Lesson Planning Feed

Seasonal Homeschooling: Pumpkin Week Recap!

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Hello my friends, and Happy Tuesday! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Not surprisingly there were a lot!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Was the pumpkin big, small or medium?

Was it orange, yellow or white?

Was the outside smooth or rough?

How many lines were around it?

How many seeds did he think would be inside?

How many seeds WERE inside?

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

(Spoiler alert: It floated!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(A craft for the outdoors, for sure!)

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

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Another neat pumpkin activity this week ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

✨ ❄️ 🍂 🎃 🍃 🔥 ✨

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

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

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


Woodland Wonders & a Peek at our Week!

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

This weeks spread woodland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

✨ 🍁 🌞 🌲🌛 🍁 ✨ 🍁 🌞 🌲🌛 🍁 ✨ 🍁 🌞 🌲🌛 🍁 ✨ 🍁 🌞 🌲🌛 🍁 ✨ 

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

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

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


Autumn Tea and Tidbits!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I love peppering my planners with seasonal poems and quotes!

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Next page has my October menu calendar ...

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

And next comes my monthly overview ...

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

A closer peek ...

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And here is last week's spread!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Did you happen to catch it last Thursday night?

Harvest moon rising

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

LB and the full moon

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

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

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

Boots

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

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

Speaking of shoes though ...

Archie and sandals

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

In other wildlife news ...

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Howsabout this guy???

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

And this is what he saw ...

Barred owl on feeders

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

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

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

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

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

First came APPLES ...

Apple collage

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

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

Autumn star fairy

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

Next came SEEDS ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A Close-Up Look at My September Planning ... 🍂

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

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

My 2017 (Printable) Planner

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

My Seasonal Planning Sheets for 2018 

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

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

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

Next comes my own monthly title page ...

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

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

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

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

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

Now, moving on to the next spread ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planner before

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September planning

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

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


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. 😉 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 available: Year at a GlanceNature 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 CalendarSeasonskeeping Title Page

 

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! 🌞

(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. 

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! 


The File Crate: An Update & Overview!

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

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

THE FILE CRATE SYSTEM

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

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

May-June (Late Spring)

July-August (High Summer)

September-October (Early Autumn)

November-December (Late Autumn)

January-February (Deep Winter)

March-April (Early Spring)

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

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Who says office supplies can't be fun?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's how it looks:

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File crate 2

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

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

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

THE WEEKLY FOLDERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planning folders 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planning folders 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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! 

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! 

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! :)

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 ...

  Weekend Office Hours Agenda

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

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

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

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

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

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

Office Hours Layout

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

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

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


My Weekly Planning Routine: Part One (of Two)

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

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

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

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

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!

LL october 2

LL october 1

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!

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:

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It just makes me so happy ...

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

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

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

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

Next comes the two-page seasonal homeschooling schedule:

Seasonal homeschooling

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

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

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

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

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 ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 🍎

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

Other upcoming posts:

A look at this year's file crate.

A tour of my brand new desk!

How I'm using my Day Designer ...

Early Autumn Planning Sheets!

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

I will see you here again very soon ...


The planning process is underway ... 😊

Ed reports 1

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 ...

 Ed plans 2

Ed plans 3

Ed plans 4

📖 ❤️ 📖 ❤️ 📖 ❤️ 📖 ❤️

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!

 


How I Use the Weekly Planning Sheets ...

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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!

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(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:

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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 ...

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

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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.

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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 20°! Theres snow on the ground (a few inches) and plenty more on the way this weekend ... but such is January in New England!

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

Penuche Frosting

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

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

Add milk and bring to boil. Cool to lukewarm.

Gradually add confectioner's sugar and beat.

Add hot water if too thick.

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

2016 Planner: January & February Links

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

Snowflake lesson 1

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

Kitchen window poem

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

***

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

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

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


A Fresh Start: Printable Planning Sheets

Fresh start button final

Happy Friday, my friends! I hope this week is treating you well.

I have some really fun posts coming up - there's a new "Planner Tour" in the works and of course "Masteriece Monday" as well as a "Birthday Tea" on Tuesday! - but for today I'd like to share some printable planning sheets with you all ...

