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

Seasonal homeschooling 2

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:


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:


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

Next comes the two-page seasonal homeschooling schedule:

Seasonal homeschooling

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

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

Seasonal homeschooling 3

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 ...


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.


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!



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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Other upcoming posts:

A look at this year's file crate.

A tour of my brand new desk!

How I'm using my Day Designer ...

Early Autumn Planning Sheets!

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

I will see you here again very soon ...

Welcome, High Summer!

Vintage sunflowerGood Monday morning, my friends! I hope you are all having a happy and safe holiday weekend!

Today in my seasonal calendar we are leaving Spring behind and diving deep into Summer - and what a morning it is: sunny and warm, with the garden all aglow and a-buzz. How I love this glorious time of year! For the next nine weeks I hope to weave as much summer joy as I can into our family life ... little traditions, easy activities and simple observations. To that end, I have assigned each week a theme, and created a new set of planning sheets - which you are welcome to use if you wish!

Below are links to the PDFs of these sheets - please let me know if you have any trouble opening them.

High Summer Planning Sheets (7/4-9/3)

Home Learning this Week (High Summer)

(Note: all images were found on Pinterest and to the best of my knowledge are free for personal use.)

I will do a follow up post later this week to show you how I'm using these sheets in my daily/weekly planning - and expand a bit on the themes - but for now, I hope you enjoy ... and I hope you are all enjoying a lovely start to your Summer!


p.s. If you'd like to see my previous seasonal planning sheets, you can visit my printables archive. So far there are sheets for Deep Winter, Early Spring, Late Spring and now, High Summer. :)

A Fresh Start: Late Spring Planning Sheets (Printables!)

Fresh start button small
Well, with not a second to spare, here at long last are my Late Spring Planning Sheets! I'm very sorry I took so long in getting these to you ... there are nine weeks in the season of "Late Spring" (May and June) and they begin on this very Monday!

Still, I hope you find them fun to read, and perhaps helpful. As with my Deep Winter sheets and Early Spring sheets, you're welcome to print them out for your own personal use. The PDFs below include my own Late Spring Overview as well as a clean copy for you to use ... the home learning planning sheet (in seasonal colors) ... and then planning sheets for each week of the Late Spring season (5/2-7/3).

("High Summer" will begin on Monday, July 4th ... and I will aim to make those available well before June's end!)

So! Without further ado, here are those PDFs ... followed by some notes on how I'm using them. 

Late Spring Overview (Dawn's)

Late Spring Overview (clean copy)

Home Learning this Week

Late Spring Planning Sheets (5/2-7/3)


Now, for a few notes ...

My "Late Spring Overview" probably looks pretty ambitious, but it certainly is not set in stone. These are simply ideas I have for each week - and I'm full of ideas! - but not all come to fruition. Still, I enjoy setting these weekly themes because they encourage me to weave some seasonal blessings into our family's everyday life. Sometimes themes get postponed or continued, and that's ok! Because life happens as it happens, not always according to my own "seasonal plan!" I also use this outline as a prompt for future posts and/or chapters in my (still-in-the-works-but-slow-going) book. :)

I use the "Home Learning This Week" sheet for organizing lessons and goals for my younger three boys. (My oldest is a junior in college!) On the lefthand side I jot down activities mostly geared towards Little Bear and Earlybird, according to each day's rhythm:

Monday - nature play/walk

Tuesday - draw/color/puppet play

Wednesday - model with dough, listen to stories/verse

Thursday - craft project/paint, listen to music

Friday - bake at home/ field trip

Weekend - family time/faith-based activity

On the righthand side of this sheet I list specific academic goals for each of my boys - Crackerjack (10th grade), Earlybird (special needs 6th grade) and, eventually, Little Bear (who will be three at the end of the month).

And as for the "Weekly Planning Sheets" themselves, well, I use them for creating an overview of domestic and seasonal plans (natural and liturgical) and I'm still working on where I want to store them. In the past I have stapled them to my file crate folders, but currently I'm keeping them in a section of my home keeping binder, along with a (hand-drawn) weekly agenda. I use a small binder clip to make it easy to flip back and forth between the weekly planning and my daily journal page. For detailing my day - the nitty-gritty, must-do, right-now kind of stuff - I use a "Day Designer" which features a separate page for each day. And as I JUST received my brand new DD last week ... I will do a tour of it soon and talk more about how I use all these tools together. :)

But I'll wrap up for now since the day is nearing lunchtime and I have hungry kids all around me! I hope you enjoyed seeing and hearing about my planning sheets ... and please let me know if you have any trouble opening these documents. As I've stated before, the images I've used were found on Pinterest and to the best of my knowledge are free for personal use ...

So enjoy the rest of your Monday, my friends ... and see you here again sometime soon!

Themes & Plans for May (Updated!)

Violet in grass

(Note: This is a post originally composed in 2008. I have fixed any broken links and updated the content to correspond with the current year, 2016. Hope you enjoy!)

May brings flocks of pretty lambs, skipping by their fleecy dams ... 

It's no wonder it's called the merriest month of the year - there is just so much to love about May! And it's no surprise this post is a day or two late - the call of "the wild" gets stronger every day. :) I hardly ever find myself at my desk anymore - and boy, does my inbox show it!

So, what follows is just a sampling - of things to do, things to notice, and things to remember this month. I hope you might find something useful in my ...

~ Themes & Plans for May ~ 


  • Flowering trees at their peak.
  • Lilacs bloom around Mother's Day.
  • Tulips are up now.
  • Violets and wild pansies in the grass.
  • Warblers in the tops of the trees.
  • Orioles passing through.
  • Goldfinches are brilliant yellow.
  • Cool rainy days are possible ...
  • ... but so are 80 degree days!
  • The lawn might need mowing ...
  • ... but watch for toads in the yard!
  • The orchard is frothy and white.
  • Wood ducks are returning.
  • Nests spotted at the pond.
  • Tent caterpillars in the trees.
  • Morel mushrooms sprouting.
  • Spring butterflies are here.
  • Watch for hummingbirds.
  • Jack-in-the-pulpit in the woods.
  • Last frost occurs this month.
  • The Full Flower Moon rises on the 21st.


  • Birthstone: emerald
  • Flower: lily-of-the-valley
  • "A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay ..."


  • sweet onions
  • rhubarb
  • early strawberries
  • new potatoes
  • radishes
  • artichokes
  • asparagus
  • baby lettuces
  • morels
  • peas
  • spinach
  • mint juleps
  • pecan pies
  • edible flowers
  • spring herb soup
  • first barbecue of the year


  • May Devotion ~ The Blessed Mother
  • Season: Easter; Ordinary Time (Summer) begins
  • St. Joseph the Worker (1)
  • Minor Rogation Days (2-4)
  • Ascension Thursday (5)
  • Our Lady of Fatima (13)
  • Pentecost Sunday (15)
  • St. Isidore the Farmer (15)
  • Trinity Sunday (22)
  • Corpus Christi (29)
  • The Visitation (31)

Household (& Garden)

  • Mow lawn; leave grass clippings down as mulch.
  • Clean and arrange deck/porch furniture.
  • Clean the grill; fill the propane tank.
  • Inventory/organize the kids' backyard toys.
  • Hang hummingbird window feeder.
  • Visit the family graves on Memorial Day ~
    • Tidy and add new flowers.
  • Purchase citronella candles or torches.
  • Famly physicals this month.
  • Launder spring linens and hang in the sun to dry.
  • Make travel plans for summer.
  • Clean car and organize for summer activities:
    • Beach
    • Picnic
    • Road trips
  • Plant garden on Memorial Day weekend.
  • Hang the American flag.


