Routine & Rhythm Feed

Planning for Seasonal Joy!

Planning for seasonal joy 2
 
Hello my friends, and Happy Friday! Our weekly Tea, as I mentioned yesterday, will be a day (or so) late, but I just shared this rather lengthy post on Facebook and thought - why not share it here, too?!
 
Anyhoo, I wanted to show you all a corner of my Day Designer page today, because I think it's a good example of how I work "seasonal planning" into our everyday life. (And how my daily planner helps me out with that!)
 
So, up here in the "Top Three" section of my daily page I list any holidays or events of note (such as a full moon or birthday) and then I write where we are in our weekly rhythm:
 
---> rhythm: hearth & home: "fading light"
 
In our weekly homeschooling rhythm, today (Friday) is for focusing on "hearth and home," and this week's seasonal theme is "fading light." (I tied that in with pushing the clocks back on Sunday, and the dwindling afternoon light.)
 
On the last line I wrote down a household activity that will help us embrace our seasonal theme in a simple, but meaningful, way:
 
---> organize string lights, candles and lanterns 🌟
 
Because my thinking at this time of year is this - why be sad about November's dark days when we might feel uplifted by a warmly lit home?
 
And don't those soft lights placed around the home make things oh-so-cozy? Perhaps a string of fairy lights twirled in a garland along the mantlepiece? Maybe a special candle to dress up the family table? And how about a homemade lantern placed in a window, a beacon of welcome on a dark afternoon?
 
Sure, we'd probably be bringing these lights out at some point this fall, maybe in bits and pieces - but I think it's nice to have a little ceremony to it, make it something to plan and look forward to:
 
Turn back the clocks ---> turn on the lights! 💡
 
(Have a nice weekend, my friends - don't forget to turn back your clocks!)

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

September planner page

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!


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.)

File crate 1

(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. 

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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!


My Weekly Planning Routine: Part One (of Two)

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

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

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

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

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

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 ...


Welcome, High Summer!

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

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

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

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

Home Learning this Week (High Summer)

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

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

🌞

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


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

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

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

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

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

Late Spring Overview (Dawn's)

Late Spring Overview (clean copy)

Home Learning this Week

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

***

Now, for a few notes ...

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

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

Monday - nature play/walk

Tuesday - draw/color/puppet play

Wednesday - model with dough, listen to stories/verse

Thursday - craft project/paint, listen to music

Friday - bake at home/ field trip

Weekend - family time/faith-based activity

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

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

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

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


A Fresh Start: Using a Brainstorm Board

Brainstorm board

Hello and Happy Thursday, my friends!

Today I'd like to talk a bit about one of my planning tools - the brainstorm board I showed you (very briefly!) during my planning chat with Jen Mackintosh and Mystie Winckler last winter. I made this board up last fall, a larger version of something I usually do on a piece of notebook paper or loose-leaf attached to a clipboard. I was inspired to create this one since an earlier version worked really well as I worked out my Housekeeping Calendar. (You can read about that project here: part one, part two.) A brainstorm board is obviously not a grand or original idea, but I thought I'd break down how I made mine and the way in which I use it. :)

1. For one thing, my board helps me "plan my planning!"

(Does that make any sense, lol?)

Now it's no secret that I enjoy making my own planners but unfortunately I have yet to make one that truly "sticks." I'm always happy to try again though (I really enjoy the handwork of it), but it can be a tricky business - trying to make a tool(s) that will cover all the bases I need to think about/work on/plan for. When I begin the process, I'm often unsure just what kind of planner I want as well as how many planners make sense for me. A binder with tabs and interchangeable sections? A spiral-bound planner that can easily be tossed in a bag? Something that everyone in the family can see and use regularly? Daily pages or weekly spreads?

There are so many possible variations and so many areas to cover, it kind of boggles the mind!

(But of course, I love this kind of boggling!)

So I use this tool to harness my scattered thoughts and make sure I'm covering all my bases. Once I can see my ideas in print, I can start organizing them - categorizing and connecting, grouping things together - and slowly I begin to see some reason in the randomness. There's a lot of thought that goes into "planning," especially for we mums - and one of the first things to consider is, just what exactly do I need to include in my planning? What are my responsibilities? What kinds of information do I need to store/manage for myself and my family?

And here's where the brainstorming comes in!

