Happy Habits & Routines Feed

✨ 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 ... 

*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 (née 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 ...

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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." 

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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.) 

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! 

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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!🌛

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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 ... 🌛🍂🌲🐿🍄🍁🌞

"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. 

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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! 

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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! (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! 

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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 ... 🌞

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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! 

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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! 🐉

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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! 

(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!


The File Crate: An Update & Overview!

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Hello my friends, and Happy Weekend! If you've read my blog for any length of time then you know I frequently post about my file crate system - a kind of "tickler file" arrangement I've been using for many years. Actually, I have an entire archive devoted to this topic, and in the past I've spoken about it at a conference, in a webinar as well as during an interview for a podcast. So clearly I have a lot to say about my file crate! I can pretty much find any old excuse to talk "file crate," but I especially like to hash it out at the turn of the academic year when I reboot the whole thing with fresh folders. :)

So first, for those new to the concept, I'll give you a quick lengthy overview of the basic system along with a look at my file crate's new digs, and then we'll take a peek inside my current folders, as I get ready to switch them up at the end of the week.

THE FILE CRATE SYSTEM

The file crate system is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a crate filled with files, which I use as part of my overall planning system. The "files" are simply weekly folders that help me organize various areas of my life - home, family, finances, health, homeschooling, faith traditions and seasonal awareness. ETC. As a mom homeschooling three of her four boys - one with special needs - there's a lot on my plate! And I am grateful for all of it but it does take a lot of thought and energy to keep things running somewhat smoothly around here!

So the "crate" itself is a rather plain plastic bin inside which I place six hanging folders. Each of those six folders represent two months, or one season of the year:

May-June (Late Spring)

July-August (High Summer)

September-October (Early Autumn)

November-December (Late Autumn)

January-February (Deep Winter)

March-April (Early Spring)

Stored inside those six hanging "seasonal" folders, are file folders for each week of the year - 52 folders in all! I tend to use fresh supplies when I reboot the crate, since each year's folders get pretty roughed up. (I reuse and/or recycle the old ones.) This year I decided to go with a whole new color scheme, in order to match my pretty new Day Designer planner ...

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Who says office supplies can't be fun?

Next I write the dates for each week on every folder and place them all in the crate - divided by season. (So, the current May-June season holds nine weeks' worth of folders. The first folder reads "May 1-May 7" and the last reads "June 26-July 2." The folder after that, "July 3-July 9" can be found in the High Summer hanging folder. (And so on.)

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(That's erasable ink so technically I could reuse those folders - if I can keep them in better shape!)

So now I have my crate full of weekly folders, divided by season. That's the basic set up, but I like to find multiple uses for my crate if I can. So this year I decided to utilize the front of the crate itself for a little more planning space ...

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It's hard to see in this picture, (and I forgot to take a "before" picture), but this is an adhesive plastic pocket stuck to the front of the crate. Bill trimmed it for me so it fits flush against the sloped lines of the crate and I added a little washi tape to cover up the sheared opening. (He did a neater job than I would have, but it still left a little jaggedness to the pocket.)

I'll be using this front pocket to hold the "active" folder of the week ...

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I am also tucking a monthly calendar in here ...

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This calendar - as you can see - has yet to be filled in. I just bought it recently, on a bit of a whim, because it was pretty and ahem matched the rest of my supplies. Plus, the boxes are lined and I LOVE a lined calendar. I have another monthly calendar I'm using in my homekeeping binder, but that's not one my family can easily reference. I've tried a few other "family calendar" ideas that have fallen flat ... so maybe this one will click. We shall see!

There is also space for my Day Designer here, as well as my Homekeeping Journal, and the whole kit and kaboodle is set in the top tier of a rolling cart (one of the four I bought in March and blogged about here) so I can keep it handy to my command central. At the end of the day (in theory) I can take all my planning stuff off the kitchen counter and move it to the cart. I can even roll the cart out of the kitchen if needs be.

Here's how it looks:

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Note the pretty silk flowers I added to the front of my crate! I bought those at the craft store a while ago and had been waiting to find a use for them when it struck me ... they kind of match all my new planning paraphernalia! So, with a touch of hot glue, they've dressed up my crate in a rather fun and funky way! :)

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No one will doubt this is MAMA's cart! ;)

Ok, back to the folders ... because some of you might be wondering what all the fuss is about!

THE WEEKLY FOLDERS

So in each week's folder I keep papers that pertain to that specific week: reminders, ideas, resources, photocopies - pretty much anything that corresponds with the theme, activities, events and special days coming up in the week ahead. The folders are kept in the crate until they are "active" - meaning their time (as marked on their label) has come!

Active folders are kept at my command center and/or displayed in that crate pocket I showed you above. By week's end I am ready to start planning for next week so this is when I actually have two folders "in play" ...

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On Thursdays I pull the file folder for next week and see what's inside. I use this folder (along with my weekly planning sheet) to get a handle on what next week looks like and then start planning out my weekend prep:

  • What do I need to pick up (ingredients or craft supplies)?
  • What can I do to prepare for next week?
  • What things do I need to print out?
  • Do I need to make any requests from the library?
  • Are there emails to send or people to check in with?

Then I go through the current week's folder to check the status of those items:

  • What items can be left behind for year-end review?
  • What items can be saved for next year?
  • What items should be filed somewhere else? (Another weekly folder or perhaps a household file?)
  • What items can be moved along to the next week's folder?

Here's what's in my two active folders right now:

Planning folders 1

Note: If you want really detailed notes on my folder contents, please read on ... but if not, to summarize, my current folders hold packing slips for recent deliveries, subscription renewals marked paid, library request forms (current and future), printouts and photocopies pertaining to the current week's lessons/seasonal theme, current project info and recipes to try, and information re ~ timely town events. You can now skip down past the pink text to continue with the post. :)

Inside the purple folder (5/1-5/7):

  • receipts for items that were shipped this week
  • subscription renewals marked paid (I wrote the renewal dates on a subscriptions list I keep in my homekeeping binder)
  • library record sheets for books and a video we used this week in our homeschooling (helpful reminders for year-end reports)
  • craft project instructions: color changing pinecones (this was "spring fire" week)
  • a page about salamander folklore (this was also "salamander" week)
  • photocopy of "amphibians in the night" page from a favorite naturalist resource
  • extra Mexican flag coloring page (the boys did these for Cinco de Mayo; I saved one for next year)

^ the above items I will leave in the folder when I file it back in the crate on Sunday ...

v the ones below I am moving into next week's folder ...

  • a new recipe for crockpot chicken taco meat (was going to be Cinco de Mayo dinner - will keep it "active" until we try it)
  • information packet re ~ homeschool prom (need to read over it then will file in the week it's being held)
  • a recipe for lactose-free "ricotta" (will keep it "active" until we try it)
  • directions for making a homemade multipurpose cleaner (haven't made it yet, will keep it active until I do)
  • a photo project I'm working on for a new frame (still haven't gotten around to it - need Bill's help!)
  • a "family favorites" recipe chart - a work in progress
  • library record sheets for resources I'd like to request in the near future
  • info. sheet re town's large metal pick-up day (need to read over, write dates in calendar, file in town/parish binder)
  • political information from our town with lots of dates and upcoming events (need to read over, write dates in calendar, file in town/parish binder)

Inside the pink folder (5/8-5/14):

  • Mother's Day cards (when I bought them I slipped them right in this folder)
  • printouts about a couple of town meetings this week
  • a printout with information re ~ Crackerjack's service project
  • Our Lady of Fatima coloring pages (her feast day is 5/13)
  • a recipe for "Fiori di Scilia Spritz Cookies" (to be made for this week's Full Flower Moon)
  • a few photocopies for the learning line this week re ~ woodland flowers
  • lily of the valley coloring pages (we'll be observing them in our own woodland garden this week)
  • printout: "May Flower Lore" (from The Farmer's Almanac)
  • photocopy from Mary's Flowers re ~ Lily of the Valley (aka Mary's Tears)
  • photocopy from a favorite naturalist resource: "Woodland Flowers" (will be colored in using field guides, personal observation)
  • photocopied pages from Handbook of Nature re "Jack-in-the-Pulpit" (another woodland plant I spied flowering in our woods - we'll investigate!)
  • photocopy of "The Lords-and-Ladies Fairy" (aka Jack-in-the-Pulpit) a poem by Cicely Mary Barker
  • library request sheet for Jack-in-the-Pulpit by John Greenleaf Whittier
  • printout of vintage artwork from above title (the plant drawn as a minister speaking to a choir of flower children)
  • photocopy from favorite book of moon poems: "The May Flower Moon"
  • photocopies of state coloring pages/illustrated maps for the western states (we're wrapping up our US study soon!)

Now, yesterday (Friday) I looked through these folders and started filling out my planning sheet for next week. (I'll work on it more over the weekend.) In our P.o.W. notebook (a family weekend "agenda" described in this post) I listed a few things I could do to set our week up (ex. scout out woodland walk for next week, refresh book displays and learning line), and I also updated my weekend shopping/errands list, noting items I'll need to pick up. 

Planning folders 2

On Sunday, during "office hours," I will put last week's (purple) folder back in the crate (filed in the back of the "Late Spring" hanging folder) and keep next week's (pink) folder out for the week ahead. All those pink items listed above will be referenced/used throughout the week in one way or another. 

Now, a quick note about the pale pink planning pad you see above stapled to the front of the folders ...

I go back and forth on the concept of using the front of my file folders for planning space - to serve as a reminder of what is happening through the week, and a record when looking back later. I don't always do this because I've had mixed results with this idea, but I couldn't resist the pretty "weekly planning pad" I spied at Staples last week. It is made by "Ashley for Blue Sky" and is a thick pad of tear-off sheets. (I have other methods for tracking our weekly agenda, but have yet to nail down a platform that really works well.)

So as you can probably tell, a lot of what I include in my folders is tied to our seasonal living and homeschooling. Generally speaking, I rotate the same weekly themes every year, revisiting that familiar and beloved rhythm of the seasons, while exploring new resources and experiences to keep it fresh. So, for example, the theme of "blueberries" always falls in mid-August around Assumption Day (the crop is at its peak, blueberries are traditional Marian feast fare) ... and during the week of the Full Sap Moon in March, we always explore "maple sugaring" (a time honored, New England tradition and harbinger of warmer days as winter nears its end).

My love for the the seasons is something for a whole 'nother post, but suffice it to say, I take such joy in their timeless cycle as they return from year to year. There's a comforting familiarity in every nuance, but it all seems new at the same time. Life is beautiful that way. :)

Well, I know this was a lot to throw at you, lol - but I hope if you are into planning and organization this was interesting to you! And I know this system wouldn't work for everyone, but maybe there's one or two things in this post that you might find helpful. For me, with the paper load I work with each week (especially re ~ our seasonal homeschooing) this has been a good way to keep organized and somewhat "on top of things." 

I'd love to hear about your own file system, if you have one, and how it's working for you. What are your challenges? I've heard from a few friends that they find it hard to keep the file crate somewhere handy enough to be useful but not just another piece of planning clutter in the way. And I struggle with that, too! I've tried to keep the crate somewhere else - at my desk, say, or in a slide out file drawer - but I really do use it most efficiently when it's in the open, kept within easy reach. This is why I hope the cart will be a good remedy for that challenge. I can keep the crate close by, but tuck it away when I need my kitchen to look clean and simplified. It sounds great in theory, doesn't it? :)

Ideally I'd like to do a video about this file crate system because I think it is easiest to explain in person! I'd love to walk through each step of my basic set up and perhaps a weekly folder switch up to show how it works for me. Because the moral of the story is - it does work for me. It's one of the few planning tools I've actually consistently kept up with since I began using it - oh, maybe 17 years ago now? (Around the time I started homeschooling - I liked having papers, lessons, and craft ideas, etc. all lined up weeks in advance.) So if I can get myself organized (and brave!) enough, I will ask my older sons to help me "film" a file crate how-to video - and I'll keep you all posted on that project!

So for now I will (finally!) wrap up. I do thank you all for stopping by and taking the time to read (or peruse as the case might have been), and I wish you all a very pleasant weekend! I hope it is filled with the rest and refreshment you need ...