  • American Bike Month
  • National Duckling Month
  • National Salsa Month
  • National Strawberry Month
  • National Egg Month
  • Be Kind to Animals Week (1-7)
  • National Postcard Week (1-7)
  • National Wildflower Week (2-8)
  • National Nurses Week (6-12)
  • National Herb Week (1-7)
  • National Police Week (8-15)
  • May Day (1)
  • Mother Goose Day (1)
  • Star Wars Day (4)
  • Cinco de Mayo (5)
  • Midwives Day (5)
  • The Kentucky Derby (7)
  • Mother Ocean Day (7)
  • Village Plant Sale (7)
  • Mother's Day (8)
  • National Apron Day (12)
  • Leprechaun Day (13)
  • Tulip Day (13)
  • Letter Carrier Food Drive (14)
  • National Train Day (14)
  • World Fair Trade Day (14)
  • Chocolate Chip Day (15)
  • Hug Your Cat Day (27)
  • Indianapolis 500 (29)
  • Memorial Day (30)

Book Basket

Field Trips & Outings

  • Visit the apple orchard to sketch trees in bloom.
  • Nature walk to the pond.
  • Visit the cows at a nearby dairy farm.
  • Purchase herbs at the garden store.
  • Lilacs walk at the arboretum.

Crafts & Activities

  • Make homemade bread and butter
  • Decorate fresh butter with clover.
  • Look for 4-leaf clovers in the yard.
  • Find a special spot in your yard for a Mary Garden.
  • Celebrate Derby Day:
    • Read the papers and choose a horse to cheer for.
    • Make "Juleps" for Derby Day (herbal iced tea)
    • Wear big fancy hats while watching the race.
  • Make a paper bag piΓ±ata on Cinco de Mayo.
  • Decorate a canvas (field) bag with leaf prints.
  • Decorate a plain canvas apron (smock) on Apron Day.
  • Make nature playdough.
  • Collect and press wildflowers; begin a herbarium.
  • Plant a sunflower house.
  • Make a toad home.
  • Attract orioles passing through.
  • Spend an afternoon coudwatching.
  • Learn about waterfowl: ducks, geese, gulls.
  • Visit a duck pond and observe nesting behavior.
  • Play Duck, Duck, Goose!
  • Make a feather collage.
  • Make wind chimes with flower pots.
  • Go on a mushroom walk after a few damp days.
  • Make a catnip toy (with real catnip!) for the cats.
  • Eat rhubarb stalks with dixie cups of sugar for dipping.
  • Paint and fill herb pots for Mother's Day gifts.
  • Mix up some herbal mosquito repellant.
  • Make a handloom; weave it with rainbow yarn.
  • Fill a box with food for the letter carrier on the 10th.
  • Work ahead on handcrafted Father's day gifts.

Whew! As posts go (and mine can go long) that was a big one! ;) Thanks for reading through, and thanks, as always, for stopping by. I hope you'll enjoy the lovely new month which begins in but a few days ... and I hope you'll let me know what you love the most about May!

See you all again very soon ... :)

"What is so sweet and dear
As a prosperous morn in May,
The confident prime of the day,
And the dauntless youth of the year,
When nothing that asks for bliss,
Asking aright, is denied,
And half of the world a bridegroom is,
And half of the world a bride?"
~ William Watson, "Ode in May," 1880

Themes & Plans for April (Updated!)

Daffodil 1

(Note: This is an updated version of a post I wrote back in 2008 - I added a bit of content, fixed broken links and revised event dates for the current year, 2016. I hope you enjoy - I've had such fun with this series!)

April brings the primrose sweet, scatters daisies at our feet ...

April also brings us (at long, long last), the first true Spring days: mild, soft, fresh and alive with sound and color. Nature is finally shrugging off its Winter shawl, and showering us with a warm and friendly welcome.

It feels so good to open the windows again, and to leave the house with just a sweater - or none at all! There are so many joys to expore with our children this month, and what follows is but a sampling, just my own thoughts for the season. As always, I'd love to hear yours! But for now, please join me as I consider ...

~ Themes and Plans for April (PDF) ~


  • Crocus are now in full bloom.
  • Skunk cabbage grows in marshy areas.
  • Bears are waking in the (deep) woods.
  • Daffodils are in their full glory.
  • The skies are gray one minute, blue the next ...
  • ... and so rainbows are quite possible.
  • Forsythia is bursting all over.
  • At night we hear the spring peepers.
  • Mourning cloaks are the first butterflies we'll see.
  • Returning ~ thrush, phoebe, mockingbird and catbird.
  • The smell of wild onions is in the air.
  • There could be a light flurry or two.
  • We'll have rainy days; the rivers will swell.
  • Warm days are more frequent now.
  • Juncos leave; chipmunks re-appear.
  • Humpbacks are migrating back north.
  • Time to check for ticks again.
  • Dandelions are plentiful underfoot.
  • The Full Pink Moon rises on April 22nd.
  • There are buds on the cherry tree ...
  • ... which the sparrows love to nibble.
  • Bluebells appear along the wood's edge.
  • The grass is greening.
  • The goldfinches are brightening.


  • Gem: diamond
  • Flower: sweet pea
  • Saying: April showers bring May flowers.


  • chives
  • new potatoes
  • asparagus
  • fiddlehead ferns
  • dandelions
  • radishes
  • spring lamb
  • pasta primavera
  • snap peas
  • artichokes
  • spinach
  • sorrel
  • goat cheese tart
  • rhubarb grunt


  • April Devotion ~ The Blessed Sacrament
  • Liturgical Season: Easter (Paschaltide)
  • Divine Mercy Sunday (3)
  • The Annunciation (4)
  • St. George, Patron of England (23)
  • St. Mark (25)
  • St. Catherine of Siena (29)
  • Walpurgisnacht (30)

Household (& Garden)

  • Take outdoor furniture out of storage.
  • Rent de-thatcher; aerate lawn.
  • Harden tender seedlings.
  • Plant trees and/or shrubs.
  • Clean out potting shed.
  • Establish new garden beds.
  • Prepare containers; purchase new ones.
  • Purchase summer blooming bulbs.
  • Organize garden tools.
  • Prune flowering bushes after blooming.
  • Visit the nursery for spring plants, garden structures.
  • Rake and compost leaf litter/debris.
  • Spread fresh mulch.
  • Spring cleaning (if not done before Easter).
  • Have lawnmower serviced if necessary.
  • Family meeting re ~ summer plans.
  • Turn off fireplace.
  • Turn on outside faucet.
  • File taxes by 4/15.
  • Organize financial files.
  • Clean dryer vents and hoses.
  • Spiff up the bikes.


Book Basket 

Field Trips & Outings

Crafts & Activities

  • Make wilding sticks and nature bracelets.
  • Clean up litter in a local park.
  • Prepare field bags for spring.
  • Begin new nature journals.
  • Hang a hummingbird feeder.
  • Paint a butterfly house.
  • Catch tadpoles at the pond.
  • Conduct a rainbow experiment.
  • Paint rocks for garden markers.
  • Dig in the dirt.
  • Set up a nature table at home.
  • Make tissue paper butterflies.
  • Color a butterfly guide.
  • Befriend a tree; start a notebook.
  • Re-enact St. George & The Dragon.
  • Build a bluebird house.
  • Look for nests before leaves come in.
  • Update our Bird List.
  • Prepare May baskets.

