Q & A Feed

Seasonal Planning: Why the Moon?

Moonflowers
During the Planning Chat Workshop this morning, someone asked why I write the moon phases in my planner ... and it's a very good question! Because it got me thinking about why I enjoy seasonal planning so much ... and in the case of the moon's phases, while we may not be amateur astronomers or anything, I still find it useful information to have on hand ... and here's why. :)
 
For one thing, the full moons, as named by the Native Americans, are tied in with the season in which they fall (Sap Moon, Pink Moon, Flower Moon, Thunder Moon, etc.) and sometimes I include them in our nature study plans. So for example, we might schedule a maple sugaring field trip (a popular local tradition), during the week of the Full Sap Moon ... and that week might be assigned the theme, "melting/sap/thaw." Actually, there's a lot of science and history to be tied in with this topic! We could investigate what conditions are needed for the sap to start running (freezing nights, but day temps above 50) and what it signals to the trees (and the rest of us): Spring is truly on its way! Or maybe we'd learn how the early colonists "discovered" maple syrup (thanks to the Native Americans) and I might even plan a maple-based dinner one night. The younger boys have such fun with all of this, but I think the older boys enjoy these family activities as well.
 
It's also helpful to know when a new moon will occur (which means, no moonshine) because it's easier to see the stars on a "moonless" night. And perhaps that's something I would like to do with the boys as part of our home learning that week or as one of our family "adventures." There are also several meteor showers that occur throughout the year and some are easier to view than others - especially when they take place during the darker sky of a new moon! So it's handy to know whether the moon is waxing or waning when scheduling these kinds of seasonal activities in my planner.
 
Beyond all that though, I like the idea of my planner serving as an old-fashioned "almanac" of sorts, so I include weather notes and simple observations of the nature around us. (Two deer in the yard just now ... heard a raven in the woods ... spotted a fisher cat on Main Street this morning!) I even check the Weather Channel app on my iPhone when doing my weekly "look ahead" planning!
 
Another example of seasonal planning, and this one applies to both nature's seasons as well as those of the Church ... this week we'll be celebrating the Feast of St. Agnes, and our weekly theme is "snowflakes." For years now I've tied snowflakes with this saint's day (because of the tradition of St. Agnes's "flowers") and there are certain crafts and comforts I like to weave into our week. Snowflake science, baking and stories, so many options! Not must-dos, but may-dos. And as it appears we may be in for some snow here late next week, I'll make a point to get the boys outside to really experience the season, this depth of winter ... does it smell like snow? Feel like snow? Look like snow? What signs are telling us snow is on the way?
 
(Now, I was just writing these very notes in my planner for next week and that reminded me I have a half-written post in which I show you how I'm using my printable planning sheets. (In other words, with the spaces filled in!) I am also going to make the monthly calendars I showed you in my planner tour available as PDFs this week in case you'd like to use those as well ... so stay tuned!)
 
So anyhow, this question really made me smile and think for a bit about why I spend so much time finding out about nature and then working it into our family plans. It's something that brings me a lot of personal joy - tying my energy and inspiration to the season - but it's created a lot of fun traditions with my children as well! :)
 
So if your family, like mine, enjoys checking out the night sky from time to time, here's a great calendar for 2016 astronomical events, including full moons and shooting stars, etc. And as of today (or tonight) we are on the way towards the January full moon WHICH -  according to my planner - takes place next Saturday. It's the Full "Wolf" Moon this month and there is some very interesting history tied into that ... but I'll stop there because as usual, I'm getting carried away!
 
But speaking of the Planning Chat Workshop this morning - it was such fun! I hope you could join us, but there is still a way you can listen in - click HERE to sign up for the replay as well as the links Mystie, Jen and I shared from our blogs. I would love to follow up on some of the points and questions that came up during the talk, so please leave me a note or zip me an email (bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT come) if there's something you'd like to see in a future post!
 
For now though, I am going to sign off and enjoy the rest of this slow, snowy Saturday ... I hope you do the same! But thanks so much for stopping by! I will see you all here again very soon ...
 
🌛 🌝 🌜🌚

Planner Chat & Q & A

Yellow daisies in mug template

Happy Sunday, my friends! A quick(ish) post today to follow up on some "planning sheet" questions AND to share a little bit of planning news!

First my news: remember last month I participated in a live planning chat "webinar" with Mystie from Simplified Organization and Jen from Wildflowers & Marbles? Well I'm so pleased to announce that we are going to do an encore webinar NEXT Saturday, January 16th at 10 a.m. (EST)! I hope you'll grab yourself a cup of coffee and join us for some more planning chat!

Now, if you signed up for our December workshop you will get an email reminder for the talk (plus the link for playback) but if you missed us last time, you can go HERE to sign up and join in the fun. I believe we are going to focus on seasonal planning this time around, but please let me know if there are some specific questions that you'd like to see addressed. You can also ask (or type!) your questions for us during the live chat, but I'd love to hear what's on your mind these days when it comes to a new year of planning!

:)

And speaking of planning, and switching gears a bit, I wanted to answer a few questions that were raised about my printable planning sheets. I'm so glad the links worked and that they are of interest to some of you! :)

From Michelle:

I would love to see how one looks when it is filled out with your daily routines. Also, I was wondering how you incorporated your cleaning schedule into these sheets?

Michelle, I will share a planning sheet "in action" in a follow-up post. I am waiting for our new printer to arrive so I can print out more sheets - our old one died a few days ago! (It's scheduled to arrive tomorrow - you've gotta love Amazon Prime!) I will print out next week's planning sheets and then, in another post, I will show you all how I'm filling them in. And I've incorporated my cleaning schedule into the planner itself (the spiral-bound notebook I've made up and will share in a post this week). I have listed my housekeeping tasks in my weekly agenda, in checklist form.

    From Deb:

I especially love your "Deep Winter Overview" and would love to see how it flows through and works into your week(s). Your themes change weekly, time flies so quickly, how do you establish each theme? Crafts, menus, books, decorating details?

Deb, some weeks the theme features more prominently in our plans than others ... but I always like to have a theme! It helps me grasp some of the beauty of the season. I've done this since I was a child ...

What I do is sit down and and brainstorm the year as I see it, filled with so much joy - as I go through my past journals and read through some favorite seasonal resources I take notes of things that I love about the seasons. Using this large list of ideas  - events, qualities, remembrances - I work themes into the weeks of the year. Some of them just fit with certain weeks because they match up with a full moon or a feast day - eg. winter stars at Epiphany, candles at Candlemas, maple during the full sap moon, snowflakes for St. Agnes, etc. With this outline of themes, I schedule activities and observations where I can - in our homeschooling, craft projects, family meals, our weekly book basket, and sometimes just my own thoughts and personal activities.