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


Weekend Office Hours: a printable aganda

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Hello and Happy Monday, everyone! Today I'm here to share another planning printable with you! This is just something I made up for myself because I'm always looking for ways to keep on track - plus, I just love making printables! This agenda is based on my own needs, so it's kind of personalized and therefore might not be of any interest or use to you - still, I'm sharing it here anyway! Just in case it might be a help to you as you consider your own weekly planning. If it's something you'd like to print out and try for yourself, feel free to click on the link below ...

  Weekend Office Hours Agenda

Ok, a little about this printable - it's basically a gussied-up checklist of weekly planning tasks. Nothing new or novel here - I've blogged about every aspect of this list I think - and many a time before! - but I had fun pulling these planning points together and making them look pretty. As you all know, I have a real soft spot for vintage clipart, tidy checklists and a papyrus font!

So these are the tasks I try to accomplish in hopes of getting a good start on the new week, putting the old week to pasture and just generally keeping up with the many spinning plates over my head. For me, it's most convenient to hold "office hours" over the weekend when Bill is home to help with the kids - however, a few of these tasks are in fact done PRE-weekend, because some information is good to know before I run Saturday errands. So, for example, I try to draw up a menu plan and fill out my "crafts and comforts" box (both are found on my weekly planning sheet) well before Saturday morning ... this way I can buy appropriate ingredients and materials. I don't like to shop mid-week if I don't have to.

And of course having our family "POW" (Plan o' the Weekend) sketched out before Friday night is ideal! Sometimes though I work up that menu plan and craft list and even the POW itself in the wee, promise-filled, coffee-fueled hours of Saturday morning. You know, those golden hours when it ALL seems so do-able? ;) 

And speaking of DOing ... I pretty much never do all the things on this agenda! But just having them listed out in front of me keeps my brain "in the loop" and helps me decide which tasks are must-dos and which can be put off till next week (or whenever). I think it also takes the edge off that nagging feeling of "am I forgetting something?" I can even use a highlighter at the end of the weekend to make note of the tasks that still need addressing. Like, if I didn't review my journal or organize receipts, comb through my texts or make library requests, then come Monday I'm aware of the areas in which I'm behind. I may fit them in as I can through the week, or decide to just catch up next weekend.

At the top of the task list I placed a planning block for Saturday and Sunday (nestled in between is that aforementioned clipart - found on Pinterest and, to the best of my knowledge, free for personal use). If I'm going to fit in weekend "planning time" then it's best to know what all else is going on, and when.

Ok, so that's my agenda in a nutshell!

Office Hours Layout

(The nifty "Layout" app on my phone allowed me make the above photo collage! Pictured clockwise from top left - lesson planner, April's "extra" planning sheets, April month-at-a-glance calendar, POW notebook, weekly file folders.)

Let me know if you have any questions or if the link doesn't work right for you. I'm always happy to follow-up with a more detailed post!

But for now I'll wrap up and be on my way - to the kitchen actually, because it's nearly 6 p.m. and high time to get supper started! I wish you all a pleasant evening and will see you here again very soon ...


My Weekly Planning Routine: Part One (of Two)

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Hello my friends, and Happy Monday! I hope your week is off to a great start! :)

Recently, Rebecca left a thoughtful question and I'd like to address it here in this post ...

How much time do you think you spend on your planner (not journaling) per week? It looks like a lovely planner, but I wonder how much time it takes up?

 
So I will try my best to be concise in this post, but you know how I get when I'm talking about planning! What I decided to do was to take pictures as I go through my week-ahead planning routine. I didn't actually time myself, but I hope this gives you an idea of just what is involved when I plan out a coming week.
 
I first look at my current month-at-a-glance calendar and see what next week will bring ...
 
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What activities and events are coming up? What is our seasonal theme for next week?
 
I then begin planning out the weekend ahead ...
 
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Because a great week starts with a good (productive) weekend! Monday through Friday we're quite busy with work and the kids, so the weekends are where we "catch up" and hopefully, catch our breath. I use the small notebooks shown above to organize our Saturday and Sunday. Where are we going? How busy will we be? Where can we squeeze in tasks and to-dos? What ARE those tasks and to-dos? What errands need to be run and which purchases need to be made?
 
So the smaller notebook is for listing errands and groceries and the slightly larger one underneath is for weekend planning. We call this duo our "POW" (plan of the weekend) because ... well, we're silly like that. ;)
 
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Next I add tiny post-it notes to the top of a notebook page (one page per weekend). (There are three notes here rather than two here because Bill has a long weekend.) I jot down the agenda for each day like so ...
 
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Pretty simple stuff, but it works! 
 
And then beneath the notes I write down our weekend to-do list. I had only just started this list in the picture above, but what I also do is add little circled initials to indicate if a task is for Bill or myself (or one of the boys).
 
Now, to formulate this list I look at last week's POW page for any tasks that didn't get done or moved to the current week's to do list. I then look at the current week's to-do list on my planning sheet (shown below).
 
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By mid-week I can usually identify a few tasks that are best moved to the weekend.
 
(This notebook gets left open on the kitchen counter all weekend so any and all can look and see what's what. We also have "pow" meetings on Friday evening and Saturday/Sunday morning - to give everyone a chance to add their own goals and set expectations.)
 
On the little errands pad I start writing down places I know I need to go and the things I need to pick up ...
 
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On the lefthand side I write groceries (my last stop is always the supermarket) and on the righthand side I note other shopping errands. These would be things like a library pick up, a post office visit, or stops at local shops like the craft store or clothing store. These lists will reflect ordinary goods as well as particular items we need for projects and events.
 
Now, if I'm really firing on all cylinders, then I also plan out next week's menus so I can be as efficient as possible in my grocery shopping.
 
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I do this on my weekly planning sheet. I list what is "of note" for that week - for example: holidays, a day when Bill is working at home (meaning I could schedule something he cooks), and any busy evenings which would require an easy, quick supper. Sometimes I can't decide what I want to serve each night but still jot down meal ideas on a sticky note and leave it here on this page.
 
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I use my menu plan to jot down ingredients we need in my errands notebook - for example: ground beef, russet potatoes, fresh mint, heavy cream and dark chocolate.
 
Next I pull out the coming week's file folder ...
 
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... and look over the papers I've filed (if any). I highlight pertinent information with a highlighter pen ...
 
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In this week's folder I found:
 
A bluebird treat recipe.
 
A library record for the next audiobook to request.
 
An info. sheet for Crackerjack's service project with deadlines and due dates.
 
A recipe for National Mint Chocolate Day (Feb. 19th).
 
Letters from Earlybird's neurologist that need responses.
 
Using these highlighted notes I add to-dos and reminders to my POW notebooks and next week's planning sheet (shown below).
 
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So for example ...
 
Ingredients for the bluebird treat and mint-chocolate mousse are written down in my errands notebook.
 
Project due dates/deadlines get noted in my calendar.
 
Action items go on their appropriate lists:
 
    "Request Snow Queen" goes on my POW list - I want to do that over the weekend.
    "Reschedule June appt." and "Call Dr. F to discuss R's med" both go on my to-do list for next week.
 
Note: planning sheets for each week of the year are all kept in my homekeeping binder, divided into monthly sections. I can flip to any week and jot down an idea or activity as it comes up.
 
Now I gather any books we'll be using in our homeschool next week ...
 
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I store our books and other home learning resources in various ways - on display in the learning room, in tote bags and in themed baskets. Some things we keep out all year and other items get cycled in and out according to learning topics and season.
 
As I consider each book, I begin filling in next week's home learning worksheet.
 
And bring books that need photocopying to the printer station ...
 
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I place photocopies for the week ahead on a clipboard ...
 
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The copies are a combination of work pages for the kids and things for me to read and hi-light and refer to throughout the week.
 
Photocopies on my clipboard this week:
 
"Snow Queen" coloring pages
A Valentine verse for circle time (cut and glued to an index card)
A "Winter Walk" nature study (from Golden Books: Nature Hikes)
This week's Earth Psalms activity page
"Making Friends with the Birds" (from Round the Year with Enid Blyton)
Unit 62 "What Shall We Eat and Drink?" (from Natural Science through the Seasons)
 
"State Birds and Flowers" coloring pages (midwest states)
 
Now, these are all steps I try to get done, ideally, before the weekend. This allows me to use the weekend hours most efficiently and really get a head start on the new week. Sometimes though, I get distracted or busy or - let's face it - lazy, and find myself scrambling early Saturday morning to make thoughtful lists.
 
As I said, I didn't time myself but if I had, I'd say all of these steps might have taken about an hour. In my next post I will describe the rest of my planning routine which I do over the weekend and into Monday morning.
 
Well friends, I hope I was not too rambly, but please let me know if you have any questions or would like me to clarify any points. Remember, this is what I TRY to do, but not every week is as cooperative as I'd like!
 
So as ever, I thank you all for stopping by and wish you all a pleasant evening ... morning, day, what have you! Hope to see you here again very soon!
 

Planning a New Year + a Peek at My Lesson Planner!

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Happy Tuesday, my friends! I hope your week's off to a great start!

These are heady days, aren't they? I just LOVE this time of year ... it's so full of promise and preparation. We're still enjoying the nice weather of late summer (warm, breezy, dry) but autumn is truly just around the corner so it's perfectly respectable to start planning ahead. (Great fun for those of us who love autumn and planning!) And while we're still in "vacation" mode here, it's definitely time to get our new year in order - plans, resources, learning space, official approval and all that. Part of that rhythm for me involves pulling together a lesson planner of some sort - a tool to help me iron out the year ahead. I'm very much an eclectic homeschooler, but I draw much inspiration from the Charlotte Mason and Waldorf styles of learning. Some years have leaned more one way than the other, but I am always better off with a PLAN of some sort in place.

So I thought today I'd give you a peek at the planner I've created - even though it's still under construction! This year I'm homeschooling a 17 year old, a 14 year old (with special needs) and a 3 year old who simply will not be left out of anything, lol. (Our 21 year old is a senior in college, so for the most part, he's out of my loop!)

Ok, here is the cover of my planner:

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It just makes me so happy ...

I started with a plain, one-subject, spiral-bound notebook I really like and covered it with a vintage alphabet scrapbook paper. (You can see the print in closer detail in my blog banner above.) I adhered the paper to the front of the notebook with some yellow washi tape and added a fun sticker on top. "Capture the Joy" sounds about right for a homeschooling motto!

Inside the planner it's a rather humble affair ... I just used a pencil and ruler to create the pages I needed for planning. Inside the front pocket I keep a printout of the ed. plan I sent into the school system. After a title page I have a "Contact/Correspondence" log. Here is where I mark down when I send stuff into the superintendent and when I hear back. I also note our HSLDA renewal activity.

Next comes an academic year at a glance "attendance" calendar:

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I shaded in the days we would be on vacation (blue) and actively homeschooling (yellow). Green shading indicates a weekend. This helped me determine how many hours per week we need to count towards the 990 total for the year. Also, I can see where it makes sense to take time off and when we can (hopefully)wrap up for the year.

Next comes the two-page seasonal homeschooling schedule:

Seasonal homeschooling

On the left side of the schedule I have the Monday date and seasonal theme; on the right hand side I have written down any events of note. This chart runs from 9/5/2016 - 8/28/2017. (I'll share these seasonal themes in my next post.)

The next several pages are devoted to organizing our weekly rhythm (when we're home and when we're out each day, where to fit in which subjects) as well as a breakdown of goals and ideas for each of my boys. Crackerjack's page includes space for college planning, while Earlybird's allows for ABA goals and Little Bear's is just all about how I'd like his preschool years to look. ❤️

Then comes a list of all the subject areas I want to include this year (for example - poem of the month, artist of the month, a monthly field trip, weekly nature study and art project, etc.).

Next I break down the months of the year with notes in all areas - another hand-drawn chart with lots of tiny writing!

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It's hard to see here, but the circled letter denotes the month. On the far left I've listed the seasonal themes that fall within that month. Then comes two blocks for things like audiobook, history topic, science topics, artist(s), music focus, geography region, field trip idea, habit to work on ... etc.! And then finally on the far right I've written down the events of note in that month. These are days that will figure into our homeschooling in some way.

After this two-page spread comes a list of back-to-school supplies and traditions. (I'm working off a rather large checklist I wrote a few years ago. You can see that list in a newsletter here if you're interested. The list is on the last two pages.)

Now comes the monthly sections! First up of course is September ...