Well, I think I'd better stop there, as my lists are getting rather lengthy! I do hope this post gives you some ideas for the month of April, though. I keep this outline in my home keeping binder, (alongside the other months) and hope that I remember to notice, savor or do some of these things - but I never expect to get to them all!

April is fleeting - so let's make the most of it, my friends! Happy Spring!

"The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day.
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
a cloud come over the sunlit arch,
And wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March."
-  Robert Frost

How I Use the Weekly Planning Sheets ...

Sheets 14

Happy Thursday, my friends! How's your week going so far? I do hope it's being kind to you!

A few folks asked if I could show how I use my weekly planning sheets, and today I am here to do just that! To be honest, I'm still kind of figuring them out - tweaking things as I go along, trying to make them work better - so these sheets are still a work-in-progress! But I'll show you some examples below and then describe the way I'm utilizing each of the blocks ... as well as when in my week I actually work ON them. (That's half the battle sometimes, isn't it? Finding time to do the planning itself!)

Currently I am using these sheets in coordination with my file crate system and it's working out pretty well. I staple the two weekly sheets (one for household planning and the other for lesson planning) onto the front cover of the folder itself.

So here is one sheet stapled to the front of the folder ...

Sheets 2

... and the other sheet stapled to the inside of the cover.

Sheets 3 

The folder itself is clamped onto the front of a rather nifty contraption I bought at Target a couple of years ago. It's called a "clipfolio" and it's basically a "padfolio" with a clipboard attached to the front. As you can see above, the papers found inside this week's folder are held securely by the clamp on the front of my clip folio. I really like this set up! It's easy to tote around and it makes a sturdy base for writing in my planner.

And here is the inside of the clipfolio ... embellished with somebody else's scribblings!

Sheets 4

(I haven't decided how I want to use this pad and pocket yet. I'm thinking a master-to do list might work well here.)

Here's the clipfolio without the folder attached:

Sheets 1

It's made by greenroom and I'm not sure if Target still carries them but I found something similar at Amazon.

I keep the folio-with-folder on my kitchen counter - aka mission control - next to my domestic journal (which is always open to today's page) and beneath my planner, which is flipped to the side of the week we're working on ...

Sheets 12

Now, about how I use these sheets ... (you were probably wondering when I'd get around to that!)

Sheets 13

Above is the general planning sheet for next week (1/25-1/31). I started filling it out today because it's Thursday and that's when I start my "week ahead" planning. (This gives me time to organize my weekend "work" - errands, supplies, prep, further planning.) I wrote in the days and events of note and the seasonal theme for the week, and these helped me shape the rest of my plans. (If you click on the photo it should open up so you can read my scribbles a little easier.) I wrote in nightly suppershome & garden notes, blogging ideas as well as a few crafts and comforts. These are the kinds of things I love to dream up and plan out - but must accept that we may not get around to doing them - at least maybe not this year! They often tie into the weekly theme, or a favorite holiday or feast - so here I have ideas for celebrating Burns Night, exploring ice, and concocting home remedies and growing a medicinal garden.

As for the housekeeping notes, well ... they do tend to be a bit sentimental. Less "unload dishwasher" and more "embroider dish linens." So, am I romanticizing things here a little? You bet! But I love reading books about the old-fashioned "art" of housekeeping and this is my attempt to write something of the sort for myself.

Finally, in the lower left hand of every planning sheet there is a bit of vintage clipart with a simple seasonal suggestion ... and boy, do I have fun creating these snippets! I will confess, these sheets were (are?) going to be part of a bigger seasonal project, but for now, I'm just having fun with it. Trying them out to see if they actually make sense! But I thought it would be nice to make the sheets printable in case someone else might like to use them ... Deep Winter pages here ... Early Spring under construction!

Next, here is the home learning planning sheet - with note space for each of my three (still-at-home) boys and a weekly overview. This provides a framework for organizing lessons as well as all the seasonal ideas and activities.

Sheets 15

Now, about the week's rhythm - I find this to be a great planning tool if your schedule allows for it! Especially for my younger children, but it's lovely for me too. I consider the busy-ness of each day and then give it a name - Monday is for nature, Tuesday is for book baskets and drawing, Wednesday is for storytelling and handwork, Thursday is for painting or projects (music and poetry) and Friday is for baking/cleaning. (The weekend is for family fun and faith @ home.) This gives all my seasonal ideas a place to "live," if you will.

So since I know next week's theme, holidays and feasts ....

On Monday we'll devote some kind of nature activity to the concept of ice: a walk, a journal entry, an addition to the seasons shelf.

On Tuesday we'll pick up library holds (books about Scotland and ice harvesting) and do a coloring page or two (flag, map, loch ness monster).

On Wednesday, while the boys play with dough, I'll tell a couple of stories, and depending on my audience it might be about woodland animals finding a frozen puddle ... or perhaps about my Scotch-Irish grandmother's family.

On Thursday we'll listen to celtic music and read a famous poem by Robert Burns. We might also work on ice painting as we listen.

On Friday we'll bake Scottish shortbread and learn the Selkirk Grace. We may even watch Brave, an old Disney movie that's new for us!

And over the weekend we'll watch football, play farkle, attend Mass, and ... relax. :)

Now, it goes without saying - but I'll say it anyways - things do NOT always go according to plan! I try not to stress when the week flies by and we've barely done anything on this chart. I try not to fret if the "theme" I so carefully chose was never recognized in any real way. As long as the boys are working on their weekly goals - lessons, habits, family, faith - then we're good. If I've worked in some seasonal awareness and appreciation somewhere along the way - well, that's great!

Below is next week's folder, open ...

Sheets 6

Coloring pages for the boys (Scotland/Burns Night), and some photocopies from a wonderful book I own called, Celebrate: A Year of Festivities for Families and Friends by Pippa Middleton. She has a fantastic section about hosting a "Burns Night Supper" and I have a few of her ideas in my folder to consider for next week. My shortbread recipe is in here too, as well as a birthday card that needs to be mailed next week.

So there we have it - the planning sheets in excrutiating detail! I hope this was interesting to some and helpful, perhaps, if you're using the planning sheets (or the file crate system). I would love to hear what you think - questions, comments, how you are using the sheets if you're using them ...

As I said, I'm always tweaking ... and trying to find a balance between letting things go, and getting things done. As laid back as I try to be about letting things slide, I do try to include enough activity (or awareness) that would suggest there is a seasonal rhythm to our life. Something beyond the tasks and to-dos, but a greater rhythm that connects us with our world, our family, and Faith. That's what I'm doing all of this for ... as personal as I make it, and as much joy as I find in the planning, it all really comes down to my children - the attitude I'm modeling for them, the memories I hope they take with them ...

But now I will wrap up and "let it go" ... because I've really kept you here long enough! I thank you - as always, but especially when my posts go on and on - for stopping by. I wish you all a happy weekend and I will see you 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 ... :)

Monarchs on the Move!

Buterfly hatching 2

Well, we had quite a weekend here at our house! I hope yours was nice, too. :)

On Friday morning we discovered that two of our butterflies had hatched! And a third would follow a few hours later ... 

Butterfly hatching 1

... leaving us with two last chrysalises still green. As it was a cloudy, wet day, we decided to wait for the following day to release them ...

