three" section of my daily page I list any holidays or events of note (such as a full moon or birthday) and then I write where we are in our weekly rhythm:
 
---> rhythm: hearth & home: "fading light"
 
In our weekly homeschooling rhythm, today (Friday) is for focusing on "hearth and home," and this week's seasonal theme is "fading light." (I tied that in with pushing the clocks back on Sunday, and the dwindling afternoon light.)
 
On the last line I wrote down a household activity that will help us embrace our seasonal theme in a simple, but meaningful, way:
 
---> organize string lights, candles and lanterns 🌟
 
Because my thinking at this time of year is this - why be sad about November's dark days when we might feel uplifted by a warmly lit home?
 
And don't those soft lights placed around the home make things oh-so-cozy? Perhaps a string of fairy lights twirled in a garland along the mantlepiece? Maybe a special candle to dress up the family table? And how about a homemade lantern placed in a window, a beacon of welcome on a dark afternoon?
 
Sure, we'd probably be bringing these lights out at some point this fall, maybe in bits and pieces - but I think it's nice to have a little ceremony to it, make it something to plan and look forward to:
 
Turn back the clocks ---> turn on the lights! πŸ’‘
 
(Have a nice weekend, my friends - don't forget to turn back your clocks!)

Seasonal Homeschooling: Pumpkin Week Recap!

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Hello my friends, and Happy Tuesday! 

I'm back again because I have SO many pictures of our pumpkin week, and I just have to share! If you're new to my blog you might be wondering what in the heck a "pumpkin week" is, so - just to explain briefly - every week of the year we explore an assigned seasonal theme as part of our homeschooling. These themes are a big influence on our younger boys' learning experience, but they also infuse our family's home life as well.

I won't go into the whole "why and how" of our seasonal homeschooling, but the important thing to remember about it is - it's more a guideline than a rule! :)

Sure, some weeks we do it up big (case in point, pumpkins!), but other weeks just fly by and we only casually observe our theme. We may be very busy that week, or it might be the theme is not quite as appealing as another might be. Well, pumpkins in October (as you can imagine) are a big hit with most children! And pumpkins lend themselves to all kinds of great learning experiences - whether they be in the disciplines of science, social studies, language arts, cooking, storytelling, etc.! It's very easy to plan for pumpkins - just type "pumpkin activities" into the Pinterest search bar and you'll hardly know where to start!

Well, personally, I start with our own book baskets and family calendar - then start plugging things into our weekly rhythm! Here's a glimpse at last week's planner page as I was just getting started ...

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It's important to my planning "psyche" that I incorporate seasonal awareness wherever I can! So divider pages are vintage reflections of seasons and holidays past, ribbons and washi (when I use them) are also seasonally inspired ... as are the font colors I use in each monthly section. I just loved how the light hit this bit of planning paraphernalia on my kitchen table ... :)

Books are pretty much the backbone of our homeschool, so one of the first things I did, as I planned out our week, was to comb through our autumn book bins and pull out any that had to do with pumpkins ...

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Not surprisingly there were a lot!

Then I got busy planning out activities that would potentially A. appeal to my kids and, B. fit well into our week. Post-it notes are helpful for me here - because due to the special nature of our very hands-on homeschooling (one preschooler and a special needs teen) - I need things to be, above all, flexible. It's impractical for me to plan out each day's to-dos a week in advance, though I do set a rhythm to our week. (Mondays are nature days, Tuesdays are crafting, Wednesdays are for storytelling ... etc.)

So on a drizzly Monday we kicked things off with a little pumpkin investigation!

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I had a sugar pumpkin "specimen" all ready and I found a neat worksheet for them to use (on Pinterest). I don't use worksheets with my preschooler very often but Little Bear does get a kick out of them! First thing he said when he saw this one was, "Mama, I need TWO crayons! Orange and green, please!" Then he got right down to coloring those pumpkins!

Once the REAL pumpkin was open though, he was all about the seed scooping ...

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My mum had come over that morning and with her help, and Earlybird's therapist's support, this science activity was a real hit with both my younger boys!

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Soon the sugar pumpkin was all scooped out and carved to the boys' specifications!

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While Little Bear scooped and colored, Earlybird answered the worksheet's questions:

Was the pumpkin big, small or medium?

Was it orange, yellow or white?

Was the outside smooth or rough?

How many lines were around it?

How many seeds did he think would be inside?

How many seeds WERE inside?

Did he think the pumpkin would sink of float in water?

(Spoiler alert: It floated!)

The next day was better for outside investigating so we headed into the backyard with magnifying glasses in hand. Recently - and curiously - we have one tiny pumpkin plant growing alongside the back of the house - and we didn't put it there! So I wanted the boys to look it all over and think a little - theorize - about how it might have sprouted up here if we didn't actually plant it.

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What was SUPER cool about this observation though, was nestled in the center of the plant itself, alongside the one tiny yellow pumpkin bump we found forming, was a milkweed seed! Just one fluffy little seed, and there it was all snuggled up next that budding pumpkin! We do have milkweed growing across the street, but we mused it would take quite an adventure for a seed so small and delicate to find its way all the way here to our tiny plant. (And we were just discovering milkweed last week!)

This "mystery" seemed to me the beginnings of a really neat nature story ... the tale of two wayward seeds. (More on that in a moment.)

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For a craft I had in mind for later, I set the boys to gathering the driest, crispiest, most colorful leaves they could find ...

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Well, you can imagine how Little Bear took this assignment to heart!

The next day we were back on the deck with a little "leaf glitter" craft in the works ...

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Here's Earlybird with his therapist, working on those fine motor skills ... and sensory issues ... and patience!

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I just drew simple pumpkin outlines on orange paper and then the boys traced those lines with glue. Final step - crumbling all those dried leaves to make "glitter" and sprinkling it all over their gluey pumpkins!

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(A craft for the outdoors, for sure!)

Back inside the learning room, here are the boys' pumpkins on display! :)

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Another neat pumpkin activity this week ...

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Pumpkin tic-tac-toe! I saw this idea on Pinterest and knew it would be a lot of fun - especially for our Halloween party coming up this weekend. Fingers crossed the day will be a nice one and I think folks will have fun trying their hand at this tabletop game! 

Back inside, at my kitchen table later in the day: a fortifying cup of tea and a little read-aloud ...

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How I love Tasha Tudor books, and this one especially. I decided to "splurge" and buy a new board book version for Little Bear. He 

And speaking of my LB, I just had to include this pic of him hugging our giant blow up jack-o-lanterns on the front lawn. Pretty much every day this fall, on our way in or out of the house, he just needs to hug his pumpkin friends!

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Now, as I've mentioned before, our weekly rhythm includes a day for storytelling. These little stories are usually simple tales I make up myself, using our own yard, critters, weather, the season itself, etc. as a prompt. I like to place items in the learning room mailbox that will introduce the story theme and offer a few items Little Bear can use to play with as I narrate the plot. Well, here's what he found in the mailbox last week!

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This is a soft pumpkin doll rattle - something we've had for nearly 20 years! It's kind of amazing it's stayed in relatively good condition. The boys used this when they were babies and then it joined our finger puppet stash. (We also have a carrot!) So today this sweet little fella was an adventurous pumpkin seed fairy and as you can see he was surrounded by airborne milkweed seeds! (Remember, my story was reflecting our recent backyard garden adventures!)

I also created a watercolor verse card for us to read aloud. I used a pretty poem I found online ...

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I'm creating a collection of these seasonal cards for our homeschool!