2. My board helps me recognize and prioritize my responsibilities.

The base of this board is a plain posterboard and the notes are formed using all kinds of sticky-backed "post-it" notes. Since I always have a HUGE stash of these on hand I was able to use colors and sizes to differentiate bigger and smaller ideas. So for instance, my BIG areas currently include: Blogging/Writing, Home & Family, Community, Home Education, Household Tasks, and Seasonskeeping. In the next "note" size down I have: Family Calendar, Friends, Parish, Town, Garden/Yard, Nature, Faith, College, Cleaning Schedules, Gratitude, Special Needs.

So, Homeschooling is one of my "BIG" areas to plan, and College is under that, as is Special Needs. Smaller ideas include field trips, resources, school contacts, organization, lesson planning, groups/support. I have since added more small stickies not shown here: weekly rhythm, writing curriculum, internships, outside classes, goals, motto/logo.

The next step is deciding on my materials and finding all of these "brainstorms" a home! Will it be binders, notebooks, file folders, index cards or a combination of all those things? As I look over the notes I think about the information that each one represents. How would I want to access that information? Would I need to see it daily or once in a while? Would I need a binder-type of storage where I can easily add things and take things out? (Field trip ideas and school contacts might warrant a folder or a binder pocket for copies of signed letters, brochures, etc.) Would this be information I'd want to share with others in the family? (For example, medical information or emergency contacts). Is this something I want to look "pretty" (journaling, seasonal ideas) or should it be strictly no-nonsense (automobile information, employment records)?

And how about the time component? How often do each these aspects of my life need my attention? When will I sit down and plan out blog posts? When will I work on lesson plans - by semester or week? How often must I look at our budget (yearly goals? monthly ledger? weekly spending log?)? When will I plan out special activities that enhance our experience in faith and nature? And when will we work said activities into our already busy family calendar?

As with my Housekeeping calendar - I take the "whats" and find them "whens." If I have a spot for something in my calendar, it's far more likely to happen. This is something I am still tweaking - finding space in my schedule for planning - but I do find that having a firm set of "office hours" is vital for my own sanity and sense of organization. During this set time I devote myself to whatever needs planning that week.

3. My board reminds me how full and blessed my life is!

Just looking at this board makes me feel happy, inspired and so full of gratitude. It's quite colorful and a bit chaotic, but that's life isn't it? My board reminds me of the commitments my husband and I have made together. We have a home and a family ... we have the privilege to educate our children at home ... we are supported by and invested in our communities ... we are raising our children Catholic ... I get to blog when I find time. We are stewards of so many blessings! And finding ways to keep up with, and provide for, those blessings is at the heart of my planning. Sure, I enjoy all the pretty papers and pens, all the schedules and routines - but my end goal is simply doing my best for my family, thereby honoring God's amazing generosity. I can make all this planning sound so complex, but really, it's as simple as that. 

And on that note, I will wrap up ... but I will be doing a few follow-up posts in the near future. I'd like to talk more about office hours and making space in the schedule for planning. (Planning to plan!) Also, it's time for a planner check-in - what's working, what's not? It's been several months since our Planner Party! And I have not forgotten about updating my Themes & Plans series, either ... May and June are up next and I will have them tweaked before April's end ... promise! :) 

Well my friends, thanks so much for stopping by today and checking in. I hope you are doing well! How is your April going so far? Has Spring sprung where you live? We're having lovely weather here at the moment - and you would know that if I took time to update our nature blog, lol! I'll do that soon, too ... now that winter has passed and we finally have things to talk about!

Enjoy the rest of your day, everyone ... see you here again very soon!


A Fresh Start: Early Spring Planning (Printables!)

Fresh start button smallMy friends, I am very sorry it has taken me so long to get these planning sheets posted! I've had them in "draft" mode for so long, and I thought I'd be able to just whip them up quickly during one good sit-down session - but that's not how it played out! So here we are on the very doorstep of Early Spring - four days left! - and I have only just finished them up. Once I post this, I will print out a fresh set for my binder. :)

So I hope the PDF links work for you, and please let me know if they don't. Here's a quick glance at the shades I chose for this season: buttery yellow, robin's egg blue and spring green. :)

A quick note on the format of the sheets ... I have provided "clean copies" so you may use them for yourself, but naturally my own sheets are personalized to match my own seasonal plans! If you look at "Dawn's Overview" you'll notice that in each weekly box I've listed several "ideas" as well as days of note. These are little writing assignments for myself - things I've blogged about before or hope to write more about this year - but I'm sharing them in case they might be of interest to you. 

Well, without further ado, here are the links - there's a planning sheet for each week of March and April as well as an Early Spring Overview and a color-coordinated sheet for "Home Learning this Week." I hope you enjoy them, and I'd love to hear what you think!