After some googling, and a Facebook query or two, we learned we could "feed" the newly born butterflies by placing some sugar-water-soaked cotton pads in the bottom of their container. I also placed a small bit of watermelon in there. I couldn't really tell if they imbibed or not - one of them did stand on the watermelon wedge for a time, lol.

Happily, Saturday was bright and warm so we brought our four fluttering friends outside and sent them on their merry way ...

Butterfly 3

Butterfly 6

Three of the four flew directly off into the wide blue yonder ... but one lingered for a few moments on my hand. It was amazing ...

Butterfly 2

Butterfly 4

And then he was off, too!

Our last chryalis hatched Saturday night, but as Sunday was another cool, damp day - and today (Monday) is cool and windy - we're fostering our butterfly a bit longer. We're hoping to release him tomorrow morning when it promises to be sunny and warm again. I just placed a fresh orange slice in the bottom of the container ... which, by the way, now resides on the top of our fridge. All that fluttering in the learning room bookcase eventually caught the attention of one of my rather curious cats ... I bet you can all guess who!

If you have not tried raising butterflies before, I highly recommend it! The kids were enthralled - as were Bill and I! We were set up rather nicely by a friend with years of experience (and a monarch-friendly backyard) and though there are kits available online, for the sake of the Monarch's survival it is best to keep the local gene pool ... well, local. Introducing kit butterflies to your local habitat could mess up genetic diversity and weaken the Monarch's resistance to disease. And they already have enough to contend with - what with climate change and pesticide poisoning, loss of habitat, etc. So keep an eye out for caterpillars next spring and summer! Fall is approaching quickly ... check your local nursery for native (locally raised) milkweed. Learn about Monarchs and what they need ... Nature depends on us to be informed and respectful! :)

Now, something I'd like to note ... remember that seasonal theme schedule I set up for my family? Well last week was to be "apple" week but understandably, it made more sense to learn about butterflies! So we focused our homeschooling attention on "monarchs and migration" instead of apples ... so there's an example of a theme that will go a bit under-noticed this year. That's not to say we won't still explore apples this fall in one or more ways ... there will be an orchard visit and apple picking, apple baking and lots of nice apple books in the seasons basket. I don't sweat it when themes don't happen as planned ... life has its own rhythm and that's the most meaningful schedule of all! :)

Well, I'd best be off for now ... but I thank you for stopping by and wish you all good week. I will be back again soon with a nice long post about my homeschooling planner. I'm plugging along on that project as time (and family) allows!

See you all here again soon ...

Our First Science Project of the New Year!

Happy Tuesday, my friends!

Popping in to say Good Morning, and let you know I am having some difficulty with my laptop at the moment ... the startup disk is "full," so for the time being I can't upload anything new - most importantly all those photos I took of my homemade lesson planner! So that particular (long-promised) post is still "in progress" ... though I think I may have found a way around the situation. So while I'm slogging through and deleting extraneous files from my laptop's photo storage (for example, the half dozen blurry pics of the woodchuck eating my hollyhocks), I'm also taking pics with my phone and saving them to my FB page ... where I can then grab them (theoretically) for posting! Lol, does any of that make sense?

Tech-savvy, I am not ... we'll see how this turns out!

For today though, I thought I'd show you this lovely surprise science project, a gift to us from my dear friend, Lisa ...

Chrysallis 1

Chrysallis 2

Chrysalis 3

If you're thinking these little jalapeΓ±o-pepper-looking-things are actually beautiful butterfly chrysalises ... well, you'd be right! 

Lisa has been raising Monarch butterflies for many years now, and this year she shared some with us! (The caterpillars had just made their cocoons the day before she brought them.) So we have five chrysalises in this container, and I am just marveling over how amazing they are! All vibrant and shiny and smooth with little glistening gold dots and seams ... tiny miracles, absolutely!

Now, do you know, in our 15 years of homeschooling, we've never once raised butterflies?! We've studied them, read about them, visited butterfly sanctuaries and watched butterflies (and caterpillars) in our yard but never have we actually observed their metamorphosis so intimately! Needless to say we're all excited - me, most especially! - and I will of course, keep you all posted ... they're about a week or so away from "hatching."


Well my friends, I must be off - I have files to delete! - but I hope you all are enjoying your day and that your week is off to a nice start. See you here again very soon!

Creating Seasonal Themes: Corn Week!

Corn 1
(Plus a bit of book news at the end!)

Happy Wednesday, my friends! Sorry I've been a bit out of touch lately ... we've had a lot going on here at the house these days!

We're gearing up for a new year of home learning, and we're getting Bookworm ready for his move back to BC, and we're starting Earlybird on a new, daily, home-based, fairly intensive, behavioral therapy. All very good things, but all things requiring a lot of time, energy and attention. (And did I mention, energy?) Also, as August winds down, we're trying to squeeze the very last drops of goodness out of this fast-fleeing season ... we'll have warm weather here for several more weeks, but for all intents and purposes, Summer pretty much ends after Labor Day.

So I thought I would share some of my notes for this week with you all! As I have mentioned before, I enjoy shaping my family's year by assigning seasonal themes to each week. This helps me weave in all the little comforts and joys of the season I might otherwise overlook. And though I really get into planning these themes out with all kinds of details, I try not to set my expectations too high. Because real life often runs over my plans, and a particular "theme" might not get explored very much ... so some years we might manage something small (a special recipe, perhaps) while other years we might go all out and really work that theme into our homeschooling and home life! Either way, I think it's always good to have a plan. And to be aware ... I think as seasons pass, the beautiful rhythm of the year truly wraps itself around my family however much attention we pay it. That is my end goal! :)

Anyhoo, this current week is devoted to the very timely topic of CORN. In New England (and I suspect, across much of the country) corn is in its peak season these days. Corn-on-the-cob is just heavenly right now - partaking daily is not out of the question - and cornstalks will factor into our home decorations in the coming weeks ...

But enough gabbing on my part! Here are some of my thoughts:

The Full Green Corn Moon will rise on Saturday, August 29th @ 2:35 p.m., and it's a Supermoon this month! We'll have to be sure to look for it after dark and plan a special farmstand supper - starring corn, of course! - for that night. 


We'll visit a local corn field ... we drive by it often and always marvel at its size. This time we'll stop the car and get out - observe the field, its sounds and smells. What wildlife is flying overhead or scurrying underfoot? What do we hear? (Is that the corn making that sound?) What can we smell? (Vegetation, earth?) How does the air feel right now? (Hot, humid?) Now, we won't touch these stalks because we don't have permission, but we might visit a local farm and ask to do just that. I'll see what our schedule allows and how much interest has been piqued. Before we go, we'll take pictures of the cornfield from various angles. 


We'll visit our favorite farmstand and buy plenty of ears of fresh corn. We'll ask where the corn comes from and how many ears they sell each day. We'll buy some to eat and some to use for exploration/activities ...

At home, we'll pile some ears on the table and take out our colored pencils and sketch pad: "Still Life with Corn!"


We''ll enjoy some nice books from the library all about corn:

Corn book 2

The Life and Times of Corn

Corn book 1


Corn book 3

Corn is Maize

Corn book 4

The Popcorn Book

Corn book 5

Raccoons and Ripe Corn

(These might be in a basket or set up as a display on a nature shelf.)