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Ok, so I get a little silly with my notebooks, I will happily admit. I love organization and tidy details, but I need to have a page for doodles and brainstorms! This is a portion of my favorite September poem and all around the edge of this page I've written out things I love about the month: apples, fresh pencils, goldenrod, grasshoppers, green tomatoes, alphabet soup, sweatshirts, spiderwebs, crisp mornings, cricket song, the harvest moon ... a kind of love letter to the month ahead. This might not be "standard" in a typical teacher's planner, but I love to include this kind of inspiration in mine!

After the title page I have a monthly planning page for September with notes on the left and a calendar on the right.

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I use post-its here because I like how they allow me to organize ideas in a flexible and visual way. Each note represents a particular area of September planning: field trip, nature themes, nature study, science, geography, events of note, social studies, math, faith focus, music, crafts, good habit, literature, bird and badge of the month, and "teas" which are basically monthly sit-downs with special food and a seasonal celebration of some sort.

The calendar (as with pretty much everything else in this planner!) is hand-drawn and embellished with a little seasonal washi tape, sticker and doodle. I'll add some quotes and notes here, too.

And now for the nitty-gritty - the weekly lesson planning section!

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I apologize if this is way too much detail, but that's just how I roll, lol! As longtime readers know well ... ;)

On the left side of the weekly spread is another post-it brainstorming page similar to the one in the monthly section. I've also listed the theme for the week (sunflowers this week) and any days of note. I have not yet decided if I will continue to use post-it notes here (which are fun and convenient but might bulk up my planner) or if I'll commit to a hand-drawn grid for planning. Meanwhile, on the right-hand page I have a chart where I can sketch out daily details for each of my three students. There are rows for Monday through Friday and then a large row for the weekend at the bottom. We don't typically do academic work on the weekends, but there is usually homework for my 17yo as well as seasonal, family activities to enjoy.

(Note: I'm still working on our week's rhythm - which days we do what subjects/activities. Our weeks are mostly shaped by Crackerjack's outside classes and Earlybird's therapy schedule. It's a little different this year so I'm re-thinking things a bit. Some subjects, like reading and math, are done daily - but we do need to find the best time of day for those lessons. Mornings would be ideal, mentally speaking, but with CJ going to classes some days and EB working with his therapist everyday, a lot of our activity takes place in the after-lunch hours. That said, EB's therapists are working more of his home education into his sessions, and I'm really excited for this support! Another reason to be really organized and detailed with my weekly lesson plans!)

By establishing a consistent framework (science on Tuesdays and Thursdays, social studies M-W-F, etc.), it is easier to plug activities into the chart. I'm still tweaking all of this - because as long as I've been doing this, it changes every year! - but will share more when I can. :)

Sometimes, for whatever reason, plans must change or be abandoned, and I've come to accept this is just the nature of homeschooling and life with kids. (Particularly one with autism!) Plans provide wonderful guidance, but they don't absolutely guarantee all the boxes will be checked off at the end of the week ...

But I never feel a minute of planning is wasted. Planning gives me a leg up on whatever our week brings our way. I've learned not to dwell in disappointment when things don't go "as planned." There is still beauty and value in creating plans that pan out in a way I didn't originally foresee. Sometimes I carry things over into the next week. Sometimes I save things for next year. Missed lessons are sometimes caught up with in a flurry. For the most part, I find it all shakes out in the end ...

If I've established an atmosphere that promotes learning, they will learn. If I've encouraged an attitude of curiosity they'll be curious. If I've shared my own joy and wonder at the world, then the world will be a source of joy and wonder for my children. If I can check boxes off in my planner I'll be thrilled, but there is room to see where my children might lead me, too.

 🍎

OK, I'm going to sign off now because I'm getting a little rambly and clearly I could just go on and on here ... I will share my 52 seasonal themes in my next post. For those of you who remember I'm working on a book (and yes I am still working on it!) these themes are my book's outline. So this will be a little sneak peek, if you will. :)

Other upcoming posts:

A look at this year's file crate.

A tour of my brand new desk!

How I'm using my Day Designer ...

Early Autumn Planning Sheets!

So I hope you all enjoy your  week and what's left of this summer season ... thanks so much for stopping by!

I will see you here again very soon ...


It's Homeschool Planning Time!

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Hello my friends, and Happy Weekend!

So it's that time of year again - time for me to put on my homeschool-mom-thinking-cap and see "what's what." First up, I need to write reports for the school system (how we did last year, what we're doing next) and then comes the fun part - planning out the nitty-gritty of our new year! I'm actually a little behind on this (thanks, in part, to that recent computer crash) but I AM NOT panicking. Nope, I am not. Not at all. Or at least, not very much - mostly because I'm really too busy to worry about it!

(Plus, this is my 16th time "at bat," so to speak, so it really shouldn't take me too long to get these reports done ... once I sit down and just do them!)

Now, like many of you, I have a ritual I like to follow when I work on a project - for ed. planning it includes (but is not limited to): a quiet space, open windows, no children, several cups of tea and LOTS of office supplies. But one of my favorite activities is when I get to spruce up my file crate for a new year! Above you see the crate itself with a calendar hanging on its front and a couple of planners stuck in the back. In front of the crate are two piles of folders - last year's on the left (which will be read through as I write the reports) and new ones for the coming year on the right.

Now, before anyone asks - no I don't reuse my file crate folders - at least, not for this purpose. I do, however, recycle them in other ways. I like (and need) my weekly file folders to be crisp and sturdy and strong ... a year's worth of use leaves them a bit battered. 

File crate 3

Let's just say, they get handled a lot!

There are a lot of stylized file folders out there now that you might use with a file crate system. File folders are kind of a "hot" product these days and some are so very pretty ... I am always tempted ... but unfortunately, since I need one for each week of the year (52 total) the price, for me, would just be too much. I do like to "pretty" my plain folders up a bit if I can - with labels and washi tape, etc. As you can see I am going with primary colors this year as opposed to the soft brown of last year's. These are actually folders I found a while back at Staples when they were marked WAY down - so I bought several packs - you know, just in case. (I'm weak like that when it comes to office supplies ... my motto being, buy first, ask questions later!)

Anyhoo, look how neat they are inside!

File crate 2

So inside each folder there are pockets that allow you to separate folder contents by type. How cool is this?! I LOVE this idea and I really hope it works out. I keep a lot of things in my folders and it's a bit jumble-y, I must admit. (Lesson print-outs, recipes, receipts, craft ideas, invoices, reminder cards, greeting cards, invitations, etc.) I sometimes use a paper clip to hold things together (or various color-coded clips) but then there's that annoying bump from the clip(s) ... yes, I really am that persnickety about my file folders, lol!

I will have to do a follow-up post about what the folders look like when full - and how I use them as part of my weekly planning. I'm still ironing out a few details and fleshing out a few new ideas ... so more on my file folder system in the near future!

Before I go though, I want to share a couple of photos of our next project ...

Learning room 1

Learning room 2

Learning room 3

So yes, this is the sunroom, which I know a lot of you have seen in previous posts, and you're thinking, "What is she on about here?" But here's the thing .... I've finally decided to make it our ... HOMESCHOOL ROOM! :)

We've lived here in this house for three years now, and I just couldn't quite decide where to "set up shop," for homeschooling. I kind of wanted to see how we'd end up using the different rooms and where it would make sense to commit shelves and wall space to educational pursuits. This sunroom has been fabulous when we're entertaining - we often set up buffets and dining tables here - but otherwise it's usually a catch-all playroom of sorts. I recently cleaned it out, top to bottom and decided this really would make a great spot for homeschooling ... there's lots of room and natural light. Not a ton of wall space, but enough. And it's situated right off the family room so it's pretty convenient. The one drawback is, it's only a three-season room (i.e. it gets COLD in the winter) so we'll have to figure something out on that front. 

But I'm excited! I'm really looking forward to getting this room all organized and arranged. I have Bill lined up to make some shelves for me and I'm trying to envision the learning areas I'd like to make available to my younger boys. On the other side of the picture window in that last picture is my new desk, by the way ... and that will be another post for the future! :)

***

Well, my friends - I'd best be off now. This was supposed to be a "quick" post but you know how I can get. I do hope you all enjoy your weekend, and as always, I thank you sincerely, for stopping by to read. Thanks, too, for all the chicken advice! The girls are doing well ... they seem much more settled now and goodness are they dears! I will post a bit about them in an upcoming post as well.

So have a good evening, everyone! Don't forget to look up at that beautiful night sky tonight (or early tomorrow) and watch for those Perseids, so spectacular this year. I myself am just hoping to stay up late enough to watch The Great British Baking Show season finale!

(Anyone else watching? Who are you rooting for then?)

☄️☄️☄️

See you all here again very soon ....


Happy National Notebook Day!

A word of warning: you may only find this post interesting if you, like me, are passionate about paper! But feel free to read on wherever you stand on the topic ... :)

Notebook day 6

So I only heard of this holiday the other day on Instagram - apparently it's new this year! But of course, notebook-nut that I am, I could not let it pass without a little peek at my favorite notebook these days! The photo above shows my journal from last year, with all my pages organized and tabbed by month, neatly stored in a large binder. I get so much joy looking back over past journals!

Now, notebooks can be used for all kinds of things - journals, planners, academic notes, shopping lists - there's so much  you can do with a notebook. Notebooks can be easily found (or made) but some of us paper enthusiasts have rather strong opinions about what makes a notebook work and what doesn't. I am a collector of notebooks, that's for sure. I almost never pass up a chance to browse a stationary aisle, whether I'm in a large store like Staples or Target or a smaller specialty store like PaperSource. I'm always looking for smooth paper and good coil binding, a sturdy back and a neat cover. I despise perforated pages ... reinforced pages ... dark ink ... scratchy paper ... and ACK, heaven forbid, a wide rule! ;)

Ok, enough with my rambling ... here is where I'm notebooking these days:

Notebookday 5 

So no, this is not a typical notebook - it is a section in a 3-ring binder (my home keeping binder in fact) filled with my favorite paper EVER. (Years ago, during the back-to-school sales, I found a batch of loose-leaf paper that looked and felt so amazing - I snatched up as many packs as I could! I have never again found its like.)

I call this my domestic journal, and it's a real hodge-podge of things ... notes, ideas, observations, reminders, clippings, post-it notes, the occasional sticker or swatch of washi tape. I write for a month, then review and index the pages before lifting them out and placing them in a large storage binder (such as the one shown above). Then I add more paper to my home keeping binder for the new month!

Notebook day 1 

I keep this binder open on my workspace ("command central," if you will) in the kitchen. It's the first section of this binder and I add to it every day. I use a page finder to mark my place and a binder clip to connect the daily journal with my weekly planning section ...

Notebook day 3

Notebook day 4

I've grappled with needing to see my week AND my day at the same time, and I find this arrangement works rather well. I can't see both sections at the same time of course, but I can go back and forth between my daily notes and my weekly planning pretty quickly. I use a pagemaker here too, and it's a perfect spot for post-it-note "task" checklists.

Notebook day 2

To the far right of my binder sits my clipboard with my Day Designer on top. The DD allows me to see exactly what I'm doing that day. (I don't write notes so much here as to-do's and time-sensitive information.) 

So there you have it - the notebook "system" I am using right now! It's not perfect, but it works well for me and I really enjoy attending to it throughout the day. I do hope you enjoyed this post and I'd love to hear about your note booking habits if you have a minute! In the meantime, I wish you all a pleasant evening and will hope to see you here again very soon!


Thoughtful Thursday ~ Living Joyfully with Books

Vintage books

"Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift."

~ Kate DiCamillo

So important is "atmosphere" when we encourage children to read ...  and not just to read, but to be readers! How do we, as busy (often overwhelmed) parents, do this when we ourselves might struggle with the concept? I adore reading, but the fact of the matter is, I find it a challenge to fit in these days. Partly because I'm pretty busy and partly because I don't always manage my time wisely. Hello Facebook, I'm looking at you! Also, I will admit, in this age of computers and sound bites, sometimes I have to re-train my mind to slow down and concentrate. Reading a book - as opposed to a magazine or web post - often demands greater focus, something I don't always have at my disposal. And yet, still ... I surround myself with books - of all sizes and shapes - and hope that the time (and brainpower) will present itself so that occasionally I might indulge. And that's how I see it - as an indulgence, a gift!

My children are young and have so much free time - as they should! I want them to relish this freedom and choose their passions wisely and cultivate reading habits that will stay with them the rest of their lives ...