*Note: As I mentioned in my first planning printables post, the vintage images I used were found on Pinterest and to the best of my knowledge, are free for any personal use. So please keep it personal ... :)

Early Spring Overview (Dawn's)

Early Spring Overview (clean copy)

Home Learning this Week (Early Spring)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 10 (2/29-3/6)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 11 (3/7-3/13)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 12 (3/14-3/20)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 13 (3/21-3/27)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 14 (3/28-4/3)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 15 (4/4-4/10)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 16 (4/11-4/17)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 17 (4/18-4/25)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 18 (4/26-5/1)

**

Also, here's a link to my first set of printable planning sheets: Deep Winter, 2016. I will be happy to share my Late Spring sheets (for May and June) once they're ready and hopefully that won't be quite as last minute! :)

Well my friends, that's all for now, but as always I thank you for stopping by and I hope you all enjoy the rest of your day. I appreciate that you spent a bit of it here!

See you again very soon ...


How I Use the Weekly Planning Sheets ...

Sheets 14

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

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

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

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

Sheets 2

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

Sheets 3 

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

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

Sheets 4

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

Here's the clipfolio without the folder attached:

Sheets 1

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

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

Sheets 12

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

Sheets 13

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

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

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

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

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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!


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!

**


Planning for A Fresh Start!

Fresh start button final

Happy Thursday, my friends!

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

:)

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

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

(As in, my house is a mess.)

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

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

>> one month = one room <<

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

January: The Nursery

February: Master Bedroom

March: Earlybird's Bedroom

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

May: Family Room

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

July: Basement (cool work during the hot months)

August: Garage (cool work during the hot months)

September: Kitchen

October: Dining Room (ahead of Thanksgiving next month)

November: Library (ahead of Christmas next month)

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

***

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

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

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

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

So I'll keep trying! 

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

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

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


Binders, Binders, Everywhere ...

Binders 1

Eons ago I showed you all a picture of my rather large collection of binders sitting on a living room shelf ... and in my usual fashion, I promised to follow up "sometime soon." *blush* Well ... here it some time later (as in, months, maybe a year?) and the binders have not only yet to be discussed, but have since moved to a shelf in the dining room (better known as the learning room these days).

*peeks out from behind binders*

My friends, I am so sorry I sometimes promise posts that don't come to fruition. It is never my intention to not follow-up ... and it is always my intention to deliver what I promised ... but ... I often get distracted and/or busy and then that draft gets shunted down in the queue and well, we find ourselves without a binder post to discuss! If there is something that you hope I'll post about, something I've mentioned or not, please don't hesitate to ask and/or remind me. :)

Now, without further ado or disclaimer ... here are the binders on my bookshelf, from left to right:

The Baking Sheet (newsletter storage): a collection of THE very best baking magazines I have ever read, published by King Arthur Flour of Vermont, but sadly, no longer in print. I relish these issues (so seasonally inspired) and am grateful for the handy binder my parents gave me to keep them together and all tidy. :)

Seasonal planning bindersalmanac/overview, projects/events, at home, in nature, with faith, food/feasts, activities/ideas/crafts, inspiration (quotes, poems, etc.), research (photocopies) ...

Home & Family: emergency information, general family information, housecleaning routines, room-by-room information, house purchase information (includes room sizes and utility information) ... always a work in progress!

Address Book: a correspondence log (what I sent, what I am meant to send, what I have received), alphabet dividers, a friends & family birthday chart ...

Town & Parish: general information about our town and church parish, phone numbers, informational flyers, calendars (when is the town festival or hazardous collection day, for example) ...

Education: any and all paperwork to do with home education, a tab for college information ...

Finances: accounts overview, a model monthly budget, monthly budget pages, printables re budgeting, spending log pages, upcoming expenses list ...

Blogging/Writing: Typepad blog information, writing projects (for myself and for others), post ideas, contacts ...

Food: Meal ideas, master marketing list, seasonal notes/chart, local foods (notes/resources), growing our own (notes/resources), freezer/pantry notes, printables, projects (root cellar, for example) ...

Monthly calendar storage: I keep my retired Day-Timer month-at-a-glance calendars in here ...

My Book prototype: basically a place to organize and work on my book ...

Yearbooks 1 (labeled), 2 (blank), 3 (lavender): here is where I keep domestic journal pages from years past.

***

So there we have it at last - my binder breakdown! As I've said before, some binders get more use than others - some are mostly used for storage, and some are meant to be consulted on a regular basis. I also have a new binder for my gardening notes (an "herbal" if you will) in the works - it's green and tucked in at the end - and there is of course, also, my master binder which never actually sits on this shelf because it is always very much "in play!"

