Themes & Plans Feed

Our 2016 Advent Calendar ~ Themes & Ideas

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Hello again, my friends! It's a busy posting week here as we get our Advent season underway! This Friday I will host my first Advent Tea - and I am so excited about that! - but right now I'd like to share with you what we're doing for an Advent Calendar this year. (Daily activities are listed below.) I've teased a few pictures on FB and IG but here are ALL the details ... :)

Now, first of all, I cannot take credit for this idea. I first saw it on Pinterest as I searched for "nature-oriented Advent ideas" which led me to this lovely blog post by Kelly Rowe. As soon as I saw Kelly's Advent calendar project - which brilliantly utilizes an over-the-door, 24-pocket shoe organizer - I knew immediately we must do this! I am ALL about interesting visuals and hands-on holiday projects, so needless to say ... this really got my wheels turning!

First I ordered a plain plastic shoe-organizer from Amazon and hung it up in the kitchen. I did this before Thanksgiving to give it some time to air out. (Our guests were wondering what on earth we were getting up to!) Then I got my thinking cap on and started brainstorming our Advent activities.

Just like last year (and in Waldorf tradition - though that's not why I do it) I assigned each week of Advent an aspect of nature. So the weeks unfold like this: earth and sky (11/27-12/4), plants (12/5-12/11), animals (12/12-12/18) and humankind (12/19-12/25).

*Note: if you're wondering why I connect the two concepts - Advent and Nature - my reasons are explained in this post. :)

Next I listed liturgical feast days and natural phenomena such as the full moon and winter solstice ... as well as birthdays and any family/community events. Then I started brainstorming potential activities, going from pages of scattered notes to a more organized grid of 24 post-it notes, one for each day of each week:

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As you can see in the picture above, I also added book titles to each day's note. Some of these we own, but many we request from the library. (Note to self - I've got to get on that!)

With our activities decided, it was time to get those 24 pockets filled! So after Thanksgiving I stopped by the craft store with a hefty supplies list in hand. Thankfully I had coupons, plus there were plenty of sales. It was a MADHOUSE though and about 10 minutes in ... I really just wanted to be done and go home! But I kept going and got most of the things I needed. (A few things will be ordered or picked up at a later date.) As you'll see in my activities list below, we don't really do candy or toys, but rather, simple crafts and seasonal projects. They might take a little more effort and preparation but I feel it's worth it ... :)

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Now I'll admit I'm a bit like a kid in a candy store when I'm at the craft store. Can anyone relate, lol? I try so hard to stick to my list, but then I keep seeing all these neat things and envisioning all these "potential" projects - so I can hardly resist picking up extra supplies "just in case." Sometimes that turns out to be a good thing though, because an original idea might not work out right and something I picked up randomly might work even better. In any case, I am not ashamed to say I have a pretty healthy craft stash - but it all gets used in one way or another before too long.

Ok, enough of my explaining myself ... ;)

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So now it was time to make that shoe organizer look pretty! So I tied a ribbon to each hook and wrote down the four weekly Advent candle themes (with a fabric marker) ...

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And then I decorated and filled each pocket ... 

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On the front of each pocket is a small beige doily with a woodland-themed adhesive chipboard number. (They look like a slice of log with a little holly sprig and a red number.) I found these in the final moments of my HOUR-long craft store expedition! Just as I was about to give up on finding number stickers I liked, I stumbled across (literally) this last package dangling from a hook. And they are so perfect! If they had had a second package I would have bought more ...

Each pocket was then fitted with a small brown treat bag ...

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... and then filled with a few simple items.

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Some bags just have one or two things that will suggest what it is we'll be doing (while the bulk of the supplies are set aside).

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I really, really love how this came out!

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Now admittedly, it will be a challenge to keep my younger two boys out of these pockets! Earlybird (growing like a weed) can peek into most of them and Little Bear is just the right height (and age) to be filching through the lower bags whenever he gets a chance! So far though they are taking it to heart that they MUST keep their hands off ... and wait for it. 

In the meantime, I have a "key" to all these bags and I will check in with it each night. If tomorrow's project doesn't seem "doable" (due to time, energy or weather) I will change things up before morning comes - by either switching bags around or changing a bag's contents for something simpler.

