Home Education Feed

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

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Hello my friends, and Happy August! Can you believe we're nearing the end of Summer already?! I know some of you are already back to school/homeschool, but we don't officially begin lessons again until the day after Labor Day. So I'm presently attempting to both relish these final days of Summer AND devote a few brain cells to the ed. planning for next year!

As usual I have several posts percolating in regards to my current state of mind, but first up, here's a look at my homemade planner!

Now, you all know how much I love new planners and how I struggle to resist them (there are sooo many beautiful options out there!) but I also enjoy making my own planner from time to time. Because sometimes I just can't find a planner that does everything I want it to do, and so I start getting itchy to create something very personal ... something that more closely matches my own particular needs and tastes ... even if the final results are *ahem* humble at best!

So please bear in mind, this planner I'm about to show you is VERY much homemade. It's not at all slick or professional - a prototype, really - but I am mostly satisfied with the results now that it's complete. And so now I'm here to share how I went about designing and assembling this planner!

It's a super-long post (as if I write any other kind) so best grab yourself a cup of tea and get comfortable! :)

 

PRINTING & BINDING THE PLANNER

Now, while this is not my first time creating my own planner, it is the first time I've used my seasonal planning sheets as the foundation. I was going to tweak the sheets a little before printing them but decided not to take that time - instead I'll just work with what I've got and see how it goes! So I began my new planner project by printing out fresh copies of all the seasonal planning sheets starting with August, 2017 ...

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(Note: all the planning sheets for 2017 can be found here in this post.)

Next I set about creating extra pages to go along with my weekly planning sheets, to address more of my responsibilities - namely, homeschooling our children and managing our household. I also created some sheets that complement my passion for seasonal planning ... and I did all of this using the Pages application on my Mac desktop. Now, I am FAR from tech-savvy, but once I got the hang of it I found it all really fun! (Even a bit addicting!)

Next I chose some very pretty seasonal papers to serve as monthly dividers. Here's a collage ...

Pretty papers

These papers are from a collection of scrapbooking paper called Children's Hour, and are made by Graphic 45. I just love a vintage look - images that harken back to simpler times and pleasures - but since these papers are sized 12 x 12, I needed to cut them down to fit my planner platform. (The above link has an affiliate tag just so's you know. πŸ˜‰ That means if you follow a link to Amazon from my blog, I get a little kickback if you make a purchase. So thanks in advance if you do!)

I also chose a piece of scrapbooking paper with a design I truly loved for the front cover (covers are so important!).  And here's the whole kit and kaboodle just before binding ...

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And ... voila! My finished planner, hot off the presses! :)

Planner in car 

I always go to my local Staples when I need something bound - and as usual they did a great job! I chose a black spiral coil and opted for the additional see-through cover for a little extra protection. (I would LOVE to find a place that does metal coil binding instead of plastic ... or perhaps invest in my own binding machine down the road!)

Ok, now for the tour! 

 

TITLE PAGE

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Well, this is pretty self-explanatory! I have always liked the image of a tiny acorn being nurtured and encouraged to grow into a strong and solid oak. :) I found the clipart on Pinterest. 

Note: This September I begin my 18th year of homeschooling! This year I will have a 12th grader, an 8th grader (with special needs) and a 4yo preschooler! (My oldest graduated college last May!) The 12th grader takes all of his classes save for Math, outside the home (in homeschool group classes). The 8th grader is developmentally much younger than this grade would suggest so I tailor his lessons to fit his unique learning needs. For him and my youngest we are mostly Waldorf-inspired homeschoolers, with some Charlotte Mason sensibilities thrown in for good measure. ;) We have used Oak Meadow curriculum since 2001 - some years more so than others - and this year I am drawing from a couple of grades as I plan out the year for my younger two sons. (More on our actual lesson plans in a future post!)

 

DATED CALENDARS

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This next spread is for general reference but also, I have used highlighters to mark time off and on in our homeschooling year. We don't follow the school calendar - I like to take time at the holidays, particularly leading up to a special day so we can focus on the preparations and really absorb the festive atmosphere. So this means we take off the week before Thanksgiving, the week before (and after) Christmas, and the week leading up to Easter Sunday - aka Holy Week. :)

Note: You can find many kinds of dated and undated calendar forms online for free. These particular calendars were created by The Day Designer - I just liked the look of them!

 

THE YEAR AT A GLANCE

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The left side of this spread is for birthdays, holidays, feast days, and any special days of note. The right side is for my seasonal homeschooling/homekeeping themes. (I assign one per week plus there are always a couple of other seasonal events or concepts to be aware of each month). A later post will discuss my seasonal themes and plans in greater detail!

Note: Some of the sheets I show you will be filled out and some will still be blank. I am slowly working through them, but do plan to talk more in depth about certain spreads in a series of follow-up posts.

Printables availableYear at a Glance, Nature Study Themes

 

RHYTHM: WEEKLY & DAILY 

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Every year has its own schedule of homeschool classes, clubs and therapy appointments, but our rhythm - those recurring activities that are tied to a specific day - has pretty much stayed the same. This concept of "rhythm" is something I learned early on as a Waldorf-inspired homeschooler and it's one of my favorite aspects of this educational method. (And ties in nicely with my passion for seasonal homeschooling!)

In the above spread I created forms for working out this year's weekly and daily rhythms ... and below you can see how I'm filling them out!

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(Note: I sometimes get a little carried away with colored pencils. The soft hint of color makes me happy!)

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On the left-hand page I have worked out the basic rhythm of our week. The top row shows the main activity for each day - this is mostly geared towards my younger boys, though in some ways this affects Crackerjack (and even Bookworm if he's handy), too. They are both very good sports about participating and helping out when they can! And on the right-hand page I am just starting to work out the daily rhythms ...

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When planning something like a day or week (or season), I like to use both sides of my brain, so to speak. There are the practical tasks to consider - like make bed, make breakfast, take vitamins - but there are also those actions and feelings I hope will infuse our days/weeks with a sense of care and gentleness. So, I include things like ... sit by the open window and greet they day ... take time for a blessing before the day gets going ... light the "lanterns" as the sun goes down ... etc. Including these kinds of things in my planning not only makes me happy but I think genuinely create a happier day (week, season) for my whole family. :)

Note: Before I write things down I often "flesh out ideas" on post-its as I've done here. Once I have all the information straight in my mind (and on those notes!) I will then write directly in my planner.

Printables availableOur Weekly Rhythm (blank), Our Daily Rhythm

 

LESSON PLANNING: 2017-2018

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This is a two page spread for planning out the topics I'll cover with my younger boys within each subject throughout each month of the year. This is not the spot for nitty-gritty detailed planning, but rather, a general overview of themes and ideas. The left side of the page is for September through February and the right-hand side of the spread is for March through August.

I've made some progress filling these out, so here's a peek! (I hope to finish this coming weekend when I do the bulk of our ed. planning.)

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Our subjects are listed as:

Month/Nature (each month's seasonal themes: ex. crows/corn, apples/the orchard, welcome autumn, autumn seeds)

Reading (audiobook/special picture books)

Country (we're exploring world history/culture/geography by country rather than timeline this year)

Science (zoology, famous scientists, climate science)

Language (speech, writing activities, penmanship)

Crafts/Circle (tied in with seasonal homeschooling - handcrafts, projects, music/movement)

Habit/Value (a concept to work on like, diligence, compassion, courage, gratitude, etc. ... also a saint to learn about)

Printables available: Lesson Planning (as above), Lesson Planning (with blank headers)

 

STUDENT OVERVIEWS & FIELD TRIPS/FAMILY ACTIVITIES

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"This Year's Subjects & Goals" provides a spot for me to create an educational overview for each of my boys (those still being homeschooled). There is also a section for notes. So for Little Bear I'll list things like ... "nature exploration and language development," and for Earlybird there will be things like "improve math skills and penmanship" whereas for Crackerjack I'll list his class titles "Creative Writing" and "Spanish IV" ... etc. I'll add things we'll study/do as a family in the notes section - such as liturgical teas and faith formation, global awareness, environmental education, community service and life skills.

The page on the right, as its title suggests, is for listing ideas for field trips this year and any family activities - for example, "apple picking," "planetarium," trail hikes," "The New England Aquarium," "road trip to Vermont," "Florida trip," etc.

Printables available: Subjects & Goals (blank), Field Trips & Family Activities

 

CONTACTS/CHECK-INS & THE CHILDREN'S CHORES

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The above spread features a page for listing my annual reporting to the school system and related events. I write down when I send something in and to whom I spoke, etc. And this info. has truly come in handy before! Last year I got a mid-year call from the school department asking if Crackerjack was still being homeschooled and if so, why hadn't we mailed in his information. After I recovered from my initial shock (heart pounding, lol) I told them we had in fact been homeschooling CJ and all his info had been sent in back in August and - because I had this page to refer to! - I was able to pinpoint exactly when I mailed it and when they received it. (Plus, thanks to "return receipt" I was even able to say who signed for it!)

I also note on this page when we renew our HSLDA membership and local homeschool support group membership.

The form on the right is for assigning family chores. Every year during the first week of homeschooling (and right after "Labor Day") we re-negotiate the children's chores. Here's where I'll write down the results of that family meeting!

Printables available: Contacts & Check-Ins, The Children's Chores (blank)

 

HOMEKEEPING ROUTINE & WEEKEND OFFICE HOURS

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With this spread I move from homeschool planning to homekeeping responsibilities. So on the left I have a page for my weekly housekeeping routine and on the right I have my weekend "office hours," during which I get a little planning done (or a lot if things are going well!).

Now do I stick with all of this every week? Well, I wish I could say I did, but honestly, life gets in the way ... but I find having a routine to fall back on is helpful. Just knowing what things should be getting done each day is a start, especially when delegating!

Printables available: My Homekeeping Routine (as above), My Homekeeping Routine (blank), Weekend Office Hours (as above), Weekend Office Hours (blank)

 

MONTHLY CLEANING CALENDAR & SEASONSKEEPING

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Here on the left I have one more housekeeping form - a place to schedule my chores in such a way that reflects monthly (or occasional) tasks as well as weekly. As I mentioned above, I like to follow a weekly routine in my housekeeping but because not all room tasks need to be completed each week, I split the monthly chores up over a four-week rotation. (You can read more about my housekeeping calendar in a couple of posts from 2015. Here is post one and here is post two.) The fifth row is for noting the occasional tasks (assigned to certain months, for example - March/September: turn and vacuum mattresses). I think this might all make more sense once I get this form filled in - so I will certainly share once I do that

Edited to add ... it's taking me SO long to write this post, I have completed this page as well!

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Now I know there's a lot of information on this page, but I swear I'm not really a neat freak. You see ... the point is I'm not. I can easily let months (ahem, years) pass by while ignoring (forgetting) all kinds of household maintenance chores. Some aren't that big a deal but others really do impact the overall condition of our home and possessions. As someone with a lot of plates in the air, I need something like this cleaning calendar that takes an area of the house, breaks down what needs to be done and how often, and then finds a spot in my week for it to (hopefully) happen.

I realize this all seems a little confusing, so will do a separate post on how I use it! :)

On the right is the title page to a section of my planner called, "Seasonskeeping: Our Journey Through the Year." This page features a collage of family pictures reflecting seasonal adventures from the past year. I changed the design of this page after having the planner bound so I had to hand-write the title above the collage. Seasonskeeping is what I call my passion for brainstorming seasonal pleasures and ideas - the various ways I weave each season's goodness into our family's life. Because the collage is quite personal, I created a separate title page with a bit of clipart. (In the event someone wants to use my Seasonskeeping pages!)

Printables available: Monthly Cleaning Calendar, Seasonskeeping Title Page (alternative design)

 

SEASONAL BRAINSTORMING PAGES

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Above is an example of one season's spread (Early Autumn), but I have six seasons to share! (I "see" the year in this way - with six rather than four seasons.) On the left I plan to write my "love letter" to the season ... just all the feelings and ideas I get when contemplating a certain time of year. On the right I will create monthly dated lists (1-30/31) for noting events with a little space beneath for general events that don't fall on any particular date (for example, the first frost, full moons, etc.).

Printables available: Deep Winter Note Page & Events Page, Early Spring: Note Page & Events Page, Late Spring: Note Page & Events Page, High Summer: Note Page & Events page, Early Autumn: Note Page & Events Page, Late Autumn: Note Page & Events Page

 

MY THOUGHTS ON SEASONAL LIVING & MONTHLY DIVIDER PAGE

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My last Seasonskeeping form is very simply a place where I will jot down my reasons for "keeping the seasons" and why I feel these kinds of activities are vital to our home and homeschooling. That too, is a post for another time as I tend to get pretty wordy when talking about this concept!