Now, I do have tabs in my master binder with labels like, "Home & Family," "Meal Planning," and "Blogging," etc. and yes, some of the matter gets repeated. I go back and forth on this. Sometimes I think I need some information right under my fingertips, and sometimes I'm ok with it sitting on that shelf. It really depends on how good I'm being about sitting down once a week to do planner maintenance ... and THAT is such an important topic - planner maintenance - one I'd very much like to discuss it in a future post. (And if I forget, please remind me!)

But that's all I have time for now, folks ... I thank you for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy the rest of your evening! 

I will se you here again very soon ...

p.s. How do you all like the new look? :)


Let's Get the (Planner) Party Started!

Planner post 2 (1)

Happy Friday & Hooray! Our Planner Party is underway!

(I've been looking forward to this all week!)

Now, here's the thing about planners - they come in all shapes and sizes. SO many shapes and sizes! A planner might be a paper product or it could be a tech device ... it might lie flat on your desk or hang on your fridge or perhaps it simply slips into your pocket. Homemade or store-bought, spiral-bound or 3-hole-punched ... or maybe just a stack of sheets on a clipboard? The variety - and possibilities - are endless! And for some of us (yours truly included) this can be somewhat of a problem ... 

What to use? Which is best? Will it work? Should I try something else?

But whatever our planner looks like, many of us are using something to manage our busy lives. The trick is finding something that fits our needs and works well, but also makes us happy.

*Life is short - your planner should make you happy!*

Another neat thing about planners is - even when they're driving us crazy - we sure do love talking about them! I know I'm not the only one, because my planning posts attract more traffic and get pinned more than any others. You all know I LOVE to talk about planners, and I LOVE to see other people's planners ...

In fact, if I could, I would invite every single one of you here to my house ... I'd bake up some pretty cookies and brew up a big pot of tea (or perhaps decant a large vat of wine), and then we could all chat and spread out in one big ol' planner show-and-tell ...

*sigh*

(I haven't caught up with the Periscope trend yet, but I'm giving it some thought!)

:)

Happily, I had a great response to this planner party idea, so I have a lot of "planner thoughts" to share - and that's not counting my own! So here's what I'm thinking ... today I will share the lovely planner comments folks left here at the blog ... and then, because several of you sent me wonderfully detailed descriptions, including photos, of your planners, I am going to share each one of those submissions separately, in posts to follow over the next week or so. This way we can really pace ourselves and digest each planner post thoroughly ...

So our "party" will keep on keeping on ... I have about 10 days of planner posts ready to roll ... and yes, one of them will be mine! ;)

Oh, and also! At the very bottom of this post is the name of the Autumn Bliss giveaway WINNER! Every one who left a comment or sent an email had a chance to win, and this morning I drew a name from the bunch. So please read on and I hope you enjoy!

(p.s. You are welcome to join the party! You may add your own planner thoughts in the comments box below - and of course emails are always lovely! Drop me a note at bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com and I'll add you to my planner queue!)

 ***

From Sherrylynne:

Here is my embarrassing reply to the calendar/planner/etc implementation question.
1.) Moleskin notebook used for my daily morning prayerbook. I journal the date, saint of the day with some sort of quote or reflection from Butler Lives of the Saints, and a quote from scripture chapter. I work my way thru the Bible one chapter per day. Then I write a prayer.
2.) At night, I close each day with a Simply Charlotte Mason calendar at my bedside recording what I am grateful for each day. I do this before my night prayers.
3.) Each child has a lesson planner which becomes there permanent record of daily studies with weekly grades, biblio, extra-curricular activities (and hours) and their semester grades. I staple in the year-end standardized tests as well.
4.) I keep a blue sky weekly calendar in my "morning basket" to record my rough plan of action for studies we do daily together and then either scribble in the extra material I tossed in on a whim or cross off what we didn't get to forward to the next time.
5.) THEN...there is my Erin Condren planner which is more like my daily plan and record. I.E. The repairman came to fix the dryer and make notes what to do to the washer this week. Borrowed a book to a neighbor. Mail a sympathy card etc. Holds my weekly menu plan, Christmas shopping list, etc.
6.) I do keep a 3 ring Liturgical Year planner from the now defunct website Sanctos Simplicitus that hold all the great ideas I collect from this blog and others that I look at before the beginning of each month to plan cool things to do to mark the season, practice our Faith, celebrate important events and people in our lives.
7.) Lastly, I keep a family monthly calendar that is the appointment calendar for the family. I use one monthly file folder as a catch all for sales flyers, festival notices and ideas to consider that my husband and I review each Sunday in our "Family Executive Committee" meeting before we have a general family meeting to go over the coming week and get everyone on the same page before the new week starts. Phew!!!
But i LOVE it!