We'll play some pretty lullabies ... and discuss how/why corn was so important to Native Americans

Corn music

Under the Green Corn Moon (Native American Lullabies)

For craft day we'll make a corn husk candle - a small glass votive surrounded by corn husks with a tiny beeswax tealight tucked inside. That will look nice on our table! (We could also try making this or this ...)

Or we could try making a corn husk doll (and research the history behind it) ...

We will pop popcorn for snack ... and we might even make marshmallow popcorn bars for a tasty treat!

We might do a taste test: boiled corn vs. grilled corn. 

On baking day we will make a pan of corn bread, and serve it with honey butter.


We'll learn a poem called "A Green Cornfield" by Christina Georgina Rossetti. We'll add that poem to our nature journal, along with our pictures/sketches.

 The earth was green, the sky was blue:
I saw and heard one sunny morn
A skylark hang between the two,
A singing speck above the corn;

A stage below, in gay accord,
White butterflies danced on the wing,
And still the singing skylark soared,
And silent sank and soared to sing.

The cornfield stretched a tender green
To right and left beside my walks;
I knew he had a nest unseen
Somewhere among the million stalks.

And as I paused to hear his song
While swift the sunny moments slid,
Perhaps his mate sat listening long,
And listened longer than I did.


We'll consider "Kansas Corn Field," a painting by artist John Steuart Curry in 1933:

Corn 2


I also have notes for some Indian Corn activities but I'm not sure if I can get it at the nursery yet. Also, those might wait for a later week in the fall. This week is really more about fresh, or green, corn. :)

So there, in a nutshell (or a kernel!) are my simple ideas for celebrating the goodness of corn during this last week of August. Remember - they're all just possibilities! I can't imagine fitting them all in in any one given year.

How do you enjoy corn at this time of year? Perhaps you grow it yourself or have a favorite recipe ... let me know in the comments below! In the meantime, and before I go, I wanted to mention my book briefly, because I've had a few people ask recently about how my progress is going ...

So, I have been working on it this summer - here and there, not as often as I'd like! - but it took me a while to get going because I wasn't entirely sure WHAT I wanted to write about. I have a few subjects I enjoy very much and there are a few topics people ask about more than others ... well, I finally found my focus! And that enabled me to get rolling ...

I am going to do a book about the file crate system - describing how I do it (and why) and the basics of setting a system up for yourself. That will be the first half of the book ... the second half will focus on seasonal learning (and living) ... and how I use my FCS to manage my family's year. So my hope is to have an outline of 52 (weekly) *seasonal* themes to present  along with activities and books and observations. And tips for using the folders to make it all happen! (Or most of it ... some of it ... well, you get the picture!)

Sometimes when I describe this it all sounds so straight forward and simple - these are my two favorite topics, after all! It seems like the two sides of the equation should work well together ... I need the folders to make the plans happen! But it's possible I may need to separate the two topics ... goodness knows I can get wordy!

(Case in point, this post.)

I will most likely be self-publishing so I'll need to do a WHOLE lot of research into that. I have my eye on a neat contraption that will allow me to bind things at home ... and I am looking into permission for using things like scrapbook papers and poems, illustrations, etc. 

Much to do, much to do! But I'm excited ... so I wanted to update you all .. and I will of course keep you all posted. For the time being, if you have a prayer to spare, or good energy to send, I would be grateful ... I'm desperately trying to find the time in my new schedule to just ... get 'er done!


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

January Journal Work

January journal 4

Happy Tuesday, my friends! Hope your week's going well ...

So yesterday, as the snow blew and blustered outside - and while the baby napped - I got around to a little domestic paperwork. It being February, I pulled last month's journal pages from my binder and filed them in my Yearbook binder behind the January tab.

I then sat down with a piece of paper and some sticky notes (and a cup of cocoa!) to do some indexing and I thought I'd share with you what I wrote down ... it might give you an idea of the kinds of things I "journal" about and also, some of my deep winter "thoughts and themes" might strike a cord with you! :)

The whole process took me about 30 minutes. I flipped through the journal pages and read over each notation/clipping. If it was something I would want to remember (or return to) I jotted it down on a loose-leaf "index page." (Which would later be added to my Jan-Feb binder.)  If it was something I needed to act on soon or record on another list, I jotted it down on a sticky note ...

So, first, here's a look at my January Journaling:

* spiced white hot chocolate (crockpot)

* first bird of the year (robin)

* blessed chalk handed out at Mass on Jan. 1st

* picked up liturgical wall calendar at Mass

* color of the year announced ("marsala" by Pantone, "guilford green" by Benjamin Moore)

* a scattered list of Jan-Feb themes to incorporate into the season ... (ex. winter citrus, birthday joy, hand-written letters, Burns Night dinner, seed catalogs, snow days, candles/warmth ...)

* book idea: "A Few Nice Things for New Year's Day" ~ a first family walk, first bird, first sunrise, happy jar, pic-a-day, thank you notes, Christmas card review, old-fashioned movies & popcorn, roast dinner ...)

* in the MSL D/J issue: leftover eggnog latte recipe, citrus-spice candle craft

* Jenney C.'s almond milk-gingerbread latte (FB)

* Twelfth Night - beer-braised beef & parsnip stew

* Little Christmas/Three Kings Day 

* Tasha Tudor Museum Newsletter (order back issues)

* craft: wintery jar-candle centerpiece (twine/yarn around ball jar rims, red candles, set in vintage metal cake pan, greenery/berries/pinecones around the jars)

* Downton Abbey "manners guru" interview

* lemon curd recipe for scones (Boston Globe Magazine)

* aggressive coyote noted in neighboring town

* little notes on Little Bear's words and actions

* spied a weasel on next road over

* Boston is the US 2024 Olympic bid!

* "Winter was a time of some leisure on the farm." (quote from Yankee Magazine article)

* book theme idea: "Winter Cheer"

* observed a large flock of robins by library in next town

* spotted a large hawk in tree by mailbox

* heard a woodpecker knocking in woods

* Patriots are going to the Superbowl!!!

* tag-team scribbles by Earlybird and Little Bear

* purple Ball jars idea - Lent, Advent Garden (solar lantern lids)

* Feast of St. Agnes ~ snowflake cake (white with apricot jam)

* National Hot Tea Month

* "Skills Every Child Needs" from Parents Magazine (social graces)

* football-shaped snack ideas (People Magazine)

* National Handwriting Day

* "A Blizzard of Historic Proportions"

* National Catholic Schools Week (1/25-1/31) ~ post idea: how do we weave our Faith into our homeschool/home life? 

* craft idea: paper chain with links for each day in holiday/seasonal papers

* Superbowl goodies (craft/recipe ideas)

* Downton Abbey TV Guide cover

  January journal 3

I filled four sticky-notes with items that need more immediate action:

* info. re ~ a dermatologist to give to Bill

* lesson ideas re ~ American Tall Tales (listening to these with EB) - logging, map of forests in US, tree types, where do legends originate (map), Niagara trip?

* Holy Week Cleaning outline

* Wall-a-Week Cleaning schedule

* summer project: cooking lessons with boys (per BW's request)

* for EB's portfolio - Popular Mechanics for Kids dvd, "Mom, did you know pollution is bad? It comes from cars and buildings ... and it's really bad."

* Ask Magazine, Feb. issue: Fire (Candlemas/February learning theme)

* passwords created recently to record in binder

* a friend's birthday to add to calendar

* weekly news quiz in Globe (for Crackerjack)

* meal rotation idea (4 meals x 7 days = 28 meals/month)

* craft binder - monthly bunting, a "mama" smock for seasons and storytelling

* pick up a beef pie from local farm (per BW's request)

* Great Zoo of China - a book to check out at library (for BW)


So now my main binder has just a couple of journal pages so far ... but I'm sure by the end of February it will be filled up once again!