Ok, the page on the right is the divider page for my first monthly planning section, and this would be August as you can see. (My planner runs from August 2017 through July, 2018.) I love setting the months apart from each other with such quaint and colorful papers, but adhesive tabs are helpful here, too. At this point I have yet to attach them, but will just as soon as I can locate the little packages I've kept on hand for these types of projects!

Edited to add: I found the tabs!

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These fantastic little monthly tabs were made by Avery and I was able to purchase them at Staples for years. The company seems to have stopped making them but there are other options out there. (Here are some in a primary palette.) You could even use blank tabs and just hand-write the months of the year.

Printable available: My Thoughts on Seasonal Living

 

MONTHLY TITLE PAGE

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Next comes the title page for the month - and all of these can be found in my original planning sheet post. (Note: I'm not sure if anyone will be wanting to make up this planner for themselves, but I will endeavor to get PDFs with edited 2018 dates just as soon as I can!)

 

MONTH AT A GLANCE CALENDAR

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The very next spread is this two-page month @ a glance calendar. This original form is rather plain because I wasn't entirely sure how I wanted to set this up - I only knew that I wanted a two-page spread! I'd already created one-page monthly calendars as part of my original seasonal series, but then came to realize I really need more room for monthly planning. So I came up with this basic spread and just went with it. 

But since the above photo was taken I've added lots of details and seasonal embellishment to my August calendar! So here's how it looks today ...

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I found a very pretty washi tape that complements the colors I've used throughout the planner. (In case I didn't mention it, each monthly section is printed in different seasonally-appropriate shades. It's one of my favorite aspects of this planner!) I will use this tape on the left page of each monthly spread, which will help me identify the big calendar spreads. I also used alphabet stickers for the month's title and added a pretty sunflower for a seasonal touch.

As you can see, I had to write in the dates myself because I didn't want to take the time to make up a different version of this spread for each month. I made each calendar block lightly lined with an ecru banner for writing in any events of note. I included six rows in this calendar because some months do need that much space depending on where the first of the month falls ... and I added an eighth column for notes.

I like to use any extra space in my calendar for seasonal inspiration - quotes and poems and such. I write these in cursive with a little colored pencil shading so they stand out and catch my eye. :)

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And that's the month at a glance! I have still to set up the rest of the months (adding tape and stickers and quotes). I must get back to the craft store for more decorative goodies!

Printable available: Month @ a Glance Calendar (blank): Left Side, Right Side

 

NATURE CALENDAR & MONTHLY OVERVIEW

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If you're familiar with my seasonal planning sheets, then you've seen these before! On the left is the original August calendar I created, which I've decided to use for daily nature notes. (See below.) The page on the right is the monthly overview.

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(I like how low-key this nature "journal" is ... there's only room for a few brief notes, and that seems easy enough to do every day. I think I'll enjoy looking back at weather patterns and the unfolding nature events of each season!)

Printables available: All planning sheets including the ones in this spread can be found here

 

THE WEEKLY SPREAD

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And here we have what will be the meat of the planner - the weekly planning sheets I've made up for the year!

The sheet above is for this current week's spread - before I really had written very much in it. I use this spread to write down my "big picture" for the week ahead, and so on the left side I have room for jotting down what we need to do, any home and garden tasks, our dinner menus, and how I'll weave the seasonal theme of the week into our week. And on the right-hand side of the spread I have an agenda for the week with space to plan lessons. (Note, when I make up the weekly sheets for 2018 I will include a version of this page that labels the right-hand column "Notes" instead of Student Goals. This should make it more useful to someone who doesn't homeschool!)

Here is the week as I filled it out over the weekend ...

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And here it is as of Wednesday (two days ago) ...

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As you can see, I've added a few things - including a monthly reminder sheet for my boys' goals. I used a sheet of my "August" notepad (designed by Susan Branch) for these notes and as it wasn't adhesive, I used a piece of washi tape to adhere it to the top of the page. (Here is a link to these pads at the Susan Branch website, but I believe they are sold for less at Barnes & Noble. Look in the bargain aisles near the front of the store.) On this "August" sheet I have written goals for my three younger boys along with some notes for our Celtic Tree month study. I just lift the sheet to see my pre-k post-its and other lesson plans underneath.

Here's a close up of my "Crafts & Comforts" corner ...

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In this box I list the activities I've planned for our seasonal theme - in this week's case, "Bats at Dusk." Most of these are geared toward the younger two boys but I have little stars next to those activities that the whole family can enjoy. Will we get around to all of these ideas? Not on your life, lol! But I love planning for these kinds of activities and tuck away the ones we don't get to for next year. :)

Here it is on last week's spread ...

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Printables available: All planning sheets including the ones in this spread can be found here.

 

MONTHLY REVIEW & EVENT PLANNING

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At the end of every month I have a review page - I use it for tracking monthly expenses and jotting down a summary of our homeschooling. On the right is a monthly event planning page - for August that is "Back to School" planning.

Every month has at least one event planning sheet, and sometimes more. These are events and ideas that need a little more planning than I can fit in just a weekly spread. They don't represent every holiday or feast day - there wouldn't be room! - but the ones that we tend to focus on each year. I make them up in colors that match the monthly palette, natch. :)

So here is a list of all my "extra" monthly event planning pages. (Note: I placed an * next to the ones I make double-sided in my planner.)

AUGUST:

Back to School*

 

SEPTEMBER:

Autumn Equinox

Michaelmas Day

 

OCTOBER:

All Hallow's Eve*

 

NOVEMBER:

Our Gratitude Project

Martinmas Day

Thanksgiving Planner (this is a multi-page planner, something I shared last year - it takes a bit to upload!)

 

DECEMBER:

The Winter Solstice

Preparing Our Hearts (& Homes) for Winter

Celebrating Advent & Christmas (another multi-page planner from last year - the dates are a little off!)

 

JANUARY:

Happy New Year!

Birthday Journal (my birthday happens to fall in January but if you'd like a birthday journal page in a different month's palette, just let me know - easy enough to do!)

 

FEBRUARY:

St. Valentine's Day

Honoring Lincoln & Washington

Lenten Planning*

 

MARCH

The Vernal Equinox

Holy Week

Easter Sunday*

 

APRIL:

Spring Awakens

Honoring Mother Earth

Spring Cleaning*

 

MAY:

Mother's Day

Ascension Day & Pentecost Sunday

Garden Plans*

 

JUNE:

Father's Day

Summer Plans & Goals

Midsummer's Eve

Midsummer's Day

 

JULY:

America the Beautiful

 

YEAR END REVIEW & FUTURE PLANNING

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My very last page is a "Year End Review" (actually two-sided) ... and though I meant to create month-at-a-glance calendars for August 2018 through January 2019 ... well, I plum forgot! So I placed these sticky notes here instead where I can jot down appointments and events as they come up. (For example, if I learn of a publication date for a favorite author's new release or anticipated movie, or if I make an annual exam appt.)

Printables available: Year End Review, Month @ a Glance Calendar (blank): Left Side, Right Side

 

 FINAL PRODUCT!

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All printed, all bound, all tabbed and ready to go! I am just loving my homemade planner so far! I truly enjoy working in it - the pages are smooth and pretty (to my taste, anyway!). The feel of the planner is sturdy but easy to flip around as needed. I am really so pleased with my latest "diy" attempt! 

Please feel free to print off any of the PDFs I've linked here and please let me know if you have any questions. As I mentioned, I will post updated planning sheets (corresponding with 2018 dates) very soon! (My goal is within the next week.) I will also compose a separate post with just the planner links - no need to read through all my babble if you're interested in just printing this planner! I'll pin that over on my sidebar for easy reference.

Also, I will follow up on several of these planning sheets with more of my thoughts and ideas. I would love to know if there are certain areas you'd like me to expand upon and ... if you decide to print and bind something from these sheets, please let me know! My next idea is to create a guide (of sorts) to go along with these sheets - in what form I'm not sure yet - but this would be something that shares how I use the sheets to infuse our family life with the joy of the seasons. (Scroll back to that Seasonskeeping title page collage - this is what I'm talking about!) 

Oh, and one more thing! I ALSO hope to post a little video with a tour of this planner and how I'm using it. Not that I didn't give you quite the peek in this post but I think if I can just chat a little about it and flip through the pages that might help me explain it a little better. Or leave you all a little more confused, lol - so we shall see!

But for now I will (finally!) let you all go. Thank you all for your support and kind encouragement ... I know many of you were waiting so patiently for this post, and I kept teasing you on Facebook and Instagram. (Speaking of which, do follow me on either or both if you have accounts ... I tend to post there almost daily!) I will get those follow up posts up just as soon as I can, the first being those PDFs with updated 2018 dates. I apologize that I don't have them ready for you just yet - I just need to proof them and save them as PDFs - but I wanted to get this post up the very MOMENT it was ready! And I hope you enjoyed!

I also hope you all enjoy this lovely, summery Friday ... I wish you and yours well and I will see you all here again very soon!


Seasonal Homeschooling: June's Weekly Themes!

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Hello my friends, and Happy Friday Saturday Sunday Monday! πŸŒž

(Whew, it's taken me a while to get this post done!)

Lots going on at the moment - homeschool dances, a year-end party, an ice cream social, the SAT, the last week of classes, doctors appointments, job changes ... phew! We're not usually this busy and I must admit, I'm looking forward to life slowing down again, but before that happens, we have a graduation party coming up this weekend! So the weekend was spent picking up party goods and getting the yard in order, and this week I'm cleaning the house room-by-room - but right now I'm indulging in some computer time. For one thing I really want to put up this post - and for another, it feels good to sit in the air conditioned room! (We're in the midst of a heatwave this week!)

Anyhoo, today I'd like to share some of my seasonal planning with you all. :) As I've blogged about before, I have a year's worth of weekly themes planned out, mostly based on the seasons and natural events. I use these themes as a springboard for weaving simple seasonal joys and awareness into our family life - via our home, food, education, activities, etc. Some weeks we do a lot with the theme and others not as much - it really depends on available time/energy/interest/mood/ and the weather, etc. I try to be very flexible and keep my expectations realistic.

For example, this week's seasonal theme is "butterflies," but with the big shindig planned for this weekend, any extra time and energy is focused on party prep these days ... so I know we won't delve into the theme as deeply as we might another year. And that's OK. I'm still sneaking in some butterfly goodness where I can. :)

So below I've written about my current themes for the month of June and why I chose them - as well as a few ideas for each week. I always have a LOT of ideas but that's not to say we do all those things! Some ideas work well while others might get left for next year. (Because I do recycle the themes, generally speaking ... part of the joy of the seasons for me is in the way they return to us every year, always seeming new and fresh but comfortingly familiar.)

You can read more about this idea and see my list of 52 themes here in this post but here's what I've planned for this month ...

5/29-6/4 "home garden"

    * Memorial Day is the traditional planting time in New England! We'll work together to plan and prepare our garden bed, concentrating on a sunny spot behind the sunroom. Keeping it very simple - something the boys can tend and enjoy. I have some books set aside for the younger two: This Year's Garden, Let's Grow a Garden, A Year in Our New Garden - and these will be woven into our home lessons this week. I also ordered two new books I think Little Bear, in particular, will love: The Vegetables We Eat and The Fruits We Eat. We just love those Gail Gibbons books! We'll also take a trip to the local farm to buy the plants we've noted on our list, and plant the seedlings at home. We'll take stock of our gardening tools and come up with a routine (chart?) for taking care of our garden. (Who will be responsible for which tasks and when?)

*True confession - we didn't get our plants planted that week! We talked about the gardens we already have (home orchard, herb patch) and the one we'd like to create (kitchen garden), and we readied a new garden bed ... but have yet to purchase seedlings! That's something I hope to do next week when we're all on a quiet, "home" vacation. :)

6/5-6/11 "strawberries"

    * The time is "ripe" to think about and enjoy strawberries - and for several reasons! This is the week of the Full Strawberry Moon as well as a local strawberry festival AND the berries themselves are just coming into their season. As you can see in the picture at the top of my post, our wild strawberries are blooming well - and all over the yard! Our local farms are advertising that their berries will be in the stands and ready for picking this coming weekend. We'll be reading The First Strawberries, and we'll spend time observing the wild strawberries growing in our yard. We'll take photos and/or make sketches for the nature journals. When they turn red, we'll try some in our morning cereal. We'll moon gaze, of course, and we'll head to our local farm to purchase strawberries in bulk. Back home we'll try making some strawberry-rhubarb jam (using our own homegrown rhubarb!). After we've hulled our berries we'll bring the tops out to our hens - they'll love them! I have a terry-cloth tablecloth with a strawberry print that belonged to my grandmother - that will grace our kitchen table this week. :)

* True confession - We didn't make it to the farm, and we didn't make jam, but I did bring home a big package of organic berries that the boys snacked on all week. I am hoping to make jam next week, once things have quieted down. We do have PLENTY of rhubarb stalks in the fridge, awaiting their sweeter counterpart!