So, for example, next week my theme is "warming drinks." I chose this theme to be part of January because it is National Hot Tea Month and because I feel hot drinks to be such a comfort and joy at this time of year. It is also my birthday week, and tea (and coffee) is such a big part of my life! So I want to celebrate it a little ... with a "birthday tea" for myself and with my kids (who prefer cocoa) and perhaps a cleaning out of my china cupboard - dusting my pots, cups and saucers. (Remembering the tea I shared with my late grandmother - in those very pots! - whose birthday is also this week.) I retired my autumn and Christmas mugs and found my "new" mug for the winter season - a cheerful, golden mug that holds a very generous volume of beverage!

It would also be fun to explore hot drinks through the world and over time - what do people drink where? What are some global tea customs? How and where is tea grown? We could take a look at the herbs used for tea - and sketch a tea garden for the spring, with plans to make our own tea blends next year? (Homemade gifts!) Perhaps a look at the history of tea in New England, with a visit to the Boston tea party ship and museum? Any or all of these things could be woven into our home learning this week ...

I keep it fairly low key - or not, depending on time and interest! I just like being aware of all those beautiful "comforts and joys" that are part of the year itself. My aim is to come up with all kinds of ideas (like the ones I mentioned above) so I can pick and choose what fits with our needs each year. Like, we didn't do much with "winter stars" last week ... but maybe next year we'll visit the planetarium, hang shiny window stars, and bake star-shaped spice cookies for Little Christmas ... 

Naming "themes" to the weeks is just my way of organizing a large umbrella of many ideas. And these are the ideas (and framework) that are making up my book which I hope to "publish" sometime this year. For now though, these ideas live in my planners and posts and binders - and, of course, in my heart! I carry them around with me and nurture them when I have time to sit and reflect on just why I love the seasons. :)

Well, I got a bit rambly, Deb, but I hope I answered your question. Please let me know if I can clarify further! 

Here's another question, from Shelly:

I am wondering.... did you do these in Word? The reason I ask is that I would like to create a 'deep winter' overview, but my lists would have different things to focus on.

Shelly, I did these sheets in an application called, "Pages" on my Macbook. I don't know how or if that would work with Word, but what I did was I went back into the Deep Winter Overview page and deleted personal text. I left the dated nine weekly blocks and the snowdrops graphic. If that would be something you could use, feel free to grab it! I had someone ask if they would be able to make the pages editable, but I'm not sure how that would work.

Deep Winter Overview (Clean Copy)

And finally, from Kelly:

I could see using these as brainstorming sheets, and then transferring the ideas/thoughts to my planner (monthly, daily, and weekly to-do's). Thank you for sharing these! Isn't planning such a joy, especially when it helps us live out our lives more intentionally?

Kelly - yes! Exactly. I use these sheets (and exercises) to brainstorm seasonal ideas that can (possibly, hopefully) be funneled into my weekly activities - things I might do with my family and/or on my own. The planner - which I will show you all this week - is where I get into the "nitty gritty" of the week. It shows me what is happening when and where I might be able to squeeze in a little seasonal appreciation. :)

Planning IS such a joy, Kelly - and you nailed it when you said: "it helps us live out our lives more intentionally." YES. THIS. Time flies, joy passes by - and I love to find ways to harness it, appreciate it, and share it with my family when and where I can. And the blessing is, seasonal living is a joy we get to revisit every year! :)

~~

Well, my friends, I'd best wrap up now, but I hope you enjoyed this post! Please let me know if you have any questions - regarding the planning sheets or perhaps my upcoming chat with Mystie and Jen on Saturday. I would love to hear from you! And I hope you all have a wonderful Sunday ... we've got Downton tonight! Woohoo! So let's chat about the episode tomorrow! :)

See you here again very soon ...


My Podcast with Pam!

Podcast

Good Tuesday morning, my friends! :)

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

:)

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

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

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

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


Pondering Project Planning ...

Confirmation outfit 1

Next month Crackerjack will make his Holy Confirmation, so I've been scrambling about checking suit sizes, dress shoes, ties and belts, etc., but it occurred to me ... we'd need something "spiffy" for our littlest man to wear, too! Well, I happened to be at Babies 'R Us yesterday (buying - what else - diapers, lol?) and saw these dapper duds on sale ... so how could I resist? I just had to share this with you all because I thought you might get a kick out of it ... :)

But also, I'd like to ask you all a question this morning about project planning:

How/where do you plan out Projects?

CJ's Confirmation, as I mentioned, is happening next month and naturally there's much to do to get ready. He's been preparing for two years, and we've had to keep track of his requirements ... there have been papers and signatures and essays and memos with important dates. And then there's the Big Day itself! A late morning Mass will be followed by a rather large celebration at our house ... so, all in all, it's a sizeable project to plan out and prepare for!

So my question is, where would you keep a project plan for an event like this? A project that requires checklists, goals, delegation, follow-up, brainstorming, etc.?

Other project examples:

A birthday party

Thanksgiving Dinner

A yard sale ... or bake sale

A move/house sale

A vacation

A home business idea

A room makeover

Advent

A new heath regime

I'm always stumped when it comes to storing project plans, and I've tried a lot of different locations:

In a special notebook devoted just to project planning.

In a separate binder where I can also stash loose papers and whatnot.

On a clipboard.

In the file crate, in a folder marked, "Projects."

In my master binder, behind a "Projects" tab.

In the seasonal binder to which the project belongs (if it's timely).

Now, I realize - as usual - I'm probably overthinking things, but I thought I'd ask for my readers' thoughts on this topic ... because I love hearing how other people organize things!

If you have a moment please let me know where you plan your projects and all the stuff that goes along with it!

{I know I keep talking about "posts to come" about my planning - seasonal, weekly, home education, nature study, etc. - and I do promise they're coming. I'm just trying to get it all straight before I begin my "show and tell!" :) Currently I'm in the midst of re-tooling my tools and re-thinking how I use them. I do love me some binders and planners and notebooks and folders, but I'm realizing that perhaps keeping things all in one place is more realistic for me. I'm trying not to overstuff my master binder, but it is convenient to keep things right at my fingertips.}

Well, I'd best wrap up and be off and get this day rolling. It happens to be Crackerjack's SIXTEENTH birthday today ... and Bill has taken a few days off so there will be much family togetherness ... which of course means there will be plenty of pictures forthcoming!

Have yourselves a good Thursday, my friends, and see you here again very soon!