So, I say we start with atmosphere. Here are a few of my ideas:

 ❤ Have your books all about - in tidy piles or pretty baskets if it makes you feel better (it does, me) - but the point is, show that books are important. However often they are opened, they deserve to be part of the family circle. I like to set them up in displays, even - especially picture books that tie in with a current season or subject.

❤ Make trips to the library - with and without the children - and get involved at the your local branch! Participate in talks or clubs or perhaps volunteer when you can to offer help where they need it.

❤ Talk about the books you're reading or long to read, and peruse reviews in the Sunday paper. I'm forever clipping (and pinning) books I'd like to catch up with someday. Also, I just subscribed to a really neat service called "Wowbrary" which sends me a list of new releases at my library each week.

❤ Now, it goes without saying that an occasional trip to the bookstore is a real treat for the whole family - especially when a bit of pin money has been put aside for the occasion. We have a Barnes & Noble not far from here and I love to take the boys a few times a year - usually after birthdays or holidays when they've received gift cards. We splurge on a special coffee and bakery treat and just soak in all the mutual book adoration around us.

❤ It's nice to have a special time of day perhaps just before or after supper, when everyone brings what they're reading to a common area to just read together. This very often coincides with tea-time for me. Nothing says let's read! to a toddler like a mama sitting down with hot tea ;) This might not be possible everyday, but perhaps once a week can be managed? What afternoons/evenings are quiet for your family? I'm thinking of setting up a dedicated puzzle/game table in our library ... because quiet pastimes like this make a nice complement to reading.

❤ If you have a true TON of books (like we do), cycle titles in and out of circulation from time to time. It's amazing how interesting a long-stored book looks upon its return to the family shelves! You could set up a "pretend" library with a homemade library card system. You might punch "borrowing" cards and offer rewards for so many books read, while reviews (which earn extra points, natch) can be kept in a notebook with foil stars. And of course, it goes without saying, as soon as the children are "of age" a very big deal should be made about getting that first library card! We even made Earlybird a special felt pouch for his own many years ago.

❤ Subscribe to magazines and keep them somewhere easy to reach. I myself have QUITE the pile of periodicals stacked beside my reading chair, but I encourage the boys to choose a title or two of their own. Little Bear has a subscription to Babybug and Earlybird enjoys Highlights while the older boys - who used to love Legos and Star Wars - have moved on to Time and Entertainment Weekly. I have posted before about my own obsession with affinity for magazines!

❤ Take books with you in the car, to the beach or even the yard. I've laid a blanket right in the middle of the lawn and read aloud as if they were all sitting beside me and not just swinging on swings, or tossing balls or digging in the dirt. I know they can hear me - and they might even come close enough to listen, especially if I have snacks. :)

It's trendy these days to "simplify" but it's nearly impossible for me to declutter our books. We've been collecting them (one might say, amassing them) for many years and they've played such a big a part in our children's lives. And now that we have our Little Bear, why, it makes no sense whatsoever to start culling this vast collection! We'll need ALL those books again - I'm sure of it! (Or that's what I told Bill who is, in this case anyway, definitely more "on trend" than I.) But boy, am I rubbing my hands over the favorites we'll get to revisit ...

I do try, however, to use the library as much as possible because it does cut down on the volume of books filling our house and also, of course, it saves us money. As a homeschooler, the inter-library loan system is a blessing! I make use of it each week and I have been told, we are our library's best customers ... ;)

Well, we're preparing for our weekly trip to the library just now, in fact - I'm rounding up books and videos etc. and adding them to the big tote in the foyer.

Tote bag of books in foyer 2

We don't have a set day for our library run, but our library bag stays packed with things to return and I keep an eye on due dates. It's fun just to browse the library of course, but sometimes give the boys an "assignment" to find a particular type of book. For instance, I asked Crackerjack to pick out a picture book he'd like to read aloud to Little Bear, and I asked Earlybird to take out a book that is not about planets. ;) I myself am going to pick up the selection for next month's book group, and ask how long Bill's request will take to come in. And on the way to and from - as whenever we get in our car - we'll listen to our current read-aloud which is a perfect pick for this time of year! When we're deep in winter but longing for spring ...

So, how about a little conversation about how we store and organize our books? I think that will best be saved for a separate post, but it is something I'd very much like to talk about. Would you be wiling to share your thoughts (and perhaps pictures) of how you live with books at your home? I'll be taking pictures myself and we'll throw a little book party in a week or two. Does that sound like fun? :)

But, while we're on the subject of books, I'd like to address one of the pictures in yesterday's post ... I left a few of you wondering!

One womans year 5

The book I am currently reading - a chapter every night before I go to bed - is called, One Woman's Year and oh, is this book just my cup of tea! Just the kind of book I wish I had (or maybe could) write myself.

One womans year 2

The funny thing is - I bought this last June and didn't get around to reading it till just now! (See first paragraph of this post - its all about finding the time!) OWY was written in 1953 by an English wife and mother recounting her domestic "observations" throughout the months of the year. Every month has its best and least liked chore, a local excursion, a recipe or two, and an anthology, which is to say, a selection of fine reading. Here are a few pictures to give you a better idea:

One womans year 9

One womans year 6

One womans year 7

One womans year 3

The illustrations, as you can see, are lovely and Mrs. Currey's sense of dry, Birtish humor is just wonderful! I don't know how to suggest finding a copy - they are quite expensive through Amazon it appears - but perhaps try your local library or look (and ask) around at vintage bookshops or maybe try good ol' Google. In fact, it was while trying out that last option myself that I found a very nice article about the book published in the Yorkshire Post last year: "Diary of a 1950s Housewife."

Well my friends, I have truly kept you here long enough, so I will wrap up now and thank you very kindly for stopping by and reading. Please leave a comment if you have some thoughts on sharing the joy of books with your family, and keep in mind my upcoming post about book storage and organization! I would love to make it a joint effort, so as always, I am hoping for emails and photos!

You may send me correspondence at:

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

Have a nice evening, everyone ... and I will see you all here again very soon!


Tuesday Tidbits: Frost, Frosting & Wintry Fun!

Frosty sunrise window

Happy (frosty) Tuesday, everyone! :)

I have just a few quick things to share today ... but first! What is the weather like where you are right now? It is SUPER cold here in my neck of the woods - in fact, I don't think we'll see 20°! Theres snow on the ground (a few inches) and plenty more on the way this weekend ... but such is January in New England!

Now, a few of you asked about my birthday cake frosting - it is a favorite in my family and one my mum is expert at making! It's called "penuche frosting" and it is buttery and sweet and fudgey in texture ... here it is if you'd like to try it sometime:

Penuche Frosting

1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
hot water

Melt butter - add brown sugar. Bring to boil. Lower heat and boil 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add milk and bring to boil. Cool to lukewarm.

Gradually add confectioner's sugar and beat.

Add hot water if too thick.

Also, while I'm here I wanted to mention - for those of you on Pinterest - that I have a few new boards set up. These are each specific to my seasonal planning and I'm using them for links to go along with ideas, activities and special days coming up. So here is the January-February board if you'd like to take a peek. :)

2016 Planner: January & February Links

If you are not on Pinterest, I can do a post with links sometime if that would be helpful. I just added some wolf coloring pages this morning in light of the Full Wolf Moon coming up this weekend! :)

Snowflake lesson 1

This week our seasonal theme is "snowflakes," and I have some fun things planned for the boys - the bigs and the littles! Something I'm working on this week, too - and I meant to mention this during the planning chat last weekend - is the concept of craft bins for seasonal planning and organization. Someone asked me not too long ago (and forgive me for not remembering who) how I keep the craft materials and other resources for the week organized ... and believe me, it's a challenge! I haven't really tackled the craft bins we moved from the old house - nor the craft storage here in the new house! My thought is to have bins for the seasons though - and as I plan and prepare for certain projects I will add those items we'll need to those bins. There should be six bins in all once I'm organized, and you can be sure I will post about them once they're established!

Kitchen window poem

And finally, I had to share this pretty page from a book I have displayed at my writing desk right now. I think I've shared it before, but it's worth another look. It's such a lovely sketch - a mother having her tea and gazing out her kitchen window ... taking such joy in her "lot" in life, days spent at home with the children. The stanza below resonates with me so much ...

***

She has a kinship with the earth
Though busy in her own domain,
And comprehends its noble plan
From just a kitchen window pane.”
(Milly Walton)

Well my friends, I will be off now, but as always, I thank you for stopping by! It's a busy week of lessons, therapy and activity here ...  Bookworm's back to campus and our relaxing holiday routine is well and truly over. I'll be posting as I can, though - and there are lots of planning posts coming up! In my next post, I will show you my planning sheet "in action" so you can see how I'm using it for seasonal planning. And I am currently working on the next set of printables (Early Spring) as well as a big post about making time in your schedule to DO the planning! Giving all the WHAT a WHEN! I also have a couple of "cozy nests" posts in the works ... 

So I hope you'll stay tuned! Enjoy the rest of your day and I will see here again very soon ... :)


Planning for A Fresh Start!

Fresh start button final

Happy Thursday, my friends!

Now, not to rush the year's end - because this is certainly a season to savor - but I always like to keep one eye on the calendar so I can see how quickly its pages are turning. And as usual, they're flipping fast! Well, my wheels are turning too as I consider planning ahead for a great year! So as I gather my resources (and hopefully my wits) about me, I thought I'd begin a series of posts about preparing myself for a new year of home keeping. The series will pick up speed after Christmas, but here is a first quick installment.

:)

Very early this morning, as I lay in bed yearning for coffee, and marveling over my inability to sleep in past 5:30 a.m. - despite all my children still abed - my mind started wandering to my housekeeping schedule, and how it has (and has not) been working ... 

It looks really good on paper, and it's certainly thorough, but it hasn't been easy to accomplish the goals I've set for myself. Ok, let me rephrase that - I have not been able to accomplish most of the goals laid out in that calendar.

(As in, my house is a mess.)

Now, this could be the result of unrealistic planning (thinking I can do more than I can - I'm really good at that) or it could be I haven't found the right time in my day for these tasks. It could also be due to significant changes to our routine this year with the addition of Earlybird's daily home therapy. Most likely, it's a combination of all these things ...

Anyway, I next started thinking about the rooms in my house and how ridiculously cluttered they've become since ... oh, since forever, but especially since Summer when time seemed more plentiful and was definitely more flexible. So right then and there I worked out an "order of cleaning" for my new year:

>> one month = one room <<

I'll keep up with my basic weekly housekeeping as best I can, but as for decluttering and deep cleaning, I'll pace myself by concentrating on one room at a time. I'll think more about where I can make time for these tasks (weekends? evenings? lunchtimes?) and how to work them into my planner pages, but here is the basic timeframe as it appeared to my rather sleepy mind this morning:

January: The Nursery

February: Master Bedroom

March: Earlybird's Bedroom

April: Older Boys' Bedroom (before Bookworm moves home for the summer)

May: Family Room

June: Sunroom/Patio (in time for outdoor living)

July: Basement (cool work during the hot months)

August: Garage (cool work during the hot months)

September: Kitchen

October: Dining Room (ahead of Thanksgiving next month)

November: Library (ahead of Christmas next month)

December: Attic (as we bring decorations up and down)

***

Next I'm going to work up a to-do list for each room: what needs to happen to get things back in order? As I move through the house, I would also like to create a floor plan and an inventory for each room; this would be good information to store in my home keeping binder. And ultimately I will need to look over that original housekeeping calendar - the tasks and the routine - and see where I can tweak things to make it more do-able.

It's a big project, and I'm up for it! But you know, sometimes it feels like I'm forever tweaking things ... and often I worry I spend too much time on the planning and not enough time just getting things done. Do you ever feel that way? It seems like THE PERFECT PLAN must be out there, somewhere - at someone's blog or in a new book or hidden in the depths of Pinterest, perhaps ...

 I try not to get discouraged, though I think it's very easy to feel defeated when things are not going well or something we've planned (and put a lot of work into) proves an ill-fit. But none of us are perfect and so our plans - even the one that seem awesome - will never be perfect. Learning from what we've done, and striving towards something better is all we can do. Everything we do to serve our families matters ... and these are "the small things we can do with great love." 

I might wish I could keep up with my family's needs a little better, but I know in my heart that I'm trying. They know I'm trying. HE knows I'm trying ... 

So I'll keep trying! 

(Which means I'll be back to talk more about this topic in a future post!)