6/12-6/18 "butterflies"

     * Now that warmer weather is here and flowers are blooming brightly, it's a perfect time for watching butterflies! We see them for sure, but don't get a whole lot in our yard, so I'm trying to remedy that with more butterfly-friendly plantings. One thing we'll do in our homeschooling this week is to research what plants attract butterflies. (I have lots of resources in our nature cabinet, and have already flagged the pages that refer to this topic.) I'd like to do a page in our nature journal for listing these plants and keeping notes on butterfly sightings this summer. (Bookworm already caught a lovely winged friend on his phone camera last week - a blue and black beauty that didn't linger long before heading to the skies.) There are all kinds of butterfly crafts we could do (a quick Pinterest search confirms that!) but I'll keep things very simple this year. I would love however, to make a butterfly bath and plan to pick up the materials at the craft store and set them aside for a slow summer's day project. The younger boys will read A Butterfly is Patient, and we'll use photocopies of this butterfly coloring book as we learn about different species. (Fyi, I absolutely LOVE using Dover coloring books with our homeschooling!)

*True confession - as noted above - it's a busy week here, there's not a lot of time for butterflies! Happily, butterflies will be around all summer - and hopefully we'll remember to keep our eyes open for them!

6/19-6/25 "sunshine"

    * The Summer Solstice arrives this week (Wednesday at 12:24 a.m., to be exact!) and so begins the season of SUN! Indeed, the longest day of the year is the Solstice itself so what better week to celebrate the glory of sunshine? We'll learn about the science and folklore of the Solstice, using several books. (Two of our favorites: The Longest Day: Celebrating the Summer Solstice and The Summer Solstice.) Like last year, we will choose a solstice branch from the yard (and/or the wood pile) and hang it in our south-facing, sunny kitchen nook window. How we'll decorate it this year I'm not entirely sure - I'm hoping a trip to the craft store will spark an idea! We will also have a bonfire next week, depending on weather ... and naturally we'll be singing "You are My Sunshine" and "Sunshine on My Shoulder." Or, I should say, Little Bear and I will be singing sunny songs during our morning music time. (EB has sensory issues about singing singing and yet LB absolutely loves it! So in the very early mornings, LB and I sit by the open bedroom window, and sing in our rocking chair. We also sing while potty training - but that's a whole different story!) As a family we'll enjoy some barbecue and sun tea; we'll also make fresh lemonade and homemade Sun bread this week. :)

6/26-7/2 "herbs at home"

    * My hope is during the week previous to this one (our quiet, home-vacation week) we will have a chance to visit my favorite herb farm and come home with some new plants for my herb garden. I LOVE herbs and though my herb garden (or patch, really) is on the small side, I try to expand it a little each year. This week I'd like to use herbs as much as possible at home - in our cooking and cleaning, and maybe even in our health and hygiene. (I have lots of recipes and resources, and am combing through them now to pick out some ideas.) In our home learning we'll be investigating the history of herbalism and I have a couple of great coloring books for the boys to use (Medicinal Plants and Herbs, both by Dover). As we learn about common herbs, we'll make species pages, and note how they were used in the past - by native Americans, early settlers, colonial cooks and physicans. I also have my eye on a game called Wildcraft: An Herbal Adventure - the price is a bit steep so I'll see just how interested my kids seem in the concept of herbal knowledge before I splurge!

Ok, so that's a look at the seasonal themes we'll be exploring this month, and some thoughts on how we might do this - given the time and inclination! I always follow my kids' leads - setting things up for them, inviting them to join me - but it they're not so interested, that's all right, too. Obviously I try to include lots of child-friendly activities, and over the years I think they absorb a sense of the seasons, and the rhythm of the year. I just try to model a constant awareness of and enthusiasm for a season and expose my kids to ideas and interesting activities. I think just being aware of such simple but meaningful concepts - gardening, strawberries, butterflies, sunshine and herbs - can be a little blessing for my family. Kind of a soft balm against a hard world that prefers fast and frenzied over slow and simple. The seasons take their time, and despite what the stores say, they always arrive when they're good and ready. β€

Well my friends, I'm going to wrap up now because as usual, this post went on longer than I intended! But I hope this was fun for you to read or maybe there was an idea or two here that sounded interesting to you. I will be back as soon as I can with a new post - a party recap perhaps, or a review of my new Day Designer (12 days in and still loving it!) as well as some thoughts on revamping my household routines ...

But for now I will say goodbye and wish you well ... hope to see you here again very soon! 


May was for milestones ... 🌞

Happy Tuesday, my friends - and long time no post! I feel like it's been sooo long since we last talked! I'm sorry I've not been able to post much lately. It's certainly not for lack of interest! I have so many things I want to discuss and share with you, but it's been an incredibly busy month for us - time at my computer has been scarce! But things are starting to get back to normal and I'm popping in to share some photos with you all and catch up ...

Ok, going back a bit ... here is some lovely china we inherited from Bill's godmother. This set belonged to her mother and was in need of a good home, and Aunt Anne very kindly gifted us with it ALL!

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It matches our kitchen nicely but will be used primarily in the dining room. I asked Bill if we could display some of the plates on the wall. I've always wanted to do that! One thing I love about green china is that it can work so nicely with multiple holidays - Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. :)

Ok, next - check out this super cute scrapbook paper I purchased recently!

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"The Children's Hour" is made by the same company that publishes the vintage papers I like to use when making my weekly planners. I just LOVE how seasonal these designs are and of course, the vintage look and all those cozy images of childhood. More on what I'll do with all those papers soon! :)

Next we have these lovely monthly notepads, a gift from my thoughtful cousin, Kara ...

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You might recognize the illustrations? These pads are made by one of my favorite author-artists, Susan Branch! The whole set came with post-its notes and page markers ... I will find SO many uses for these papers!

Now, a couple of recent bird sightings ...

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This is a Pine Warbler I believe - a new sighting for us! And below, spotted on the very same day, is another new species (for us) ...

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A Pileated Woodpecker! She is absolutely huge! We had heard her tap-tap-tapping early in the morning (not knowing it was this kind of woodpecker) and then when a very large black bird flapping through our yard caught my eye, I grabbed my camera and starting snapping pictures. As you can imagine we were all pretty excited to add a couple of new birds to our life list...

And before I move on to recent (and exciting) events, here's a peek at a lovely new teacher's plan book I purchased recently ...

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I will do a full tour soon here at the blog - it's really well-designed and (subtly) colorful inside! And I'm quite eager to dig in and get next year organized for a new year of home education! (Our 18th!)

Speaking of (home) education ... my oldest son and (former) student, graduated from college last week! Yes!! Can you believe it? Personally I'm having some trouble coming to terms with this development! Not that I'm not ridiculously proud and happy - but GOSH did those four years go by fast! Bookworm now has his Bachelor of Science (in Computer Science) from Boston College ... here are some pictures from the Baccalaureate Mass on Sunday and Commencement on Monday!

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I will forever remember this moment ... as a mom and a homeschool mom, especially. I'm just so pleased for our young man and proud of how hard he has worked. Let me tell you - this boy took his education very seriously and really applied himself to his studies. BC is a pretty big school but Bookworm found his niche - finding good friends and a lovely girlfriend who also graduated this year ...

And now, he's home and will start looking for a job. (Won't lie and say I'm not thrilled to have him home!) Can't wait to watch his journey continue ... :)

Now, the next in line is our Crackerjack ... who will be a senior in high school next fall. But this past Saturday night, CJ enjoyed a rite of his own - attending the Homeschool Prom!

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Crackerjack attended Prom with a large group of friends, but I didn't want to include any of those kids in my post for privacy reasons. So here he is with his mom and dad!

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Ok! So we've covered Graduation and Prom ... and now for Little Bear's 4th Birthday! (Told you it's been a busy month!) We had our family over yesterday for a lunch celebrating not just LB but my brother, Matt, whose birthday is next weekend and my cousin's daughter who just turned one last week! 

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I'm sure some of you are familiar with the Nick Jr. show, "Blaze and the Monster Machines" ... a cute little cartoon featuring monster trucks (and subtle science lessons to boot!). I had the bakery do a "Blaze" cake since Little Bear just loves it. :)

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But goodness - how did he get to be four so fast? Honest to Pete, I googled "how to make life slow down" this morning because I just can't stand it ...

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Here's Little Bear greeting his youngest cousin, just three months old! He's quite enamored of babies ... πŸ’•

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And here he is with his Uncle Matt who had just informed Little Bear that some of these presents were for him. Lol, LB was not too happy to hear that! (And of course, my brother was kidding!)

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And here he is with his biggest brothers ... :)

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Earlybird  - who sometimes has trouble with parties - did really well yesterday. He joined in with the festivities (retreating to his room when he needed a break) and very nicely - one might say, eagerly - helped his little brother open presents. :)

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You are probably wondering why EB's wearing mittens. Well, it's a very long story, but very quickly - about two weeks ago the boys were coming down with a cold and Earlybird started getting nosebleeds. All of my kids, EB included, have gotten them before, but with EB it's really quite difficult to handle. As most of you know, EB has autism and with that comes extreme anxiety and sensory issues. He just panics when we try to help him and that makes the flow just awful. To make it worse, even though we were able to stop them each time they happened (every day for almost a week) he went through a compulsive issue where he would just jam his fingers up his nose to make it start. Some days I had to just sit with him for hours and hold his hands to keep him still. I had my mum and Crackerjack helping me (and of course, Bill when he was home from work) keep up with the house and Little Bear and driving CJ to class. I finally gave EB mittens to wear to keep his fingers out of his nose and he has come to really rely on them. He hasn't actually had a nosebleed in over a week knock on wood but he just relishes the comfort (emotional and physical) of those mittens. (Prayers for his complete healing would be so appreciated ... I feel we're on the right track but it's still all been a little nerve-wracking!)

Ok, back to the party! Time to open all those presents!

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Little Bear received a car carrier truck from Earlybird ...

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.. and a gorgeous, ginormous dinosaur puppet from his oldest two brothers! Little Bear is just getting "into" dinosaurs and he also just loves puppets.

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High fives for Aunt Anne, Cousin Kara, Grandma Barbara and Uncle Karl ... !

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Bill's folks with Crackerjack ... aka Grandma and Grandpa!

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My dad (aka Papa) and (great!) Auntie Marcia ... :)

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Me with my beautiful mum - better known these days as Nana!

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And here's my cousin Kate's husband Paul with their beautiful little girl, just turned one year old! πŸ’•

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Little Bear sharing his toys with his cousin ... :)

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My Bill holding the newest member of the family - our sweet little niece. πŸ’•

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Aunt Ami and Uncle Eric - the new mom and dad! - with their precious girl. Such a lovely, happy family! 

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Cake time at last! Getting help from his brothers blowing out the candle ...

BUT ... there was a bit of a snafu, lol. Please click the link below to watch a brief video I posted on my Facebook page to see what I mean!

Happy Birthday, Little Bear!

And here's a picture I'd been hoping to get - of Little Bear and his dear baby cousins. :)

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It's such a happy time when the family starts filing up with little ones again!

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Last shot ... this lucky boy had a wonderful party! And he's been playing non-stop today with all his new toys - Legos, cars, trucks, etc.! He also got several wonderful new books - a couple which we read in the rocking chair when he first woke. And plenty of art supplies that we'll dive into later this week ... as well as some fun nature exploring tools! I love this age - when they're so full of energy and imagination, wonder and joy. I am ever so grateful God blessed us with this boy ... and I pray for the ability to slow down and savor this sweet time, so that the years ahead may pass with less swiftness than they have so far ... because these are such precious days and because this was JUST Bookworm playing with toys on the floor, I could swear it. And look where he is now! πŸ’›

Well my friends ... thank you so much for stopping by, and for your patience in my slow posting - not to mention my long, rambling posts! I am stunned to think that in two days we will be in the new month of June! (Seriously, Life - remember we talked? About slowing your roll just a bit?) I will do my very best to get my June planner post up ASAP - with extra planning sheets and thoughts on the new month ahead. I want to promise a post by Thursday the 1st but realistically I will temper myself and say by the end of the week ... fingers crossed!