Housekeeping Calendar Q & A

  Cards q and a 1

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

:)

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

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

First question, from Leah:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rd q and a 2

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

So now for a question from Sue:

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

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

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

Scrum board

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

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

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

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

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

OFF WEEKS

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

November 23rd-29th (Thanksgiving week)

December 21st-27th (Christmas week)

2016

March 21st-March 27th (Holy Week)

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

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

November 21st-November 27th (Thanksgiving week)

December 19-December 25th (Christmas week)

***

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

:)

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

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

See you here again very soon!

 


More Q & A: Magazines!

Happy Weekend, my friends ...

Magazines 1

Several posts back there was some conversation about magazines and folks wondering what I read and if we might talk a bit about magazines in general ...

And of course, I'd love to! But let me start with some questions for you, all:

1. Firstly, what magazines do you read? What are your regulars - those not to be missed? And what magazines do you splurge on when you have a little extra pin money to spend on yourself? 

2. Do you subscribe or pick them up at the newsstand/supermarket?

3. How do you organize your magazines - where do you keep them, where do you read them and when finished, do you store or recycle them?

**

I have loved magazines since I was a kid. There was Teen and Young Miss (and occasionally, ahem, Tiger Beat) and then the "creme de la creme" ... Seventeen. Oh, how I loved that one especially. Back in the 80s they still ran domestic features about holiday parties, craft projects and recipes. And the back-to-school issue was THE best of the year. It was my favorite thing to read ... and I wasn't 17 until 1988, mind you, but my mother allowed it because back then teen magazines were more innocent than they are nowadays. (Or so I suspect ...) I started reading my mother's magazines, too ... I was reading Better Homes & Gardens and (our favorite) Country Living in high school and dreaming of the day I'd run my own home.

Fast-forward a whole lot of years and I still adore magazines. I love the pictures, the articles, and even the ads - as long as they're not perfumed! I have many "favorites" that I read each month, and I keep them in a neat pile (in a certain order, of course) and read through them one at a time. I keep a magazine at my workspace and flip through as I can through the day - clipping items of interest as I go. (The things I clip I add to my domestic journal as we've discussed  - or save in a file for future use.) If there's an article I want to read fully, I set it aside for when I have more time.

Here is my list of current mags - I'd love to hear about yours! 

  • Victoria
  • Martha Stewart Living
  • Real Simple
  • British Country Living
  • (American) Country Living
  • Yankee
  • Everyday with Rachel Ray
  • The Food Network Magazine
  • Woman's Day
  • Family Circle
  • Better Homes & Gardens
  • Taste of Home
  • Parents
  • Family Fun
  • Mary Jane's Farm
  • LandLove and Landscape (on occasion)
  • Babybug :)

Magazines I miss: Everyday Food, The Baking Sheet, Country Home, Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion, Faith & Family, Living Crafts, MS Kids

I try to subscribe when I can because it's much more economical and convenient. A few of the British magazines I like (including the occasional Jamie) I can order though this website. They're excellent - reasonable and quick! Sometimes, if I have a gift card or if it's "Educator Appreciation Week," I might pop into Barnes & Noble and indulge in a few magazines I don't usually buy ... Green Parent (UK), Mollie Makes, Artful Blogging, Organic Gardening, Romantic Home, Where Women Work/Cook ...

I keep them in the library - it had been on an end table but they've since been moved to the edge of my writing desk now that Little Bear's reach has expanded. I have other things I add to the top of my pile - the local weekly paper, a few Sunday Globe inserts, People (shared with my mum) and Entertainment Weekly (shared with Bookworm) as well as Time (shared with Bill and the boys) and my parish bulletin. The Boston Parents Paper (a freebie I pick up at the market), my WGBH Program Guide (PBS shows), and any new catalogs go here too. I do also receive Vanity Fair and Town & Country, but I don't care much for them - I got them as freebies when I subscribed to something else.

Oh! And one magazine I never clip is Martha Stewart Living - I have every issue going back to her first publication!

 *** 

Well, I'm sure there is more I could say about magazines, but I'll leave it here for now. This was probably more than you ever needed to know about my magazine habit, lol! Anyhoo, if you'd like to join the conversation, please leave a comment below. :)

Speaking of conversation, there's some great stuff happening in the comments box from my last post. I just LOVE that so many of my dear readers are happy to jump in and share their own styles and suggestions. I wish I could make the sharing part easier, but I don't know that Typepad has a different format for comments. But please, check that thread out if you have a chance ... we're gearing up for a big post on household routines.

:)

Well, my friends - I must be off, as my (younger) boys will be rising soon. It's quite early here and still dark outside my windows ... the wind's been howling and I can see it's lightly snowing ... time for another cup of coffee in my sweet squirrel mug!

Squirrel mug 1

See you here again very soon ...


More Q & A: homeschool planning?

Lesson planning 11

Continuing on with our Q&A series, a few ladies asked about my homeschool planning methods, so I thought I'd tackle that subject today. :)

From Leah:

How do/did you give your boys their assignments? Did they each have a planner or did you print out assignment sheets? Or, did they just do the "next thing" in the curriculum? How did you keep track of your side of it (read-alouds, projects, etc.) or is that part of that FCS cover sheet?

From Helena:

How/where do you plan out your homeschooling? I don't mean the outside classes you have scheduled, but the lessons you do at home.

From Tanya

Meant to ask you where you keep your home learning plans? Are they in your planner or do you have a specific place where you lay out what subjects you want to study and then specifically how you will study them? 

As you might expect, over the past 15 years of homeschooling, I've used all kinds of methods for managing home lessons - in planning them, assigning them, reviewing them, etc. I've used separate planners (both commercial and homemade) and I've worked the plans into my file folders, and/or my main planner. Each year was a bit different depending on what we were using for curriculum. What I can do here is tell you about what I do now ...

These days, Bookworm is at college and Crackerjack takes several outside-the-home classes (in small groups of homeschool peers). I don't have a hand in those assignments but I am in charge of overseeing his schedule and how he manages his workload. (We also decide together which classes mesh with our goals.) Math, Religion, and Geography/World Events are home-taught. (He is also enrolled in monthly Confirmation prep at our church.)

With Earlybird (who is developmentally delayed), I'm basically designing my own curriculum - using a few workbooks and a wide variety of educational materials. We rely on his interests and simple activities - immersing ourselves in (hopefully) memorable experiences that involve his head, hands and heart. It is child-led learning, but not too unschoolish, for lack of a better word - I need a real plan to work around, but I gave up scheduling assignments firmly a long time ago.