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Now, when I plan out our seasonal themes, I'm mostly following the natural cycle of the year, though I often tap into the liturgical or secular calendar as well. I assigned this week in mid-October as "pumpkin week" for obvious reasons - they're everywhere and on everyone's minds right now! - but it also tied in nicely with the annual showing of this family favorite ...

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Last Thursday night all my boys, save Earlybird who does not like Charlie Brown specials, gathered on our couch to watch that timeless classic, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Yes, we could watch it on DVD (or streaming?) anytime we'd like, but there's something really fun and special about watching "specials" when they're actually being shown!

(The boys were kind of blown away by the fact that *ahem* ... back in our day ... if you missed a special on the night it was shown, well you were just plum out of luck until next year! And there was no pausing or rewinding, either!)

Friday morning - quite serendipitously and generously - my brother stopped by the house with a WHOLE BUNCH of pumpkin goodness for the boys!

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My favorite item so far? The Apple Cider Jam! It's like Thanksgiving in a jar ... 

Now, we didn't get to all the activities I'd planned for the week, but that's perfectly ok. We did what worked and clicked this year - there's always next year for other experiences! On our "marketing" day we tried to find as many pumpkin products as possible at the grocer's and on "hearth and home" day we baked pumpkin donuts for tea. Over the weekend we were going to visit a local pumpkin patch - but unfortunately it was just WAY too busy for my younger guys. (Like, crawling with customers crazy!) I had in mind a far calmer, less commercial experience - so I'm hoping to arrange a quieter visit for my fellas sometime next week. Next year we hope to have a little patch of our own so this past weekend we decided where we'd like to plant it and got the soil prepared. There was also pumpkin French toast for breakfast Sunday morning!

So there's a little glimpse of our pumpkin week and all we got up to! Here's a peek at our learning line and seasonal bookshelves as I tidied them Sunday afternoon ...

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And here's a peek at THIS week's seasonal planner spread ...

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One thing I like to do - because it is of course what happens in nature - is have certain themes trickle into other weeks. So for instance, we did "autumn seeds" weeks ago, but as the fall unfolds there are plenty of opportunities to learn about and live out this theme more. Case in point - those milkweed (and pumpkin) seeds last week! 

This current week's theme is "goodnight, garden" and I like to tie that in with Halloween. To our ancestors, Halloween literally meant the very end of summer - the time to secure the harvest final crops and prepare the land for the cold, hard winter ahead. We clearly don't live quite that close to the land anymore, but I think activities that echo those ancient seasonal traditions often resonate with us instinctually. So this week we are (as you can see from my planner above!) walking the bounds of our property, harvesting the last of our herbs, clearing our garden beds, raking up leaves, tucking spring bulbs in the ground, gathering natural materials for a bonfire, and seeking God's blessings for our "little farm" as winter approaches ...

Come All Hallow's Eve next week we'll be a little more prepared for a season of deep cold and darkness - both practically and spiritually speaking!

✨ ❄️ πŸ‚ πŸŽƒ πŸƒ πŸ”₯ ✨

Well my friends, I guess I'd better wrap up now because once again I fear I've kept you here too long! But I hope you enjoyed this little peek at our pumpkin week. Remember this was an exceptional week - I had lots of plans, and happily the weather, our time, my energy and their interest levels all cooperated! Not every week is quite so "seasonal" but pumpkins were especially motivating - for my homeschooling kids AND their mama!

I will be back later this week with my weekly Autumn Tea - and as I announced here and on social media, we will be continuing on with our Mitten Strings for God book study at a slower pace than originally announced. This Friday we will be talking about chapter four, "Quiet," and I'll be serving up a spot of Halloween Tea ... AND I have a fun little announcement to make in regards to our MSfG re-read, so stay tuned - and please take care!

I'll see you here again very soon ...


Woodland Wonders & a Peek at our Week!

Hello my friends and Happy Weekend! In my last post I promised a closer peek at my weekly planner spread so I'm here to share just that! I'm also going to share some pics and collages from "the week that was" in our homeschool ... :)

This weeks spread woodland

First, as I think some or perhaps most of you know, this is a weekly spread in my homemade seasonal planner (the one I talk about A LOT). And as with the rest of this planner I created these pages in what I feel are this month's colors: orange, purple, brown and green. :)

I like a two-page weekly spread so I can really spread out all my writing ... so I placed a general overview on the left, and an agenda with notespace on the right. On the left page I have at the very top the dates of the week: October 9th through October 15th, 2017. I like to begin my weeks with Monday - it's just the way I "see" the week! Beneath that I have two boxes - one for listing the days and events Of Note this week, and one for noting the week's seasonal Theme (woodland).

Moving down the page we have Meal Planning (which I just lifted from October's menu calendar), and beside that are my House & Garden notes for the week. In this box I write any current tasks we're tackling as well as any seasonal chores. Next I have a To-Do This Week box which is obviously pretty self explanatory! I start this list by using last week's list then add to it through the week as things come up ...

On the bottom left hand corner of the page I have a box called, Crafts & Comforts and this is where I plan out my seasonal "living and learning" ideas. Some of these pertain to our homeschooling, some of them are "personal nourishment" activities, and some are home-centered. It was my desire for this kind of planning space - specifically devoted to seasonal activities - that prompted me to make my own planner! I kept looking for a planner design that included such things in its layout and/or had space I could easily convert for this purpose, but I could never find a planner to satisfy me! So ... I just up and designed something for myself! It's certainly not perfect but it works - and it makes me happy. :)

Anyhoo ... this week's "craft and comfort" ideas are "woodland" related and as you can see I check things off as we do them. It is a rare week we do ALL the things - I'm not sure we ever have, lol! - but I love to brainstorm these kinds of activities! (See pictures below for more info on that!)

Moving over to the next page of the spread now ... and here I'm planning out our Weekly Rhythm and Student Goals. I basically use the left-hand column for listing out the agenda, or schedule, for the week - where we are going, what's going on - and the right-hand column for notes re ~ homeschooling my younger boys. (Actually mostly the preschooler because - as I think I've blogged about before, I'll have to check - I have a whole different system for planning out Earlybird's special needs homeschooling and daily therapies. You know, I think I am due for another "special needs homeschooling" post ... it's been a while!)

And as you can perhaps see, I had a little water spill this past week on this planner page - ACK! - and the remaining October sheets got wet ... and wrinkled ... and well, all ugly, lol. You all know how much I love a smooth planner page! In light of all the troubles in the world right now this is very much small potatoes but it does bug me when my planner (any of my planners) gets wrecked in any way. So I added a little woodland washi tape to cover up some of the damage and resisted the rather STRONG urge to make the whole planner over again!

Now you might notice I like to use post-its for my pre-k planning and I really don't have a sufficient explanation for why - I just do. They help me think and move information around and maybe just relieve me from writing something down next to a day permanently that might not fit well. Plus, I just love post-its. I use them ALL the time, all over the place ... really, my post-it note obesssion might warrant its own post!

Ok, getting back to my planner spread - between today and tomorrow I will review these pages to see what can be moved forward and then work on next week's spread (seasonal theme: pumpkins!). I actually gave a little sneak peek of that spread at FB and IG today!

So that's a rather thorough overview of last week's planner spread! Now, how about some pictures of the week itself? :)

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As longtime readers probably know, our seasonal homeschooling in the younger years involves storytelling in a very big way. We mostly make things up, taking our cues from our own seasonal changes and weather events (an owl visit, a hurricane, a snowstorm or a meteor shower, for example), but sometimes favorite storybooks inspire tales and adventures amongst our rather large collection of wooden figures and finger puppets!