Now finally, here is the description of each pocket - organized by weekly themes and listed by ...

Date: (items found in the bag), activities for the day, the book we will read. :)

Week One: Earth and Sky (Hope)

12/1: (stationary) Write a letter to Santa. What are you hoping for? The Christmas Cat

12/2: (starfish) Make a shell ornament for the tree. Song of the Stars

12/3: (pipe cleaners, colorful beads) Make a star ornament. The Christmas Star

12/4: (decorative items and paint) Decorate a small vase for our St. Barbara's Day branches. Let's hope they bloom by Christmas! The Star Child

Week Two: Plants (Peace)

12/5: (silk poinsettia bloom) Field trip to the nursery to buy poinsettia plants. (gifts) It's so peaceful in the greenhouse. The Legend of the Poinsettia

12/6: (candy canes & cocoa packs) Enjoy a special St. Nicholas Day treat! The Baker's Dozen: A Colonial American Tale

12/7: (mint sprig) Make mint-scented play-dough and small jars of mint-sugar-scrub. (gifts). Mint is a calming, peaceful herb. The Legend of the Candy Cane

12/8: (apple, small star cookie cutter) Enjoy a cup of spiced cider and grind spices for "glogg." The Tomten

12/9: (muslin spice bags, cinnamon stick, lemon) Fill spice bags (gifts) and help make a dried fruit garland. Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem

12/10: (evergreen sprig) Make salt dough ornaments (with evergreen impressions), make silver pinecones (gifts). Cobweb Christmas

12/11: (red candles): Walk with dad to find our yule log in the woods. Isn't it peaceful out here? Christmas Farm

Week Three: Animals (Joy)

12/12: (polar bear wooden ornament) Let's learn about the arctic! What can we do to help the polar bear? Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve?

12/13: (reindeer lantern) Field trip to a local farm to see the lovely herd of reindeer. The Wild Christmas Reindeer

12/14: (new train ornament and "15" candles) Happy Birthday, EB! Here's the story of when you were born ... A Night of Great Joy

12/15: (colored Christmas light bulbs) Look outside - our solstice tree is all lit up! We hope the critters enjoy! Night Tree

12/16: (baby food jar, white glitter) Make a snowglobe. Decorate the solstice tree with edible ornaments. The Animals' Santa

12/17: (beeswax) Make candle jars and rolled candles. (gifts) An Early American Christmas

12/18: (mitten-shaped cookie cutter) Bake sugar cookies with Mom. The Mitten

Week Four: Humankind (Love)

12/19: (jingle bell ornament) Watch the Polar Express as a family. Discuss trust. The Polar Express

12/20: (clementine) Bake clementine snowball cookies and watch The Snowman. Discuss friendship. An Orange for Frankie

12/21: (snowflake cupcake liners) Bake "welcome winter" cupcakes. Discuss comfort. Sleep Tight Farm

12/22: (nativity ornament) As night falls, a surprise in the garden (new nativity figures under spotlight). Discuss family. B is for Bethlehem

12/23: (frame ornament) Make a family picture ornament for the tree. Discuss love. The Christmas Story

12/24: (felt heart shape) Make a scented heart tree ornament (stuffed with wool and herbs). Discuss giving. The Christmas Baby

*** 

Ok so that was a very long post! But I hope you enjoyed hearing about our Advent Calendar project this year and that maybe you found a few new ideas for your family. I am really looking forward to giving a little of my time and energy each day this Advent to this project. I think my children will enjoy it - I KNOW I will enjoy it. I know it probably sounds like a lot, but truly, these are all simple activities. They won't take up too much of our day. We have a few other Advent rituals planned and I will discuss them a bit more in my Tea post on Friday ...

What a wonderful season this is! So rich with potential and promise ... a wonderful time to shape how our children view the world. The one they live in at home and the one they face when they step outside their doors. My HOPE is that I bring a little peace, a little joy and a whole lot of LOVE into their Advent journey. So grateful to have these days before us!