I usually do my lesson planning over the weekend, though I'm trying to work it into my Fridays instead. It would be much more efficient if I could. But whenever I do it, I begin in the dining room where I pretty much take over the whole table, lol. Holidays and Summer aside, it looks like this pretty much all year:

Lesson planning 12

I know not everyone can - or wants to - use their dining table in this way, but it works for me. I am a visual person so I like to have piles of books that are grouped by theme/lesson. It helps me focus and organize ideas. I keep even more books in nearby tote bags, including my own general "teacher" resources, as well as Crackerjack's books and notebooks ...

Lesson planning 3

This table displays periodicals and seasonal books ... this is done mostly for me. :)

Lesson planning 21

I start the planning "process" by first making a hot cup of tea ... moving the cat off my chair ... retrieving a pencil from the toddler ... neatening the table ... and pruning those book piles. Some books go back to the library bag (or storage downstairs), once I've made note of them in our portfolio. Actually, "portfolio" is probably too formal a word for what I'm keeping right now, but at the end of the year I hope it applies!

Next, I open up my planner and fill in our agenda for the week ahead:

What classes/activities/appts. do we have?

What things do we need to turn in or remember to bring?

Are there library holds in or books due?

What days are of note? Will we work them into our home learning?

(This week we have - Grandma Barbara's birthday, National Chocolate Cake Day, St. Thomas Aquinas, National Carnation Day, Days of the Blackbird, St. Brigid's Day, February begins, Parish Breakfast, The Superbowl)

What's the weather looking like this week?

Anything special happening at Church?

I then have Crackerjack sit with me (or he stands beside me, eager to get back to whatever he was doing) while we go over his work for the week. His classes were a bit overwhelming last semester, so he came up with an idea to make himself an assignment board. I thought it was a great idea and left it entirely up to him to create and maintain. He found an old white board downstairs and unearthed a dry erase marker (which we mostly hide because EB does bad things with them) and set this up ...

Lesson planning 7

I transfer CJ's assignments to my own grid ...

Lesson planning 20

(As you can see, I didn't retrieve that pencil from the toddler quickly enough!)

 The top side of this sheet is for Crackerjack and the back side (seen below) is for Earlybird. I'd been writing these notes rather randomly, but have decided to keep formal weekly lesson planning in a new section of my journal binder. (One of the reasons I love doing these Q&A posts is it gets me to assess what I'm not doing well!) This is just a trimmed down piece of legal pad paper - I like how the yellow paper stands out.

(I will post more about this new journal section later this week, but here it is pictured below.)

Lesson planning 8

Also, the index card seen on CJ's  planning page is another "system" I've used from time-to-time: daily task cards. I'm giving it another go to see if I can get us back on a steady track. (The holidays kind of derailed us ...) These cards, as their name implies, are for assigning daily lessons and other tasks ...

Lesson planning 6

 I have a little plastic basket that fits index cards perfectly and I have one per day per child. Right now, though, I'm just using this system with Crackerjack. Each day Crackerjack gets a card that details what he needs to remember to do - like, put out trash, finalize art project, complete math lesson, fill birdfeeders, pray for a specific intention, etc. We have this neat little photo holder from Disney World and it holds the card of the day perfectly - CJ keeps it next to his computer in the living room. 

Ok, back to the planning ...

I then look through my in-basket, book piles and journal pages for things to record:

Videos watched - lately it's been Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, Liberty's Kids, and Popular Mechanics for Kids.

Magazines read - Skywatch, Highlights, Trains, and The Baker's Catalog.

Books read/chapters listened to - currently we are reading Little House in the Big Woods and we are LOVING it. It's the perfect book to listen to at this time of year.

Any papers done, printed out, drawn/colored ...

Any things EB said or did that demonstrated a new skill or comprehension, independence, his sweet sense of humor, etc. I'm usually jotting those things down in my daily journal.

As I plan for Earlybird, I don't use a subject grid like I do for Crackerjack (though I'm trying to come up with a life skills goal sheet that would be a bit more formal). Rather, I brainstorm miscellaneous ideas for the week ahead ...

Lesson planning 22

Here's a closer look in case anyone is curious ... :) 

Lesson planning 18

Then each day I decide what might be a good fit for us (for him). I make sure my book requests are made at the library (it usually only takes a day or two to get them in) and I make note of any materials I need to pick up at the store. (Seems we'll be doing some baking this week!)

(Note, we've just learned a blizzard of "potentially historic" proportions is heading our way for Tuesday. So, first of all, YIKES - but second of all, this would be a perfect opportunity to look at the science of snowstorms and research record snows in New England ... so I've added these notes to my list.)

So it's not all that organized, and there's certainly no guarantee we'll get all of it (or even most of it) done ... but it's been working pretty well for us this year. I just need to remember to sit down periodically and revisit the overall goals I made for the year, and see which areas need attention. For instance, EB listens and comprehends literature quite well - if I have him "trapped" in the van, lol. At home, he's more "free-ranging" so I try to catch his attention when I can. He can be very resistant to seatwork so I struggle between making allowances for what are legitimate issues and pushing him a little ... do I make him get used to it or will it make him hate it even more?

That, however, is probably a post for another time: How do we work with our special needs children at home? How do we make learning enjoyable for children who struggle with rigidity and extreme sensory issues? And still make progress? Idea-sharing would be wonderful!

***

Well, ok then - I think I'd best wrap up or I'll never hit "post," lol. I am sure I left a lot unsaid - which seems crazy after this mammoth post, but I could have talked more about planning a year in advance (generally speaking), keeping track of progress (weekly/monthly) and other assessment/review methods ... mind you, just the way I've done it! Not as a "how to" guide by any stretch of the imagination. I may be a "veteran" homeschooler, but I'm still figuring things out as I go along!

Also, before I forget, I wanted to mention two other post ideas that were suggested to me by my friends Shirley Ann and Emma. I have these in queue as well ...

* How do we keep our Sundays special, for our families and ourselves?

* How do we find time and create space in our daily routine for quiet contemplation, personal prayer and spiritual goals?

*

Thank you you all so much for joining me today ... I'd love to hear about your lesson planning methods if you'd care to share. If you have a moment, please leave a comment below. :)

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, my friends. If you're in the path of nasty weather - hold tight and stay safe! I'll see you here again very soon ...


More Q & A: journal = scrapbook?

Oliver in sunny window 1

Good morning, my friends! And Happy Monday!

I am checking in quickly this morning - it was a busy weekend and a very late night last night as we cheered on our beloved Patriots ... but I'm quite happy to say this morning that we are going to The Superbowl!! Well, not us personally of course - but our team will be there! And we'll be there too, if only in spirit, watching at home in New England.

:)

Anyhoo, suffice it to say I was not able to watch Downton Abby last night (or TGBBC either). I hope to catch them one night this week and when I do I will get a "Masterpiece Monday" post up so we can chat - only it will probably be more like "Masterpiece Wednesday or Thursday."