So here we have last week's "storytelling" day, when Little Bear found a cast of woodland characters and some leaf-print fabric in his learning room mailbox. I'd been telling LB an evolving story about a silly old bear who - confused by recent summer-like weather - started emptying his cave of all its warm, snuggly leaves, all while his woodland friends tried to persuade him to stop! "Silly old bear, Winter is coming! You'll need all those leaves to stay warm in the months ahead!" Finally, as night (and the temperature) fell, Bear realized his mistake, and sat down to cry beneath the bright crescent moon. But not to worry (and believe me, my Little Bear was worried!), the bear's friends all pitched in to help and filled his cave with plenty of leaves until his den was perfectly cozy once again. :)

(Next week's story takes place in a pumpkin patch, natch!)

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And here we have a little bit of what I like to call, "parkinglotschooling!" Lol, you've heard of carschooling, right? Well, while we were waiting to pick Crackerjack up from class one day last week, we decided to explore the woodsy lot around us. Little Bear found an old rotting stump and we watched all kinds of bugs crawl over and through it (ants, beetle, earwig) ... and investigated a rather yucky looking fungus that seemed to be spilling out of it. (Ew.) Little Bear enjoyed all of this very much - as did I  - and note the Lego contraption clutched firmly in his hand all the while!

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At home later in the week we spent a bit of our morning watching a grasshopper close-up. We have lots of these insects around here - from the teeny tiny springing juveniles of spring to the quick-jumping, wing-whirring adults of summer. But in autumn grasshoppers begin to slow down, especially as the days cool. This fella was on our patio doors, and the sun had not warmed him up yet much ... so we took advantage of the situation and spent a little time observing. One point up for debate - was it a grasshopper or a cricket? We had our suspicions, but needed to do a little research to be sure!

(I wish I had recorded Little Bear and Earlybird having this very debate - it got quite heated!)

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More "woodland" exploring ... our yard is full of trees of course, but the log pile is especially interesting! (Earlybird was doing this with us but wasn't captured in any photos. He actually got a little freaked out by a spiderweb and quickly moved on!)

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And one day we made nature windchimes - a fairly easy and quick craft made with mason jar lid rings, contact paper, twine and things we found around our yard. Truth be told I did most of it myself - the boys liked sticking things on the contact paper and carrying the branch around, but that was about it. (Branches are always a hit.) I found this idea on Pinterest, and this post has great instructions!

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Here's a quick peek in the learning room where our woodland books are assembled along the windowsills, beneath the weekly learning line ...

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And here we have Archie exploring the "bear cave" (an Amazon box turned on its side and draped with soft blankets). And that's Archie for you - never one to pass up a new nook or cranny to explore!

(And to answer a question that might have popped into your mind - no, our learning room is not always this neat! I find though, that having lots of designated storage space, has really allowed for relatively quick cleanups! Each basket seen in these pictures has a particular type of toy assigned to it - and you can read more about that in this post!)

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A closer look at the "woodland" books for last week ... tomorrow I will be re-organizing this display with our books about pumpkins! (More pumpkin week details at my Autumn Tea next week!)

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More woodland fun - including a few things for Mama. ;-) Pretty journals and a calendar booklet as well as the sweetest woodland washi tape I ever did see! (I bought the journals at Paper Source but I haven't decided yet how to use them. The cute little "Woodland Tales" planner I bought at Whole Foods - it's a 17-month calendar, a perfect size to tuck in my purse/tote when I don't want to lug around my heavier (more precious) planners. The washi tape was found at Joann Fabrics but unfortunately I can't seem to find it on their website. And finally, the felt animal masks were SUCH a hit with my Little Bear! He has been having so much fun wearing the masks around the house and pretending to be each of these woodland creatures ... he's especially fond of the beaver mask. :)

(The photo of the scenic view was taken down the street. There is something so lovely about stone walls in autumn ...)

O with milkweed

And finally ... this collage was from last night, and you might have seen it if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram. I titled this: "Milkweed Magic on a Cool Autumn Evening." My apologies if you've already read this - it's a bit wordy, but it really captures how I felt last evening and I want to remember it! :)

We just had another one of those "daily" moments that really felt special - so special in fact, I took pics and made a collage to remember it by! πŸ’›

We've had a milkweed pod sitting on our nature table since early last month, and today - it burst! Much to Little Bear's delight we had little white seed fairies flying all over the learning room!

So LB (and his Daddy and I) scooped up that pod - and as many of the seeds we could round up - and walked the whole kit and kaboodle across the street where the milkweed patch grows ...

Well, I wish I could tell you how positively gleeful Little Bear was during this whole adventure (though maybe you can tell from the photos!) ... you would have thought we were going to Disneyland! LB cradled that little seedpod so carefully - HE had to carry it! - and then heartily blew its fluffy innards all over the roadside ...

And it was such a beautiful evening, too - that autumn light is so lovely, and the leaves are all changing and the air is still just warm enough to walk outside without jackets ...

Inside we went again - time to make supper - the house all warm and lit and full of big brothers' sounds ...

Feeling grateful tonight for this little afternoon adventure ... and for a child who has such a soft heart for nature's wonders! 

✨ 🍁 🌞 πŸŒ²πŸŒ› 🍁 ✨ πŸ 🌞 πŸŒ²πŸŒ› 🍁 ✨ πŸ 🌞 πŸŒ²πŸŒ› 🍁 ✨ πŸ 🌞 πŸŒ²πŸŒ› 🍁 ✨ 

 My friends, I have kept you here so very long, and if you are still here, I thank you! (And if you bailed earlier, I still thank you!) I do hope you enjoyed a peek into our week and hearing about my planning process. Please let me know if you have any questions! I will be back again late next week with an Autumn Tea to share with you all ... and our first official Mitten Strings Book Study discussion!

(And of course, lots of pictures. When you come to my blog you KNOW there will be pictures ... and I'll have a lot to say about them!)

Hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekend ... see you here again very soon!


Autumn Tea and Tidbits!

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Hello my friends, and Happy Weekend! Welcome to my first Autumn Tea  - of 2017! Something I hope to make a semi-regular recurrence at my blog going forward. Every so often I'll pop in with a cup of tea and a few bits and bobs from our homeschool ... a way to catch up and celebrate the season at hand. :) I'm hesitant to set a schedule however, as tempting as it is because you know I LOVE schedules - but it's been a little bit hectic so far this school year. Time at the computer (nevermind time for tea itself!) has been a little on the low side. But two things that make my heart so very happy are blogging and savoring tea, so I'm determined to make more time for both in my life!

So since it's been a while since we talked tea ... what are you drinking these days? I myself am enjoying Allegro Black Decaf during the afternoon (sweetened with raw sugar and a splash of whole milk) but after supper, now that the nights are cooler and darker, I am turning to a cup of decaf Constant Comment. There's something about that orange-spice flavor just makes me think AUTUMN! I still savor a cup or two of coffee in the mornings but after that I limit my caffeine intake as best I can ...

Well, I started in on my tea-taking early today as the above photo was taken just now (Saturday around 11 a.m.) because I was ready to get down to the lesson planning and for that, I absolutely MUST have tea! But before we talk about autumn homeschooling ...

Grab yourself a cup of your favorite brew and make yourself comfortable, please ... I have lots to share! :)

Let's begin with a peek into my October planning. Below you see the cover page for this month's section in my homemade planner (also seen in the top photo) ...

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And here is my planner stack on my kitchen counter - aka "mama's command center!"

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Sitting below my homemade planner is my Day Designer, and below that is a project clipboard. (I always put something underneath my planners in case there are spills or marks on the counter.)

So after the cover page (which is made from that cute vintage paper I love!) I have the two-page monthly calendar spread ...

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I added the stickers and a few quotations written with black ink and soft colored pencils ...