Hope all is well with all of you, my friends! Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I will see you here again very soon!


A Peek into Our Sunny Schoolroom ... ❀

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

So last August I mentioned that we were finally ready to turn our sunroom into a formal learning room. But I guess "finally ready" wasn't quite accurate ... more like, "we're nearly ready" or "it's time to make a list" or perhaps, "when we can find some spare time let's get a few things set up!" Meanwhile life carried on, learning and play happened, while the room slowly came together - taking time out to host Thanksgiving for 20 and a Christmas Day Open House - then shutting down completely throughout the coldest weeks of the winter, because, as a three-season room, it doesn't have its own heat!

Well, warm and sunny days are here at last and the room has come together rather nicely! So how about a tour? :)

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This is looking in from the family room ... through what used to be the back door of the house before the previous owners built this south-facing sunroom. Archie is relishing the fresh breezes and constant critter activity!

And as you can see, there are patio doors leading out to the ... well, patio. And just beyond that are the birdfeeders and herb garden - both important parts of our homeschool! Inside we have a portable greenhouse (aka "classroom garden") and a small fridge. The fridge was a Christmas gift to Bill for his "man cave" downstairs but this is as far as it got! It's actually pretty handy having it on the main floor, especially when entertaining.

On top of the fridge I have one of our favorite seasonal books open to the April spread, along with some spring flowering branches ...

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And a lovely sign I got at Home Goods a couple of years ago. :)

I decided this would be a monthly verse corner ... not really a nature corner because that would mean tiny treasures and hands-on, investigative projects. This is more of a seasonal (top of fridge) shelf with an illustrated poem on display which I'll change up each month. The water-filled vases are set just up and back enough to be out of the way of little hands and paws - so far, anyway. Knock on wood! I'll change this corner up for May with the first dandelions and violets, flowering crab or apple branches and one or two other seasonal flourishes. Later on there will be driftwood, beach roses and a jar of seashells maybe ... then in the fall a small harvest sampling - apples and pumpkins and branches of burnished leaves. ETC. :)

(Clearly this corner is meant more for ME than the boys, but hey - even teachers need their visual inspiration, right?)

Right now the classroom garden has plenty of sprouting seeds!

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(Catnip for our kitties ...)

Just inside the doorway is a spot for Little Bear's jackets, backpack and shoes ...

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(Plus Mom's boots!)

On the floor we have a few different area rugs. Some are for comfort and some are for scraping shoes! And some are for learning and play ...

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The US map rug gets a lot of use since this year we're studying American history! (Crackerjack takes a local homeschool class but Earlybird and I are studying US geography - with a focus on state birds and flowers - at home. In fact, this coloring book and this picture book - along with a favorite geography book as well as several kinds of maps - have really kept EB curious and on track! (I can go into further detail sometime if anyone would like. This has been a really fun study.)

Ok, here's the back wall of the schoolroom - it faces south and lets in a good deal of light!

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I use the window ledges to display the books we are using that week (tying into seasonal themes and study topics). So this week we have ...

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Eggs!

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Easter, rabbits and (from last week) rain ...

The rooster postcard I've had for years - it's part of a lovely set purchased through Nova Natural. And speaking of roosters, next week Petook will take its place on this shelf. How I love that Easter story! And the bunny is a finger puppet - he appeared in one of the boys' Easter baskets last year. I tie storytelling and puppetry into our homeschooling whenever I can. ❀ Fyi, our educational approach has always been a mix of Charlotte Mason and Waldorf philosophies, primarily. As you probably know, if you've read my blog for any length of time! :)

And here are books about our current read-aloud:

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The Spiderwick Chronicles were beloved by my older boys (and me!) back in the day - and since Earlybird really enjoyed Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone last fall, I thought I'd try this series. We listen to audiobooks in the car - a great way for EB to experience all kinds of literature! - and I'm happy to say he's really absorbed by the Spiderwick series as well. We are on book four right now, The Ironwood Tree.

And beneath these windows stands the train table ...

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We've had this train table forevah and it has really held up quite well! I think we got it for Crackerjack when he was ... um, two? So that's about 15 years! Both Little Bear AND Earlybird play here every single day. EB (15) is developmentally delayed so he still plays with a lot of what one might consider "young" toys. Plus he has loved trains since he was tiny. It's nice (most of the time) that both our younger boys enjoy playing trains because often (though not always) they play with them well together. (Though we do go through phases where the standing rule is one kid at a time. Complete with timers.)

I use baskets to contain the tracks and trains beneath the table. Much like the cars and trucks collection described in my "Tale of Four Carts" post, these are only a fraction of the tracks and trains we own. The bulk is downstairs and we switch things up from time to time. (Legos are handled similarly - or were since nobody plays with Legos at the moment.)

Next comes this great easel ...

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This was a roadside find last fall! It's beautifully made - the other side has a dry erase white board, but we pretty much just use the chalkboard right now. I use it to write questions for EB to figure out (usually during his therapy hours). Beneath the chalkboard is a crate full of "extraneous" books ... not currently connected to any topic or theme, but reserved for the future or books we like to return to on a regular basis. (The bulk of our books are stored ... wait for it! ... in the basement.)

Never one to let good storage space go to waste ...

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I have the On-the-Go Water Wow activity booklets tucked in a little basket here ... and oh my GOODNESS does Little Bear just love these things! They keep him busy for hours ... or you know, at least 10 minutes. We have a whole bunch of them and they are well-used and still work great!

Now, just behind the chalkboard you can see our faith and nature shelves ...

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Top to bottom:

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Liturgical resources - these are the ones I like to have close by - many beloved storybooks organized by feast day (more or less) and my most-used Catholic idea books.

Next shelf:

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My favorite seasonal resources - including ones I've had for years and re-read often even though I pretty much know them by heart! These are quite crafty and "Waldorf" in flavor. :)

Bottom shelf:

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Here is the location of our new nature shelf!

It's just the right height for Little Bear to observe and manage. Admittedly, it's pretty sparse at the moment - we're just coming out of winter so we don't have many "fresh" treasures to display! But I do have some preserved items here as well as a flower press, binoculars, and two of my favorite children's nature guides: Round the Year by Enid Blyton (a gorgeous and generous gift from my dear friend, Kimberly) and Nature Hikes - an OLD but priceless nature walk resource.

In the cabinet at the bottom of this bookcase I keep most of my nature study resources ...

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And in a small basket perched on a small table I have all our field guides ...

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Now, tucked in on the other side of the bookcase is our homeschooling cart:

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This cart holds ...

Top bin: Earlybird's go-to educational resources, as well as my homemade lesson planning notebook

Middle bin: my favorite early learning teacher guides, and a fun little "basics" book for Little Bear

Bottom bin: favorite flash cards, educational games and a toddler workbook for when LB wants to "do school" like his brothers :)

I love how this cart looks out here - but what I really love though is how easy it is to move around! I can wheel this cart out to my "teacher desk" in the next room when I'm lesson planning!

Next comes the learning line and more books on display ...

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The clothespins hold pages EB has used for his studies during the week. Some are photocopies of books we're using and some are coloring pages he's worked on. He is a very visual learner  - doesn't really care to talk too much about things but likes to look back at stuff we've done. I sometimes use post-it notes on these pages to prompt further connections. For example, on a state bird & flower coloring page I might ask EB to look up that particular bird in our field guide, or find the flower in our yard. On a human body coloring page about breathing, I might ask EB to do a simple science experiment involving his own breathing. And so forth ...

The books displayed here, from right to left, celebrate the themes of ...

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Spring!

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Colors!

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The World around Us!

I do have a lot of wooden toys and educational items out here - these are treasured items that we've been collecting for many years! And can I just say how much I LOVE Toot & Puddle? Thankfully, so do the boys. :)

In the next corner of the room I'm in the midst of organizing a geography corner ...

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It's still in need of a little work - for one thing, that pretty table (a yard sale find!) needs a new coat of paint (something more boyish) and for another, Little Bear's chair is a bit cramped here! But the heating element is on the wall just to the left and I really don't want him sitting here until it's turned off for the spring-summer-fall. (Which should be any day now - thank goodness!)

The other items here are a globe (which is a bit wobbly), a wooden US puzzle (which is missing Missouri), a small planets board book EB and I made for LB last year, and tucked in the far corner against the wall are several large, child-friendly atlases. These are GREAT for spreading out on the floor!

I would very much like to add some book ledges on this wall so I can display picture books about the current state or country we're studying. We've been using the Discover America State by State book series as we move from region to region and they have been a HUGE hit with Earlybird! I might also like to add a small bulletin board here so we can tack up articles about, and prayer needs for, the people and cultures of this great wide world.

Ok, turning the corner now ...

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This wall is mostly all Little Bear's toys ... and mostly hand-me-downs from his older brothers!

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Our collection of nature puppets - oh, how they have been loved through the years! (And please note the bandaids on several of them. This was Little Bear's doing some time ago when just about everyone had a "boo-boo" of one kind or another.)

More stuffed animals here ...

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And here ...

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And the wooden barn that I'm pretty sure I love more than anyone ...

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The barn sits on a sweet red children's table that belonged to me when I was little - and my mum before me, and my great aunt before that! It was soft yellow when I had it, but my mother painted it this cheerful red after Little Bear was born. The basket beneath the table holds our wooden figures collection. I am so pleased Little Bear has taken a real interest in these. I bought most of these when Earlybird was young (and I was just getting into all things Waldorf-inspired) but EB didn't really take to them. (Imaginative play was and still is a challenge for him.) 

Then we have a couple of wooden stools and an unfinished cubby holding an assortment of toys ...

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Favorite wooden puzzles, an alphabet abacus and a farm-themed tin filled with a bunch of favorite board books. All years-old and well-used! (Are you sensing a theme here, lol?) Little Bear got the tool set for Christmas (does this boy ever love to "help" Daddy with his work!) and the red basket underneath holds play-doh stuff. The lower cubbies hold (l-r) Duplos, a wooden tea set (in the woodland box) and story stones (sea animals and wooden puzzles are stacked in bins just behind). The wooden bin on the right holds yet more wooden puzzles!

(We have always been big on puzzles around here! Bookworm used to like doing them upside down. I kid you not.)

And then we have the treehouses ...

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Also several years old but Little Bear enjoys both of these toys - hooray! Mostly it's the dinosaurs that live in the wooden tree fort (they were off somewhere else when the picture was taken) and the soft tree stump is usually stuffed full of wooden alphabet blocks. Go figure.

Finally, our work table ...

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And it is truly a worktable as you can see from the picture above! A bit of a mess, yes - but beloved, as it once sat in my grandparents' kitchen. It's hardly in the pristine shape in which they kept it, but I like to think they'd be pleased their great-grandsons have all spent a whole lot of time around it ... learning, crafting, playing, snacking. In the middle of the table I have a tray holding a basket of crayons and the day's paperwork.

And now for my favorite part of the whole room ...

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A view of the rest of our "schoolroom" ... which lies just outside these big windows! β€

Well I guess I'd best wrap up now ... but I hope you enjoyed this not-very-brief tour of our schoolroom! I took all these pictures over the past week or so - waiting for sunny days so the light was good! - but tomorrow I am dismantling a few areas to make room for Easter dinner tables. Thankfully this room is still versatile enough that we can use it for entertaining when needed. :)

So thanks as always for stopping by ... and my best wishes to you and yours as the Easter holiday approaches ... and to those who celebrate, Happy Passover!

And of course, a Joyous Springtide to all! β€

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


A Tale of Four Carts ... ❀

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Hello everyone, and Happy Hump Day! If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen one or more of my recent posts in which I gush over my brand new rolling "caddy" carts. Well, I'd like to share them here too, because I'm having such fun setting them up!

But a bit of backstory first ...

I have admired these rolling carts for years now, ever since longtime reader, and Moscow-friend, Mic shared hers for my "Autumn Cozy Nest" series. Mic's pretty cart, in that iconic robin's egg blue, lives in her family's study room and holds all kinds of happy desk and craft supplies. When I saw Mic's picture - with her neatly stored pens, notebooks and purse, plus a couple of my favorite books tucked in there too - well, my heart just went all a-flutter! And then later on my friend Jen shared how she was using her own lovely cart on Instagram - and once again I found myself coveting another's cart just a little! Well, since these pretty carts were made by IKEA, I made a mental note to get myself right over to our local IKEA, only ... I never seem to get over to IKEA! (It's actually not quite local, but a bit of a drive from here.) But those carts have never gone off my radar ...