January journal 2

Now, before I go I want to show you this particular clipping (above) that I added to my January journal ... it's from a Paper Source catalog and I just set up this very set of chalkboard squares (rectangles, really) on my kitchen wall! I can't wait to show you how I'm using them ... they look fantastic! I'll tell you more in my next post. :)

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

Baby's Early Spring Wonders

Spring morning

Happy 1st Day of Spring, everyone!

 Well, it will be Spring in just a few hours ... 12:57 p.m. to be exact! The Vernal Equinox is upon us, and despite the chilly temperatures and the patches of snow on the ground, we are at very last, done with Spring proper. Of course, when has Spring every acted properly?

Anyhoo ... I've been writing out some notes about nature "moments" to enjoy through the years with my Little Bear (who'll be 10 months next week!) and I thought you might like to see them. Just some brainstorming here ... nothing too formal yet ... things will take shape as we move along through the seasons. :)

(Note: These ideas are for March and April - aka, Early Spring.)


* On the 1st day of March ... lions roar! have fun with roaring sounds, lion pictures/stuffed animals. Read How Loud is a Lion? together.

* Maple sugaring - visit the woods in all their late winter glory - patches of snow, bare branches, old leaves - and befriend a sugar maple, feel that rough bark!

Maple sugaring 6

* Melting - slushy spots along the driveway, puddles where ice had been, drip-drip-drip sounds

* Mud - push bits of things (twigs, pebbles, leaves) into the newly formed mud out front ... ooh, it's squishy! Squelchy sounds! Read Mud! 

* Make (paper plate) masks for Mardi Gras - play peekaboo!

* Go for a wind walk on a blustery day. Read When the Wind Blows

* Go for a rain walk on a showery day (brief, just to feel it)

* Look for puddles, throw things in to *splash* (might be too cold yet for piggy dips)

* Watch the forsythia bushes for buds and blossoms ... snip some branches to force indoors

* When the nights get milder, open the window and listen for peepers in the vernal pool out front

* Watch the night sky for the full sap (March) and pink (April) moons.

* Make a pinwheel and/or a kite for windy spring days

 * Visit new lambs at our local farm, and back at home, look for soft things like fleece, yarn, cotton balls. Read Mary Had a Little Lamb.

* Find pussy willows to feel and admire - so silky soft! Like kitty cat paws. :) Might find some near the marsh growing wild ...  if not, bring some home from the market. Cut branches to place in a vase at home. Read Pussy Willow.

* Explore sweet, earthy carrots - steamed and mashed/chunked, baked into mini pancakes or muffins, start seeds for the garden, read The Carrot Seed.

* Look at smooth eggs - so many sizes and colors! - and try some homemade egg custard (Nana's recipe). Visit neighbor's chickens and see eggs in the nest.

* Listen to Celtic music while driving in the car, or dancing at home - Celtic Dreamland

* Sweep, sweep, sweep! This is the way we sweep our house (steps/walk) clean, wonderful activity on bright dry days.

* Wipe and polish, do our part! For family spring cleaning leading up to Easter, little cloth rags and natural beeswax polish, This is the way we clean our house ...

* Make fingerpaint rainbows with natural dyes/watercolors ...

* Look for rainbows on showery/sunny days

* Enjoy clay play - homemade play dough, natural dyes (rainbow shades)  

* What do frogs say? Peep, croak! Where can we find frogs? Read The Tale of Jeremy Fisher.

* Notice where robins appear - and how they hop! Can we hop like a robin? Can we make a tidy warm nest like a robin?

* Check branches for new buds and shoots - where is life resurrecting itself?

* Visit the pond to see ducks! Quack, quack, quack! Read Make Way for Ducklings. Perhaps ... visit the ducklings statues in Boston's Public Garden.


There's so much to explore in early spring! What "comforts and joys" do you look for at this time of year? If you have any ideas to add to my list, please leave me a note below. I'm currently working on a list for late spring (May and June) and I'll share that in a future post, too.

Well my friends, I hope you enjoy this first - much-longed-for - day of spring. What's it like where you live? Is it springy? It's a bit showery and gray here this morning, but NOT cold and that's nice for a change! Skies are supposed to clear later and I bet there will be lots of melting. Can't wait to see all this white gone for good! (At least until December ...)

See you all here again very soon ...

When you take a kid to Whole Foods ...

Whole Foods Market is Earlybird's favorite place on earth (aside from his Nana and Papa's, of course), and he asks me constantly if we can go there, when can we go there, who can come with us and whose car we'll take. We usually have the whole trip discussed, imagined and planned out days - even weeks - before we even step foot in the store. ;)

Well, it occured to me that such an avid interest presents a wonderful learning opportunty for Earlybird! Building on what appeals to him - with simple, relatable activities - makes learning easier and more fun (for us both). So I started brainstorming some ideas for a little "Whole Foods Curriculum" and thought I'd share my list here in case it's helpful to somebody else with a child who just loves to food shop!

*Quick disclaimer: I'm a homeschooling mom, not a curriculum expert or special needs pro. I don't mean to present this as anything other than a humble and hopeful collection of home-grown ideas. I'm just going by what might work for my own son and his particular interests and learning/life needs.


27 learning activities inspired by Whole Foods

β€’ Make a list of things we need to buy.

Practice spelling and penmanship, expand vocabulary. When we check our pantry and fridge/freezer before making our list we practice good food management and decision-making while taking responsibility for our family's needs (all important life skills).

β€’ Try to find items on a prepared scavenger list.

"Made from oats." "Came from the sea." "Smells good." etc. (reading practice, creative/logical thinking)

β€’ Look over store flyer and organize coupons.

Good reading practice, and discerning information (what's on sale, what's fresh?). Using coupons to save money - sorting, organizing, budgeting. Simple subtraction (item price minus coupon amount).

β€’ Use a calculator to add up a small order.

I wouldn't try this with a big shopping trip, but for a basket-ful of items - using a calculator to predict how much the cashier will ask for. Math - estimation, addition, calculator-use.

β€’ Make reusable shopping bags.

O and r at wf 4

Earlybird with his own reusable bag, a birthday gift.

  Using inexpensive cloth tote bags (from a craft store), decide on design/colors. Great creative/art experience. Discuss why reusing bags makes good sense (environmental science).

β€’ Draw a map to Whole Foods from our house.

Creative project using all kinds of skills - geography, measurement, memory, arts & crafts. Use a large sketch pad and colored pencils. Write out directions to go along with map.

β€’ Whole Foods A and Whole Foods B - which is closer?

We're lucky enough to live near(ish) not just one, but two Whole Foods stores - I know which one we prefer (size, selection, layout) but which one is closer? Observe odometer at start and finish for each trip, record travel times.

β€’ Practice clear and polite communication.

Think of potential questions and ask for help, make conversation with staff and other patrons (language skills, social skills).

β€’ Practice good cart management.

Earlybird loves to use the cart himself, but this takes a little skill sometimes! The store can be busy, aisles can be crowded (gross motor skills, social skills, patience).

O and r at wf 2

Little Bear is amazed by all the sights to see!

β€’ Learn: What does organic mean?