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I love peppering my planners with seasonal poems and quotes!

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Next page has my October menu calendar ...

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I described how I fill out these menu calendars in this post, but I want to stress that this is an ideal - we don't always keep up with the "new" and "varied" meals I've envisioned. Often - especially when we're busy or I'm tired (the state of affairs more often than not around here!) - I fall back on tried and true, easy meals. (Homemade pizzas, baked pasta, grilled cheese and soup, burgers, meatloaf and roasted veg, etc.) 

And next comes my monthly overview ...

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I added the highlighted notes at the top of the page this month, and of course there are post-its! The green apples reflect our October homeschooling themes and topics. I try to review this page every weekend to see where we're at and what tasks and activities can be scheduled in the week ahead. Note: "October Goals" became a place to write down upcoming movies, tv shows and books.

A closer peek ...

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And here is last week's spread!

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Next week I will do a WHOLE post on how I'm using this weekly spread, but in the interest of time and word count, let me move on and show you  ...

... next week's spread that I'm filling in now!

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You might wonder how long it takes me to fill in all those spaces, but honestly, it's not very long. A lot of the information is already available (Days of Note, Seasonal Theme, Dinners, Weekly Rhythm) so I just write those things in first. The to-do list is also pretty quick to fill in - I look at last week's list as well as our weekend planner to see what tasks still need doing. I take another look at the monthly calendar to see what new things have been written in for the week (a new event to prepare for, for example) and I also look back at that monthly overview to see what To-Dos can be fit into this coming week.

Beside my homemade planner I have parked my Day Designer ...

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Here's how it looked one day last week (when I first started working on this post!) ...

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Ok, moving on from planning (let me know if you have any questions or would like me to follow up on anything!) ... I thought I'd share some random photos from the past week or so ...

First, because it was the week of the Full Harvest Moon, I had planned to make "Harvest Moon Muffins," (a quick bread recipe baked in muffin tins) but due to the aforementioned busy schedule/tired mama syndrome, I stopped short at "Harvest Moon Applesauce." πŸ˜‰

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I love using my grandmother's food press when making applesauce! 

This was actually part of a little "science" experiment this week, making applesauce together! The boys helped me with counting and measuring before I loaded the apples, sugar and spice into the crockpot, and good GOLLY did it smell wonderful in our house all day! The apples were done cooking just before bedtime so I placed them in the fridge for the next day. After milling the apples into sauce we set up a little taste-test - our homemade applesauce vs. Stop 'N Shop brand! Could people tell which was which? (The answer, happily, was yes!)

Then last weekend I combed through the autumn book basket and pulled out titles that matched October's weekly themes ...

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  • Changing Leaves (10/2-10/8)
  • Woodland Flora & Fauna (10/9-10/15)
  • Pumpkins (10/16-10/22)
  • Goodnight Garden/Halloween (10/23-10/29)

I also have two sweet board books for my younger boys for learning the Hail Mary and Our Father prayers, as part of Holy Rosary month. :)

Speaking of books though, look at these lovely new titles that arrived in my mail last week!

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A couple of picture books we usually get out of the library to celebrate the Full Harvest Moon, a new (and adorable) autumn board book for Little Bear (which might be my new favorite autumn book of all time!), a CD of scientific storytelling for Earlybird (which we once owned but now can't find!) and a new Waldorf-inspired crafting book for Mama. I'm positively swooning over that last one in particular - a bit of a splurge, but worth it!

Here's a gorgeous page from Hello, Harvest Moon ... 

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Did you happen to catch it last Thursday night?

Harvest moon rising

We are surrounded by trees here so we have to wait a while before the full moon is visible ... but honestly, I think the way it peeks through the branches and illuminates the tree-line is quite magical! We let Little Bear stay up a bit late so he could watch the full moon rising ...

LB and the full moon

Now, back to books for a moment ... just look and see what arrived in my mailbox early last week!

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A very thoughtful gift from my friend (and longtime reader), Penny! When Penny read that I was positively pining for this particular PW book, she offered me her own copy. (How nice is that?!) Naturally I said I would just LOVE to have it, so she popped in the mail and I received it a day later! Hooray for packages in the mail and hooray for the ever-speedy USPS ... but most of all, HOORAY for kind-hearted and generous friends! ❀

Ok, now we all know the Pioneer Woman loves boots ... well, I'm no cowgirl, and I haven't been on a horse since I was 12, but how do you like my new "riding" boots?

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I have lusted after these "Westport," Maine-made boots for years ... and finally (with Bill's blessing of course), I made the splurge! I ordered them online because I don't get over to LL Bean's that often, but was very happy that not only do they FIT just as well as I'd hoped, they are truly quite comfortable. I thought they paired rather nicely with a knee-length denim skirt. :)

(This was me on my way to Sunday brunch with my college girlfriends!)

Speaking of shoes though ...

Archie and sandals

That's my Archie, flopped all over my favorite pair of summer sandals ... the ones I can't bear to put away for the season just yet. (Though truly, we've had plenty of summer-like days recently.) But as you can see, Archie's looking rather relaxed here, smug you might even say ... because while Oliver had to be at the vet's annual exam last week, Archie got to skip it completely. And all because he's just SO naughty when we bring him! Nothing like the sweetie-pie he is at home - at the vet he's all hissing, spitting and growing ... frankly, it's a bit of a horror show. The next attempt was going to include some serious sedation ... which makes me very nervous ... but fortunately our vet is wonderful and fully understood our apprehension. We decided he can wait till next year when he is due for his rabies shot. (My cats are indoor cats, but are still kept up on all their vaccinations.)

In other wildlife news ...

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Howsabout this guy???

Isn't he magnificent? This is a Barred Owl, and we hear him (her?) very often in the woods behind our house - usually around dusk, but my older boys (night owls themselves) say they hear hooting late at night as well. Well, there I was at the sink starting supper last Friday night when Little Bear, looking out the kitchen nook window, exclaimed: "Mama, look! It's a snowy owl!!"

And this is what he saw ...

Barred owl on feeders

Isn't he GINORMOUS?? And clearly looking for his supper! I took this picture above with my cell phone, then went outside with my big camera to try for a better shot. The first owl picture was taken from beneath the tree just to the right of the feeders. The owl was staring at me - really peering at me with those gorgeous black eyes! - then his attention would be caught by something moving in the underbrush and he'd turn his head downward ...

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Finally he'd had enough of me, my snapping camera and restless Little Bear and took off ...

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He landed in the front yard where LB and I were joined by Bill and Earlybird and we watched the owl fly across the road and into the woods to the north. Absolutely amazing ...

(Crackerjack and Bookworm were out on a driving lesson and missed the whole thing!)

Ok, and now for some autumn homeschooling ... these pics are all from the past couple of weeks!

First came APPLES ...

Apple collage

Apple Week included apple snacks, an apple star surprise, drying apples, applesauce and an apple-y harvest wreath on the front door. :)

Also, I finally made use of that peg dolls book I showed you a couple of posts back, and look who Little Bear found in his learning room mailbox one morning!

Autumn star fairy

I made this "autumn star fairy" from a wooden peg base, with a little sheep's wool for hair, an acorn cap for a hat and a silk leaf (plucked from a garland) as wings! I made the verse card with a blank postcard and watercolor paints. I just wrote the verse on the card once the paint had dried. I've been using these cards for little poems, prayers and verses this year and I love the effect of those pretty paints!

Next came SEEDS ...

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Seeds week included seed gathering, sorting and observation, seed crafts, seed treats, seed experiments ... and very happy chipmunks!

And then on Michaelmas Day we had our first Nature Club meeting of the year ...