So enjoy the rest of your evening, my friends! I will see you here again very soon ... later on Friday ... with a cup of tea and some pics to share ... and more thoughts on this most wonderful time of the year. :)

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


Some Thoughts on My Advent Planning Sheets ❤

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Hello, my friends and a Good Tuesday to all! I hope your new week is off to a great start. :)

In today's post I'd like to share some thoughts on each of the sections in my Advent Planner. I had hoped to get this post up before the first Sunday in Advent, but alas, that was not meant to be. But here I am today ... so I'll get on with my notes before I get carried away rambling!

Note: Green or red text indicates one section (or box) from the Planner. I'm starting with the first sheet ...

Hopes for the Coming Season (Describe our ideal Advent atmosphere ...):

As I said in my earlier post, I think it's a great idea to sit down as a family and talk about the month of December and the season of Advent, in particular. Are we happy with the way the season has unfolded in the past? Were there aspects of Advent we missed that we'd like to include this year? I have pretty strong ideas about this time of year, and as the main family planner, things tend to go my way, lol. But our family plan should be just that - one that reflects the hopes of each family member.

Now, for me, I like a quiet and cozy Advent. I don't mind that there is all kinds of hustle and flash and noise out there ... but in here ... I try to keep things a little simpler. There is still joy for certain - but it's a joy tempered with a bit of restraint. We're building anticipation ... and fostering a quiet peace that is supported even by the nature all around. Darkness is descending outside, but there's a light growing steadily within us. In Winter the earth may slow down, but it's never completely still ...

I like to take my cues from nature when I can and I do feel Advent connects so beautifully to the natural world. I am always weaving nature into our family life, and this includes our faith life as well. I think it's because I see and feel and hear God so strongly when I am feeling a part of His amazing creation. He did this for us! He created this glorious world - every creature and every miraculous, awesome layer of life - and I am thankful for all of it. So for me, an Advent with "a natural feel" is deeply satisfying.

But practically speaking ...

I envision candles in the windows, lighting up dark December afternoons. The tree in the library imparting a similar glow as the sun sets earlier each day. Fresh greenery and old-fashioned decorations - some borrowed from nature, some found in the attic. As much time spent at home together as possible, with good scents in the air and the promise of something special on its way. We're busy, but there's a quiet purpose to our busy-ness. Soft Christmas music as we drive around town ... noticing nature whenever we can with daily walks around the yard, taking care of our animals (both wild and domesticated). A few busy baking and crafting days planned so we can feel part of the season's bustle!

But that's me ... others might want a different feel to their Advent. My kids might want to be out and about a little bit more - their audio selections are probably a little different too! I'm sure if they were asked to think about it, they'd have their own ideas about this beloved season - and I want to hear them!

(Remember this section is for describing our "ideal" atmosphere - not always realistic, but something to work towards!)

This Year's Advent Calendar Project (How will we count down the days?):

An Advent Calendar is a special tradition for a lot of families. We do something every year to count down the days until Christmas. I use this as an opportunity to give my children something meaningful to do that will burn a little energy! Having something small to look forward to each day is a nice way to pace that Advent joy! Because I love crafting I tend to come up with a new idea every year, but it's usually connected with the natural world and special liturgical feast days. (I have a post coming up about this year's project!)

Advent Countdown:

In this box I will be noting each day's planned activity. It takes me a bit to get to this point ... I start with brainstorming themes and general ideas and then I narrow things down into individual activities - a la post-it note planning.

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I arrange the notes under their week - according to theme and any special days of note.

Family Holiday Traditions (What do we most look forward to?):

Another "agenda item" for the pre-Advent family meeting! It's always neat to find out what things really make the holidays for different people. A trip to the Tree Farm ... Secret Santa ... Christmas Breakfast ... Midnight Mass ... watching A Charlie Brown Christmas ... singing carols ... lighting the Advent wreath ... driving around town to see the lights ... Grammie's gingerbread  ... adopting a needy child's Christmas List ... visiting a beloved relative ... displaying cards from friends and family ... ?

These are the kinds of things we might want to work into that Advent plan!