My friends, I hope you'll join me as I look for a fresh start, and plan for a happy and homey new year. I think it will be both fun and helpful to discuss these topics, and share our pictures and progress with each other. Next time I will talk about what I'm hoping my planner will do for me this year ... and how I'm working towards making that happen!

But for now, and as always, thanks so much for stopping by ... I will see you here again very soon!


From Nest to Nest ... ❤

Happy Weekend, my friends! I am so pleased to share a couple more cozy corners with you ... :)

From Chrissy:

Cozy corner chrissy 1

"This is where I curl up most of the time. End of the couch by a window overlooking the marsh ... "

That nest looks so cushy and inviting, Chrissy! I love the soft lighting ... and I bet that marsh is a wonderful window on the changing seasons!

And here's a peek at Denise's corner:

Cozy corner denise 1

"How wonderful to share each other's homes in this way, Dawn!  I so enjoy "visiting" others in this way!  I've attached a picture of my current cozy corner.  The only time I am in it these days seems to be early, early morning (from 4-6am) and evening (I shoot for 9ish to start winding down.) I say "current cozy corner" because it seems to change with the seasons! I like to sit right by the woodstove in late autumn through winter! We try to heat solely by wood, and this spot is the warmest. I took the picture this afternoon, since my afternoon schedule was rearranged for me. Unfortunately, I only had time to write one of the last few Thanksgiving greetings & take a few sips of hot tea, then took the hot tea back to our home office where mounds of work awaited me! The cozy corner looks straightened up!  Normally it has a stand up work station in the corner, also. I had already rolled it back to the office. And my journals were elsewhere. :-)

The morning session is my "communion" time. This is when I read God's Word, study, pray and worship. Of course, I journal a lot of it ... The evening is a time to reflect on the day, on God's goodness to us through this day, to record positives and negatives of the day, to worship, to pray. When I was homeschooling, this is where we would gather for read alouds, practicing math factors, extra reading helps. This is also where I would listen to my grandchildren read to me, with one or both of the now 10 year-old twins on my lap! (I must say, I really miss those days!)

I too enjoy capturing the "firsts" of each season. I must say embracing the autumn and winter are much easier for me! I've attached a sketch from my planner capturing the first fire in the wood stove ...

Cozy corner denise 2

First cup of my dear friend's tea recipe AND first bowl of chicken-wild rice soup! Yum!! 
October 30th was very chilly here!"

~ Denise

What a lovely nest, Denise! Wood stoves are wonderful! I grew up with one, and although I was no fan of moving/stacking wood, lol, I did love the warmth and coziness of that family room stove! Thank you for sharing your sketch as well - I love it! What a nice way to capture the spirit of the season! And you have me curious about your friend's tea recipe ... and that chicken-rice soup! :)

***

Well my friends, I'm back in my own little nest at the moment ... dark here now, and I just heard my first "What's for dinner?" So I'd best be off ... 

But I'd love to hear from you if you have a moment, and perhaps you'd consider sending me a picture of your own cozy nest? And don't forget, we've got Tea coming up next week! (See post below.) Lots to discuss and look forward to!

You can reach me at:

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

Enjoy the rest of your evening, my friends ... I will see you here again very soon!


From one nest to another ... ❤

Nest dawn 2 (1)

Good Thursday evening, my friends! I hope your day's been a good one. :)

Yesterday I showed you all where (and how) I'm feathering my winter nest, and today Dawn V. has invited us to peek into her own lovely spot!

A note from Dawn:

My little corner that allows me to relax, unwind and reflect ... I have found these wonderful candles at Yankee Candle Shop called "Radiance." As they burn, you hear a faint noise of crackling. I sit here in my little nest enjoying the candle's scent, glow and gentle crackling sound. Through the window I see my backyard (forest) and deck. I feed many forms of wildlife from the deck and ground. I never-ever sit in my nest without a cup of coffee ...

Nest dawn 1

Nest dawn 3

Nest dawn 4

Nest dawn 5

 ***

How absolutely beautiful, Dawn! Your corner is beautiful and so inviting! I can just imagine how nice it must be to sit here and relax, watch your birds and relish your surroundings. I, too, live next to a forest and what a blessing it is! I love all your seasonal touches, and the lighting is so soft and warm. I wish you many happy hours in your cozy nest, Dawn!

My friends, how nice is this, to share our nests with each other? I hope you will consider sending me a photo of yours, too ... (bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com) ... in the meantime, I love all your comments as well! Thanks to you all for your encouragement and support!

At this very moment I'm writing to you from my own nest ... it's almost 4 p.m. and there's a big mug of "American Breakfast" tea by my side. (I don't usually do caffeine this late in the day but I'm kind of dragging today! Plus I'm out of my favorite decaf blend.) Bill and I just got back from getting my van at the shop (ack, it's on it's last legs!), and now he has the younger boys outside doing leaves. And by doing leaves I mean, he's raking and they're jumping in piles! I can hear them just outside my window ... a bit of high-spirited chaos.

And it's quite a dark day here - we're expecting rain any moment. I'm wearing my favorite gray cardigan, there's a cat by my feet, (another behind my head), and I can hear the heat clicking on in the registers ... as well as the clicking of a mouse as Crackerjack plays on his computer. So it's not exactly quiet here, but it's warm and bright and alive ...

It's home.

 Well, tomorrow I'll have a post up with more information about my Advent Tea Journal - which kicks off this coming Monday! (Yes, it is still a week or more until Advent, but I want to "talk tea" ahead of time!) So I'll have a few more details on the schedule (questions to consider, themes to ponder) and just how you all can join me in what I hope will be a wonderful, weekly gathering of tea cups and conversation. Let's press the "pause button" now and again as the busy weeks ahead unfold ... :) 

Oh, whoops - and there's the door now:

"Wow, it's so warm in here! Coats and boots off first, boys! Little Bear, you have to put down the truck before we can get off your coat ... Where's Mama??"

And so life resumes ... I'm off to the kitchen! See you here again tomorrow, my friends!


Living in Season: Creating A Cozy Corner

Cozy corner 1

Happy Wednesday, my friends! I hope your week's going well! 

So I talk a lot here about embracing the seasons and the changes they bring to our lives - the way we dress, eat, feel, pray, etc. I love how with each passing season there is a feeling of something new and yet a comforting familiarity as well. There's a first snowfall every year ... but somehow it's always full of magic. The daffodils return every spring ... but they're always such a miracle.

But I think it's fair to say that some seasons are easier to embrace than others ... and this time of year is a challenge for some folks as the light fades and the days grow short and the weather is often unfriendly. So I thought I might start posting about the things we can do to create a more enjoyable season - for ourselves and our families. Simple, little things that might brighten our days ... if only figuratively. :)

My friends, will you join me? Shall we learn to live "in season" by accepting the changes and adjusting our mindset a bit? What if we saw every change - the long nights, the soggy days, the frequent storms and the early sunsets - as a reminder we're here to see another season? That we've been blessed with another year on this earth and all that comes with it - the light and the dark?

(Ok I'm getting a bit deeper than I meant to, so let me step back for a moment!)

Why don't we start very simply this week by creating a cold season cozy corner ... this will be our first "assignment."

How about over the next few days we find a nice spot in our homes where we will build a little nest. This will be a spot where we can sit down, think a bit, read a while, or just take a breather. A spot where, on these dark afternoons, we can get off our feet and surround ourselves with a humble helping of comfort and joy.

Where would this be in your house? Do you have a spot like this already?

It would be wonderful to make "nesting" a daily ritual - late afternoon, just before supper? - but if daily is inconvenient, or too much to attempt, what about once a week? On which day of the week can you carve out an hour to spend in your nest?

Here in this nest you will have added some wonderful feathers: throw blankets - slippers, perhaps? - good things to read, a notepad and pen, perhaps some hand lotion rich with the scents of the season? Lights are important here - a good one for reading - but I also like to have candles around, too (LED for me, since I have a toddler in the house). I like the ones that turn on as the sun dips low in the sky - a glowing reminder to slow down and rest, just as nature is doing.

More to consider:

There should be a good spot where you can safely put down your chosen refreshment. Since I'll be taking tea in my nest, and there is the aforementioned toddler afoot, I will need to place my tea well past the edge of the table.

Sitting by a window is ideal, I think, if you can manage it. A seasonal view and a good dose of natural light is good for the soul! Hanging a bird feeder here would also be lovely!

A basket with notecards and stationary would be handy - this could be a time to pen a note to a friend or relative. Maybe get a head start on those Season's Greetings? :)

 And finally, how about some artwork? A picture or sculpture upon which you can reflect? This might be something representing your faith or the season at hand ... a quote for the month, or simply a photo of your loved ones.

***

However your nest is feathered, it will be different in style and content for different people. Some like things streamlined while others prefer a bit of clutter. Some want things formal and some not. Some of us will be wedged in a corner of a room filled with other people ... while others might secure a spot of privacy somewhere in the house. And some of us have little ones we can't escape all around us and that needs to be taken into consideration, too. 

Well, lets take a look at what I've set up for myself today ..

Cozy corner 3

My nest is set up in the living room (aka library ... aka playroom), and my chair is old and squishy, but comfy as all get out. For as much as I'd like to make my cozy corner a somewhat private affair, it's silly for me to think it always (or even often) will be. But that's ok. This is the season I'm in! I am the mother of a little one and he's growing so fast ... some days I will get some time to myself (if LB's napping or busy with Bill or the brothers) and that will be enough. To sit here and relax will be nice, and because there are plenty of toys about, I can sit, and Little Bear can play in the room or perch on my lap and "read" his own books ...

I also have a basket of magazines here ... and BOY do I love those fall-holiday magazines!

Cosy corner 2

As well as the Thanksgiving basket, filled with our books for the holiday at hand.

(Truth be told, I love reading through them even by myself!)

Cozy corner 4

And right behind my chair is yet another basket full of books. These are Little Bear's favorite board books - he likes to stand on my lap and pick through his collection ...

On the windowsill I have displayed favorite Thanksgiving cards (never sent or received, just part of my collection), and under the lamp I have my page-a-day calendar as well as a stack of favorite reads.

Cozy corner 7

At day's end ... living by the light!

 ***

My friends, I'd love to hear about (or see!) your cozy nests - please leave me a comment below or consider sending me a picture (email: bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com). I would love to share this endeavor with others and carry on throughout the fall and winter, visiting each other's nests from time to time and chatting about seasonal ideas. I will continue to post little "assignments" now and again - and of course you'll be seeing more of my nest as we being our Advent Teas very soon!

Speaking of tea ... tomorrow - or Friday at the latest - I will have a post up with more information on my upcoming Advent Tea Journal. Monday's tea will be ahead of Advent, with a focus on Thanksgiving, and our theme for discussion will be "simplifying the season." I plan to have my post up on Monday afternoon and would LOVE to have you all join me!

Ok, I think I've kept you all here long enough! Thanks so much for joining me and also, thanks for the kind words about my podcast with Pam! I am so glad I did it ... I'm pleased I was able to step outside my "comfort zone" and join in the fun. And those podcasts are SUCH fun. What a service Pam is doing for the homeschooling mama community - and I am honored to have taken a small part!

Enjoy your evening, my friends ... see you here again very soon!


Calendar News!

Good Tuesday morning, my friends! :)

I just wanted to pop in quickly and let you all know that Susan Branch is stocking her new 2016 calendars right now! I remember several of you inquired about the pretty desk blotter I got last year as well as the nifty little pocket calendar I carry with me in my bag ... and since they sell out fast (especially the blotter) I wanted to pass on the news!

Here are the links, in case you are interested ... 

Susan Branch 2016 desk blotter calendar

Sbblotter

Susan Branch 2016-2017 (24 month) pocket calendar

Sbpocketcalendar

Aren't they lovely?

It's a great time of year to talk calendars as many of us follow an academic year and so, our planners follow suit. The shops are filling up with all kinds of calendars and planners these days - along with back-to-school supplies! - and I find myself tempted by all those pretty new papers ...

Buy a planner, make my own? It's the eternal question!!

Well my friends, enjoy your day and thanks so much for stopping by! Let's talk calendars again in a future post ... what are your thoughts on calendars at this time of year? :)

I will see you here again very soon ...

(p.s. MomAgendas are back in stock, too!)


Let's Talk ... Pocketbooks!