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My younger boys all came along and we met with other homeschooling families to take a walk along a local trail. We found everything on our Nature Scavenger hunt checklist as well as garter snakes, spiderwebs, several types of leaves and some very cool fungus. Best of all, there were Michaelmas daisies growing all over the woods! :)

The next Monday we celebrated the Feast of the Guardian Angels ...

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I made another watercolor card for the Guardian Angel prayer and set up this small scene on our learning room table. I lit the beeswax tealight and read the prayer aloud to Little Bear ... who took great joy in blowing out that candle! :)

We also found time to celebrate the Feast of St. Francis, our family patron saint ...

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Little Bear especially enjoyed assembling "all of creation" as I crafted a simple grotto and read aloud our favorite child-friendly version of Francis's "Canticle of the Sun." I made a verse card for the first stanza and plan to make cards for the rest of this beautiful prayer. :)

Last week we also visited a local agricultural fair - along with Earlybird's therapist and Bill who took the day off so he could join us. :)

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And the day after that we joined our homeschool group on a field trip to a local corn maze!

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It was a beautiful day - as you can see, warm enough for short sleeves! - and what fun we had navigating our way through the rows of corn and listening to the raspy dry ears in the breeze and hearing great vees of geese honking overhead! 

✨ πŸ‚ 🍎 🐿 🌻 🌞 🍁 πŸ„ 🌽 πŸŒ› ✨

Well this was quite a long post I'm afraid, but I hope you enjoyed it! I had meant to create posts around each of these collages - with more details - but time kept slipping by and then we'd be onto the next thing! I can certainly expand on any of these themes and projects (as well as my planners) in a future post and happily, though last week was particularly busy with two field trips, a fair trip, a vet appointment AND the SAT ... the coming week will be much quieter! Knock on wood!

So I will leave you now my friends, with my thanks for your visit and my wish that you all enjoy a lovely autumn weekend. I will be back again here just as soon as I can but in the meantime you can always find me on Facebook or Instagram. :)

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, dear friends ... see you here again very soon!


✨ Welcome to Our Learning Room! ✨

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Hello, everyone - and Happy Sunday! How about a tour of our "recently revamped" learning room? I have a nice cold pitcher of apple "tea" in the fridge and some cranberry-oat cookies to share, so please come on in and let me show you around a little! :)

Now, four years ago when I first saw this sunroom, as we toured our potential new home, I immediately thought "Omigosh, this would be THE perfect learning room!" But for a few different reasons (which I won't bore you with now), it's taken us a while to fully commit this space to our homeschooling needs. But here we are at last ... and I'm so happy with how it came out!

As you can see, this room gets a TON of natural light thanks to all those south-facing windows. And that's what I love best about this room - feeling like we're outside even when we're inside! :) So first let me show you some wide-angle shots and then I'll talk about just what-all is in all those baskets and shelves! True to form, I may have gotten a little carried away with the pictures, but I hope that in addition to showing you our new setup, this post will also share a little of our homeschooling style and early learning methods ... β€

*And for the record, I am homeschooling three of my children this year - my 18yo Crackerjack is a senior in high school, my 15yo Earlybird (who has autism) really doesn't have an official grade but is developmentally very young and in many ways matches well with my youngest, Little Bear, who is four and just starting preschool! This room is geared towards the younger two boys. :)

As for location, this learning room (nΓ©e sunroom) sits just off the back of the house, and you enter it from a door in our family room. The only drawback at the moment is that it is actually a three-season room - so it gets awfully cold in the dead of winter! We're working on that dilemma though, and hope to have a permanent solution figured out very soon!

Ok, here we go ...

Sunny learning room

Most of what you see in these pictures are items we own, and some for many years. Case in point the trestle "work" table - a 10 year old, unfinished furniture store purchase that Bill finally got around to finishing!

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He sanded the whole thing down (smoothing out cat scratches and stray crayon gouges), treated the top to a plain polyurethane finish and then painted the base with some pretty paint I picked up at, of all places, Target. It was just the warm, soft red I was going for! The "saddle seat stools" we've also had for many years now - these were also purchased at a local mill store.

But the real game-changing element we added to this room would be the new white cubbies we purchased from Target. They were not terribly expensive ($35 for a 6-cube set), but as you will see, we bought quite a few! So it added up a bit, but this was something I really wanted (and needed) for organizing the younger boys' toys and learning materials. And happily Bill not only agreed, but very easily put the cubbies together! (He had help, natch.) Fyi, the cubbies are available online if you can't find them in your local store.

The seagrass baskets, also from Target, were another "splurge" at $11 apiece (on sale), but they are very well made and in my honest opinion one can never have too many well-made baskets - especially a homeschooler! The rest of the baskets in the cubbies and elsewhere throughout the room are ones we had on hand.

Ok, turning to the right, looking out towards the deck and patio ...

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Those doors lead to our second classroom - aka, the great outdoors! We're in the process of making the upper deck a little more child-friendly - a "nature lab" if you will, but for now let's turn back towards the house ...

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This is the wall that faces the family room ... and that beautiful Union Jack flag was a gift from my dear (and very generous) friend, Shirley Vels. When she found out we were studying England this September she put together a wonderful package of British goodies for us, including that glorious flag!

Here's another angle ...  

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I just love this shot of Archie and the dinosaur ... :)

Now, turning towards the east-facing wall (which looks out over the driveway) ...

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I'm standing in the doorway of the family room taking this shot, to give you an idea of the size of the room. It really is a great room for entertaining in ... but even better for spreading out with your kids! :)

Now, back to that south-facing wall and the tallest windows of all! (One of my favorite things to do is watch a storm from these windows!)

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I made the alphabet banner myself, using a few supplies from the craft store and a glue stick. It wasn't hard, but it took me a bit of time and when I finally got that banner up I stood back and said, "Yep, this is now officially a learning room!"

Ok, now I'll focus in on some smaller shots ... and here's your fair warning: I might get a little wordy because I'm so excited about every corner of this room!IMG_2120

✨ Just as you step in the room we have a little "mud and mail" corner. Here we park our boots/shoes and Little Bear's jackets ... as well as the "errands" bag (for library trips and such). There's not room for all of our footwear here of course, but these are the shoes and boots we wear when we're going outside ... usually to "muck about." In this corner we also keep Little Bear's broom and on the wall hangs a sweet "forest mailbox" ...

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✨ This mailbox is a true family treasure - a gift to Earlybird on his 5th birthday from my Mum. (Here's the post from 2007 with a few more project details. I can hardly believe it's been 10 years!) It's been sitting high up on a nursery shelf, "keeping safe," but I decided it really was time to introduce it to Little Bear!

And just last week, Little Bear found a sprig of something bright gold inside his mailbox, and I had a little verse ready to go along with it ...

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"The goldenrod is yellow, the corn is turning brown ... the trees in apple orchards with fruit are bending down." β€

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Later that morning we looked for goldenrod growing in the yard ... and we found some! (Plenty in fact! Next week we'll use some to dye a Michaelmas cape.) βœ¨

Next, on the other side of the doorway ...

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✨  We have a seasonal calendar on the wall, with a handy-dandy caddy-cart beneath ...

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✨  This is a monthly, at-a-glance calendar purchased at Staples. It has lots of space and nicely lined boxes, but instead of writing down class times and activities, I'm just writing special, seasonal events here and shading them in with soft colored pencils. I like keeping the focus on the rhythm of the season and in truth, this is all the information my younger boys really need to know. Some days are already anticipated in September (The Full Corn Moon, for example), but as a special activity gets planned I add it to the calendar. (Case in point, an apple picking field trip got scheduled after I took this photo.)