Gatherings:

It is what it says it is! I will use this section to plan our annual Family Christmas Gathering. (Christmas Day, late afternoon.) I might also print a second copy in case we host a second (or rather, first) gathering with Bill's side of the family on Christmas eve. Actually, come to think of it, I might also print a third copy for Earlybird's family birthday party! (Which takes place on the weekend before Christmas.)

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Savoring the Season:

This is where I go a little outside the lines of a traditional holiday planner. These are concepts that are very important to me during Advent and so I designated a special spot for each area of planning.

Creating cozy corners, finding moments of peace ...

I try to envision where it would be nice to have a spot for resting and reflecting. Near the tree, perhaps ... with all the necessary comforts around me. A basket of books and a couple of throw blankets. Maybe a special journal and pen. Then I try to find a regular time for getting myself into this space each day, even if it's only for 30 minutes. I think of this place as my charging spot. :) I also like to place a pretty candle (or candles) in my kitchen window. For one thing, this spot is out of reach of my kids - and for another, the window faces the setting sun. On December days, setting my own little light against the gathering darkness is a wonderful feeling. :)

For the kids, a quiet place where they too can feel cozy and peaceful is such a nice idea. Reading corners are perfect for this, but so too are bedrooms! I like to make up my boys' beds with flannel sheets and ask Bill to add some lights, too. And how about a special Christmas bath time? It's very simple to pick up some seasonally-scented soap or bath gel - pine, clove, peppermint, orange, etc. Or better yet, find a recipe for a natural herbal blend if time allows! (Note to self for next year!) The older kids can use the bath products as they shower and younger children will enjoy a bath with sweet scents and maybe even a little holiday lighting? A candle in the window or a holiday nightlight perhaps?

Special time with the children ...

Christmas is especially beautiful when you have children to join you in celebrating! Our Advent Calendar project will provide the boys with daily "special time," but I also like to plan a separate activity for each of my children. The older boys and I will visit our favorite bookstore for a little browsing and a delicious holiday beverage. We'll also plan a fun family movie night for after the younger boys are in bed. Earlybird and I will be delivering goodies to community friends (the mailman, the postal office, the librarians). And Little Bear (my nature nut) will receive a new Advent story stone every morning ... :)

This is also a good time to consult those ideas mentioned by my kids when we held our family meeting!

 Enjoying Advent in nature ...

This is where I'll jot down ideas for bringing nature into my own Advent. In addition to our Advent Calendar activities (most of which are nature-related), I like to plan some opportunities for sending off autumn and welcoming winter myself. Gazing upon the sunset each evening as I work in the kitchen. Feeding the birds (and squirrels) and sitting by the window to watch them flit about the garden. Taking a walk under the stars with my best fella. Stopping by a favorite pond to admire the quiet, resting habitat. Noticing the frost in the morning. Working with favorite natural materials as I bake and craft (spices, herbs, beeswax, wool, shells, pretty stones, pinecones, etc.).

Baking-making days ...

Crafting and baking (especially making gifts to give) is a big part of the season for us (me especially) but it's one thing to say I'm going to bake a lot and craft a bunch, and another thing entirely to have the time to do just that! So again, looking at the calendar with the family and budgeting in a few days when there will be adequate time at home, a bit earlier in the season, will be key in making it happen. 

Family Attire (Special clothing for special events ...):

Who needs what? What holiday occasions require a particular kind of outfit - something dressy for an elegant event, festive outerwear for a tree lighting or skating party, a funny sweater for a family party, holiday PJs for Christmas morning! 

Outside Decorations (Shining our light ...): 

A space to take inventory of outdoor decorations - lights, wreaths/swags/garlands, garden flag, figurines, creche, etc. What needs replacing or new batteries/bulbs? Also, for us, it's a good idea to pick a weekend to devote to setting up these decorations. We actually don't do a lot but it still takes us some time! (And patience, lol.) Perhaps plan a special warming meal for the hard workers and helpers! Crockpot chili comes to mind ...

Inside Decorations (Adding festive touches here and there ...):

As above - we start by taking inventory. We bring down the Christmas bins once the fall bins have been packed away! Then I work on setting out decorations through the first week (or sometimes two) of Advent. I'm in mid-transition right now, fall to winter ... hoping to add my "festive touches" this weekend while Bill and the boys get the outside and windows all arranged. (And of course, right now we have a 3 year old and a couple of young cats, so breakables are on a "break" for a few years.)