So then recently I was shopping at Michaels Arts & Crafts for Easter stuff when I found these remarkably similar carts made by a company called Recollections and they not only looked well-made but came in a wide-range of soft colors - PLUS they were ON a really good SALE! So honestly, what could I do but buy one? Or ... um, four?

Well, I did start with just one ... I hemmed and hawed a bit over the color, finally deciding on the charcoal grey because I planned to park it in my family room and we have a lot of gray in that room. Back home I set Bill (and his helper) to work putting the cart together ...

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Bill said it was a cinch to assemble (how could it not be with that kind of help, right?) and seemed quite solidly made. In fact, he was so impressed with the cart - and my plans for it - he hardly twitched an eyelid when I returned to Michaels the very next weekend (before that sale ran out!) and came home with a few more!

(Ok, each cart was on sale for $23 and change so, not exactly a cheap investment, but I made sure I had specific intentions for each cart before I splurged. I don't mean to make it sound like it was nothing to drop $100 on home storage!)

Anyhoo, here's a little tour of our carts and their new homes ...

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In the family room: The GRAY cart quickly became Little Bear's because he just loved it so. It's already logged many miles! This cart holds (a portion of) our vast cars and trucks collection as well as LB's favorite vehicle-themed books. I used a few bins I already had here too, so LB can lift out a bin at a time (in theory) and keep things a little tidier than they might otherwise end up. He can also wheel his car collection to other rooms if he wishes.

The bottom bin holds "monster trucks" and the middle bin holds the interchangeable parts of a set of wooden, buildable trucks while the bin at the very top holds assorted matchbox-sized cars (and planes). We actually own far more than the vehicles seen here (we've been raising boys for the past 22 years so this should not come as a surprise!) but I whittled down the family room assortment to these few bins. We can switch trucks out every so often to keep things fresh!

And next ...

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In the learning room: The AQUAMARINE cart holds the younger boys' curricula and various educational resources including my lesson planning notebook, teacher guides, Earlybird's clipboard (which holds his daily seatwork), a current board game and a few favorite flash card sets. I've parked this cart near the worktable where EB works with his therapist every day. (You'll hear more about this cart in my "Learning Room Tour" post coming up soon!)

Now the white cart ...

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Ended up in the library! And it holds my 17 yo Crackerjack's academic materials - binders, textbooks, reading assignments, etc. - so they don't clutter up his (already cluttered) desktop. CJ was a little skeptical about his need for this cart (he keeps most of this in his backpack) so I may end up finding a different use for it ...

And finally ...

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In the kitchen nook: The ROSE-GOLD cart sits by my command central and holds various notebooks, post-its and notecards. I also parked my week-at-a-glance calendar here but have since moved it back to the countertop. I roll this cart out of the kitchen to my computer desk in the family room from time-to-time - if company's coming or on weekends when command central closes up shop. Of course I can't help but notice this cart's shade matches the coil-binding in all of my favorite notebooks! :)

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Ok my friends, I guess that's a wrap! I hope you enjoyed seeing how I'm using my new rolling carts - as I mentioned above, I'm really quite happy with the way they are made and the way they look and the way they are organizing several areas of our family home! Toys, books, notebooks, and more books! I can always use help in corralling these types of things. Little Bear's play is more creative (and the mess is easier to manage), our lesson-times (and my lesson planning) are smoother and I'm able to quickly pick up my planning paraphernalia when needs be.

And four carts are a lot, I know - but I AM thinking of getting yet one more cart (should they go on sale again) in our kitchen proper ... we're getting rid of an old trash compactor and one of these carts would fit perfectly in it's place. I think it might be a good spot for storing produce that usually ends up (all over) our counter - apples, onions, potatoes, garlic, etc. But we shall see!

Well always, thanks so much for stopping by, everyone ... take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... I'll see you here again very 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 ...

 β€ 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!

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(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 ...


🌞 Books for Happy Mornings & Good Nights 🌝

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Hello and Happy Monday, my friends! Today I'd like to talk a little about favorite children's books - in particular, ones that celebrate a happy day and/or a good night!

We certainly enjoy books of all kinds and at any time of day, but Little Bear himself has what he calls his "sunny stories" and "bed stories." :) Before he settles for sleep, he insists on at least THREE bed stories ... and in the morning, before we head downstairs to get the day going, he requests time spent in the rocking chair by the window, talking about the day, "snugging" and looking at a couple of favorite books ...

So I decided to make up special baskets to go along with these special times of the day! I took advantage of a sale at Michaels, and picked up two similar-sized and shaped baskets - one in a light shade and one in dark. Then I picked up some wide ribbon for a bit of embellishment. 

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Sunrise colors for the day basket and a sparkly indigo for the evening bin. The baskets are not too big and have handles so it's easy enough to tote them from room to room. (Little Bear still sleeps in a toddler bed in our master bedroom but we're working on transitioning him to the nursery down the hall. Taking the books back and forth helps bridge the gap a little!)

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One of the things I love best about Little Bear's nursery (seen in depth here in this post) is the direction it faces - it catches the sunrise every morning and on warm evenings I love to sit in that same window and watch the birds in the spruce hedge along the property line - cardinals flitting in and out as dusk approaches, mourning doves cooing from the rooftop ...

Mornings are especially nice though - even Archie loves that window!

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 Ok, here are the books tucked in those baskets ...

Happy Morning Books:

The Baby's Good Morning Book

Hey! Wake Up!

Peek-a-Boo

Give Me Grace

All Creatures Great and Small

Little Owl's Day

Humphrey's Corner

Oh, What a Busy Day!

Good Morning Sun

Little Golden Books Classics: Three Best Loved Tales (Play with Me, So Big, The Boy with a Drum) 

Playtime

I Can Help

🌞

Good Night Books:

The Baby's Bedtime Book

Humphrey's Bedtime

Good Night, Fairies

Steam Train, Dream Train

How Many Kisses Good Night

Pajama Time!

Owl Babies

Sleepy Time

Little Owl's Night

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I'd love to hear about your favorite books for bedtime and morning time! Please leave a comment below if you have the time. I need more books like I need rocks in my pockets, but I am always on the lookout for new favorites. :)

So this post was first in what I hope will be a series of posts talking about our favorite children's books for different activities and themes. I am currently going through a rather ginormous stash of storage boxes in the basement which hold mostly craft supplies and assorted children's books. These bins have not been unpacked in the four years we've lived here! And they're taking up a rather large portion of the mudroom ... and would-be home office ... and ahem even a corner of the laundry alcove!

I'm not going to set a posting schedule because goodness knows I won't stick to it, but as I go through these boxes and find old gems and organize them into a better storage system, I will share on occasion as I can. I'm thinking of upcoming themes like:

❀ books about nature

❀ counting +/or alphabet books

❀ funny books

❀ farm books

❀ books embracing faith

❀ books exploring world cultures

❀ books about handling fears

❀ poetry books

❀ books about enjoying different foods

Etc.!

I think this will be fun and I hope you do, too! If you have an idea for a theme, let me know. It's possible I might have a giveaway at some point during the series as well ... so stay tuned!

For now though I'll wrap up. My littlest man is itchy for some late afternoon reading ... this is our time for truck books and tea! And books about boats, trains, planes ... any old vehicles, really. We have QUITE the collection of those kinds of books as you can probably imagine!

So please take care and I will be back just as soon as I can. I am thisclose to finalizing that Office Hours Agenda pdf to share with you all - hopefully that will be my next post ...

Ok friends, I'm off! See you here again sometime soon ...


A Sunny, Snowy Nature Club ... ❀

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Hello and Happy Friday, friends! I have a quick post to share today, because oh my gosh, was it ever a beautiful day! Just perfect for our February Nature Club meeting. This month we met at a local farm to walk some wintry trails ... and were pleasantly surprised to find it was also the first day of their maple season! So before setting out on our walk, the kids got to visit the sugar shack and hear about how maple syrup is made ...

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Now, if you're from New England you are probably familiar with the tale of how sap is turned into syrup, but honestly, it just never gets old! Earlybird especially was absolutely fascinated by the steam and the smell and the miracle that is maple sugaring. (Meanwhile I was furiously composing a maple syrup unit study in my head! Though come to think of it, I have plenty of prior experience with this topic ... I'll have to see which former lesson plan I can "tap" into!)

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Maple sugaring is, for me, one of those happy, hopeful, early spring harbingers ... because the sap runs once daytime temps reach the 50s while the nights stay below freezing. We're just getting there as we round the month's bend - hitting 50 on Sunday! - and hopefully that will turn the tide a bit. Not that I'm complaining too much about our very "February" weather, mind you. The snow is awfully pretty (says she who doesn't have to shovel, ahem) but we have had A LOT of it lately. I mean, I'm romancing the heck out of Winter over here, but I'll admit, Spring will be a sight for sore eyes!

But back to Winter for a bit! I hope you enjoy a little glimpse of our day spent in the New England countryside ... :)

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There is quite possibly nothing cuter than a little one with cheeks all rosy from time spent outside!

So, lessons to learn in February (aside from the history and science of maple sugaring!): learning patience, optimism and trust. Waiting for that which comes next, appreciating the good in the now ... all while knowing our faith will absolutely be rewarded. ❀ That's pretty much a New England winter in a nutshell!

(Fyi, Spring is precisely 31 days away!)

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Well my friends, I hope you enjoyed this glimpse of our day! As much as I love being home, it was so good to get out today, mingle with friends and soak up some of that glorious sunshine! I will be back soon with the second part of my planning routine post as well as a progress report for the "52 Weeks Organized Home Challenge"... but ... FIRST!

This weekend I will be posting a little giveaway ... I teased it over on my Facebook page earlier today if you want a sneak peek! I will wait to tell you more but will get that post up as soon as I can - hopefully tomorrow but possibly Sunday. I think you will be really excited about this giveaway - I know I am! 

So take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ... I will see you here again very soon!


My Day Designer: A Closer Look ❀

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Hello my friends, and welcome ... I hope your weekend's going well! Some time ago I promised a closer look at how I use my Day Designer to best organize the hours of my day ... and today I am here to do just that!

Throughout this post I will share many close-up pictures of this past Tuesday's planning page. It's probably TMI to be honest, but I think it's neat to see what kinds of things other people write down in their planners, don't you? I will admit I really filled it up with this post in mind - my pages (days) are not always so busy! Plus, I embellished the page a little more than I do normally. (I'm not usually one for a lot of stickers or too many colors.) I tried to use my page to its fullest advantage so I could show all the different ways it can and does work for me. I will walk you through each section as we go along ...

Before we get too far though, I would first like to say that I absolutely LOVE my Day Designer. There are multiple versions of the DD, but the one I am using this year is a Flagship academic version (June 2016-May 2017) in the Blue Floral design

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And as many of you know, I'm a very picky person when it comes to planners ... "picky" in that, I bounce around between a lot of them! So the fact that I've used my DD consistently since I received it last spring is, frankly, quite amazing!

I first became acquainted with the Day Designer (a system created by Whitney English) when I found a Blue Sky version of the DD at Target in July, 2015. Now, the stationary aisle at Target is a heady and happy distraction for me ... I am a weak, weak woman when I am in that aisle and sometimes I actively avoid it! Honestly, it's like I get trapped in some kind of office supply vortex ... surrounded by so many possibilities ... and before long I've convinced myself I absolutely NEED this (or that) new (seemingly perfect) planning tool ...

Well, that's what happened on that bright summer's day when I found what I was sure could be the planner of my dreams. (Spoiler alert: it was close!) You can read all about that planner here in this giddy post, but to sum up - I used this Blue Sky version of the DD off and on for a while, really liking the daily format but - as is typical for me - having trouble staying fully committed. In other words, I would stray sometimes and use other planners for a bit - always returning to the Day Designer because it just felt so comfortable and comprehensive.

By next spring (2016) I started hearing about the brand new designs for the Flagship Day Designer (the original DD, only available online) and I was completely intrigued. The cover reveal was exciting and I immediately fell in love with a couple of the designs. (Palm was my second choice!) I investigated this similar but more complex (and more expensive) planner - reading reviews, surfing forums and printing out free printables - and then I really gave it some hard thought. If you're a regular reader then you know I spend a lot of time and energy on creating my own planner systems. These creations address a large chunk of my family time - the year itself, natural and liturgical seasons, the months and the weeks - but I find it so helpful to have something specifically designed for tracking one's DAY. Targeting the hours we can control that are right in front of us, while keeping our bigger vision in mind. You can see more of my seasonal planning system here, but I've yet to create anything as beautiful and efficient as the Day Designer ...