I made the decorative monthly cards myself - and it was very easy! I found images online (I adore Edith Holden's vintage nature sketches) and printed them out in the size I wanted. I used a glue stick to adhere the images to pre-cut cardstock. Then I used plain wooden clothespins to secure the cards all around a craft wreath base (found at the craft store for a couple of dollars). I hung the whole thing from an adhesive hook on the wall - situating the current month's card at the top - and that was that!

Now, a closer look at the caddy ...

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✨  This is one of those rolling caddy carts I purchased at Michaels last spring. I placed our seasonal book basket in the top tier, and this is filled with the books that go along with our seasonal homeschooling themes and any special days/events that pop up.

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✨  Right now the basket holds both August and September books since I haven't had a chance to file last month's titles yet! This week we added apple books and next week I'll add more books about Autumn.

Next tier down ...

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✨ Another little basket with some playing cards and flash cards, special prek planning books and our current audiobook case.

And finally, on the bottom ...

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✨  Coloring books!

Ok, let's continue on around the room ... :)

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✨  The Tree Fort/Elf House comes next with a dinosaur hand puppet clearly having taken over ...

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✨ And a basket of wooden puzzles beneath a pretty red table which once belonged to me - and my mother before me! β€

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✨ Here are some old wooden cubbies (meant to be painted, but I rather like the look of natural wood!) holding more baskets of toys - cooking things, favorite vehicles and Duplo legos. (We've had Duplo Legos - and I mean A LOT of Duplo Legos - since 22 year old Bookworm was tiny. None of our boys really ever took to them - they held out for the "real" Legos! - but Little Bear plays with them every single day. He loves them!) On top of the cubbies are a wooden cooktop (it perches on the edge of any table) with pots and pans, an alphabet abacus, and our ages-old, plush, nature puppet tree.

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✨  Across the large picture window (that peers into the family room) I had Bill string some twine so I could hang some lovely vintage-look zoology cards. I have a whole bunch of them so I'll swap them out every so often. I used wooden clothespins purchased at Target last month to hold the cards here and if you look closely you can see each pin has a number corresponding to the number of creatures on each card. :)

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✨ Here's another small table meant to be re-painted (butter yellow if I have my way) with our wooden barn situated on top and a basket of wooden figures underneath. Little Bear uses this "starry night" playsilk to put his animals to bed each night. :)

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✨  Goodnight, everyone!πŸŒ›

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✨  More cute wooden clothespins, another Target dollar bin find! (Those bins have since changed over to Halloween theme, but keep an sharp eye out next back-to-school time! I will too, and post when I spy those great deals!)

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✨ This easel was such a find last year! A neighbor had it out for - gasp! - trash pickup one day ... and we nabbed it! On one side there is a chalkboard which of course can be used for all kinds of things, but Earlybird uses it with his therapist every day for counting down to upcoming events. (EB is especially motivated by holidays!) On either side of the chalkboard we have baskets of miscellaneous stuffed animals and puppets. Directly below the chalkboard is a basket of various picture books, not related to any season or holiday - just really good reads. :)

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✨  Now the other side of the chalkboard was a dry-erase board but since dry-erase markers and EB don't mix well, I had Bill cover it with some felt I picked up at the fabric store. This is still a work in progress, but it will eventually be a felt story board!

True story: the lady at the fabric store tried to shame me for picking brown, lol:

"Why not blue or red for goodness sakes - why brown??"

So I told her that most of our story-boarding will revolve around nature ... πŸŒ›πŸ‚πŸŒ²πŸΏπŸ„πŸπŸŒž

"Aha, I see now ... good pick!"

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✨  This is my storytelling apron hung from a hook ... and it's basically a plain canvas artist's apron, but I'm using the pockets for finger puppets!

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✨  We've been collecting finger puppets (as well as hand puppets) for so many years, I've lost count! All my boys have enjoyed them on some level (though Earlybird not as much, having a strong aversion to finger plays and too much conversation) but I'm happy to say Little Bear just ADORES puppetry! I have little nature stories outlined to go along with each of our weekly seasonal themes and these are part of our Wednesday homeschool rhythm. I'm tying them in with our forest mailbox and so far it's a HIT! (Of course, we're only beginning week three, but I have a pretty good feeling about this!)

(The pretty clothespins? Yep, Target again! They'll hold little notecards for story prompts - simple sketches or sight words for the most part.)

Ok, rounding the bend! 

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✨ Here are the first two sets of cubbies (they can be connected, as they are here). Some have baskets and some have little "play arrangements."

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✨ Little Bear so enjoys the book, Hug (as well as Tall), and his two monkey puppets allow him to act out the parts of Bobo and Mama. β€

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✨  I filled this basket with Water Wow booklets - one of Little Bear's favorite activities! I'll often take one or two with us if we're going somewhere he might need a quiet diversion. 

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✨  And here we have some favorite counting and number recognition board books as well as a basket of wooden hand-size numbers. Now, I know you don't want to hear this again - but they are from Target, too! I scooped them up last month! They are stackable and the perfect size for little hands. :)

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✨  I think I love this set of nesting wooden elements - more than any of my kids! They have so many uses, and yes, they are pricey, to be sure - but Santa brought them one Christmas years ago. I feel incredibly blessed to have another chance to enjoy them with one more of our children! β€

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✨  Here is the finger puppets basket - I always perch a couple on the edge peeking out! Beneath that sit wooden fractions cups, and a favorite watering can.

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✨ Another learning line, strung across windows that look down over our driveway. Here's where I hang worksheets, paintings and other kinds of work to be displayed.

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✨ Right in front of these cubbies we have a wonderful little "Discover America" rug. I bought it at Babies R Us a few years ago and it has held up really well! In this photo, Little Bear is sporting a new pair of slippers for the new homeschool year! β€ (Yes, things like "slippers" go on my back-to-homeschool shopping list!)

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✨  At the end of these cubbies is a comfy bean bag chair, just the right size for Little Bear. This was a new purchase last month and I'm quite pleased with it - it's comfortable (or so I'm told) and seems to be holding up well. (We have not always had great luck with bean bags, but this just seemed to fit the room!) Also, I hung some little wooden stars along the side of the bookcase just because they looked kind of magical. :)

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✨ Turning another corner we have a very tall bookcase (some might remember it from our old house and long-ago posts!) which holds a real hodgepodge of items! Bottom shelf holds nature study supplies - a flower press, display cases and stands, cloches, etc. - as well as a wooden house shape I'm crafting into an outdoor shrine. (A project in progress!) Upper shelves hold some of my beloved mothering and seasonal idea books, and not seen on the top shelf are my favorite liturgical resources, as well as a statue of the Blessed Mother which once belonged to my paternal grandparents. ❀

And at the very top of this bookcase ... 

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✨ On the very tippy-top of this super tall bookcase is a large basket filled with crafting materials of all kinds. I'll have to do a separate post on what I keep in that basket because I didn't get a picture of the contents. (Let's just say it was precarious enough me getting this shot, lol!) Now, it might seem awfully inconvenient to keep oft-used craft supplies up here way out of reach, but it's the only safe place to keep them! Earlybird would only get into (and has done) all those craft things when I'm not looking and make an unholy mess (of himself and the supplies) and so it's easier just to keep things up and out of sight. The trick of course is remembering to check the basket before making a craft store run!

✨ The timer is also up here for similar reasons - EB is just way too fascinated with this cool gadget to leave it alone! I had been looking for a visual timer for EB to use (with me and his therapists) but was hesitant because of the typical "tick-tick" sound which really grates on his nerves. Thanks to a recommendation from Jennifer Mackintosh, I purchased this pretty little gem of a timer which makes NO NOISE AT ALL. (Thanks again, Jen!!) Using a visual timer is very helpful for EB when he needs to be patient for something ... because patience is not really his strong suit and numbers don't mean as much as does that vivid red wedge!