There is nothing embarrassing about that reply, Sherrylynne! It's wonderfully descriptive and there seems to be a planning spot for every part of your life. I love the idea of a "family meeting" each weekend - we try to do that, too!

From Leah:

"As for planning? I have not been satisfied with a planner in a long time. Possibly the first year I homeschooled and it was an off-the-beaten-path planner (I think it was the first one I ran across that was specific to homeschooling.) I used to love Franklin Covey, but that was when I was working full time and the set-up made sense to me. Before that, well, that was ancient history and I didn't even have the internet to get me sidetracked...the year started with a "19"!

Right now I am using free printouts until I can find something, but I only print them out a week at a time and they are undated. I need something that is flexible, but not too open-ended, lest I stop using it entirely. I need commitment, but nothing too strict (glad I have a laid-back husband!) I would love to see what others use. It's a shame planners don't come in quarters or seasons rather than by the year! I think I could commit to three months of the same format ;-)

Leah I was a Franklin Covey planner person, too! Back in the mid-90s - first job - and I loved it. I completely outgrew it when I had my first child, so I know what you mean. And it's interesting that you mentioned planners coming in quarters ... I have been experimenting with that a bit. Adding a small section of the year to my master binder but not the whole year at once. I can convince myself I need the whole year in a heartbeat though, so it hasn't stuck.

From Arlene ...

Dawn, I have been coveting an Erin Condren planner but I really cannot justify the price. (You know us organized paper lovers are all about planners!) Right now I am using a small planner I found at Ross for $3. I got some stickers from the $1 aisle at Target and dressed up October ... I think a planner party would be lots of fun!!

Arlene, I too have been eyeing the EC planners - they are so pretty and colorful! I hesitate to buy anything that expensive because I know myself - I know I will find fault with it and feel the need to try something else, which would be an awful waste of money.  

From Sarah:

Hi Dawn! I don't really use a planner. I have three months of Calendar pages tacked up neatly in my kitchen (the current month and the two upcoming). I write down all important activities and appointments for our family of seven. I decorate each page with themed stickers, just to pretty them up and make it festive. I also keep a small note book open on my counter with my lists: chores, shopping, etc. I'm not sure it's the best system, but it works for me right now.

That's the best thing though - it works for you! I love the simplicity of it ... I am awful at keeping my tools to a minimum and I think that's a big part of my planner problems!

From Gill:

I used Martha Greenes Yearbook for the Homemaker and an a4 file when I was homeschooling. Later I switched to a5 hard backed journals with blank pages for a household planner, keeping a weekly menu plan and each day's tasks, recipes, thoughts, prayers and crafts noted, with space for addresses and a reading book list at the back. These worked great for me and I often referred back to them. I covered each one with seasonal fabric and wrote the date and book number on the spine when full. Now I am using a midori lookalike that my daughter crafted for me. I love it; the sensory effect of the leather cover, the neatness of the design and the clip that holds a pencil right there inside it. But I don't like the temporary feel of the notebook inserts, and I don't see them being easy to store on the bookshelf with all my previous journals. Although I love the chocolate brown leather cover, I miss the cheery hit of colour that the seasonal covers gave. 
Soooo, I think I will go back to my hard backed notebooks, and retire the midori to another purpose.

Gill, my favorite planners are always the notebooks I convert into planners. I get such satisfaction from them! I love how they encompassed so many areas of your life - the tasks, recipes, prayers, crafts, and personal pursuits. I love having everything at my fingertips. 

From  Melissa:

I know it's not very romantic, but I use an app on my phone called Cozi. While it does have it's limitations, I love that I can assign events to certain members of the family. It also has a menu planning space. I can see my calendar while I plan my menu and I can also save my recipes so I can come back to them. I can make as many To Do lists as I want and assign them to members of the family. I can also make shopping lists that allow me to check things off as I shop. The things it can't do I usually us a sticky note to jot down on. Thanks!

Melissa, I think a lot of people are very efficiently making great use of their phones nowadays. My Bill is NOT a paper person at all and is always trying to get me to use my phone for more of my planning! I will admit to using my Notes app sometimes for shopping lists. I find it convenient to use when I have a sleeping baby in my arms, and when pushing a cart around the store! :)

From Mary:

Hi Dawn, I'm using an inkwell press planner and do like it... although with our large family I find myself relying more on our Google calendar calendar everyday!