So today, I'm a bit sleepy-eyed and slow-moving (much like my Oliver up top), but I'm going to do some catch-up here as I find time. So many of you have left wonderful comments and I can't wait to read and digest and respond. I will also continue working on several upcoming journal/planner drafts, and while I don't have any of them quite ready to post yet, I will answer this quick question from Kelly, because I think I have a pretty brief answer.  

I thought of one additional question, Dawn - could your journal be described as a scrapbook? I love the idea of it but as I mentioned, I tend to keep parts of my life organized differently so I'm having a hard time seeing how this fits in. Understanding it as a scrapbook helps me to understand this better.

Kelly, my journal is a collage of memories and observations, mostly about family, current events and the turn of the seasons. I don't, however, include photographs or stickers ... and it's not all that planned ahead or thought out. And I don't really show other people (though I certainly could and hope I might someday).

So I consider my journal habit to be a form of scrapbooking, just maybe not as formal or clever. I dabbled in Scrapbooking, as a hobby, many years ago when Bookworm was little. I attended "Creative Memories" parties and subscribed to Creating Keepsakes ... and collected TONS of scrapbooking supplies. I remember when I started blogging I called it a kind of "online scrapbooking" ... and that's when my love of photography and capturing memories really kicked in. I couldn't seem to sit down and create pages, but I could upload photos to my computer and write (rather lengthy) texts to go along with them.

Our photos now are stored here at my blog and on my (personal) Facebook page as well as on our home computer. Oh, and my phone. Bill just offloaded about 1100 pictures because I'd used up my storage space - in about a month, lol!

(All that said, I think digital photography has made true, in-your-hands photo albums, a rarity these days. And that's a shame, because those types of memory books are wonderful to display and share with friends and family. That might be a great topic for a post - storing and sharing family photos - though, come to think of it, we might have done that already, lol ... )

Well, this wasn't as brief as I thought it would be, but I hope I've answered your question, Kelly. Please let me know if that cleared things up for you, and if it didn't, feel free to ask for more clarification. Thanks so much for reading and caring and sharing!

One more shot of Oliver because ... well, just because:

Oliver in sunny window 2

:)

My friends, I hope you will excuse a bit of a pause as I get my gears going this week - we're heading back to formal lessons and everything else that comes with it! (I've made note of several homeschool-planning questions and have a draft started!) And I think I might have found a solution for my weekly planning sheet/clipboard conundrum. Photos to come! 

Enjoy your Monday, everyone ... see you here again very soon!


More Q & A: journal vs. planner?

 Hello, my friends ~ how's your weekend going? It's a nice Saturday here - bright, sunny and cold. Look what I put up in our kitchen window this morning:

Carnations in window 1

A whole bunch of pretty white carnations - a January tradition in our house! Next week we'll add drops of food dye to the water and see how the petals change color ...

:)

Now, before I launch into the actual Q & A, I first want to say that I am doing these posts as a way of clarifying things I've mentioned previously but have perhaps not been clear (always a risk when one's as wordy as I am!) and to open up a discussion with other like-minded people. And obviously to answer specific questions! What I don't mean to imply - in any way at all - is that I'm some sort of all-knowing expert on journals and journaling or planners and planning!

*grimaces just thinking about that misperception*

Ok, hardly! Lol. It's just that I focus a lot of time and energy on this topic and I absolutely LOVE comparing notes, thinking out loud, and hearing how others do things ... I find your comments so interesting and insightful! And I'm thrilled when readers connect here and help each other out. Please always feel free to jump in and chat! And of course I always love more questions ...

So today's journal/planner question is from Amy and it concerns both journal and planner:

I have a new question. Maybe someday you will have time to answer it. And of course we would love a post about mothers, and time! I'd write it myself if I had the time, lol!

Q: How do you use this domestic journal separate from your weekly planner? Is it not redundant, in a way?

Journal vs planner 1

Amy, I really love this question because it's one I mull over myself sometimes. I'm always trying to reign myself in and simplify things ... because I tend to create more tools than I probably need. But the short answer is Yes, the journal and planner are a bit redundant ... in some ways. But they each serve a unique purpose and I could not do without one or the other!

Now for the long answer ...

The journal is free-form and fluid ... a continuous stream of thought. It's filled with wordy blurbs I wouldn't put in my planner (nature notes, family memories, lesson ideas) and clippings of all kinds. It's a bit messy to be sure - but for me, that kind of adds to the charm. :)

Journal page

With the journal I get to unload all the thoughts and ideas and observations that cross my brain throughout the day. They are usually seasonal or timely in some way. I add bits of magazines, newpapers, ticket stubs and other random memorablia. It lets me be creative and a bit "artsy" (if quite humbly so) and when I look back at it (even years later) it brings me SUCH joy. I get a real feel for the time in which it was written - the season, the year and where we were in those days as a family. Reading about the things that mattered then and the things the boys were doing is a gift. I never worry about my journal being "perfect" because its very imperfection makes it precious.

On the other hand, the planner is more formal, with more of a framework, and its pages are all assigned a date. With the planner, I get a grasp on what's happening when, where we're going, when we're home, what's important or special this week and what my family needs from me. If Crackerjack tells me he needs a stick of butter for Spanish class on Thursday (lol, true story), I write it in the planner - because on Thursday I'll be reviewing that agenda. I could write that in the journal because it's a neat remembrance, but it would have far less chance of being remembered when it's needed!

This new planner I made with a bit more flourish - space for doodles and quotes, for instance - but that's just because I'm hoping it might help me write that book I have in mind. And also, because when I think of the "perfect" planner, should one exist, each week's page would have a very seasonal and personal feel. The trick though is to keep it clean and not too cluttered. It's a tough balance. I've toyed with the idea of using colored pens as many people do ... but I can't break away from the pencil habit.

I keep both the journal and planner on my workspace at all times and my workspace is usually my kitchen counter. It's a comfort to me to have them both in the open in this way so I can work easily in one or the other - or both!

Amy, I feel like I talked in circles a bit, so if I can clarify further, please let me know. I am typing this up while Little Bear naps and he's making little snuffly noises so my "free" time is coming to an end. Thank you for asking your question and for your contribution to this ongoing conversation ... I look forward to chatting more!

My friends, enjoy your Saturday evening ... my boys are "making me" watch Toy Story 3, lol - because I've actually never seen it and "that just won't do." ;) Sounds good to me ... homemade pizzas are in the oven and I have a salad to toss, so I'll be off!

See you here again very soon!


More Q & A: How about the file crate folders?