Turning the corner again ...

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✨ The next set of cubbies holds reading materials and more play arrangement! And goodness, do I love the light coming in at this time of day! :) Shown on display in the picture above is a favorite source of nature study inspiration, open to a September page. On the windowsill are a couple of poetry books for young children as well as a heart-shaped wooden caddy holding foldable, laminated field guides. (I painted that for my grandmother back in the 80s!)

Also shown here ...

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✨  Favorite children's periodicals on display - and these appeal to Earlybird so much! Thomas, Peppa and Nick Jr. Friends, especially, but he had made off with the Ranger Rick and Ranger Rick Jr. issues when I took this picture! I have collected Babybug for years (off an on) and I still read them with Little Bear ... because they are so sweet and they are such a nice size. Perfect for little hands and for popping in Mama's bag when going out and about! β€

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✨  Here's a handy basket of early readers, another favorite resource for Earlybird ... :)

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✨  And here we have one of Little Bear's FAVORITE board books, beside the little stuffed beluga whale he adores. We've long since lost the Raffi audiocassette we listened to in the car with Bookworm back in the day, but we do sing that song nearly everyday - out of earshot of Earlybird, of course! 

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✨  And there are plenty of crayons here ... and I've never found a better storage space for crayons than a wide, shallow basket. :)

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✨ Here's another favorite board book of Little Bear's ... and that beanie baby chameleon belonged to Bookworm back in the day! His name is "Rainbow" for obvious reasons, and he's been well loved over the years. (He's as soft as buttah!)

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✨  Stacked neatly in this cubby is a collection of favorite books celebrating morning and the new day ... πŸŒž

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✨ And nestled just beside is a soft and lovely baby doll - crafted in the Waldorf tradition. "Baby Jack" was a gift to our now 18 yo Crackerjack when I was pregnant with Earlybird. My mum crocheted the hat and scarf (as well as booties that have long since gone missing). The cradle basket was part of a gift basket we received from Bill's co-workers after we had EB. It makes a perfect crib for this little laddie!

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✨ Propped up here is an older picture book, all about community helpers. I added some corresponding vehicles to this cubby to keep things lively!

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✨ Another set of cubbies - the basket on top holds playsilks (for capes, etc.) and a royal fabric crown. (There is also a wooden camera that sits in here but it was MIA when I took the picture!) The bottom cubby has a sweet book of nursery school lessons and two plushie favorites - Peter and Benjamin Rabbit!

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✨  This set of cubbies holds favorite field guides and a pair of binoculars (top) ... as well as some favorite floor puzzles and games (bottom). Missing is the dinosaur floor puzzle which was being put to good use in the family room. ;)

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✨  Tucked behind the table are a few tote bags - one big one for Mama and two for Earlybird's primary homeschooling and ABA therapy resources.

Paper chain learning room

✨  A paper chain is a simple, pretty (and cheap!) learning room decoration! Earlybird LOVES paper chains, and counting down to special days. I used green and orange cardstock as well as some printed vintage print paper to make a paper chain with links for each day in September and October. We move a wooden clothespin along the links each day so EB has a visual reminder of how time is moving forward. (I'll make a new chain for the next season - Late Autumn, aka November & December.)

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✨  A garland of family photos strung above the worktable ... because, that's what it's all about! β€

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✨  I found this pine slice lazy susan at HomeGoods this summer and immediately thought it would be great for our homeschooling work table! And I love using mason jars for holding things like colored pencils, rulers, glue sticks, etc. The windowsill just behind the table holds our cute little prek mascot (a small fox Little Bear picked out at the craft store), a couple of new books for the season and a sweet log lantern, as well as our classroom cross ...

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✨ We've had this grapevine cross for a long time now, something bought at the craft store. (We use it at Easter as a living cross.) I haven't looked in a while but a few years back I checked Michael's and they had them. I added the wooden phrase, "Be Still" just recently (using a hot glue gun) because ... well, it's just a nice reminder to myself, and hopefully my children, to take time to breathe, listen, love - be loved - and feel blessed. ❀

Ok, we're nearly done now!

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✨  The final set of cubbies hold even more baskets and books and toys ... but on top we have our science/nature station, currently holding an assortment of late summer weeds, herbs and flowers. (What's still growing in our yard this month?) Science focus books up above ... What is a scientist? Nature focus books below ... In the Forest.🌲🌲🌲🌲

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✨  And here's my Little Bear enjoying his cubbies!

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✨ A stack of favorite car/truck/boat/plane/train books ... kept in place by a truck!

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✨ And this is Little Bear's snacktime basket, filled with a beloved Elsa Beskow set of dishes, a gift from my dear friend, Emma from Norway! Beneath the dishes are placemats and cloth napkins. Earlybird also has a cup and plate to use when we do snack together. (This is a weekly activity, a special snack that ties in with our seasonal theme.) 

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✨  A fantastically looong dragon lives in this basket! He originally belonged to Bookworm and has survived many years of "knights and dragon" play with my boys! He looks a little tired, doesn't he? But don't let him fool you! πŸ‰

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✨  And there are still more hand puppets! These are all of a certain size and style so I kept them together.

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✨ Here's the last end of the cubbies - with its atlases and social studies books as well as a wonderful wooden US puzzle, all leading to our "global awareness" corner ... 

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✨ Those cute magnets are gifts from Shirley, as well as the lovely post cards and some of the photos tacked to our boards. I had Bill hang two corkboards here and I placed our globe on top of the small fridge. A gift from my folks last Christmas, we use this fridge for parties and of course holding extra food! I bought a pretty white "farmhouse" pitcher in which I have that aforementioned apple "tea" - which is just organic apple juice and a fruity herb tea mixed together, sometimes with apple slices floating in it. And because it makes it feel a little different and special, we've been having "homeschool snack" at our worktable, while watching the wildlife outside our windows. :)

And speaking of wildlife ...

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✨  Here is the first stage of our outdoor "nature lab," which is just a regular old evergreen stump from our yard, pulled up onto the deck, in view of the sliders, where we can watch birds and chipmunks and squirrels up close!

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✨  And here's my Little Bear adding seed to the stump ... as you can see, he takes his job very seriously! (Even when wearing socks!😜 )

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✨  Oh, I forgot to show you these little chalkboards! They are hung above the coat pegs and I bought them at the craft store for a couple of dollars - including the wooden initials (one for each of my younger boys). I debated how to use these boards ... for assignments? Reminders? Vocabulary words? Poems? 

I finally decided to use these as "blessings boards" and each week the boys will read a new message about how they BLESS us with their very special selves. Something that is unique and treasured about each of them, perhaps something they've done recently that deserves notice and gratitude ... just a mention that I hope makes them feel appreciated and loved for exactly who they are! β€

(I already have Monday's ready in my head: O will read: "You ask such great questions!" and R will read: "You've shown great patience lately!")

Ok, I think I'd better wrap up at this point or else I might just go on and on ... and I've definitely kept you all here long enough! I hope you enjoyed this tour of our learning room and I thank you for stopping by! I will be devoting tomorrow to ironing out lesson plans for the week ahead because, while a pleasant atmosphere is certainly a good start, many ideas and activities need to be planned out and set up ahead of time. I'd love to do another post about that side of the equation - WHAT we do in addition to WHERE we do it! But I hope I at least gave you a little peek at how we spend our days. Little Bear is out here constantly, enjoying all those toys throughout the day and evening ... but we're still working on the concept of putting things back in place! And Earlybird comes out here often, too. Sometimes just to chill but also he does table work with his therapists here everyday. And I find myself out here lesson planning quite often ...