So ... I made the splurge! I ordered my new Day Designer during the annual pre-sale, received it in mid-April, and boy was I eager for that June 1st start! And I can honestly say that I am really looking forward to ordering a new one this spring. I do waffle a bit between returning to the Blue Sky version or continuing with the Flagship, but with either choice I'm confident I'll be very happy.

Ok, enough of the "background" ... now for the nitty-gritty!

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First of all, look at that gorgeous, golden coil-binding! So tight, secure, and smooth. And the front and back covers are quite sturdy. (That was one of the qualities that sold me on the Flagship over the Blue Sky DD which is a "softer," more pliable planner. Just as big but not as solid.) These covers provide a wonderful support when writing in my planner - in other words, I don't have to grab one of the kids' big hardcover picture books to use as a lap desk when writing things down, lol. Anyone else do that? Also, the paper is awesome - smooth and soft white, and thick enough that it doesn't easily tear from the coils. (I've never had it tear at all.)

Confession: I shared this picture mostly because I love the little hand reaching forward to touch the coils! :)

Now, here's last Tuesday's page at a glance ...

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Another confession: I only just recently started using pen! Usually I write in pencil because I absolutely need to erase. I'm a little crazy particular about my printing and if something needs adjusting I like to erase rather than scratch it out. But then I bought a package of these pens ...

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... and I just love them! They write very smoothly and are comfortable to hold and - oh my GOSH - they erase! Not like, kind-of erase - but really-and-truly, the-ink-is-gone kind of erasing. They don't bleed through the pages either, which is a very good thing. I bought a small package of blue, black and red and so far I like the blue best because it's pretty and it matches the floral design on my planner... BUT. Just now as I went to grab a link for the pen on Amazon I realized that Frixion makes a whole bunch of colors! Naturally, I ordered up a package of eight ... :)

Also, as I stated above, I don't really use stickers and washi and other embellishments. I have TONS on hand but haven't really gotten the hang of it. I have seen many cool planners decked out in all kinds of colors and designs ... and they are very pretty ... but for me, I need to keep things a little more straight-forward. I do like to add "extras" now and again. (Like, pumpkin stickers in the fall, a big ole turkey at Thanksgiving, or maybe a flag for the 4th of July.)

Here's an example of a Christmassy page I set up in December ...

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As you can see, I also like to use post-it notes in my planner and I'm working on using highlighters ... but I'll expand upon that in a bit!

For now, lets start at the top ... 

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Across the top of every daily page is a quote, and they are always interesting and often inspiring! If I really like a quote I draw a little design around it with stars. On this day, because it was Ben Franklin's birthday I used this "Be Bright" sticker. He was certainly a very bright man but I also like the idea of shining our lights for those around us who might need it. A good message all in all.

On the left side of the top of the page is a spot to note the "top three things" for the day ...

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I use these lines for holidays, birthdays, liturgical feast days, natural phenomena, or any events of note (like the arrival of a new book!). I also scribble a little weather note just for future reference. (Though most of my nature/weather notes go in my domestic journal described in this post.)

Below that section is the daily agenda, all along the remainder of the left-hand side of the page. The time increments start at 5 a.m. and end at 9 p.m ... which is pretty much the span of my waking (working) hours! In the space directly above the agenda I hand-write tiny boxes for tracking water intake and fruits/vegetables. Then, in the lines between 5 and 6 a.m. (when I'm mostly nursing my coffee and getting my engine started) I write in everyday tasks to check off. I like using my agenda for scheduling routine tasks because I can see at a glance where I have space (time) to fit them in. (For example my current decluttering missions.) And these are things I do every.single.day but it's good for me to keep track of them. Especially for reminding myself to take my vitamins and give Earlybird his meds. And when the cats are staring me down mid-morning a quick glance at this task list confirms I haven't given them breakfast.

Just below that section, but before the time-scheduled activities begin, I have a few more items to check off and these are usually pretty similar depending on the day. If I'm grabbing a shower in the morning (as opposed to before bed), getting the baths and activity card prepped for ABA and of course, feeding my family their breakfast. I keep these tasks written over to the right because I do sometimes have scheduled activities for 7-8 a.m. and would need to write them next to the number. (Case in point - an 8:30 dentist appointment the other day.)

(Note, sometimes - when I'm being really efficient - I jot down what's for breakfast and lunch as well. I like looking back at the day to assess how balanced our diet was ... but I'm not always so on top of things.)

Moving a bit further down I list the usual agenda items ...

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... such as when we need to take Crackerjack to class, when Earlybird has therapy ... what I'm doing with Little Bear while Earlybird has therapy. Tiny notes re ~ things CJ must remember for class and things for me to discuss with EB's therapist. And then, at noontime, I have a midday round of routine tasks to check off. This is our lunchtime and I'm usually able to catch up with chores while the kids eat and we take a little break from lessons and outings.

I also try to schedule myself a "cozy nest" time around 3:00 and sometimes this is for me and sometimes this is for me and the boys. Sometimes it's inside, and sometimes it's out in the yard. It depends on the day! It might seem silly to write such an event in a planner but this is my philosophy: if something is important to you, it belongs in your planner. Teatime and reading breaks and nature walks sometimes happen spontaneously, but they're more likely to happen if they're given a space alongside the other to-dos of the day.

On this Tuesday I used a sweet little sticker to record my "tea" of choice!

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Four in the afternoon is another checkpoint ..."tidy time" I call it! It's the reset button when I do a general clutter sweep - school things put away, my "stuff" cleaned up, toys picked up off the floor - hopefully getting the kids to help me too! I also start dinner prep, quickly wipe up baths and take a few minutes to review my planner. After supper and another reminder for Earlybird's bedtime med, I jot down what I hope to watch or read that evening. :) (Or, obviously, if we have evening plans, these get listed in their time slot ... but ... we hardly ever have evening plans, lol!)

But now, moving over to the other side of the planner, starting at the top again ...

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I use these four boxes mostly as they're intended. "Dinner" and "Dollars" are self-explanatory ... but I use "Don't Forget" for making note of our weekly seasonal theme, and under "Due" I list current blog drafts. Just below this section, the remainder of the right-hand side is for To-Dos. At the very top I write "IG" and "FB" and note what I'm planning to share on social media that day.

Moving down the To-Do column, I first list what housekeeping tasks I am working on that day - the daily #52Weeks mission and then whatever is on tap for that weekday. (Tuesdays are for bathrooms. Everyday is for laundries.)

And then from there it's just anything that needs doing (or should be done) on THIS day. Not sometime this week, but preferably TODAY. And it's a really nice long column so there is plenty of room for listing all the things. (Harkening back to my Franklin-Covey days I use a dot if a task is in progress, an arrow for moving a task forward and a check for completion. I add a circled initial next to a task if someone else is in charge of a particular job.)

Now, because I homeschool my children, educational activities take up a good portion of our day. Or they do when we're really on point! So I've been keen to designate some of the space on my daily planning page for tracking these activities. (I have a weekly lessons overview in my planning binder, but I like to formulate a few concrete goals for each day.) The bulk of my hands-on homeschooling is with the younger boys since my 17yo is mostly doing independent studies at this point. I expect him to do daily math lessons, keep up with his class assignments and homework, and to help with the family nature almanac. (Environmental Studies this year.)

Something I've recently tried is using a bit of cute washi tape to set apart a section for lessons ...

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Washi tape is such fun - I love finding neat ways to use it!

I've also used different colored post-it notes (1 3/8" by 1 7/8" size) for tracking lessons. (Each of my boys assigned a color.) I love the way this size post-it fits at the bottom of the page. Currently I'm using these notes for ideas/actions to carry throughout the week. The theme from my Earth Psalms book, monthly and seasonal themes/missions and a reminder to monitor Earlybird whose med dosage was increased recently. I move these notes along each day ...

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Now, not seen beneath these notes, at the very bottom of the page, there is a large rectangle labeled, "Notes" and a smaller box in the bottom right-hand corner for "Gratitude." After taking these pictures I used the notes box to record the subscriptions I renewed that afternoon and I jotted down another Ben Franklin quote in the gratitude section. (I have a separate journal for recording gratitude and intentions.)

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I added the pretty blue flower sticker because the corners of the notes kept lifting and ... because it was just so darn pretty!

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Before I go, I just wanted to show you that I am also trying something new with my planner ... using highlighters to indicate different types of activities:

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Blue for Earlybird's therapy, yellow for activities that take me/us out of the house and pink for activities that are for mama's health and well-being. :)

Ok, one more photo! Since Day Designer combines Saturday and Sunday on one page, this layout is a bit different from the pages I've shown you so far ...

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As you can see, I still use it in the same way - with task lists and agenda items grouped by time slot. I use the "To Do" section at the top for events of note, and instead use sticky notes for my weekend to-dos. The smaller note has a few blog goals (I try to catch up on drafts over the weekend) and the larger note has our family "pow." (POW = Plan of the Weekend, or basically a list of the tasks we hope to accomplish.) I like that at the bottom of this weekend page there is a divided box for the days of next week. I always have my head halfway in the coming week on Saturdays (and particularly Sundays) and it helps to see at-a-glance what is coming up ... especially if there are things I need to prepare or purchase while running weekend errands.

Now I must confess, as I was talking about my Blue Sky Day Designer I felt the urge to look through my old planner ... so I pulled it out of my closet and perused it for a bit. It really is a lovely planner! A couple of things caught my eye. First, I remembered that something I preferred in the Blue Sky version was its monthly calendars. They are set up just like the Flagship (a monthly spread across two pages, gold tab, large grid), only the Blue Sky calendar has LINES. And I love a calendar with lines for organizing the information and keeping one's handwriting neat. I also kind of like the daily page set up - maybe not better but it certainly makes sense. Again, the two versions are similar but the Blue Sky has three vertical columns (schedule, to-do and notes) rather than two (schedule and to-do). I remember I liked using the notes column for extra information and sometimes for homeschool planning.

I don't have the time or light to take pictures of the rest of my DD right now (monthly calendars, goal management, vision page, etc.), but I can share more at a later date if anyone would like to see those other sections. But for now, I think I'd better wrap up ... because, although I know we all love to talk planners, this post is running quite long! I'd love to hear from you if you are using a daily planner, whether a Day Designer or something else ... please drop a note if you have time!

So I thank you for stopping by and wish you all a wonderful weekend. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I will see you here again very soon!


Little Bear's First Autumn Hike πŸ’›

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Happy Tuesday, my friends - and Happy St. Luke's Day! Are you having a "little summer" where you live? Despite a damp and gray start, it's going to be unseasonably warm here today - near 80Β°! Like yesterday was, and tomorrow promises to be ... and I'm just loving this opportunity to get out and enjoy the amazing Autumn all around us. :)

So I'd like to share some of my photos from yesterday, when Little Bear went on his very first Homeschool Hike! It's not his first hike of course - he's enjoyed a few family hikes in the past, with a vantage point from the back-carrier, peeking over his Daddy's shoulder! - but this time it was "feet on the ground" as we joined our homeschool group's "under-eight" crowd in the woods. This was LB's first "solo" homeschool adventure - something just for him and Mama!

I hope you enjoy these pics ... more thoughts about little guys and early learning at the end. :)

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What a glorious day this was! A real "autumn adventure" in the crunchy, muddy, light-filled woods!

I had a strong sense of deja vu, watching my Little Bear - who is SUCH a doppleganger for Bookworm at this age - jump right in and explore with "his kids" (as he calls them, lol). Homeschooling is all about working with multi-ages (and kids learning to befriend other kids no matter their differences - age-level or otherwise) but I'm grateful my support group has some activities just for the young ones. Little Bear does plenty with his older siblings - tagging along when he thinks he's leading the way - but I'm looking forward to more times like this that will be just ours to experience together. Mama and her littlest bear. <3

I've been homeschooling for nearly 17 years, but this time around, "preschool" feels new again. As much as he looks like his older brothers, Little Bear's very much his own unique person - an extrovert and quite strong-willed, endlessly curious, always chatty and VERY active! With experience (if not quite wisdom) behind me, this time around I feel much more relaxed. I'm remembering things that worked with my older boys and the many lessons learned - most of all by Mama! Relax, relish and understand that there is NO RUSH. Do not forfeit the freedom of these early years for unnecessary structure and too many expectations. All the things that need to happen will happen ... when they are meant to. In the meantime, I'm going to set up a rhythm of gentle learning experiences along with daily doses of fresh air, weekly outings, quiet times at home, crafty creating, cooking together, gardening and care-taking, singing and humming along to music, opportunities to practice kindness and develop good habits. As I said in an earlier post:

"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."