Good Friday evening, my friends! I hope your weekend's getting off to a great start. :)

Happily, we have a few more journal/planner questions to address! I'm thrilled there are others out there who love talking about planning and journaling - not just in general, but delving into the real nitty-gritty. I'm so glad it's not just me, lol.

Anyhoo, I've been working on this post for a bit, but it's getting quite big, so I think I will break it down and answer each question in a separate post. I will post these Q&A's over the next few days.

First up, a question from Tanya:

How does your FCS fit into all this? I know you used to attach your planning cover sheet to your weekly file folder. How is it working with your new bound planner? Thanks so much for answering these questions - so helpful to hear it from your perspective.

Tanya, it is very much my pleasure to answer these questions! You know how much I love this topic! (And all its sub-topics ...) So, to answer your question ... I keep my current FCS (file crate system) folder just inside the front cover of my open binder ...

File folder in planner

What you see here is the left-hand side of my planning binder, which is laying open on the table. This week's folder is slipped in behind the journal pages with the open side facing outwards. It's pretty easy to slip things in and out with it here, but it wasn't so easy to see the weekly planning sheet which, as you mentioned, used to be stapled to the front of that folder. I really liked that idea and was disappointed it didn't seem to work. I've been, admittedly, in a bit of "weekly planning sheet muddle," lol.

Because - though the sheet was hidden when it was on the front of the folder, now that it's in my handmade spiral bound-planner, it's still fairly hidden! Because I keep the planner open like this, folded on its side ...

Planner laying on journal

I like seeing the weekly agenda, open to the current half of the week (so the Thurs-Sun side is open right now). But of course, the weekly planning sheet is tucked a few pages back, so it's not immediately available for review. Do you see my issue? I like seeing the agenda (where we are in the week and what's on tap for the day) but I also like referring back to the weekly overview - the to-do's, the dinners, the prayer intentions, etc. I can obviously flip back and forth ... and perhaps that's just what I need to get used to doing. But I'm so darned impatient, lol! I have half a mind to scrub the weekly planning page from the planner completely and keep it somewhere else, somewhere more visible ... like say, on a clipboard that is propped up nearby. Hmm.

I find what I'm needing to look back at most is the to-do list - the actions that truly need to be done, like phone calls and paperwork and meds picked up and checks mailed and thank you's sent. I get antsy not having my to-do's in my periphery at all times - because even when they're right in front of me I struggle to get all of them done. The rest of the information I can mostly review at the start of the week and plug into the agenda: what days/events are of note and nightly suppers, for example. So what I did this week was to write the dinners on the agenda itself (each day, @ the 6 p.m. line) and then the to-do's I transferred to a sticky note and posted it nearby. Right out in the open, for all to see. (Most importantly, me.) It took the edge off a bit.

It's not perfect - this whole planning "system" of mine - and maybe, since this is all very humbly handmade, I should just accept that fact and move forwards ... but I can't help wanting it to all work just so. It's like I know there's some magic combination of parts - lists and outlines and schedules - that will make up THE perfect planner system ... if I can only just figure it out. Do other planner-obsessed people feel this way too?

So all this to say, I'm not thrilled with the weekly planning sheet being "stuck" in the spiral-bound planner, but the weekly folders are always in the mix. I'm going to try to give this new set up a bit more time (and a little tweaking) to make it all work. 

*fingers crossed*

Ok, so our next question is from Amy, and I hope to address it in tomorrow's post:

I have a new question ... How do you use this domestic journal separate from your weekly planner? Is it not redundant, in a way?

This is such a good question (one that would be good for me to ponder myself!) and I can't wait to tackle it! So please join me this weekend for more planner talk, if you can. And as always, have yourselves a good night. I'll see you here again very soon ...


Journal/Planner Q & A ...

Journal workspace 7

Hello, my friends ... I hope this post finds you well! A few people had questions about my domestic journal and homemade planner, so I'd like to answer what I can today. Journal junkies and Planner people - this post is for you! Everyone else ... well, I hope you enjoy, too!

(Even if it's not your cup of tea.)

:)

First, from Kristie:

Do you like having it in your binder rather than a separate notebook?

I do! It's quite convenient to transfer completed sections to a storage binder and work with a smaller amount of paper, one month at a time. My notebooks would get very bulky and unwieldly by the time they were half-full! Also, I really like this particular paper for writing so it's a joy to "scribble" on.

Do you write to-do lists and shopping lists in here or do they go in another spot?

I keep daily to-do lists here (more about them below) and while I might jot down a quick shopping note - I keep my shopping list separate from the journal. I'd like to talk about shopping lists in a future post because I'm forever moving mine around.

And are you using all those different binders you once blogged about as well?

I am, and I'm putting together a post about them for later this week. (Or let's face it, as soon as I can get them up! Me and my promised posts, lol.) 

Do you work on your journal in little bits through the day or spend one big block of time putting in clippings?

I'll get more into this in Amy's question next, but it's a little of both. Ideally I would just work in it throughout the day, but sometimes I have to play catch up with my clippings! I try to keep up with them though, since they are quite timely/seasonal.

Do you take your binder out with you at all?

No, I don't. I leave it at home on the kitchen counter at all times - unless we are having a party in which case it all gets folded up and put aside somewhere until life returns to normal. :)

Do you think I can come up with any more questions?!?

Well if you do, Kristie, you are welcome to ask them! I love doing Q & A. :)

***

From Amy:

How... How? Can you tell me how and when you have time to do this? I am not asking this in a snarky way, not at all. When do you find time to organize, write lists, cut and glue things...? I love it! I want to do it! I would if I could. When do you get these moments? I don't have time to scrapbook usually, I don't have time to blog anymore, I barely have time for a decade or two of the rosary... our families are similar: oldest in college, youngest in diapers, I have three more in between, two homeschooling and one of those with sensory processing, it's so similar to autism. I do once in a while find time to write a note on paper to a friend and pop it in the mail, but otherwise I don't do Facebook (all my friends are hidden so I only use it for messaging, and not often), I don't do instagram or twitter... I skim just a few blogs throughout the day for encouragement, they are all Catholic, and until this week I wasn't even commenting on any of them. I always have little hands trying to type when this machine is open. People want to draw in my planner - and sometimes I let them. Sorry if this sounds like a lot of complaining, I just really want to find a bit of quiet time for that lovely habit of record keeping, journaling, praying-on-paper etc., and you do it in such a lovely way that I am inspired and hopeful. :)

First of all, Amy - thank you. I am glad you feel inspired when you read here - that is always my hope when I write! And please don't apologize for "complaining" - it's a very realistic question! We have similiar families and time is precious and fleeting. (As is energy.) So as for the how and the when ... well, yes. It can be tricky. And there are days (weeks) when I get very little journaling done. Then I'm playing catch up over the weekend when Bill is home to help with the kids. Journaling might seem like an indulgence, and in a way it is (because I enjoy it so) but I really feel it helps me in so many ways - with the children and the house.