Look for the word "organic" on labels, store signs, flyers. Ask someone to explain what it means (call ahead of time) and/or research at home. Visit the library to research further - ask the librarian to help us look up information: How is organic healthier for us? For the earth? Make up a short "report" with Mama's help. (environmental science, research skills, clear communication, observation, composition/grammar/spelling/vocabulary)

β€’ Tour the store.

Ask for a tour with a store manager (or other store staff). Call ahead to ask. After tour, narrate experience (Mom types in) and add drawings, photos. Write thank you note afterwards. (patience, attention, social skills, penmanship/spelling/vocabulary)

β€’ Film a pretend commerical.

O and r at wf 1

Little Bear is all business when discussing yogurt.

Ask manager for permission to take video (on phone) while walking around the store. At home, make up a "script" and signs/props for commercial. Talk about what we like about Whole Foods. Record commercial to share with friends and family (language skills, reflection, creativity, oral presentation, diction).

β€’ Look for products from around the world.

Make a list of all the countries we find represented, and write down what products came from where. Use a world map to mark discovered countries. What country has the most products? Find out if there are available statistics for that information (ask manager). (geography, observation, communication/language, simple math, research skills)

β€’ Where are Whole Foods stores located across the US?

Research store chain locations - which state has the most stores? Look at US map as we research. (geography, observation, simple math)

β€’ How do receipts work?

How much money do we spend at Whole Foods? Look at receipt from recent visit, what does it show? Use cash to show the amount of money spent. (math skills, life skills, money management)

O and r at wf 3 

Earlybird and Little Bear on a recent trip to Whole Foods.

β€’ Visit a local farm that supplies food to Whole Foods.

Ask the store manager for a list of local suppliers. Visit one (or more) of the farms in the spring and ask about the farm-store connection. Calculate distance from farm to store - ask about how the food/items are transported. Take pictures and write up a "report." (social skills, communication, language, math, geography, community, environmental science)

β€’ Tour the individual store departments.

Visit the store and write down the name of each store department. Over following visits, investigate just one department at a time. What is the seafood counter all about? What can we find in the dairy? Talk to a staff member associated with that department - have some questions prepared. Make up a booklet at home describing the information and communication. Use photos, drawings and narration. (observation, list-making, language, organization, communication, social skills, creativity, memory/reflection)

β€’ Make up a Whole Foods cookbook.

As we visit the store through the year, keep note of what is in season when. Devise/collect recipes for seasonal foods (baked apples in winter, grilled corn in summer, etc.). Ask for a seasonal list of foods (if available) and use that as a guide. Keep all these recipes and information (along with pictures we take as we cook) in a binder. (observation, list making, language, creativity, communication, life skills, environmental science)

β€’ Make a well-balanced meal.

Plan out a healthy meal and write out a shopping list. Talk about how much we'll need, think about how many people will be eating the food. Make sure to include all food groups and talk about why that is important. Talk about the connection between good health and healthy food. Discuss how we feel after we eat a nutritious meal (energized? full?). (list-making, organization, language, decision making, science, healthy habits, self-awareness)

β€’ Practice time management.

Plan a very early trip to the store (like, 8 a.m.) and devise a plan for getting there on time. How early do we need to get up? What things have to happen before we can leave the house? What do we need to bring with us? Make a list and post it. On the day of the trip, time each activity that leads up to leaving the house. (life skills, time management, independence, responsibility)

O and r at wf

 EB can be a big help with his little brother. 

β€’ Rules are important.

Does Whole Foods have rules? Look at the entrance for any signs (no shirt/no shoes/etc.). Talk about why rules are important. What are some of our family/household's rules? (life skills, responsiblity, community living)

β€’ Write a poem about Whole Foods.

Brainstorm words about Whole Foods - nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc. Print out the words and cut out so that we have lots of single words on little pieces of paper. Play around with the words and make up rhymes. (language, creativity, grammar)

β€’ Conduct a taste test-survey.

Choose a sampling of foods (perhaps WF store brand vs. name brand or another store brand). Invite friends/family to try the foods (decide how best to do this - blindfolded?) and make a note of reactions. Tabulate "votes" and make up a graph to show survey results. (decision-making, organization, communication, math skills, creativity)

β€’ Host a Whole Foods party.

A nice late spring/early summer event - decide on date/time, plan out guest list, make invitations, devise menu, write out shopping list, create decorations, etc. (calendar skills, decision-making, communication, language, creativity, patience, social skills)

β€’ Have a meal at Whole Foods.

Our local Whole Foods has a cafe where patrons can buy drinks and snacks and enjoy them at a table. Plan an outing with Daddy for an early weekend morning (before it gets busy). What do we need (money)? How shoud we behave? After eating, give Daddy a tour of the store. (social skills, patience, money management, hygiene)

β€’ Plant a Whole Foods garden.

In the spring, notice the gardening items that Whole Foods offers: seeds, plants, tools. At home, plan out and create a small garden plan (pots, easy-to-grow items). Purchase seeds and small seedlings at Whole Foods. Peruse tools and other garden implements and decide if they are something we need or not. (list making, organization, environmental science, nature study, creativity, exercise/fresh air, decision making, money management)

β€’ Write a letter to Whole Foods.

Find out how to contact the "head' of Whole Foods (look online) and write a letter expressing our fondness for the store, as well as any suggestions or ideas. :) (language, creativity, research, social skills, life skills, US mail)


Well, I guess I'd better stop there, because this post is getting awfully long! Thanks for letting me share all of this ... I hope maybe someone else finds it useful! Lots of ideas, and some of them will work better than others ... we will try them out over the next several months as opportunity (and energy) presents itself! And of course, I'll let you all know how it goes ...

Thanks so much for stopping by today ... have a good one, my friends, and I will see you all here again very soon!

Looking at Next Week

Happy Friday, my friends! It's time to start planning a new week!

New file folder 1

Lots going on next week - in our schedule, in our Faith, and in nature, too. And the week not only closes with Palm Sunday, but we celebrate a Papal Inauguration as well! How lovely is that?

So yesterday I pulled the folder shown above out of storage, attached a weekly planning page to its cover, and starting "thinking things out."

Here are my thoughts and ideas ... :)

Events/Days of Note

19 - St. Joseph's Day

19 - Papal Inauguration Mass

20 - Vernal Equinox

22 - Blogiversary (7 years!)

24 - Palm Sunday


Dinner Menus

*Under construction - please see my Menu Monday post!



Plan CCD finale/Palm Sunday party.

Order natural egg dye kit.

Buy white eggs.

Spring cleaning, con.

Make card for our pastor.

Finalize Easter menu.

Books to Request/Display

Song of the Swallows

The Spring Equinox


Humphrey's First Palm Sunday



Watch papal proceedings on tv on St. Joseph's Day; serve "sloppy joe empanadas" for supper and "dulce de leche" sundaes as a special "Argentinian" dessert. :)

Talk with boys about "Friends of St. Francis" badge program - brainstorm ideas.

Observe spring equinox: watch sunrise, start a pot of seeds, set out nesting materials.

Take a family Palm Sunday Praise Walk - look for pussy willows by river, stop by vernal pond, observe signs of new life.

Watch night sky for comet: use printable sky map.

Work on amphibians & reptiles study: visit pet store (ask questions, look at turtles, snakes, frogs, lizards), begin "pond watch" at home (listen for peepers), investigate back fence/woods for salamanders.

Set up spring nature table.