The Tree! (Theme? Notes ...):

Several things to think about here! Real or artificial? Where to get it - farm-fresh or pre-cut? Then of course, where does it go and do we have all the "stuff?" Stand, skirt, star, working lights? Who's in charge of keeping the tree watered? Are we doing a special theme or certain colors or just "anything goes?" Do we need any extra items or replacements? Are there little ones in the house and therefore a "soft" tree is the way to go this year? Is there a special tree blessing we could say as a family? Should we have a tree-trimming party? And we must be sure to leave room for all the ornaments we'll be making this Advent!

Family Faith Traditions (Keeping things real ...):

In all we do throughout Advent, I hope the undercurrent is the sweet anticipation of our most Holy Night - and not just because Santa is coming! I hope to share with my children the wonder and appreciation I feel for the world God has created because He loves us so much. I hope to instill in them a sense of gratitude for the vastness of our blessings. I hope to share with them the joy that is living with Christ by our side. I hope to foster a sense of peace in our family, that it might be our small part in striving for peace among all people. I hope our own inner light shines so brightly the darkness of the world shrinks before us. I hope to kindle a love for all mankind, especially our nearest and dearest. These are my highest goals when shaping our Advent plans ...

But those are lofty goals, aren't they? ;)

I guess what I hope is that our family's faith is lived out in our most common days ... sometimes in the simplest of ways but also in special observances. At Mass or during a quiet, prayerful conversation at home. I hope we achieve a good balance, and I hope I do the best I can by my family. I think it's easy to get caught up in society's view of this season - the candy canes and silver lanes and elves that sit on shelves. And truly all those are special, fun things - but I like to be sure we're remembering what it is we're really celebrating here ...

All that said, our family faith traditions are sacred to us but understandably not for everyone, and that's as it should be. I point out to my children that we all celebrate the year differently and all families are to be respected however they live out this particular season. In other words - whether you wish us Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas or Blessed Yule, we will be honored you shared a smile and a bit of your own faith tradition with us. :)

Town & Parish Events (Special activities, service opportunities ...):

A listing of things we'd like to consider for participation. The Village Tree Lighting or the Angel Tree at Church - things like that. Once we know what is happening we can decide what fits our time, resources and expectations best. (I check our parish bulletin and tri-town newspaper for information and ideas!)

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Errands & To-Dos:

Well, this is pretty self-explanatory! Here I list where I need to go and what I need to do. Stop by the post office for more stamps. Order Christmas cards. Order cookie packages. Clean this-that-and-the-other-thing before guests arrive. I like to keep organized about these kinds of things because it keeps our Advent a little more peaceful. As hard as I try to stay calm about things, I can get as stressed as the next mom when Christmas draws near and important tasks are left undone. Plus, if I have that list handy (and written up early) I can delegate more smoothly!

Recipes & Projects to Try (*find on Pinterest):

I use Pinterest for keeping these kinds of things organized but I am using this section to make note of the pins I really want to remember! If you're interested, here are my pin boards called 2016 Planner: November-December and Happy Christmas. :)

Advent Week-by-Week:

This section can either be used for a breakdown of To-Dos (what needs to be done each week) or a breakdown of themes. The four Advent candles represent Hope, Peace, Joy and Love ... and this could be a place for reflecting on those themes, how each concept might be woven into your family's week. I'm actually writing out notes for my Advent Teas here! ❤️

Gift-Giving:

Also self-explanatory! I'm waaaay behind on this!

Our Season's Greetings:

Another obvious section! :) I've just ordered our cards and will be organizing the addresses over the next few days. Got my Christmas stamps, so that's done! I'm going to set up a little "work" basket at my writing desk in the library. I will share how it all looks in my Week Two Advent Tea. :)

Advent Calendar:

Can I just say I really like how this calendar came out? :) Bill helped me with it and I was so excited to find a way to make those blocks lined! I may be using this template to make up some monthly calendars to go along with my 2017 planning sheets. But that's getting ahead of myself (though not by much!) and off-topic! In this planner I will use it specifically for Advent-related activities. 