What I do first of all, is to make it casual and convenient. I keep my journal in a central location where I can stand (because who has time to sit?) and do a little entry now and then. Or cut a few things from a magazine or newspaper. The baby might be playing with potatoes at my feet or napping upstairs or sitting in the high chair by my side ...

Journal workspace 6

I have my laptop, current magazines, mail pile, tape dispenser and scissors here as well as my planner and favorite pencils. It's all right smack dab in the middle of the kitchen - I've staked a claim on the "jetty" counter as we call it. (It's not quite an island, more of a peninsula.) The idea of sitting down at a quiet desk in the living room, sounds lovely and very "Jane Austen," but not realistic for me. Because the moment I sit down, A. someone needs me and, B. I lose all focus, lol. That's not to say I don't sometimes relish spreading out at one end of the dining room table when Bill is minding the boys ... then I can immerse myself in my domestic journal and focus on what's been going on in my life and the "world" around me ...

My journaling style is quick and efficient. I grab the pencil and write the date when I first wake up, wherever I left off on the open page. I make a quck note about weather and how the day is significant and then I just go about my business. If something comes up I want to journal about I just get it in there as soon as I can and as neatly as I can but I don't fuss over it. Today I added the label from the bakery box where Bill bought my birthday cake last night, a snippet from our newspaper about "Pet of the Week" entries, a note re ~ a new binder theme, something neat EB said this morning as we listened to Little House in the Big Woods and a note re thank-you's to send out asap. None of this was done slowly or with the finest of penmanship. Just quick scribbles - but they've been "caught," as I like to say.

And somehow in this way, day after day, page after page gets filled up and pretty soon I have a month full of thoughts and remembrances. They're not always profound or super pretty but they are authentic and pleasing to me. :)

Hope that helps a bit! We can talk more about "finding time" in a future post if you'd like. I think it's something mothers really struggle with - some years more than others!

***

From Lisa R: 

Hi Dawn! Like everyone else I love how you share your life at home with us. It is so inspiring! Can you give a close-up picture and explanation of your daily task list that's in the middle of your binder? It's the little marker in the rings. How did you make that? Thanks!

Sure thing, Lisa - and thank you for your kind words! I actually just redesigned that task list-page marker because the old one still corresponded to the chore schedule at our old house. I will do a separate post about the chore schedules themselves (like, what chores are done on which days), but here is where I keep the reminders ...

Journal workspace 3

This is a giant (#12) "craft tag" purchased at my paper store - I liked the look of it! (My old page-finder was just a trimmed piece of thick scrapbook paper. Cardstock or tagboard would work well here, too.) I used a three-hole punch to fit the tage here in the middle of my binder and added some pretty twine as a marker. The washi tape just dressed it up a bit. Across the top is a "Tiny Type" sticker which reads: "Rhythm and harmony will find their way ...".

On one side I keep two (sometimes three) post-it notes. These are lined post-it notes made by 3M. The top one is a daily task checklist - by placing the note on its side, I have a column for each day of the week. On the left side I have listed those everyday actions I must remember to do - meds, cats, dishwasher, sweep, tidy, mail, review, etc. I add a check when that task is completed each day. I started using this to keep track of Earlybird's medications and supplements and found it very helpful in keeping things straight!

The post-it note underneath is for THIS day's to-do's. So I write the date in the corner and then jot down things that must be done today. (Not tomorrow or sometime this week.) Things like, "launder crib bedding," "mail a check to X," or "proofread CJ's paper." I often have a second post-it note for tomorrow going so I can jot things down as I they come up.

Now, on the other side of this tag is the weekly routine ...

Journal workspace 4

I put this together rather hurriedly so I may tweak it further. I just used some label stickers to write out the chore routine for the days of the week. I'm still struggling with that weekly routine and finding time to keep up with my (newish) household!

From Coral:

Hi Dawn, I love this post on your domestic notebook. I love this idea and wanted to know what you use to adhere your clippings and so forth to the lined notebook paper. Does glue work nicely? I haven't tried any yet, I do scrapbook but it will be costly for me to use the double sided tape for photos unless I find some cheaper. Just wondering what you use. :) Also, do you use page protectors to enclose some pages like for recipes you clipped? I need to take a class on this. Haha!

Thanks, Coral! I use regular old tape for my journals. I don't think it's acid-free so I'm probably asking for trouble down the road, but I like how quick, easy and efficient it is. I use 1/2" Scotch brand tape (I like the thinner size). I order it in bulk online because for one thing, it's cheaper, and for another, lately I've only seen the 3/4" size at Staples.

As for page protectors, I do not use them, but that's an interesting idea! It wasn't an option before when I kept my journal in a spiral-bound notebook, but ... hmm. I do clip lots of recipes and some of them do end up (taped) in my journal. Any full page or multi-page recipes get filed in my recipe hanging files, but I kind of like the idea of page protector at the end of each month's journal pages holding recipes that correspond with the season. I will have to think on it a bit, Coral - thank you for the suggestion!

From Denise:

New question: I am wondering about your *weekly planning.* How you decide what to focus on; eg. you mention above 1/19-2/25 snowflakes & shortbread. I would think you decide what you want to study on (ie focus on) somewhat by what season we are in. Then, do you have planned activities to go with that theme? Do these correlate with a specific curriculum you use? (I am always interested, since I help homeschool grands.) I would like to do more of this, but am a little lost in what to do! Thanks for any light you can shed!

Hi Denise! First of all, I meant those dates to read 1/19-1/25 (not 2/25) as they refer to one week at a time. Snowflakes and shortbread indicate a potential theme to wrap our crafts/activities/tea/lessons/reading around and they are seasonally inspired. I have wooden snowflakes to paint for St. Agnes on Wednesday and a simple Scottish shortbread to make in honor of Burns' Night on Sunday. I have a (pen-and-paper) spreadsheet of the 52 weeks of the year and each one is assigned this kind of theme. (I'm working on filling them all in - some are more readily apparent than others!) They will provide a framework for Little Bear's eventual curriculum which will be very nature/seasons-inspired. There will be simple crafts and activities, "teatimes," nature walks and storytimes. This will be a culmination of things I did with the older boys as they grew. :)

Well my friends, I'd best wrap this post up now as it has gone on rather long! I hope it wasn't too boring ... I know I can get carried away when talking about certain subjects! ;)

Please let me know if any other journal or planner questions come up - I'll be happy to address them. In the meantime, look for the next few posts to cover housekeeping binders, rhythm & routine, and desk areas. I have drafts in queue and work on them every chance I get - which, admittedly is not as often as it once was, but I do try my best!