So those are my notes for now ... they're just ideas and hopes, but the week will take its own shape and rhythm and we'll do our best to keep up. But I'm excited about all that's to come - it's a very special week in the year - one of my favorites!

Do you have any special activities in mind for next week? If you do, I'd love to hear about them!

Hope you all enjoy your Friday ... see you here again very soon!


Weekly Bits of Domestic Bliss

VH nest 1
Of Note

Winter Solstice (21st), Fourth Sunday in Advent (23rd)


Alas, it's looking more and more like a green Christmas. After a chilly, rainy start the week, we may see some flurries over week's end.

The Solstice brings the shortest day of the year. We'll make time to watch (and record) the sunrise and sunset. We'll also make some homemade nutty-fruity treats for the birds & squirrels.


Finalize Christmas Eve/Day menus.

Order ham.

Major fridge clean-out.

Party food/libations shopping over weekend. 

Last batch of Christmas cards mailed out.

Write out checklist for pre-Christmas cleaning.

Organize Christmas outfits.

Christmas Baking later this week!

Last minute online orders.

Dinner Menus:

M - baked ziti, leftover meatballs (from EB's party), salad, toasted rolls

T - squash soup & grilled cheese/turkey panini (leftover deli from EB's party)

W - grilled chicken tenders, rice, roasted vegetables (leftovers make great wraps for lunch the next day)

T - homemade pizzas, tossed salads

F - Solstice Supper: beef cottage pie, solstice bread, spiced cider, lemon "sun" cake

S - *leftovers a la Daddy*

S - turkey meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn muffins, cranberry sauce

Dear Baby ...

(17 Weeks)

You are a very active baby, my little one! I'm feeling lots of movement every day - little pops and twirls. Daddy and I were watching a documentary on The Beatles and you seemed particularly rambunctious! So much so that Daddy could feel you from the outside!

Mama has some labwork this week and we're praying everything is OK.

Learning Themes:

The Winter Solstice

"Animals of Christmas" continued - donkeys!

Excited About ~ Working On:

Watching Christmas specials with the kids, when it gets dark in the mid-afternoons. I love it when the house is lit only by Christmas lights.

Beginning my Winter Journal ... brainstorming homey, cozy thoughts for January and February. :)

Choosing/organizing a new 2013 calendar.

Making time for a Christmas "Tuesday Tea" this week, whether it's Tuesday or not.


My heart is so heavy this morning, so full of sorrow over the tragedy in Sandy Hook. Praying for those dear little souls, such beautiful children ... I can think no further on it, nothing makes sense and it's all too terrible to process. Just feeling very protective of my own children and praying for all those involved, especially the families of those lost.

Angel ornament

Well my friends, I hope your week's going well ... thanks so much for stopping by today. I know we're all busy, especially as we enter this last week before Christmas, so posting will be slow for me ... but please know I am always thinking of you all and keeping you in my prayers.

And have yourselves a merry little Monday ...


Weekly Bits of Domestic Bliss

VH nest 1
Of Note

Mum's birthday (26th), Cyber Monday (26th), A Charlie Brown Christmas on ABC (28th), Full Beaver Moon (28th), Feast of St. Andrew, Patron of Scotland (30th), B&N Educator Discount Day (1st), First Sunday in Advent (2nd)


Quite chilly, in the 40s - mostly sunny. Flurries on Tuesday.

Beautiful bittersweet vines growing alongside the river out back.

Make plans (themes/practical considertations) for winter nature walks.

Watch for the full moon Wednesday night.


Put up Christmas decorations.

Do outdoor lights/decorations.

Begin online Christmas orders.

Organize boys' holiday outfits, haircuts.

Dinner Menus:

M - pesto pasta, crescent rolls (boys' fave), leftover meatballs

T - meatball/tortellini soup, garlic rolls

W - pulled chicken salad wraps, leftover soup

T - taco potatoes (ground turkey), fiesta salads

F - homemade pizza night, raw veggies/dip

S - *takeout*

S - pork roast, potatoes & squash, apple-cheddar muffins

Desserts: Scottish shortbread, oatmeal-fruit cookies, peppermint-brownie sundaes (Sunday Sundaes)

Dear Baby ...

(14 Weeks)

I felt you move for the first time on Thanksgiving morning! Oh my, what a wonderful feeling!

Feeling much less nausea these days! Just a little when I take my prenatal vitamin and sometimes around suppertime.

Keeping to home as much as possible - a quiet schedule helps my energy level!

Earlybird has noticed Mama's belly, but when he asked "What's wrong with your belly?" and I answered, "Well, it's getting kind of big, isn't it?" he simply shrugged and said, "Yeah, wow!" Nothing else, lol.

Learning Themes:

Waiting for Winter

"Animals of Christmas"

Work on using nice language - how we speak matters.

Christmas "food shopping" lists with EB.

Excited About ~ Working On:

A simple, peaceful Advent ~ reducing noise and clutter, both visual and auditory.

Bill set up "Classical Christmas" music for me on my phone - I park it on the kitchen counter with little speakers ... soothing background music for this time of year.


Bring home the tree this weekend!

Address/stamp Christmas cards.

Watch Take Peace: A Corgi Cottage Christmas (on loan from library).

Brainstorm "teacher gifts" with the boys.


Happy Tuesday, my friends! I hope your week is off to a great start! I apologize I am so behind on comment replies ... I will be catching up over the next few days. (I always seem to think I have much more time (and energy) than I actually do!) I truly appreciate the time and thought you put into your messages. :)

Well, have yourselves a good day ... I will see you here again very soon!


Milkweed & Monarchs

It's that time of year again! There are Monarchs in the air, and milkweed blooms by the roadside ...

Here's a neat little article from the Mass. Audubon Society, reminding us to plant and protect this V.I.P. (very important PLANT), and here's a page on the milkweed's greatest fan, the Monarch Butterfly. And finally, here's a link to a post I wrote last fall on our own Monarch experience, sad though it was ...

Monarch 1

Mid-to-late summer is a great time of year to study butterflies, since they're so readily available to observe. If you don't often see them in your yard, a trip to any nature center or state park would provide you with plenty of specimens to admire ...

For nature study, a small journal could be filled with sketches, photographs, a design for a butterfly garden, a record of "butterfly sightings" and even poems collected or created. And there are so many crafts you could do!

But now that the milkweed is blooming, perhaps a focus on Monarchs would be fun? Their fall migration begins next month, so the time is ripe for monarch observation. I spotted several of them yesterday at the state park (though I only got one fuzzy picture). They're so large and striking - a bright blip in the blue sky, like the fiery summer sun itself.

You probably have your own favorite butterfly books, but here are a few of our favorites:

Monarch books 1

Monarch and Milkweed by Helen Frost

Monarch books 2

Monarch Butterfly by Gail Gibbons

Monarch books 3

An Extraordinary Life by Laurence Pringle

Monarch books 4

Hurry and the Monarch by Antoine O Flatharta

(That last title we've actually not read - but I just made a request at the library!)

Well, my friends, I hope your week's going well. Is it Tuesday already? Goodness, time flies - especially summer-time it seems. We'll be busy at home today, preparing a few gifts for Bill - whose birthday it is, tomorrow. Something to cook, something to craft ... I'm sure you'll be hearing about that before long. :)

But before I go, may I ask you a quick question?

What was the last butterfly you saw? And where did you see it? If you have time, please leave a comment below!

Until next time, I leave you with my sincere thanks for reading, and a promise to see you again soon!