And finally ...

Notes:

A space for anything that doesn't fit anywhere else! :)

*❤️ *❤️ *❤️ *❤️ *❤️ *❤️ *❤️ *❤️ *❤️ *❤️ *

So there we have it, friends! My notes on Advent planning and then some! I hope this was helpful or at least fun to read. I can hardly believe Advent is already underway! I have my first Advent Tea planned for this coming Friday (and there will be one each Friday throughout Advent). I would love to see your favorite mug (or cup) for tea (or coffee or cocoa) and if you send me a picture of it I will share it in one of my Tea posts AND enter you in my Winter Comforts Package giveaway. You can send me your pic(s) by sending an email to:

drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

I hope you'll join me for Tea!

Also, I have another post I hope to get up in between now and Friday (I know, I'm setting more of those lofty goals, lol) describing our Advent Calendar this year. I am so happy with how it's come out! Some of you might have seen a little of it on Facebook or Instagram (or both) but I'll share a pic here too ....

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(Speaking of pics, the ones above are from a beautiful book illustrated by Eloise Wilkin. I absolutely adore this book and in particular, those two illustrations. They are so perfectly in line with the kind of simple, homey, natural Advent I aspire to!)

Ok, I've kept you long enough - I'm off! I wish you all a pleasant evening. Please drop a note if  you have time. I'd love to hear from you! :)

BLESSED ADVENT!


Late Autumn Planning Sheets + Thanksgiving Printables!

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Hello my friends and Happy Thursday!

Today I'd like to share another set of my seasonal planning sheets with you - and this time we're heading into Late Autumn, as hard as that is to believe! The end of the year already? How the weeks have flown ...

So this is my last set of seasonal sheets since I began this series back in January, but this time around I'm very happy to share an extra set of sheets for Thanksgiving planning! My family hosts this annual holiday, and there's a lot that goes into planning such an event. Every year I make up a planner of some sort for myself but this year I decided to go beyond loose-leaf and make something more streamlined and printable. I had such fun putting this planner together, so naturally I wanted to share it with you all! (There are just four weeks till Thanksgiving, fyi!)

I am also working on a set of planning sheets for Advent and Christmas, and was really hoping to have them ready to share today, too - but alas - time got away from me! I will aim to post that set sometime next week ... :)

And not to get ahead of myself but, I will be tweaking ALL the seasonal sets from the past year to coordinate with next year's dates. (You can find them all in my Printables archive.) But more on all that in a moment! Here now are my Late Autumn planning sheets - eight weeks in all, running from Monday, November 7th through Sunday, January 1st (2017!).

Late Autumn Overview (Clean)

Late Autumn Overview (Dawn's)

Late Autumn Planning Sheets

Home Learning this Week (Late Autumn)

Thanksgiving Planner

Please let me know if you have any trouble opening these PDF files or if you notice any errors. (I looked them over and over but inevitably something escapes me!) Also, I'd love to hear if you're using these sheets and how you like them! :) As I mentioned above, I'm going to update all of last year's sheets so they can be used in 2017 and I'm changing things a bit to make them (hopefully) more efficient and easier to use. One thing you'll notice straight away (starting with this last seasonal set) is I'm using photos instead of clipart. I really loved the vintage clipart but going forward it will be easier to use my own "artwork," if you will - especially when it comes to copyright issues and such. Also, as you'll see in the Thanksgiving planning sheets, I've finally learned how to add lines to my boxes! Hooray for Bill who figured this out! I really love planners with lined spaces (I'm a stickler for neat handwriting - it just works better with my brain!) and so next year's set of planning sheets will also feature more soft lines for guiding lists and notes. 

Before I go, here is a picture of this week's sheet "in action."

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As I grow more and more fond of my printable planning sheets, I've been thinking about how to use them along with my current systems. I would like to discuss this further in a future post but for now, briefly ...

I keep the current week's sheet in my homekeeping binder - opposite the current month-at-a-glance (a neat printable found here). I have this binder open like this all day so I can refer to it as needed. To the right (not seen in this picture) is my Day Designer which organizes all the hourly nitty-gritty details of my day! 