Aka - purse, handbag, bag, tote, and/or satchel! Whatever you might call it (and what do you call it? I'm curious!) let's talk about the thing you use to lug around all your STUFF when you leave the house. (I was surprised at how many readers didn't recognize the term "pocketbook!" I guess it must be a "Yankee" thing?)

Anyhoo ... here's a little tour of the bag(s) I'm using this Summer. With a toddler in tow these days I need something roomy and sturdy!

Summer bag 3

 This is called a "Bean's Reversible Tote, Medium, Bandana Print" ... I can't link it because it appears it is out of stock. Which is a shame because it's a really excellent bag! (Scratch that - here it is - and it's on sale! I was torn between the green and orange ...) I am quite partial to LL Bean tote bags, as longtime readers know. They last FOREVER and are incredibly versatile.

For a wallet, I have been using this handy little thing for ages ...

Summer bag 4

 It's a Vera Bradley "zip-around wallet" in Kensington print. It has a pouch for my cell phone which makes it indispensable. I can just grab this (and wrap the loop around my wrist) when I need to run in somewhere quick.

And here's how I pack up my bag ...

Bags 7

This is the bottom layer if I'm taking Little Bear out with me for an extended period of time. In that case I pack diapers and wipes as well as a change of clothes and baby-safe sunscreen, board books ...

Bags 10

And here's the rest of the stuff (it holds a lot!) ...

Bags 11

  • wristlet wallet (phone, change, cards, money, i.d.)
  • tissues, tinted lip balm
  • aforementioned diapers and wipes, hand santizing wipes, board book, sunscreen
  • sippy cup with water (for LB)
  • bubbles
  • my current book
  • shopping notebook and coupons/receipts pouch
  • pocket-size appointment book
  •  blue zippered pouch holds: emergency kit, hand cream, dental floss, hand sanitizing spray, a feminine pad, emery board, antibiotic cream, band-aids, citrus drops, small tube of ibuprofen

 In the top picture you see the outside zip pocket. In here I have my keys and another lip balm. (I can never pack too many lip balms!) I also keep sunglasses *and* reading glasses in there because I need them to read labels, credit slips and such!

***

Now, this is a smaller - but still roomy - Summer tote I bought a few years ago at T.J. Maxx. I use this if I don't need the really big bag - or if it matches my outfit, lol. (I have several tops that coordinate with this bag!)

Bags 8

And here is a very pretty little cross-body bag I bought several years ago, along with a matching wallet ...

Bags 9

It reminds me of Cath Kidston, a British designer I love - but it's from Target! I use this if I'm out without kids - running a quick errand, at a hair appt. or some such. For example, this very morning I used it when I met a dear childhood friend for coffee. It held all I needed and nothing more!

So ... there are my Summer pocketbooks in a nutshell. And now let's hear from some friends who sent me thoughts and pictures to share ...

***

From Arlene:

Bags 2

Bags 13

Dawn, I LOVE purses and I love organizing. I like this purse because it has a double zipper, hence the name the Dooney and Bourke Zip Zip Bag. I chose the bright green for spring. I do have to put things inside north south instead of east west to get them to fit. My Vera Wallet, my Dooney chevron stripe make up pouch and my Vera glasses holder which I keep my sunglasses in! I also carry a little paper notebook as I am not good at putting notes on my phone. And my phone fits in its own pocket in this purse but it was not there as I was using it to take the photos.  I have ordered a new Vera fall purse that should arrive this week. 

 Arlene, I love this pocketbook!! I love the vibrant color, the shape, and the way you fit everything in so neatly ... and I would love to see your fall purse sometime! I do love me some Vera! :)

***

From Amy:

Bags 1

 Fun topic!  Here's a picture of my summer handbag - I do change it out for every season. I LOVE my summer handbag, just purchased this summer. I love the bold navy and white rugby stripes, the preppy red monogram and the fact that it holds a few file folders (work related) along with my travel makeup bag. The fabric is also coated so it can withstand a summer surprise rainstorm. I purchased it at Lands' End.

Amy, this bag is right up my alley! I love roomy totes, navy and white stripes are so summery, and that bright red monogram is wonderful! I have a soft spot for monograms!

***

From Shirley:

Bags 3

Bags 4
Bags 5
 
What fun to be able to contribute to one of your blog posts again. I also love talking (and seeing) handbags and what's inside, planners etc. I have 5 handbags in rotation - depending on mood and season of course. Three of them are really good (but not designer) bags and the other two are what I would term as 'fashion handbags'. I love having 'fashion handbags' in my wardrobe as they are inexpensive and oh-so-pretty. 
 
I have just moved into one of my 'Fashion handbags' for the summer. It's a really cute black and white stripy bag. It has a stiff bottom section which is great as it doesn't flop about and fall over and then a fun stripy fabric top - as you can see in the picture.
 
Peeking inside you can see that I really only carry the essentials. This summer we have a few friends from South Africa visiting so there is going to be quite a bit of sightseeing. I don't want a handbag that is too heave to carry around. So I'm keeping it light and only carry around what I really need.
 
Taking a closer look you can see my gorgeous fluro pink Filofax (planner). This is my newest addition to my Filofax or ring- binder planner system. Like my handbags I like to swap my planner into season relevant binders. It's just fun ☺. The fluro pink definitely screams 'summer' to me. On top of my filofax planner is my Windows phone which I love - for the summer it has a cute little floral case.
 
  I have my purse with all my cards and cash (when I carry it), a little makeup bag which has my lip liner, various lipsticks, a touch-up set of make up (although I don't generally wear a huge amount of make up other than mascara and lipstick so I think that might have to come out) and and emery board inside. There is a little tin which has some headache tablets, band Aids and some womanly necessities. Sunglasses {natch} and happily I have had to use them quite a bit this summer already lol - not always the case in England! I have a small bottle of hand sanitizer and some aromatherapy headache gel which I prefer to use before popping a tablet. I also have a small notebook (the little floral one in the picture) which is my shopping list book. This one often lives on the kitchen counter so that I can jot things down as I need them. Then it gets slipped back into my handbag when I walk out the door. 
 
BTW I had to google what a 'pocketbook' was lol. Here in England a pocketbook is simply a little notebook, but in the U.S it seems to refer to a wallet, purse or handbag!
 
Shirley, your bag is gorgeous! And I also love the vivid pink planner as well as the floral phone case! I am still trying to find the "perfect" size planner to take out with me ... I will have to think on that a bit, but you have inspired me! :)

***

From Melissa:

"My Backpack Purse"

I have used the same purse (I call it my backpack) for about 10 years. I had a similar one for 2 years prior to that which I replaced when it fell apart. What happened in my life 12 years ago that caused me to move from years of using a purse like this? 

Bags 14

You probably have guessed it, a baby.
I didn’t want to tote around a diaper bag all the time, I can’t stand to have a purse hanging off my shoulder (they don’t stay put and I was used to being hands-free!) and small backpacks were in stores everywhere. It was enough to fit a diaper or two and other “baby stuff”. So began my tiny backpack life.

Bags 15     Bags 16

Here’s a tour of my backpack, right now, without cleaning out anything that may be embarrassing! 

Bags 17

Zipper #1 – smallest on the front

I rarely use this zipper. I keep in it important things that I don’t need often. 
1. My son’s small brush for cleaning his braces. (from diaper to braces!!)
2. A key change thing that fell off a long time ago.
3. A note about a documentary I read about somewhere.
4. This GREAT macro lens for my phone camera!

Bags 18

 Zipper #2 – larger zipper on front

I use this zipper a million times a day. This is the spot I have to clean every few days or it gets to be full of all sorts of things, mostly receipts.
1. Wallet. I always use tiny wallets, some cards and that’s all that fits.
2. Lip stuff.
3. Hotel room key (business trip!)
4. A coupon that needs to be moved to my coupon file in the car.
5. Cash. I usually don’t have cash but I got some cash back at a store a few days ago. I sometimes have coins it the bottom of this zipper area but I prefer not to so I try to empty it out often.

Bags 22

Zipper #3 – front/top large compartment

This rarely gets used. Right now it has some stuff I got for a car trip.
1. Gum and tic tacs. I usually have a small pack of gum in here but the tic tacs are something new, I got hooked on them a few months ago.
2. Lollipop. Lollipop emergencies sometimes happen.
3. Tiny hair clip. For when my bangs end up a disaster and they need to be pulled back.
4. Hotel pen. 
5. Japanese wood pen. LOVE this pen. No one touches this pen but me! It was a Christmas gift from hubby. He always gets me cool stocking stuffers from JetPens.com.
6. Martha Stewart sticky notes which I got from my local recycle store for about 5 cents a pack! I was using them when I was reading one of Ben Hewitt’s masterpieces.

Bags 20

Middle compartment – closes with a snap

1. This is a huge open space. Right now it’s empty. It usually has a few tissues at the very bottom. I use this area to carry my beverage o’ the day, a book, stuff I need to get from in the house to the car. It’s my main carry area. My keys clasp around the top of the strap and hang securely in this section. I always keep them there so I can always grab my backpack and go without looking for keys or digging around inside a compartment. They hang securely into the compartment so that they don’t jingle when I walk.

Bags 21

Zipper #4 – tiny zipper inside large middle compartment

This is another rarely used spot. I keep very important things in here.
1. Credit Card Flashlight
2. Finger Flashlight (hmm, there seems to be a trend here!)
3. 2 tampons
4. Ricola drop
5. Elastic (for a MacGyver moment!)
6. Tax exempt form for purchases for my homeschool group
7. A Sacagawea dollar
8. A round piece of fake ivory from a scrimshaw class

Bags 23

Zipper #5 top/back large compartment

1.Cinq-o dice game that has been in there for years for when we need something to occupy us.
2. Kashi bar
3. Playing cards (box is in tatters. The elastic, item 5 above, belongs around this box to keep the cards in). We use these often.

Bags 24

 And that’s the grand tour! My backpack usually weighs close to nothing, light as a feather on my back. It gets heavy when I have a drink and a book stuffed in there. About once a year I think about getting a new purse, but then I realize that this one still suits my needs 100% and is in great condition. Someday I will get back to using cute purses again!

Melissa, first of all - wow! Thank you so much for all these great details! I love that you outlined all the things you take with you in your bag. I appreciate these kinds of lists because they help me think about what I might want to take out myself! And you truly stick to that old "adage" - keep nothing you don't find to be beautiful or useful. I enjoyed the stories behind your stuff!

:)

***

Well, my friends - I hope you've all had fun on our pocketbook tour! This is a favorite subject of mine! I am very grateful to Arlene, Amy, Shirley and Melissa for taking the time to share their bags with us ... and I am very happy to know I am not alone in my pocketbook obsession! I have many bags to choose from so it's hard to rationalize a new purchase, but with every season comes a "tug" to look for a new bag. Something that will reflect the mood and serve the needs of the season. For many of us, our bags stand in as a little "home away from home" while out and about ... and if you are a mom (or grandmom) you know that everyone will be looking to you when someone needs something ... a band-aid, a hand wipe, a distraction from a long drive or waiting room visit!

Always good to be prepared is my motto!

***

Enjoy your Tuesday evening, everyone! See you here again very soon ...


Housekeeping Calendar Q & A

  Cards q and a 1

Oh, my friends - this post has taken me so long to compose! I see my draft was originally started on March 5th! But let's talk about those cleaning cards, shall we? I currently have a crayon-wielding toddler climbing up my back but I should be able to type while he climbs ...

:)

Now, I must admit, I sort of fell off the "cleaning cards wagon" back around Easter - not that I wasn't cleaning furiously for the holiday, but not at all according to my cards. I'm happy to say, however, I'm right back on track - in spirit if not yet totally in practice. And I still feel this system can and will work well for me. 

So I want to share this week's cards with you (and later, my master lists) and talk about the concept of "off weeks," but first I want to address some questions that were posted a while back ...

First question, from Leah:

Q. Did you write out the whole year's worth at once?

I am working on it, Leah! I would really like to have them all filled out ahead of time because it bodes better for me down the line. Firstly, I like the commitment of it - if they're all done ahead then I'm less likely to give up on them. Goodness knows I might fall off the wagon on occasion, but if the cards are already written out then they're available for me to use whenever I'm ready to climb back on that wagon. I'd like to think I will become devoted to my calendar, but I'm only human - and a human mother of four boys at that! But I know if I do get away from it, I'm much less likely to get back on track if I have to stop and write out cards first.