Now originally, I was designing these sheets as part of a "spiral-bound, weekly planner-book kind of thing." I was also creating another set of pages for further description of seasonal projects and homey little "assignments" ... but this all became a bit overcomplicated (not to mention oversized!) so I decided the planning sheets would work well enough with my file crate folders. I've been looking for a way to make the FCS more useful and this just might be it! So I went on to transform a simple store-bought notebook into a more user-friendly weekly planner (details soon) and the seasonal project/assignment pages are (slowly) being churned out and set aside for that someday (soon I hope) book. :)

Anyhow, since I very recently figured out how to make a document a PDF and link it here at my blog - I thought it would be fun to share these sheets here in case they might be helpful to someone in some way ...

I have two page designs - one is for general planning and the other is for lesson planning. I am stapling them to the front cover of the folders, with general planning on the outside and lesson planning on the inside. You could also use Washi tape to attach them, or a decorative paper clip, perhaps ... but so far, stapling works for me!

I only have my first season (aka two months) done so far, but if there is interest, I will share the following seasons as I complete them. So here first is my Deep Winter Overview 2016 PDF which breaks down the season by weeks and themes, and will perhaps give you a better idea of what those project pages cover. This particular sheet I have attached inside my notebook planner, at the start of the Deep Winter section, secured with some pretty washi tape. 

(Edited to Add: Here is a clean copy of the Deep Winter Overview Planning Sheet.)

And here is a link to my lesson planning sheet:

Home Learning This Week (Dawn's)

Home Learning This Week (blank)

 (I've included my own personalized sheet just to give you a better idea of how I use it, as well as a clean copy for you to use if you wish.)

And, finally, here are the Weekly Planning Sheets for January and February. There are sections for planning "days of note," a weekly "theme," suppers, to-dos, crafts & comforts, home & garden tasks/projects, and thoughts & prayers. I also had fun choosing a bit of vintage clipart and adding a simple seasonal "suggestion" for the week.

Deep Winter Week One Planning Sheet (12/28-1/3) PDF

Deep Winter Week Two Planning Sheet (1/4-1/10) PDF

Deep Winter Week Three Planning Sheet (1/11-1/17) PDF

Deep Winter Week Four Planning Sheet (1/18-1/24) PDF

Deep Winter Week Five Planning Sheet (1/25-1/31) PDF

Deep Winter Week Six Planning Sheet (2/1-2/7) PDF

Deep Winter Week Seven Planning Sheet (2/8-2/14) PDF

Deep Winter Week Eight Planning Sheet (2/15-2/21) PDF

Deep Winter Week Nine Planning Sheet (2/22-2/28) PDF

Planning sheet on folder

I can do a follow-up post to show how I fill out those blocks. This sheet shown above was hot-off-the-presses and just set on top of a folder for a photo-op.

Now as I mentioned, I also have my notebook planner going on, and I use that more actively than I do these folders/sheets. I refer to my folders/sheets for ideas and direction, but I have daily checklists and a weekly agenda in my planner. I hope this will all make more sense once I give you the full planner tour - WHICH I am hoping to have up midweek! I have a busy weekend with family visits and such, but I will be working in my planner as I find time and taking pictures to share. My goal is to post the tour by Wednesday!

So for now, I will let you go, but I hope you enjoyed this post and seeing all my Deep Winter planning! I would love to hear your thoughts on them if you have time! I would also love to write more about how I'm using the sheets but nap time is nearing its end so I'd better wrap up. I will be back very soon, however, and for now I wish you all a wonderful weekend!

**


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

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!


A Glimpse of Autumn ...

Hello my friends, and welcome! I hope your week's going well. :) I have a few fun things to share with you all this fine Thursday morning ...

Pre-autumn 1

I spied my first glimpse of Autumn yesterday as I paged through the newest PaperSource catalog ... I LOVE "seeing" fall on the pages of my magazines and catalogs, even if I'm not quite ready for Summer to end. It makes me happy and eager to plan the next season!

Speaking of planning ...