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More on our early learning plans (themes, organization, creating a haven of love and learning) in a future post, but for now I'll let you all go. I know I promised last time that my next post would be my "desk tour" but I just had to share this day with you all. I hope you enjoyed our autumn adventure! Desk pics to come soon!

Enjoy this blessed Tuesday, my friends ... see you here again very soon!


Earlybird's Visual Learning

My goodness but I've been working on this draft for some time now ... and yet for some reason I just can't seem to wrap it up! Well, here we go anyway ... I hope you enjoy! :)

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So here at last is Earlybird's "learning line," something I mentioned last month on Instagram and promised to show in more detail here at the blog ...

This learning line is basically a simple, visual catalog of information - consisting of sheets stored in page protectors. We've had some good success with this the past few weeks, so I snapped some pictures to share here in case this might work well for someone else's child ... :)

But first, a bit of background ...

Our 14 yo Earlybird has autism and teaching him in a way that is both engaging and meaningful has been a real challenge for us as a home-educating family. We are always looking for ways to make learning enjoyable for EB, while taking into account his varying special needs. He can't really handle long lessons or a lot of one-on-one, intense instruction so I like to "sneak in" the ideas and concepts we're working on and then revisit them to assess how things are sinking in. (EB is developmentally delayed but has a fantastic memory and a bright inquisitive mind. Some subjects (like science) he readily absorbs like a sponge, while others (for example, math) he really struggles with.) My first thought was that we'd just sit down together with a binder full of the sheets shown above, but EB can be funny about this kind of activity. I could envision myself saying, "Hey, EB, how about we sit down over here and look through your lesson pages together?" To which EB would most likely say, "Um, no thanks." Or maybe even something like "Noooo, I don't wanna ... noooo!"

(Insert door slam here.)

Compliance and flexibility are things we work on every day with EB's (amazing) behavioral therapist - and we're making progress, certainly - but as you can imagine, this kind of attitude doesn't really lend itself to easygoing homeschooling moments. It's actually quite disruptive and really messes with the lesson plans!

Hence our ongoing efforts to find methods that are appealing to EB while also training him to be more accepting of requests and responsibilities. (This is also why I tend to make EB's lesson plans with a rather wide-range vision. I sketch out some general topics and themes for a month, then write up weekly goals which get plugged into the days of the week as they work best.

My October notes read like this: Explorers, New England geography/geology, Americana artists - Moses/Wysocki, music of Harry Potter (composer John Williams), autumn weather/frost, woods/leaves, soil, migration, St. Francis, All Hallow's Eve

Side note - it is really difficult for EB to sit and listen to someone read aloud to him (re ~ sensory issues) and while he can read on his own, he doesn't have a lot of stamina for it. So in come audiobooks! Funnily enough, I've never been a big fan of audiobooks myself - preferring paper as I do - but they have been a real lifesaver! And so incredibly enjoyable. I play all kinds of literature while we drive around, bringing Crackerjack to his "out of home" classes or the soccer field or on errands, etc. It seems we're in the car every day for something or another these days! So I just casually press "play" and when EB asks me to switch back to "the news" (he loves news radio, lol) I say something like, "Oh we'll go back to that in a minute, let's just find out what happens next ..."  We just finished Peter Pan, and have now begun Harry Potter ... I am so excited to revisit this with Earlybird! It's his first time, but one of many re-reads for me!

Ok, so enough of my chatter, here are some pictures of our "learning line" - and this also gives you a little sneak peek into how the learning room is coming along (Slowly, but surely! And a full tour to come soon ... )

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So the line stretches across the entire back wall of the sunroom learning room. Bill just used "Command" hooks and a length of kitchen twine for this project. Other supplies include sheet protectors, post-it notes and small wooden clothespins. The current books are on the windowsills for now but eventually - once Bill builds me some book ledges! - they will be displayed on the walls. Both the books and the sheets reflect current learning topics ...

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Some of the things I have hanging in the sheet protectors:

  • a map of the US slowly being colored in as we cover each state
  • a state bird and flower coloring page (we're starting in New England)
  • a photocopy of a colorful state map, corresponding with the state bird/flower page
  • some Peace Day print-outs
  • a corn plant with diagram labels
  • a map of where corn is grown in the US
  • some index cards with landform vocabulary terms - these are specific to New England (EB was asked to look them up and record the word on each card)
  • the weekly forecast
  • September's poem

I've since added a compilation of seed-dispersal facts and a Charles Wysocki art book page (with New England theme) as well as some coloring pages and crafts made by Little Bear at his library Storytime.

To some of these pages I might add post-it notes with questions such as:

  • According to this map, which area of the US grows the most corn?
  • What is the capital of Massachusetts?
  • What are three adjectives that describe September?
  • What day this week looks to have the best weather?
  • What Native American tribes were found in Massachusetts? Check the Giant US Discovery Atlas

Some of these pages are photocopied from workbooks, text books, library books and other resources. Some things are found online as images or printables. (How did we ever home school before Pinterest?) The index cards are in sheet protectors with divided pockets. Currently I'm just filing the sheet protectors in a binder as is, retiring last week's pages over the weekend and hanging fresh sheets before the new week begins.

(Ok, let me rephrase that - I'm actually placing all those pages in a basket until I find a binder I like for this purpose! I need a large one, but the rings need to work very smoothly for Earlybird.)

The "learning line" is something EB uses with his therapist as well. They've been working his homeschooling into their daily sessions and it has been a tremendous help! I think Earlybird likes this approach because it's visually appealing and he feels proud to see some of his work hanging up in this way. I've heard him show visitors his learning line and he'll comment on it sometimes to me throughout the day. It's a way of keeping his lessons front and center - but with a relatively low-key approach. Some items stay up longer than a week if I feel they need to "sink in" a little longer.

Note: these pictures were taken last month ... here is a peek at the line this week!

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So there's a look at one of the ways I incorporate "visual" learning into Earlybird's week. I hope you enjoyed this peek into our learning room, and as I mentioned above, a full tour will be coming up soon!

Enjoy your weekend, my friends and as always, thanks so much for stopping by ...

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:

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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. β€οΈ

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.

 πŸŽ

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 ...


The planning process is underway ... 😊

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Hello, my friends! I hope your week is going well. I am popping in tonight to say "hi!" and share a few pictures. :)

So, I am currently knee-deep in my "ed. planning," and by that I mean, I am sifting through piles and piles of notes and folders and calendars etc. so that I might recall and record just what it was we did during the previous academic year. In my state (Massachusetts), we homeschoolers may choose from one of four evaluation methods - standardized testing, a portfolio of work samples, periodic progress reports or one year-end report - and our family chooses the last option on that list. We always have done so, because it's something I do for myself anyway, and it's just as easy to send a copy to the school system.

Anyhoo, every year, as I dive into the deluge - with a certain amount of angst, as I wonder if we did anything at all - I say I will be more organized about my record-keeping (and lesson-saving) going forward ... Next year I will be SO careful with my notes, I swear! Next year I will save EVERYthing and it will ALL be in one place ...

And yet this year (like most years before it), I found myself rooting through the house, sorting through in-baskets and file folders and notebooks and tote bags and backpacks and calendars and ... oh yeah, that homemade lesson planner I used for all of September, 2015.

Ahem.

But it's all going to be fine, truly - I know this in my heart. Like every one of the 15 years before this, we do actually do stuff, and I do end up finding All the Things - because thankfully I never throw anything away - and as of Sunday night, I have written up some pretty darn good reports (if I may say so myself). Renewed our HSLDA membership and started in on the next phase of my ed. planning ...

Aka - the fun part! Figuring out next year! :)

Now, because I am a visual learner/do-er, I like to lay out potential resources and then group things in piles. So this is what's going on in the dining room right now ...

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Most of these books have been used and loved before - some of them going way back to Bookworm's time - and I'm really looking forward to revisiting them. As you can probably guess from the assortment above, this year we are concentrating on early American history - Colonial America and New England seafaring history in particular - American artists, the US government, biology for the high schooler and something I'm calling, "seasonal science" for the younger boys. :)

Once I've written out the plans for each of the boys (what we'll cover and what we'll use), I will be ready to send the whole package off to the Superintendent. Hopefully by the end of the week!

In the meantime, I'm filling out a brand new homemade lesson planner ... WHICH I am resolving to make FULL use of this year. Now, I have given you peeks of this planner at my Facebook page (and in the banner above) but I will do a more thorough post on the ins and outs in a future post. It's basically a plain, spiral-bound planner that I transformed into a homeschool planner with pencil and ruler. Not too fancy, but - with proper and consistent usage - most efficient.

(Update: Here's a tour of my mostly finished planner!)

Hopefully, anyway. My planner problem seems to be twofold - jumping from one "tool" to another (giving up too soon on something that isn't quite working) and not creating serious, committed time in the family schedule each week for lesson management. Time to review and record what was and plan and prepare what will be.

"Tools and Time" - a great title of a future post!

But speaking of Facebook, a reader, Patricia, asked if I could share my weekly themes (seasonal and liturgical) and I would be happy to ... in fact, I just finished the week-by-week chart in my lesson planner today! I may even try to make it a spreadsheet of some sort, so you could print it out and add your own events and notes. That MAY be getting way ahead of myself, but we shall see!

In the meantime I'm getting back to "work," and as always I thank you all for stopping by! Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I'll 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. 

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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!

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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 ...

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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?)

β˜„οΈβ˜„οΈβ˜„οΈ

See you all here again very soon ....


Summery Thoughts & Pics ... 🌞

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Happy mid-July, my friends! I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying their Summer so far ...

I know my posting has been very slow lately, but all is well here - it's just a very busy, hands-on season in my life! Days begin early - end later than I'd like - and I'm afraid naps are just not a regular thing anymore, lol. I'm finding it a challenge to carve out blogging time these days ... but I am still here! And I appreciate all your thoughts and queries, both here and at my Facebook page. I do not have my blog email working yet, so if you need me, please contact me by leaving a comment here or at FB for the time being. :)

Well, I'm popping in today to say hi and share a few photos if I may. I'm working at the kitchen table right now, sipping some cold coffee and listening to my boys all around me. Little Bear is singing a Spiderman song with Crackerjack while they work on a puzzle on the family room floor ... Earlybird is working hard on math skills with his therapist in the sunroom ... and Bookworm is weaving in and out of the kitchen, getting his own day going ...

Free time might be hard to come by these days, but I'm awfully grateful to be here in this season of life. These full and blessed days go by all too fast ...

Ok. First up - here's a sun craft I made for the Summer Solstice:

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I have always loved those colorful sun and moon plaques you see hanging on the sides of sheds or garden gates ... but goodness, they are expensive! This one is handmade (and rather humbly so) with salt dough. We left it to finish drying outside under its namesake. I haven't had the courage to paint it yet, but once I do and it is sealed against the weather, I will hang it somewhere in our garden ...

Speaking of my garden, it's doing very well, too!

Bee balm

Above is the Bee Balm which started blooming just before Independence Day. I think it looks like little firework explosions! And boy, do the hummingbirds enjoy them ...

The herbs we planted last year are quite plentiful - I've been gathering them on dry days to hang over my kitchen window.

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In my basket above is St. John's Wort (seen in top picture, too), Thyme, Lavender and Rose petals. The rose bushes out front really did well this season - in fact they are now mostly covered in hips!

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I'll be researching what to do with rose hips, but in the meantime, I used the petals I collected to make some rosewater:

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Doesn't that look pretty? 

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Very easy to do - I placed a cup of rose petals in a glass bowl, covered them with 2 cups boiling water and then allowed them to steep (with a dinner plate resting on top) until cool. Then I strained the water into a jar as seen above. I purchased some amber glass spray bottles which I plan to fill with a couple of different herbal concoctions, one of them being a "rosewater refresher" for hot summer days. :)

And here is the "pretty pink forest" growing in my front yard ...

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These lovely blooms are Astilbe, and there is tons of it growing beneath the family room windows. And out back the Spirea is a veritable pink explosion:

Spirea 1

This whole area (which stands right beside the chicken coop) is a bumblebee haven!

A little more pink to be found along the front walkway ...

Dianthus

These are Cottage Pinks! I love their clove-like scent - and that they remind me of my grandparents' garden AND that they were a favorite of Tasha Tudor's. So much of gardening is creating and recreating fond memories, isn't it?