(Am I talking in circles, lol? I feel like my blogging "skills" are a bit rusty ...)

Q. And, assuming the tasks are the same next year, do you plan to rotate through the same stack again?

Well, yes - that's my plan, though I feel like I'm getting ahead of myself by saying that! But that's the heart of the matter, isn't it? Housekeeping is neverending - by its very nature it needs to be repetitive to be efficient. The tasks are all pretty basic but I may tweak things as I go along. Some tasks may not need to be done as often as I think while others may actually need more frequency.

Q. Do you keep a master list somewhere other than in the cards now that you are done?

Yes, I have master lists for all tasks, broken down by room/zone and frequency. (Discussed in this post.) The post-it note grid I made on posterboard has been transferred to paper as well - as a set of schedules (first week of the month, second week of the month and so forth). I keep those in my planning binder and use them to write out the cards as I move forward on the calendar.

Q. Do you have your basic daily chores (dishes, etc.) as a part of this system? 

Leah, daily chores are separate for now. I have a post-it note checklist in my master planner-binder (see below) that I use for marking off daily tasks as the day goes along. I use a new post-it note each week. It is absolutely low-tech, lol - but it works! It has occurred to me though, that I could list my daily chores on the back of each cleaning card ... I like that idea a lot, but that would mean even more time and energy put into creating the cards.

Rd q and a 2

(Note: as we discussed in an earlier post, this cleaning calendar is reminiscent of the system designed by Pam Young and Peggy Jones - aka the "Slob Sisters" - many years ago. Index cards are really indispensable when it comes to organizing tasks!)

So now for a question from Sue:

Q. I, too, tried Pam and Peggy's system, but found myself constantly refiling cards for tasks that did not get done. So, what if you do some but not all of the tasks on the card for that day?

Sue, this calendar is very much a work-in-progress and I am finding that many days I just can't get to all the tasks. It's still better than before when I wasn't even aware of whatall I should be doing! That said, if a task doesn't get done, typically I let it go until the next week (or next month). If it's a task that is assigned only a couple of times a year, however - for example: clean out bureau drawers - I try to fit it in somewhere, sometime soon. Typically his means pushing it onto the weekend ... where I hope with the assistance of other family members, it might get done.

So this bring up a thing I've been wanting to blog about for a while now, but have yet to mention. Bill set up the board shown below a while back ... It's called a "scrum board" based on a book/system he and his team are employing at the office.

Scrum board

(I don't think they use floral Washi tape on their board, however.)

We use this board to get a handle on what needs to be done - who's doing it and how tasks are progressing. On the weekend, we discuss (as a family, ideally with boys present) what we want/need to get done. We write each action/idea on a post it note - assign importance (low, medium or high) - and stick it up in the TO DO column. Then we all work together to make these things happen - either doing the task itself or supporting the person doing it. As tasks are in progress, the note gets moved to "DOING" and then finally, to "DONE!"

This is basically a "master to do list" but I have added some cleaning calendar tasks to the board - tasks I don't want to go undone and hope to get to at some point, assisted by my family. 

 (More on the scrum board in a future post!)

 Now, before I go, I just want to mention another thing: "off weeks" in the cleaning calendar. The calendar I designed is set up as a four week cycle; the 1st week of the month has its set of tasks - as does the 2nd, 3rd and 4th. As no month is exactly four weeks long, this system will get off balance. So I decided I will take "off weeks" on occasion. These weeks will coincide with holidays and vacations. Holy Week was one such week.

OFF WEEKS

July 27th-August 2nd (vacation/summer project?)

November 23rd-29th (Thanksgiving week)

December 21st-27th (Christmas week)

2016

March 21st-March 27th (Holy Week)

July 4th-July 10th (vacation/summer project)

September 5th-September 11th (1st week of school)

November 21st-November 27th (Thanksgiving week)

December 19-December 25th (Christmas week)

***

Well, this post has gone on rather long now, so I will stop here and in my next post (up on Friday, I hope) I will share a week's worth of cards with you all.

:)

Ok my friends, wishing you all a pleasant mid-week and thanks so much for stopping by! Please let me know if you have any questions - about this topic, or anything, really. As always, I will do my very best to answer ...

Once I get the crayon-weilding, mama-climbig toddler down for his nap. ;)

See you here again very soon!

 


Setting Up a Housekeeping Calendar ...

(Part Two)

Housekeeping calendar 4

Happy Tuesday Wednesday Thursday, my friends!

(It's taken me so long to finish this post, I have to keep changing my greeting, lol.)

Well, here at long last is the second part of my Housekeeping Calendar post! I'm still working on this rather large project, and it's taking me a while to get all my cards written out ...

Housekeeping calendar 1

I'm pretty much working on it whenever I get a chance, using the large post-it note grid to guide me as I write out each day's tasks. (Explained here.) I'd like to get the whole year's worth of cards filled out, but so far I'm taking it a week at a time. I find it helpful to look over the coming week's cards ahead of time, so I can see if there are any extra chores that might need special supplies or preparation.

But on to the calendar itself! As you can see in the top photo, I have filled a small bin with index cards (one for every day of the year), and 12 tabbed monthly dividers. Each one looks something like this (today's yesterday's card):

Housekeeping calendar 8

The upper corner has the date and day of the week and then I have listed my housekeeping tasks for the day - weekly, monthly, seasonal/annual. At a glance I can see what needs to be done according to the master cleaning schedule I worked out recently (which I explain in this post) ...

Wednesdays are my kitchen days, so I've listed the basic upkeep tasks here: sink, counters, fridge/freezer, appliances, wipe surfaces, floor

I also do laundries daily, M-F.

Also on Wednesdays, since I'm working in the kitchen, I find it a good time to start my meal plan and marketing list for next week.

Two monthly kitchen tasks that are assigned to this particular (1st) Wednesday of the month:

wipe cabinet and drawer fronts

empty fridge/pantry of old food

run disposal with ice/citrus peels

Now, I know without a doubt there will be days when I don't get much of my card done (case in point yesterday, lol), but as I've said before, that's OK. I can only ask myself to do the best I can and some days my best won't include anything other than feeding, dressing, listening to and loving up my kids. Nonetheless, the tasks are there for the doing if time and energy are available.

A few of you asked when in my day I am fitting in these extra tasks (on top of the daily must-do's that often barely get done) and the answer - right now anyway - is whenever and wherever I can. With an active toddler and a special-needs son as well as a busy high schooler needing rides here and there, it's tough to designate a set time for doing chores. I do like to do things early if I can, so I try to "get on with it" before the day really gets going - but later in the day works sometimes, too ...

For example, yesterday was a long day, and not much on my card got done. But then as I was preparing supper - waiting for water to boil and a timer to ring - I grabbed a damp cloth and started wiping the kitchen cabinets and drawer fronts. In less than 20 minutes I was done. It wasn't a deep cleaning, mind you, but the fingerprints and spills were gone. (I never realized we spilled so much coffee, lol!)

*Just for the record, I don't usually do chores during nap time. I try instead to rest - and blog! - while Little Bear sleeps. Case in point, this very moment! It's a good chance to recharge my batteries! :)

Before I wrap up, here are a couple of "cozy corners" from Tuesday's cleaning (bathroom zones) ... 

Cozy corners master bath

Above is the master bathroom ... and below is the foyer half-bath.

Cozy corner foyer bath

We have four baths in all here, which is a big change from our old house where there were two (but only one working!). There is also a boys' bathroom upstairs with a shower and tub, as well as a small bath with a shower in the basement. The two shown above get the most use - for some reason the boys use the foyer bath most of the time - and they also prefer our shower - so these are the two that need a real cleaning each week.

Several readers also remarked on how my calendar is similar to the index card system described by the "Slob Sisters" back in the 1970s. And YES! I LOVED that book and even tried their system a time or two through the years. When I decided to use index cards for this new housekeeping calendar I was tempted to read back through that book of theirs, but decided not to. I liked what I had planned and since I'm easily distracted I would be second-guessing and changing things up and would probably try to over-complicate my idea. I remember (I think) they had cards for each task and some cards were white (daily?) and some were blue (monthly?) and so forth. I do highly recommend their book - Sidetracked Home Executives: From Pigpen to Paradise - for some great ideas and a good laugh, too. They're very funny ladies!

Ok, I'd best wrap up now as I finally seem to have reached the end of this post and may actually press "publish" before the baby wakes up! Let me know if you have any questions about my housekeeping calendar ... it's going well so far, I think! I will do another post about my master lists and delegating tactics ... and I still have that cleaning supplies post to get to! I would love to talk homemade cleaners and using essential oils in our housekeeping ... Speaking of, are any of you planning to do Spring cleaning this year?

See you all again soon - or as soon as I'm able! And thanks, as always, for stopping by.

:)


Cozy (Clean) Corners ...

Family room 1

Hello, my friends ~ and Happy Sunday!

I thought it would be fun to share pictures of the corners I clean as I dig into my new housekeeping calendar. So for instance, I took these pictures last Thursday. On Thursdays, according to my weekly routine, I concentrate my housekeeping efforts in the family room and adjoining sunroom. Basic cleaning duties include de-cluttering/tidying, dusting/wiping surfaces, vacuuming rugs and sweeping floors. And because it was the fourth Thursday of the month, I had two extra chores on my card:

* clean out copy corner/check printer supplies (above)

* wash the baseboards and registers (below)

Baseboards

I cannot tell you how messy that above cabinet corner was before I got to it today! There were so many papers strewn about - laying on top of, and around, the printer - miscellaneous toys and whatnot in piles ... the bottom cabinets were open a bit because stuff was spilling out from inside. (I kid you not.) So I first decluttered and neatened the whole area, then I wiped it down (hand-vacuumed behind the printer) and got it all pared down and clean. And now it just makes me so happy. :)

The cabinets do still need re-organizing. They've basically held the same mishmosh of paraphernalia since we moved in - copy papers, and oddly enough, tech stuff like cords, keyboards, and other things I can't even name. What I'd like to keep here is stuff for the printer - paper, ink etc. - and maybe ... other supplies for homeschooling? Paper, pens, pencils, rulers, etc.? Maybe also, movies to play on the dvd player? I'll have to think on this a bit. The bottom cabinets are obviously quite accessible to toddler hands ... so maybe that will be a toy cabinet ...

The registers were a bit of a pain to clean, but boy did they need some attention. They were quite dusty and there were even some old spills ... I wiped them down with hot water and then dried them off as I went along. The heat was on at the time, so it was a bit tricky, lol! (Not to mention I had a "helper" crawling along beside me trying to alternately climb on my back or pull off my sweater.)

But you know, I really appreciated my housekeeping cards last week. They kept my immediate tasks in one place where I could quickly refer to them throughout the day. And what I'm finding is that, although I'm not getting everything done, I am able to get more done than I previously thought possible. Tasks don't actually take quite as long as I fear imagine they will!

***

Well my friends, thanks so much for joining me today ... I hope to have my next housekeeping post up early this week ... I will go through the cards and show how I'm using them as a calendar. And I will have some more cozy corners to share with you next week, too!

For now, Happy March! See you here again very soon ...


Setting Up a Housekeeping Calendar

(Part One)

Routine planning 1

Hello, my friends! Today I'd like to share with you a project I've been working on for the past few weeks: creating a new housekeeping calendar. I'm still ironing out a few details, but I am quite eager to share it with you all ... so here goes!

 As I've mentioned before, I still have yet to set up a new housekeeping routine - one that works for this house, which is decidedly different from our old house. Now mind you, I'm not a white-glove kind of gal, but I've been feeling badly about the lack of upkeep around here. Now that Little Bear is a toddler, I find myself spending time in the oddest places - huddled in random corners, behind draperies and under tables. Toddlers love sliding down a wall and just hanging out by the baseboards ... sharing a snack in a doorway ... or dropping small toys behind the bed. And what I've been noticing - while catching crumbs and rescuing toys - is that there is a lot of wear and tear happening to our "new" house. Smudges, stains, scratches, lurking dust bunnies and gritty bits caught in crevices. For example, the layer of dust along the register behind our bed ... ? Oh, my.

Now, I'm not asking for my house to be pristine - that would be fruitless and, frankly, boring - but I don't want to let things go on as they are. I need to find a way of doing a few things each day, as I can, that will keep our home's condition at a certain standard: hygienic, presentable and comfortable for my family. And by "hygienic," I mean clean enough for healthy living; wholesome. Also, on a practical level, I'd like to keep the overall value of our home intact as much as possible.