Oh, Mary ... what have you done, lol? I had never heard of Inkwell planners - but oh, that is a very nice planner! Very pretty and creative ... I will have to take a closer look! :) 

From Tracy

Hi Dawn! I use a Brownline Month-at-a-Glance planner. I have used this planner for years and years. It has nice big boxes every day for me to record appointments. And the back has several blank pages, which I label (and decorate) for each month of the year. It is here that I record notes, phone call conversations etc. that I may need to refer back to from time to time. I also keep a separate notebook of "to do" lists and a separate menu planner. The Seasonal Beehive looks just lovely!

Another planner I'd never heard of! What I love most about your comment, Tracy, is that you have used this planner for years and years. That tells me it is truly working for you - and that's the best feeling! :)

*****

Well, thank you so much for your input, ladies! I also want to thank the ladies who sent me emails with pictures - you will be seeing their posts over the next several days!

As for me, well, I am using a few different things and I will do my own "show and tell" soon. I must admit, I find shiny new planners (such as the Erin Condren planners Arlene mentioned) so very tempting. Truly, I have to avoid planner aisles when I'm feeling weak. But as much as I love new planners, I'm still stuck on the idea of making my own planner. I always come back to that ... and I think I always will! That said, I do have not one but TWO "commercial" planners in play at the moment, trying to see which is the better fit ... but as I said, I will get into my own planning situation in an upcoming post. :)

Well, for now, and before wrapping up, I would like to announce the winner of my Autumn Bliss giveaway WHICH includes a copy of the Winter Seasonal Beehive, generously donated by its creator, Cay Gibson ...

*drumroll please*

*

*

*

LEAH!!!

Congratulations, Leah! I will be in touch soon to organize mailing details ... I hope you will enjoy Cay's "Seasonal Beehive Winter Planner" and the Autumn Goodies I will send your way! Thanks again for sharing your thoughts on planners!

:)

To all who left a comment, sent an email, or just stopped by to read - I say thank you! And I wish you all a wonderful weekend ... I hope you are able to take some time to relax and refresh yourself ... and perhaps take a little time to PLAN for next week!

See you here again very soon ...


Homeschooling: Year 16!

Boys vintage 1

Wow, I can't believe I just wrote that, but - as Facebook reminded me yesterday - we began our homeschooling journey 15 years ago this month! Holy crow, that's a lot of years ... and boy did they go by really fast!

And so begins our 16th year ...

We are still getting used to a new daily routine here at home, with Earlybird's therapy taking place every morning for two hours, Monday through Friday. This is a Godsend, honestly, but I am realizing this means I need to tweak my daily routine (and expectations) a bit. EB's therapist is here from 10-12, and though I'm not directly involved, I need to be close by for support and sometimes, translation. Before he arrives, I'm scurrying about getting myself, the kids and the house ready ... and after he leaves I'm throwing together lunch and then getting Little Bear down for his nap. Next thing I know it's 4 p.m. - time to tidy up and make supper! So, I'm asking myself ... when do I clean? When do we homeschool? When do I get my older son to his classes and back? 

And how about ... when do I blog? 😉

So this new schedule will take some adjustment, but I know it is for the very best, not just for Earlybird, but for all of us. Autism is very much a family diagnosis, after all - it changes your life in ways you never expected. So ... I will work a new routine into our day and we will all adjust ... I am blessed to have many helping hands around me and I certainly plan to make use of them! 

Anyhoo ... today I just wanted to wish all my readers, and their families, a wonderful back-to-school season! Whether your kids are in traditional school or learn at home or even if you have no kids at all - enjoy this month of transition! A time for new supplies and fresh attitudes, as we let go of Summer's freedom and embrace the structure of Autumn ...

If you have a moment, I'd love to hear about your kids and if they are in school or homeschool or have perhaps flown the nest! Just to catch you all up to speed - my four boys are now 20, 16, 13 and 27 months! The oldest is in college (junior year!) and the rest are still homeschooled. Well, except for the toddler  ... who hasn't quite begun his homeschool career just yet *wink* ... though he sure does like to be in the thick of things!

:)

Well my friends, I hope you are enjoying your Wednesday, and that your September is off to a great start! Thank so much for stopping by ... I will see you here again very soon!

 🍎


My New Daybook! (post two)

Dayplanner 6

Well, as promised, here is a second and closer look at the daily planner I am now using. The story behind this recent purchase is here, but just to recap - this is a $20 Blue Sky "Day Designer" daily planner which I found at Target last month. I had been looking for something I could use for planning the details of my day ... large enough to write it all down, but of a size that would be easy enough to tote around. This planner seemed to fit the bill - and it was awfully pretty to boot!