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It's been such fun coming up with ideas for making this a room that works in a lot of different ways!

Well my friends, I hope you all have a great rest of the weekend and once again, thanks so much for reading and let me know if you have any questions or would like me to follow up in any way. I hope to be back again soon with a post about those September event pages - Autumn Equinox and Michaelmas Day. Can you even believe we're already more than halfway through September???

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ... see you here again very soon!


A Close-Up Look at My September Planning ... πŸ‚

September planner page

Hello my friends, and Happy Thursday! I hope your week is going well. :)

Today I thought I'd share my September planner pages with you all. These are part of the seasonal planner I made up for myself some time ago, and if you'd like to read more about these sheets (and access the free & printable PDFs), here are links to a few very detailed posts:

My 2017 (Printable) Planner

I Made My Own Planner (and Here's How)!

My Seasonal Planning Sheets for 2018 

For most of this past year I kept these sheets in my three-ring "homekeeping" binder, but last month I decided to have them made into a spiral-bound planner ... and boy, am I so glad I did! I find using my planning sheets consistently and thoroughly is much easier in this format! Mostly because they're just so much more portable this way. I like to take my planner upstairs with me at night (as well as my Day Designer) and leave it by my bedroom chair to review when I wake up. (I usually have a good 2-3 hours to nurse coffee and plan before my youngest is up for the day.) Throughout the day I keep my planners parked on my kitchen counter so I can quickly check in and see "what's what" as we move through the rhythm of our day ... sometimes I scoop them up and bring them with me to the kitchen table or my family room desk ... or lately, the learning room table. :)

So to begin with, here is the lovely paper that serves as my September divider page ...

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This kind of paper just makes me SO happy. Every day when I thumb to my September calendar to start my day's planning I pause at this page and just soak it all in. :) 

Next comes my own monthly title page ...

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And then the next turn brings me to my two-page monthly calendar spread ...

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As you can see on the left side of the page, I'm using a very simple tool for marking this oft-viewed calendar - the humble paper clip! You can also see that I've added some stickers, washi tape and seasonal quotes to make the spread "sparkle" a bit. :)

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Bold alphabet stickers along the edge announce the month ...

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And here's the opposite corner with a little more seasonal goodness sprinkled here and there!

(Truth be told, I took the above pictures before I had the calendar completely filled out - in fact, our whole ABA schedule has changed! - but you probably get the gist of how I'm using it.)

Now, moving on to the next spread ...

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On the left is the one-page monthly calendar I made for my original planning sheets ... before I decided I REALLY needed a two-page spread! I tried recording nature notes here in August, which was fun, but then I decided my planner needed a little more flexibility when it came to meal planning. So from now on this is where I'll work out a little seasonally-inspired meal planning!

I started by brainstorming seasonal key words on little sticky notes. These are foods I yearn for in September, but I'm sure everyone has their own idea of what foods say "early autumn" to them! Then I began planning special suppers (Michaelmas, Autumn Equinox, Full Corn Moon), then all the Sunday dinners ... and the busy nights that need to be super easy ... and then I checked a collection of recipes I've been wanting to try, and finally a list of old standbys ... before I knew it I had the whole month filled out!

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Best of all - it's all written in erasable ink because you know - the best laid plans and all that. Have I stuck with it so far? Well, for the most part, yes. (So said on the SIXTH day of the month, lol.) Tonight though, instead of American Chop Suey (which for some reason is true Patriots game day food), I decided to go with crescent dogs, crockpot mac-and-cheese, tossed salad and tater tots. (All boy-friendly, comfort food and "football foodstuffs" as well! Tonight is the NFL Kickoff in case you didn't know ... hosted by our beloved Pats, aka Superbowl Champs!)

I didn't make the molasses bar cookies though ... I brought the boys shopping with me over the weekend so we had enough "desserts" on hand as it was. I hope to do some baking this weekend, though - with local fruit, hopefully!

(Also shown in that photo - see two above - on the right-hand side of the spread is the monthly Overview page, and it's pretty self-explanatory I think. I try to check in with these ideas each weekend to see what still needs addressing, or fitting in! Then I tweak the upcoming week's plan accordingly.)

Ok, next up are the weekly spreads and here is the first week of the month before I had written anything down ...

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In my September section there are five weekly planning spreads, ending on Sunday, October 1st. My weeks run Monday through Sunday because that's just how I see things! 

Here is this week's planning spread "in action" ...

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To be completely honest I am still figuring out how best to "work" this planning spread ... but so far I am loving it! The left side is for more general weekly planning: days of note, our seasonal theme, nightly suppers, house & garden notes, weekly to-dos and a special spot for listing out what I like to call ... "crafts and comforts."

So what are "crafts and comforts" you might be wondering? Well, that's a whole 'nother post but - briefly - in this space I jot down things I'd like to do with the boys in keeping with our weekly theme (in this case, "crows and corn,") as well as a few ideas for enjoying the season myself. I find tuning into the season in simple ways really nourishes my spirit and fills my heart with gratitude. I've been doing this kind of "planning" since I was a young girl, but as a busy mom of four boys, it can be easy to let "seasonal awareness" slide. Since I feel this is an important habit to cultivate, I try to make room for it in my everyday life - via my planner! This was the primary reason I decided to make my own planner ... I couldn't find one that made room for these kinds of plans! (At least not with the colors, quotes and vintage images!)

So yes, there is also a quote for the week on this page, and each one mirrors the season itself. This week's (an old children's song) works perfectly - the goldenrod is, in fact, vivid yellow ... and just about everywhere you look, the cornstalks are drying out and turning brown ... and the apple orchards are busily bearing fruit!

The right side is for a week-at-a-glance agenda and homeschooling notes ... 

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I added a pretty Susan Branch note sheet here for general notes for each of my boys this month as well as a seasonal study (based on an old Celtic tree calendar I came across on Pinterest). The note sheet was not adhesive so I used a bit of washi-tape to hold it down and it is easily moved from week to week.

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Beneath the note sheet I have sticky notes that let me write down pre-k activities each day that tie in with the rhythm of the day and the theme of the week. So, for example, Wednesdays are "storytelling" days and this week is all about "crows and corn." So I used our black crow finger puppet to weave a little tale involving crows, ravens and cornfields. And on Monday, nature study day, we took a crow walk to listen for crows cawing. These kinds of activities are the foundation for Little Bear's early learning and I have such a lovely time brainstorming these ideas. But even when I have LOTS of ideas, I try to keep things as simple as possible ... you can't fit too much on a post-it! :)

Beneath the sticky notes are more lesson plan notes with little checkboxes and all. This is another area I'm still figuring out how to use (hence the pre-k post-its!) so I'll do a follow-up post with a closer look at this column. :)

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(I will also do a follow-up post on how we do preschool ... which hasn't changed much since my older boys were little! What a gift it is to get to do this one more time ... β€)

Last picture, and a preview of yet another post-to-come ... 

September planning

How do I use my Day Designer WITH my homemade seasonal planner? What do I write where? Which planner goes where? Where is there overlap - and does it matter? Ah ... so much to say on that subject! So it will have to be a post for another time. For now I will wrap up and let you all go. But I thank you for stopping by and I hope you enjoyed my post! In a few days I will be back with a FULL tour of our learning room, all revamped and ready to go for the  new year! (You may have seen peeks on Facebook and Instagram ... I've had such fun getting this room ready!)

So goodnight my friends, and take care ... I will see you here again very soon!