So, I figured during this long house-bound winter I could turn my attention to my surroundings and start making amends - on paper first, and then hopefully in practice. Because as with anything, I like to think before I do, and so first, I would need a plan ... 

And here's what I did. :)

Routines 1

I started with a list of things that need to be done daily. I just walked through my day and wrote down what we are already doing and what I would like to see done in addition. In composing this list, I referenced previous lists I've made, as well as information found in favorite household books and on Pinterest. I live by my own standards, but often I'll see something on someone else's list that I've overlooked.

Weekly planning notes

Once I had the day mapped out, I did the same thing for the week. I thought about our weekly rhythm - what days take us out and about, and what days allow more time spent at home. I gave each day a zone - bedrooms on Monday, bathrooms on Tuesday, etc. - and filled in each day's grid with its obvious to-do's. I then went in search of more information to add, as described above. 

Planning routines 1

Now, I've made cleaning lists before, but for some reason, just thinking about and writing down all those tasks doesn't actually get them done. Go figure, lol! But it's hard to keep the big picture in mind when you live your days hour-by-hour, just keeping up as best you can. Things like "dusting lampshades" and "vacuuming stair treads" kind of fade into the background when you have more pressing matters in queue, such as smelly diapers, dirty dishes and hungry kids ...

What I need, I decided, was a daily calendar with housekeeping tasks listed out for me beforehand - the must do's and the could do's - so I don't have to think about it in the heat of the (smelly/dirty/hungry) moment. A calendar that would be entirely devoted to housekeeping only - and yes, I can hear some of you saying, "Oh, Dawn - another calendar?" ;)

But yes, I think another calendar, one made just for housekeeping, makes sense for me. I might write "bedrooms" on my Monday planning page, but I can't list out all the steps. And for some reason, no matter how often I clean bedrooms, I still find it helpful to read each task separately: strip beds, tidy and wipe surfaces, vacuum, launder bedding, etc. That's not all going to fit in my planner!

Anyhoo! I decided to get EVERYTHING listed out and then schedule EVERYTHING according to how often it should be done ... keeping in mind, however, not EVERYTHING will ever get done ... but that's ok. It's a step up from what I'm doing now, which is clearly not enough. And my motto is, it's always good to get things down on paper. It's a good place to start ...

(Still with me, lol?)

To continue creating the master list, I walked through every room in the house and just wrote down things that need attention. I began with my Monday zone - Bedrooms & Upper Hallway - and simply looked the whole area over, writing down what would need cleaning (the when came later.) I started with one wall and moved along ...

Wall a week 1

... mentally assessing any and all cleaning tasks. Little things like "make the bed," and big things like "clean closet shelves." At this time, I also started a separate list of "projects and issues" to address in each room (for example, dress up hearth, replace master bedroom mattress, find bureau tray at flea market, etc.).

(Now, don't think for a minute I didn't move a whole lot of laundry out of camera range before taking this picture!)

Finishing up the in-house list, I consulted with Bill on areas with which I'm not as familiar - the garage, attic, basement, outdoor buildings, vehicles, grill and driveway/patio/deck etc. Though we do share chores around here, he has his zones and I have mine. ;)

Finally, I wrote out a list of housekeeping tasks that don't really have a physical space but are quite important in running a home - filing school reports, renewing subscriptions, updating addresses, arranging travel plans and filing taxes, etc.

Once I had all my tasks written out, I started to work on a schedule ...

Routine planning 2 

To start this next step, I covered a poster board with a grid of post-it notes, creating a month at-a-glance framework. Starting with the first Monday of the month, I wrote out the weekly tasks (clean bedrooms, upper hallway, laundries, trash & recycling) and then checked my master list of bedroom tasks for monthly chores. I kind of randomly assigned monthly (and seasonal/annual) bedroom chores to different Mondays of the month.

I just worked through my task list and as I wrote a task down on a post-it note I checked it off.

Routine planning

(Can you see now why this post has taken me so long, lol? The project itself took forever and is still ongoing!) 

By the way, I'm not a housekeeping expert, so I referenced various sources to determine how often these tasks should be done - Home Comfortsfor one, which is a great resource for housekeeping information. Also, considering I can't seem to get my daily chores done, never mind any extras, this could prove to be an exercise in frustration. And perhaps it may be ... but at least I have something to keep in mind and works towards. 

New routines 2

To further organize myself, I set up this grid for monthly tasks at a glance ...

Now as I organized tasks into time slots, I started thinking about how my daily housekeeping calendar might look and work. I considered a few different designs - binders, clipboards, etc. - but finally ended up choosing an index card system ...

New routines 1

But! Since this post has gone on quite long enough, I will stop here for now ...

:) 

In my next post I will show you how I've organized the index cards as a daily housekeeping calendar. (There might be some multi-colored cards involved, too.) I will also talk about how I'm planning to delegate some of these housekeeping tasks - because honestly, I'm only one (often busy, usually tired) woman! And in a future post I'd like to tackle the topic of housekeeping supplies, because I feel having the right equipment, stored in a convenient way, is half the battle.

Also, if you'd like, I will share my master list of housekeeping tasks. Not that I think it's necessarily something that would work for someone else, but like I said, I find it helpful to see other people's lists because it inspires me when making my own.

Ok, that's all for now, my friends! Thank you so much for joining me and as always, I hope you all have a wonderful day/evening ...

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones and I will see you here again very soon!


Every Day Has a Story ...

Candle on napkin

Happy Wednesday, my friends ... long time no see!

This post has been an open draft on my computer for some time now ... but things have been a bit topsy-turvy here with all the snow! We're in a short lull now (weekend storm ahead!) and I'm trying to get back on track. Thanks for your patience as I worked on this long-promised post!

So today I'd like to talk about something I mentioned in a previous post - about how I like to give my days "stories." It's really quite a simple concept - not very original or life-changing - but I think it's a great exercise in getting yourself one step closer to a "system" that works best for you. And that's something we've been talking about recently: how do we establish routines that help us manage the needs of our family and home? (While keeping our own health and happiness in mind?)

I have always "written stories" when planning out big projects like holidays, seasons and parties, but it works well for all kinds of things - mornings, bedtimes, Sundays, babymoons, and spring cleaning, etc. I like to start by envisioning a story for whatever it is I am planning - so here's what I do, in a nutshell:

I simply grab a piece of paper and a pencil and take a few - or several - quiet moments to think about what it is I am trying to plan. I imagine how it looks, what is happening, who's present and how I feel ... and create a vision that is, perhaps a bit idealized, maybe even unattainable, but will ultimately represent my true hopes and values.

I know that sounds a bit elaborate for something so commonplace, but I really do feel this "mental exercise" helps. And I don't know about you, but I can use all the help I can get when it comes to managing my responsibilities - namely, my family and home! 

But before diving into the days individually, I begin with "my day" in general ... so I imagine waking up and going through the motions of the day. I try to think about how I'd like things to be, ideally ...

  • My bedroom is neat and I'm up early enough that there is quiet around me.
  • I have a cup of fresh coffee thanks to my sweet husband ...
  • Phone in hand, I take time for a bit of contemplation: prayer, news, and email
  • I have clothing laid out and the bathroom is tidy and set up for quick washing and dressing.
  • I leave the bed freshly made and head downstairs ...
  • (Bill has helped with changing and dressing Little Bear. Earlybird is most likely up and he's been given juice and a snack.)
  • Coffee is hot and the kitchen is neat as a pin after a thorough once-over last night.
  • Breakfast is warm in the crockpot (or set out on kitchen table, ready to assemble).
  • I check my journal-binder and look over the day's agenda.

(And so on.)

As I read back over these rather comforting thoughts, I see where I can take action to make this more of a reality. (Underlined words indicate where action is needed ...) I can see that a lot of morning "joy" begins the night before, so I add tasks to my evening routine with that in mind ... set coffee maker to brew before bed, tidy bedroom and master bath before bed and set out washcloth and hair tie, and outfits for myself and the younger boys. Charge phone and have apps/subscriptions that allow for daily prayer, news updates and email. Etc.

(NOTE: This is not what happens, exactly ... not everyday, anyway ... this is an ideal situation!)

As for planning the days themselves, I begin with Sunday because this is the day I really want to get right. In fact, this was the day that kind of kicked off my daily stories, because I was so frustrated that our precious Sundays were starting off harried and ending up as a catchall of missed chores and last-minute errands!

So my ideal Sunday has a story like this ...

  • We (some of us) attend early Mass ...
  • We are not rushed, things have been organized the night before: donation envelopes, church clothes, Crackerjack's Mass signature card, my "nice" pocketbook :)
  • We arrive at Mass early so we can sit quietly and pray, read over the bulletin, relax/absorb, connect with our fellow parishioners ...
  • A light breakfast (bread/muffins/fruit) is ready when we get home, along with fresh coffee and Sunday punch. 
  • We have a quiet day, there are no outside commitments, and we don't shop or run errands.
  • Instead, we spend time on home-oriented projects, visiting perhaps, and there's a big family sit-down dinner in the early afternoon.
  • Over dinner, we talk about the week's homily and any church news, as well as the week ahead and family goals/schedules.
  • Time is spent outside whenever possible - in the garden or as a family, on a hike or bike ride. "Walking the boundaries" together to see how the property is faring. 
  • I spend time catching up on correspondence with family and friends.
  • I read back over my week's journal and index information.
  • I spend time with Crackerjack, updating his assignment board and discussing expectations.
  • I might spend time baking for the week if I didn't get to it on Saturday.
  • I look over the household budget - organize receipts/statements from previous week; talk with Bill about upcoming week's expenses.
  • I prepare homeschool materials for week ahead and the boys' daily task cards.
  • I place grocery order for the week.
  • The trash and recycling is organized for morning.

(etc.)

And remember, this is my STORY ... not always my TRUTH. At least not in its entirety. :)

And as you can see, the exercise kind of morphs into a more traditional list of things to do, but still, it's part of my vision to have time for these things. And it's safe to say, every vision includes the whole house being neat and clean ... whatever the day or occasion ... but it is also safe to say, that's a pretty high horse to climb! But a clean home, to my mind, is the canvas for much family joy and a balm to the spirit as well ... but that's a post for another day. :)

***

I've had these stories in my head for years, and I like to revisit them in quiet moments, especially when I'm tweaking my routines. (I can put myself back to sleep at night by walking through a story in my mind ...) But I'm now going to keep these stories printed out and stored in one of my binders (either my main planning binder or in the general housekeeping binder).

And from here I feel I can start making some helpful day-by-day task lists that will assist me in creating the kind of week I want my family to live. That I want to live. I know what I do as a wife and mother is important - I don't suffer any insecurity on that front - but when I connect my homekeeping "heart" to my everyday routine, it makes the whole process that much more meaningful and rewarding. I think so, anyway. Does that make any sense, lol?

:)

Oh my goodness, this is so long-winded I'm afraid I have surely bored some of you, but I hope there is some items of interest here for my like-minded homekeeping friends! Honestly I can (obviously) think and talk about this topic at great length ... in fact, I have often thought, I would actually read a novel(la) written entirely about a housewife's days spent caring for her family's home, through the seasons and the ups and downs of everyday life. There wouldn't have to be any drama or suspense ... it would still be exquisitely interesting to me! For example, we are listening to Little House in the Big Woods right now - a wonderful story for the children to hear for many reasons (and especially during our own long winter) - but my favorite parts are the detailed sections on Ma's chores and home keeping! And I often find myself appreciating how simple life was back then ... but then I remember how "easy" we have it nowadays. (I don't face down any bears when getting milk for my family!) And it keeps it all in perspective. :)

Ok, that's enough from me, I think! I'll be back again soon - hoping to have my routines post up next. (Or perhaps, the wall-a-week cleaning post.) But I'd love to hear from you if you have time ... about your own stories, and if you do anything similar when contemplating how you'll manage your week at home, with your family. Or maybe you do this with your work? Bill has been sharing with me how at the office, his team works together to come up with stories for how projects will go ... and then breaking them down into tasks that will make sense to everyone and move them closer to their goals. I loved hearing about their method and he loved hearing that I've been doing something like this (in my own humble way) for years!

Right. I'm off ... lest I continue, lol. Enjoy your Wednesday, my friends ... see you here again very soon!