Thanks so much for stopping by, everyone ... see you here again very soon!


Wednesday Q & A: Due Dates, Desserts & Diet

Pink-blue butterfly

Good morning, my friends! I thought I'd do a little Q&A catch-up today ...

Now and again I am asked when I'm due, and I can tell you my "official" due date is May 27th (Memorial Day) - and that's (wow) three months from today! I tend to deliver close to my dd - Bookworm was born one day late (the day after the summer solstice), Crackerjack came two days early (two days before the Assumption) and Earlybird arrived a whole week early (just in time for his Papa's birthday!). But we'll have to wait and see what this baby has planned ... ;)

Yesterday, Michelle asked:

Can you share the recipe for the potato and leek soup? I think you have mentioned it before but I couldn't find the recipe. I bought leeks at the store today in hopes of making it Friday.

I'm trying this one, Michelle: Martha Stewart Potato Leek Soup. It sounds earthy and delicious - a perfect supper for the first of March. :)

Why leeks you might wonder, dear readers? Well March 1st is The Feast of St. David, who is the patron of Wales, and leeks are a national symbol (alongside the daffodil). Traditionally they are worn on a lapel, but I prefer the idea of serving them in a meal ...

Are we Welsh? No. But we're Catholic, and I enjoy working simple faith traditions into our everyday family life. Over the years they bring us a familiar, fun comfort - and happy memories, as well. :)

Now, Jen asked:

I wondered if you make a dessert almost every night? I think I would weigh 300 pounds if I ate all the yummy desserts you serve! :-) Which brings me to another question, I have noticed that there are always (or usually!) seem to be delicious sweets in your home? How do you keep your girlish figure, Dawn? Do you squeeze exercise into your already-busy schedule? I would love to hear your thoughts on this!

Ok, lots of points to touch on, Jen!

I do serve dessert at every dinner, but I don't always make it myself - and it's not always something big or special. I usually have simple cookies (vanilla wafers, gingersnaps, oatmeal raisin) or plain ice cream/frozen yogurt on hand. My family really enjoys a little something sweet after a meal and I feel as long as we keep it proportionate and nobody has issues tied to sweets, we're ok. I also try to keep our desserts as natural (homemade) and fruit-based (seasonal) as possible.

Honestly, I'm a big believer of "all things in moderation," so we don't forbid sweets, but we do monitor them. Earlybird is the only one of us who has a weight issue, and that is tied tightly into his autism: eating is an addiction for him - he literally wants to eat all the time. But it's not so much sweets he wants, but rather, carbs and dairy. And actually he rarely eats the family dessert - he's usually pretty happy with a couple of low fat "Fig Newmans" or a few graham crackers after a meal. Currently we're working with him on portion control and making healthier choices ... and this would be a great topic for a future post! I'll start a draft now. :)

But I do enjoy desserts, I'll admit! And I also love to bake. In fact, Bill, looking over my shoulder at this draft just said, "You love to bake stuff but you never eat it!" Which is not entirely true - I do allow myself to have a small sweet a day - but I don't eat it at night after supper, because that gives me heartburn. So I usually save my "sweet" for midday. I don't know if that makes a big difference, but I've heard it said it's wise to limit calories late in the day. And if I'm having a cupcake with lunch I'll only eat half a sandwich instead of a whole. I have to keep my meals small because I tend to have slow digestion - if I eat too much in one sitting my stomach can't deal.

Now, do I exercise?

Well, um ... no. 

o_o

I know I should - I really should - and I am always meaning to start! But the truth of it is, I just can't find the time ... or energy ... or motivation. Generally speaking, my weight stays about the same even without "formal" exercise ... but I know exercise is about way more than staying trim - it's about heart health and flexibility, etc. I have this conversation with my doctor at each annual physical!

Ideally, I'd be walking/using the eliptical a few times a week and doing some yoga or stretching every day. It's in the back of my mind that once I've recovered from this baby's birth I will get serious about doing something "formally" physical, a few times a week. I'm sure it won't be as easy to shed baby weight in my 40s as it was in my 20's and 30s!

As for watching my figure, well I try to stay aware of how my clothes are fitting - and if things feel snug I know I need to be a little more careful with my food choices for a week or two. All that said, I could definitely stand to eat healthier - I don't eat nearly as much produce as I should and I tend to shy away from whole grains. Our family food goals this year include eating less processed food, and eating a more varied (seasonal/local) diet - more food for a future post!

But Jen, I too would love to hear opinions on this subject ...

How do we moms fit exercise into an already busy schedule? Better yet - how do we find the energy to do said exercise if and when we have the time?

***

Well friends, I'll wrap things up here since this post is getting long and my time is getting short. Time to rattle my older boys' cages and get on with my day. I do hope your Wednesday's a good one, and if you have questions or comments, please leave me a note below!

See you here again sometime soon ...

**


File Crate System ~ Video?

Good Thursday morning, my friends!

File folders 2

Julie left a comment the other day about my file crate system, and I thought I'd answer it here in my morning post ...

I absolutely love the system you have come up with, and plan on putting one together myself. So, thank you! Do you have any videos of how you put together/use your system? If not, do you plan on creating any? Thanks so much!

Hi Julie, and thank you for your kind comment! I'm glad you found my post helpful, and though I don't have a file crate system video at this time, I have been asked about this before ... and I do think it would be a fun project! But I'm not sure exactly how to, A. make a video, or, B. share it here with you all. Luckily I have some pretty tech-savvy guys in my household, so I'll pick their brains and see what they think ... any suggestions would be welcome from friends and readers!

And it just so happens I am getting close to the point in the spring when I "refresh" my whole file crate - putting aside last year's folders for year-end reports, and setting up a whole new set of folders for the academic year ahead. And though I've done many posts on the FCS before, I think it might be fun (and helpful?) for me to explain how I set up and use the system, "in person."

Now, I'm not sure how quickly I'd pull this project together - and this just might be the coffee talking this morning, lol - but it would hopefully be sometime in the next few months. Preferably before this baby arrives in late May!

So any thoughts are welcome, even if it's just to say you'd be interested in seeing something like this, and I'll set to work figuring this out. Currently I'm in the midst of setting up a "feedburner" account in order to allow readers to subscribe to my blog posts by email ... and I only just figured out how to reply to comments individually - something that's only taken me about seven years to figure out! ;)

Thanks again, Julie, for bringing this idea up, and thanks to everyone who stops by to visit me here in my corner of the web ... I hope you all have a great Thursday.

See you here again very soon!

**