I'll get into how I'm actually using it in a moment, but here's a look at the basics ...

Dayplanner 4

Overall dimensions are 8.5" x 10" x about 1" thick and the binding is a metallic coil. It all feels very sturdy, the pages so far have resisted any ripping and the paper itself offers a smooth writing surface. I have yet to do much with the cover - as you can see the gold and white stripes are pretty shiny! Metallics are not really my style, but I have seen other DD users add full-page stickers to change the look. Hmmm ... There is a plastic cover (and backing) that mutes the glare a bit (and protects the cover from scuffs, spills, etc.).

Here is the inside title page ...

Dayplanner 5

There are some goal planning pages in the front section; I haven't done anything with them yet, but they offer good food for thought ...

Dayplanner 5 (1)

In addition to the daily pages there are monthly calendars, with each month displayed in a nicely-sized, two-page spread. I really appreciate the lined boxes!

Dayplanner 3

(Sorry some of these pics are a bit dark - it was a dreary day so the light was not great for photo-taking!)

And I will say, the teal blue palette is not my favorite, but it's growing on me. We planner junkies are wickedly picky, aren't we? ;) I am thinking of shading the monthly grids to reflect the seasons ... either natural or liturgical or both. Seasonal stickers would be fun here, too.

But here's how I'm using the daily page itself:

Dayplanner 7

 (Note: This is a dummy copy of an unused July page adorned with colorful washi tape so I can highlight the different sections in this post ... I don't actually use this much tape on my pages!)

Top:

The pink sticky note at the top of the page is for reminding me what our seasonal theme is for that week. (I have one for each week of the year, natch.)

Along the top of the page I jot down the weather for that day. I'm also a bit of a weather junkie ... :)

Left-hand column:

Here is the basic agenda for 6 a.m. through 8 p.m. I have designated 8 a.m. as breakfast, 12:30 p.m. as lunch and 6 p.m. as supper. We don't always eat exactly at those times, but close enough. Here is where I'll plan what we're having for those meals. Otherwise I use this column as it's intended - for appointments and activities, drop-off and pick-up times. I may try color-coding here but not sure ...

Middle column:

I'm using "Today's Top Three" for what I feel is "of note" about that day. Like, if it's someone's birthday or if it's a holiday or feast day or a full moon or meteor shower or something.

Under the "To-Do" column I use the first lines for my day's housekeeping chores. (My weekly routine, a la Monday is bedrooms, Tuesday is bathrooms, etc.) After those first lines are filled, I add the other to-do's for that day ... things that really should be done TO-day. (As opposed to sometime this week or month ...)

In the "Tonight" space I jot down if there's anything that will take us (and who) out in the evening or if there's something on TV or something I'd like to work on once the younger boys are asleep.

Right-hand column:

At the top there is a daily quote which is really nice. I add the title of a new book I'm starting here.

The Notes section is spacious and handy, but because I have my whole domestic journal I don't need to confuse myself too much with where to put random bits of information. So here in this space I am keeping only notes that pertain to the "to-do's" column - for example, any extra tasks that go along with the housekeeping calendar. (Eg. this Monday's extra bedroom chores are cleaning baseboards and registers, shutters and blinds.)

In the bottom space, labeled, "Gratitude" I am currently writing down things I want to reflect on or pray about.

I also keep a small post-it note somewhere on the page for this week's blog ideas.

And that's it! In the back of the planner there are plenty of lined note pages. I have no immediate plans for how I'll use those - probably just for random thoughts if I'm out and about and need someplace to record something quickly. 

***

Here's an actual page from last week ...

Dayplanner 2

 I keep my Day Designer in my command zone (aka the kitchen countertop), right next to my homekeeping binder (which is kept open to my current journaling page). It's all parked right in front of the file crate bin.

Now, there is a whole Facebook group devoted to talking about their Day Designers and how they use them/decorate them/love them, etc. I am amazed at how much people play around with the pages, and even the tabs themselves. Some folks add a lot of inspirational stickers and even punch things to fit the binding (like a small strip that shows the week at a glance). But for now I'm keeping things pretty simple.