Pre-autumn 2

With the school reports out of the way, I've started working on my lesson planner for the academic year ahead. It's a rather humble and homespun affair (using stuff I had on hand), but I'm hoping it will serve me well. I will share it here with you all soon.

Pre-autumn 3

And here's one of those very fine, early Autumn issues! My Victoria never disappoints, but I especially love its annual British issue. 

Pre-autumn 4

And finally, I had to snap a picture of this spot in my bedroom because it just looks so pretty and cozy. I'm in love with my "new" quilt and shams - and I must say Thanks to my Mum for her generous donation! This lovely set was in her guest bedroom until I "borrowed" it and couldn't seem to give it back. ;) And I love that the window is open - because the air is so fresh and cool this morning - and there's a bit of reading stacked on the night-side table. (There's even more in the basket sitting on top of the hope chest at the foot of the bed.) And I had to turn on the light because it was just a bit too dark for a good picture without it. I liked that, too ... that tells me the daylight is changing as we move closer to fall ... :)

Well, my friends - I must be off for now, but thanks so much for stopping by. Blessings on your day and see you here again very soon!


Homeschool Thoughts, Lists & News, etc.

(A bit of a hodgepodge today!)

Happy august 1

Happy August, my friends! It sure is hot and hazy here, but I love how the flowers just glow in the summer sun these days. And everything is so green ... I just love this time of year!

Well, I wanted to pop in quickly this morning to tell you I am *thisclose* to finishing our school reports - I just need to finalize Earlybird's ed. plan for next year. His reports are always a bit tricky because, as a special needs child, my plans must be thorough, but flexible, and his progress is not always so readily apparent. I have to put a lot of thought into what we will learn and how I will teach him these things. And because of his learning style and challenges, my methods are not always as clear-cut as just say, ordering a "Grade X Curriculum." Thankfully he does make progress each year ... I just have to really look back through all we did in each subject to remind myself (reassure myself) how said progress was made and measured.

(For example, this year he listened to audiobooks - something he didn't couldn't do before - and in this way we "read" several classic books together. I couldn't ask him to fill out a quiz or write a report, but I could - when the time was right - ask him questions about what we'd heard that day and to re-tell parts of the story, which I would write down.)

So I'm always looking for ways to "think outside the box" when constructing Earlybird's education, and one resource I have found immensely helpful are these fantastic (and free!) Living Learning Lists from Ed Snapshots. There are some terrific ideas here for experiential learning in all the main subjects! I've pinned these lists and printed them out to keep in my homeschool planner for use all year long ... :)

And speaking of Ed Snapshots ... well, I am just SUPER excited to have been invited to do a podcast with Pam sometime in the near future! (You can read other podcasts here ... so much inspiration!) I will keep you all posted about when mine will be happening ... I'm not sure what-all I can bring to the "podcast table," but I am SO honored to have been asked! I haven't "talked shop" in a while ... :)

**

Let's see, what else? I also wanted to mention that so far I am really enjoying my new Day Designer! I will do a post on how I'm using it as soon as I can - I want to get some more "days" under my belt first - but I wanted to mention that if you'd like a peek at how the planner looks, DD offers free downloadable planning pages to try out before purchasing. Mind you, this is an example of a page from a flagship planner - the original Day Designer - not the Blue Sky version I purchased from Target. I'm still working out how the versions differ ... and how to personalize my own planner. More about that soon!

Ok - and here's a final thought for today - over the weekend I had my hair cut, colored and styled and boy does it feel good! (Some of you might have seen my "after shot" on my Facebook page.) And it got me to thinking ... wouldn't it be fun to do a "hair care" post here at the blog? I would love to chat about how we wear our hair, and how we care for it ... on our own at home and at the salon. Especially when we're busy with other things (kids, work, life!) or being careful with our budget. We could even - if people were willing! - share pictures. I will keep that in mind for sometime in my posting future - let me know if you think that would be fun and any other post ideas you might have for me! I'm always open to suggestions. :)

**

All righty then ... I will be off now since my kids are clamoring for lunch and I'm the point person when it comes to that situation. For now I will wish you all a good week and hope to see you here again very soon!

Teach quote

(Saw this just before hitting "post" and had to share!)