 Now, here's a very "interesting" visitor we had in our yard recently ...

Fox in yard 1

Yes, that is indeed a red fox - and we've never seen one before (even at our old house) but wouldn't you know, the year we finally get chickens ... this fella shows up?

One more garden pic ...

Faerie flower

This tiny plant popped up all on its own beside my herb patch, and I wasn't sure what it was, but after consulting google - and helpful friends on Facebook - we've identified it as "Straw Foxglove!" A tiny cousin to these beauties out front ...

Foxgloves 1

I love that it's a mystery how it got there ... :)

And here's a pretty picture from my living room, taken on Independence Day morning ...

4th of july morning

The summer weather has been wonderful here in New England - bright and hot for the most part. Maybe a bit too hot this week (mid 90s by Friday) ... so as much as I love open windows, I'm very grateful for air conditioning!

Speaking of gratitude ...

Magnetic letters

It's been many years since we've had magnetic letters on our fridge! I LOVE this age, don't you?

And how about a family pic? 

Happy birthday dad

We celebrated Bill's birthday last weekend, and I just love this shot of him surrounded by all his boys (and me)! In case you can't tell, he's lighting the candles on his cake - we couldn't fit all FIFTY on there! ;)

(Any longtime readers here astounded (as I am) at how big my boys are all getting? They were tiny when I started this blog!)

Parting shot, taken at my local Michaels craft store recently ...

Fall at michaels

Mind you, this was taken BEFORE the 4th of July! I am all for planning ahead - and you all know how much I love autumn - but even for me this is just a wee bit too early!

β€œLive in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

(His birthday was yesterday - aka National Simplicity Day - and this is a topic for a whole 'nother post!)

Well my friends, I am going to wrap up now, because if I don't push "publish" soon there's a chance it will be another day or more before I get this post up! (Remember how I was sipping cold coffee back in that third paragraph? Yeah, it's taking me a while to get this post done!)

Plus, I have supper to make, and tonight it's sloppy-joe biscuits, corn on the cob and waffle fries - a real "boys' favorite." I've been a little lax in the meal planning department and really need to get back on track. I'm at the food store more than I'd like these days! 

(Another topic for another day!)

But as always, I thank you for stopping by and reading, and I hope this post finds you well ...

See you here again very soon!


Friday Bits and Bobs

Flowers in vases

Happy Friday, my friends! Popping in early to share a few links with you all ... :)

Now, are you looking for some meatless menu planning inspiration today? Here are a couple of older posts of mine with lots of great reader suggestions in the comments:

Meatless Menus? (2011)

Lenten Meal Planning (2015)

And here is a wonderful post from my friend Meredith, "Meatless Meals for Lent." Lots of links and ideas there! And also not to be missed is this post - "Five Meatless Dinners" from my friend, Chris! There's a Lenten link-up at the end of that post with even more meatless ideas!

Here's another spot for Lenten meal inspiration, Leaflet Missal's post, "8 Delicious Lenten Recipes for Meatless Fridays." I can't wait to try the hot cross buns on Good Friday, and the Passion Fruit Cheesecake on Passion Sunday!

Speaking of Leaflet Missal, here are "7 Ideas for Celebrating Lent Your Way" - filled with simple Lenten suggestions - and one of them was mine! I was so honored to be asked to participate in that article. :)

And here's a wonderful, witty and thoughtful post from my friend Karen called, "Five Reasons Lent is Hard on INFJs"- I read this with much interest, as I happen to be an INFJ too! (What is an INFJ you might wonder? Click over to Karen's and find out!) So much of her post had me chuckling and nodding my head ... 

And leaping away from Lent for a minute, there's another post I've been meaning to share with you all for some time, especially because recently someone asked me about my "mid-year review" and how I go about it. And to be perfectly honest, I am quite behind this year! I am hoping to work on this important project this weekend - a wee bit past the mid-year mark, ahem - but here's an old post of mine describing my process ... BUT! Even better, here's a fantastic post from my friend Mary Ellen about her mid-year review AND there are printables!

Ok, final link! (I think!) My friend Shirley Ann has updated her blog, Under an English Sky, and you must pop over and take a look. It is just lovely and always filled with great ideas, pretty crafts and lovely tours of England. She has a new series called "The Crockpot Chronicles" and her first recipe is perfect for Lent! I will be avidly following this series as I LOVE using my crockpot at this time of year.

(Speaking of crockpots ... I made this yesterday and it was so delicious. Next time we'll have some some crusty bread to sop up the soupiness, but it paired very nicely with rice pilaf. I just adore artichokes!)

Well I lied, lol - this will be my final link! Have you noticed my new nest button over on the lefthand sidebar? I have started a separate blog called Our Family Field Guide where I am storing nature notes and pictures. I won't be posting quite every day, but hopefully often enough to capture that "rhythm of the year" I find so fascinating and nurturing. I recently found this quote and it struck such a chord with me ...

"There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature." ~ Rachel Carson

Yes. :)

So I hope you'll stop by once in a while and see what we're up to, what we're discovering in this beautiful world all around us. β€

Well my friends I will let you go at last - but I hope you all enjoy this day and I thank you for spending a bit of it here. This weekend I have a couple of Book Party posts in queue - and I can't wait to share them! (Would love to hear from you, too!)

See you here again very soon ...


Book Party: Dawn's Books & Nooks

Vintage books

Hello again, my friends! It's time for another Book Party post! I've had such fun reading all the posts so far, and today I'm excited to share a few of my own book-filled nooks ... :)

*❀*

Like many of you, I have books all over my house - beside my bed, in the kids' rooms, on the family room shelves, stored away in basement bins - but the best reading spots can be found in the library. Now, one might call this a living room, or even a parlor, but we are optimistically coining it "the library" because we hope to have lots and lots books stored in here one day! And by "stored" I mean - arranged in a way that is well organized and inviting. I want this to be a room that celebrates books and encourages hours spent in joyful reading, whatever the season or time of day. This room is on the west side of the house so it gets fair natural light (as well as a nice view of the sun setting behind the woods), but good lamps and overhead lighting are important! As, of course, is comfortable seating ...

SO here we go!

Book party dawn 1

These are the two larger bookcases in the room and they are situated to the left of my writing desk. They belonged to my husband's dear grandmother and we have beautiful glass doors for the front of each - something for the future when our littlest is no longer little! The one on the left holds books we use for homeschooling: history/geography, science/nature study, myths/legends, picture books and classic literature, poetry/fingerplays and some of my general homeschooling resources (Charlotte Mason and Waldorf, for the most part).

A closer look at the shelves (which, it should be noted, were neatened specifically for the purposes of this post):

Book party dawn 21

Book party dawn 22

Book party dawn 23

Book party dawn 24

The bookcase on the right is known as "Mama's," and holds books about homekeeping, seasons, crafts, nature, New England, Tasha Tudor, gardens, vintage style and, well ... many of my favorite things! My novels, however, live elsewhere: (most) in storage and (some) in a basket at the foot of our bed.

A closer look at these shelves:

Book party dawn 13 (1)

Book party dawn 14

Book party dawn 15

Book party dawn 16

The bottom shelf holds my most current issues of Martha Stewart Living (I have all of them actually, going back to her premiere in 1990!) as well as an assortment of favorite magazines I'm keeping (rather than clipping).

Book party dawn 2

I have to share a couple of pictures of the "nest I built" under the south-facing window. The foundation is a rather large beanbag type of chair that is actually meant for the family room (where the tv is) but for various reasons we moved it out here. The gray suede-like cover was not a good fit for this room so I covered it with a beloved afghan in the coziest of colors. To make it even more enticing, I placed a pillow and a couple of Little Bear's soft toys here as well. Crawling into this nest - which easily fits two of us - is a joy! All the books are at our disposal, and there is such nice light ...

Book party dawn 17

This is not the most flattering of pictures, lol - but I had to share it. It was snapped this morning by my Crackerjack, as I read to Little Bear in our nest. It's such a snuggly space ... β€

Now, in the center of the room, on the coffee table, I have my personal reading basket:

Book party dawn 3

I've always had a reading basket for current magazines and books I'm trying to spend time with ... if not everyday, then at least a few times a week when I find a little downtime. On Sundays I clean it out a bit and refresh the selections if necessary. Not shown is the book I'm reading in bite-size pieces each night before falling asleep - the one I wrote all about in this post. That book I keep on my bedside table.

Now here is our Catholic bookcase on the other wall ...

Book party dawn 4

The bottom shelf is for display, set behind these lovely sheers which I change up according to season (purple for Lent at present). The two bookshelves above contain my liturgical resources - the very top shelf contains books for grown up use, while the next shelf down holds books for the younger children. To the right of the tiny tote bag are the story books that we use throughout the year (after year) - for feast days and such. I try to keep them organized by date.

Now, below you see Little Bear's main book basket - which is now at the perfect height that he may peruse and decide which book he'd like read. Most often these days it's a book about trucks. :)

Book party dawn 5

There are even more books on the other side of the chair!

Book party dawn 18

In the smaller basket in front of the curtain I have our various field guides. The larger basket under the table holds oversized picture books. And the very small basket near my mug has LB's most requested reads. :)

Book party dawn 8

(Different day, different mug!)

On the opposite wall from "my" chair is the fireplace, and in front of it we have our nature puppet collection, our peace basket (slowly filling up) and the seasonal board books basket. 

Book party dawn 7

Tucked behind the loveseat is the larger seasonal book basket ... these are titles for January through March. I use these books with our weekly seasonal themes, pulling out what I need when I do my weekly planning ...

Book party dawn 6

Fyi this week's theme is "windowsill gardens" and the books I'm using, Linnea's Windowsill Garden and Linnea's Almanac, are actually not in our basket - but on request from the library! :)

We've collected a lot of wonderful books through the years and I find it very helpful to organize them, as much as possible, by season. Off-season baskets are kept downstairs in the basement. Books are often set up on display in the front windowsill, or perhaps on the top of a table ... 

Book party dawn 12

Book party dawn 20

Oh, and before I go, here are my cookbooks - kept in the kitchen!

Book party dawn 11

I keep my favorites here, and I will confess, I often read them more for pleasure than practice! (I use Pinterest for recipes nowadays.) There are more cookbooks in storage downstairs ... in fact, there are quite a lot of books still in storage downstairs! It will be three years since we moved here this June and it really is getting ridiculous that we still have boxes to unpack!

*❀*

Well, my friends, as usual I've gone on longer than I intended, but I hope you enjoyed seeing all (or most) of my books in their special nooks today! I would love to see yours - to hear about where you keep your books, how you encourage your family to read and make time for reading yourself! If you'd like to join our Book Party, please send me your thoughts/pics at ...

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

I'll pick one of the party guests to win a little Pre-Spring Giveaway (just a package of goodies I'm putting together). I'll draw a name randomly and announce a winner on Tuesday, March 1st ... So there is plenty of time left to join in our Book Party. I do hope to hear from you!

But for now, thanks so much for stopping by and enjoy the rest of your day ...

I will 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:

 β€ 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 20Β°! 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 ... :)


My Podcast with Pam!

Podcast

Good Tuesday morning, my friends! :)

Oh my goodness, I am so excited to share this with you today! And maybe a little nervous too. Well, I was nervous at first, but it was SUCH a fun experience and Pam made me feel so welcome and asked some great questions and as we talked I realized  - we're chatting away here like two old friends! (Who, you know, happen to have just met and live in opposite corners of the country!)

:)

So, what am I rambling on about you all must be wondering? Well, recently I was invited by Pamela Barnhill at Ed Snapshots to chat with her about homeschooling and my family and the file crate and nature study and ... well, all kinds of things! Now, I think I might have talked a little fast - maybe that's a New England thing, or maybe that was the nerves! - but I really had such a lovely time talking with Pam, who is a very gracious hostess. I felt so comfortable and cozy, all settled in with my big cup of tea and Pam on the phone ... I probably could have talked on and on! 

Anyhoo - here is a direct link to the podcast so you can check it out. (If I was tech-savvy I'd link up that neat image above but alas, I am not.) I hope you enjoy our conversation, and if you have a moment, please leave a comment (or question) for Pam or myself!

(Also, if you're new to Pam's Homeschool Podcast series at Ed Snapshots, I urge you to head on over and take a peek (or a listen)! I am just so honored to have been asked to participate in this wonderful community ...)

 Well, enjoy the rest of your day, my friends! Thanks so much for stopping by and I will see you here again very soon!