I will say, I think this is a genius daily planner and from what I understand it is hard to find - so I guess I was pretty lucky to have found the one I did that Sunday morning at Target. It was a bit of an impulse purchase, but I'm glad I went with my instinct. And before you ask, yes, I am still also using a seasonal planner and a weekly planner as well ... but there is a method to my madness, lol! There are things I can't really plan in this daybook - lesson plans for example. Which is why I am spending THIS weekend finalizing my homeschool planbook - with a pencil, ruler, and an old notebook I had on hand. I will absolutely be sharing about that in a future post ... perhaps next week if I'm able. I'm thinking a post about our command zones would be a fun idea, too ... I think most of us are organizing ourselves and our work zones for the new year ahead, whether we homeschool or do school or not!

But lest I get ahead of myself, let me wrap this up here and thank you all, as always, for stopping by. I hope you all are having a great weekend! Just about a week left to August ... how crazy is that?! I'm just not ready for Summer to end ... though I am looking forward to Fall. :)

See you here again very soon!

p.s. I had my phone interview with Pam at Ed Snapshots last week - and it was SO fun! What a lovely conversation Pam and I had. :) The podcast will be up sometime this Fall, and I will of course keep you all posted ... but in the meantime, check out the many podcasts already in Pam's archive. There is much inspiration to be found there!


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!

 


* April at a Glance *

Tulips

Happy Weekend, my friends! And thank you all for your wonderful comments as I passed my nine year "blogiversary." You are all very kind! :)

It is a busy week ahead as we wrap up Lent ... I am going to try to keep things in perspective as we head towards Good Friday, but it is hard when you're the one hosting the holiday! There's so much to do, bake, clean and prepare!

Today though, I thought I'd share my April planning notes with you all, since the change is upon us this week, too ... the new month arrives on Wednesday!

April is ...

* National Poetry Month

* Autism Awareness Month

* April's gem is the diamond.

* April's flower is the sweet pea.

* April's Devotion: The Holy Spirit

* April's Season: Early Spring 

* From the farms & fields: fiddleheads, rhubarb, morel mushrooms, chives, asparagus, spring greens ...

* First flowers: dandelions, forsythia, crocus, daffodils, coltsfoot ...

* In the marshy woods: red-winged blackbirds, salamanders, pussywillow, skunk cabbage ...

* Time to put out hummingbird feeders - they'll be back soon!

April Folklore: "April showers bring May flowers ... "

* Days of Note *

1. April Fool's Day, Spy Wednesday

2. Holy Thursday, World Autism Awareness Day (Light it up Blue!)

3. Good Friday

4. The Full Pink Moon, Holy Saturday, Passover

5. Easter Sunday

10. National Siblings Day

11. Archie and Oliver's Birthday, National Pet Day

12. Divine Mercy Sunday, Gladys Taber's Birthday

13. Red Sox Home Opener

20. Patriot's Day, Boston Marathon

22. Earth Day

23. St. George's Day, England's National Day, William Shakespeare's Birthday

24. Arbor Day

26. John James Audubon's Birthday 

30. May Eve/Walpurgisnacht

***

Ahhh ... April is a wonderful month! A true turning point in the year, and after this extraordinarily long winter, it will hold so many sweet surprises for us ... I can hardly wait! I'll be as patient as I can though, because each day brings something new - a subtle change in the air or the light or the feel of a day ... it's a slow process for sure, but how delicious the unveiling!

I think that's one of the nicest things about nature - even though each season returns as it did the year before, there is always that element of surprise. New birdsong, warm light, and the greening of things .... That first dandelion pushing its way through the trampled grass is a tiny miracle all on its own - it breathes some life back into our winter-weary hearts! It reminds us that - whatever we have going on, however busy we get - nature has its own beautiful rhythm and we're just along for the ride ... but what a ride it is!

:)

Well, my friends, I hope this April overview was as fun and perhaps helpful for you as it was for me! I must be off now, but I hope you all have a nice weekend, and as always, I thank you for stopping by. Wishing you all a blessed Palm Sunday tomorrow, and a lovely start to Holy Week ...

See you here again very soon!


Setting Up a Housekeeping Calendar ...

(Part Two)

Housekeeping calendar 4

Happy Tuesday Wednesday Thursday, my friends!

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

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

Housekeeping calendar 1

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

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

Housekeeping calendar 8

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

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

I also do laundries daily, M-F.

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

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

wipe cabinet and drawer fronts

empty fridge/pantry of old food

run disposal with ice/citrus peels

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

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

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

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

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

Cozy corners master bath

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

Cozy corner foyer bath

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

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

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

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

:)


Cozy (Clean) Corners ...

Family room 1

Hello, my friends ~ and Happy Sunday!

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

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

* wash the baseboards and registers (below)

Baseboards

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

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

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

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

***

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

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