So, there you have it - and I hope you enjoyed it! As I said, I really had a lot of fun creating these pages and I'm eager to get the Advent-Christmas planner pulled together as well. I will share that with you just as soon as I can, but for now, I wish you all well and thank you, sincerely, for stopping by ...

Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones, and I will see you here again very soon!


Our Seasonal Homeschooling Schedule!

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Hello my friends, and Happy Tuesday! :)

I hope you are all enjoying your September! We're having very nice weather here, if perhaps a bit warm for this time of year. Muggy, I guess you'd say. But I'm relishing the "late summer" feel to these days ... it will be so cold before we know it ... and it will stay cold for AGES.

Anyhoo, what I have here is my (long promised) outline of this year's weekly themes. I refer to this concept as "seasonal homeschooling," but really, these themes are woven into all areas of our family and home life. I'll be expanding on these themes in a future project but for now, I thought you might enjoy seeing what we'll be focusing on in the seasons ahead.

Now, some themes are pretty self explanatory, while others might seem more obscure. The goal for me is to highlight a simple hallmark of the season and weave it into our family's life experience. Some weeks it's just a general awareness of something - pointing things out, encouraging observation and discussion - while at other times we really dive in! It all depends on how busy we are and how appealing the theme might be! In the notebook where I keep this schedule, I also list any days of note, so I've included them here as well - they make sense for my family but they might not yours! I share them in case they may help you fill in your own calendar. :)

Mostly our themes connect with the natural rhythm of the year - this is something I've observed and enjoyed since I was very young - but there are also liturgical feasts listed here, as well as national holidays and family events.

Ok, onward we go ...

 

September

5 - autumn seeds (Labor Day, Back to School, Nativity of Mary, NFL Season begins, Patriot Day)

12 - at the autumn orchard (Holy Cross Day, Apple Picking field trip, Full Harvest Moon, Apple Festival)

19 - crows & corn (International Peace Day, Autumn Equinox)

26 - along the autumn hedgerow/dragons in the air (Johnny Appleseed Day, Michaelmas, St. Therese, Guardian Angels)  

 

October

3 - changing leaves (Fair Week, St. Francis, Blessing of the Pets, OL Rosary)

10 - in the autumn woods (Columbus Day, Full Hunters Moon, First Frost?)

17 - pumpkins on the vine (St. Luke's Little Summer, Our 23rd Wedding Anniversary)

24 - goodnight garden (Pre-Halloween Week)

31 - fading light (All Hallow's Eve, Gratitude Project, All Saints Day, All Souls Day, Daylight Savings Time ends)

 

November

7 - cozy nests (Election Day, Martinmas, Veterans' Day, Taurids)

14 - in the autumn bog (Full Frost Moon, Leonids, Fantastic Beasts, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Christ the King)

21 - a thankful heart (Thanksgiving Day, Nana's Birthday, Advent begins)

28 - stone walls & rock gardens (Advent Week One, St. Andrew of Scotland, St. Barbara's Branches)

 

December 

5 - from the forest: evergreens (Advent Week Two, St. Nicholas, Uncle Eric's Birthday, Immaculate Conception, St. Juan Diego)

12 - the animals of Christmas (Advent Week Three, OL Guadalupe, St. Lucy, Full Cold Moon, Earlybird's & Papa's Birthday)

19 - gingerbread folk (Advent Week Four, Winter Solstice, Christmas)

26 - winter birds & bells (Boxing Day, St. Stephen, New Year's Eve/Day, Mary Mother of God, 1st Bird of the Year)

 

January

2 - winter stars (Epiphany)

9 - winter comforts (Full Wolf Moon, My Birthday, Baptism of the Lord)

16 - snowflakes in the air (MLK Jr. Day, Benjamin Franklin's Birthday, Inauguration Day, St. Agnes)

23 - icy days, frosty nights (Handwriting Day, Burns Night, Grandma's Birthday, Chinese Year of the Rooster, Days of the Blackbird begin ...)

30 - candles aglow (Days of the Blackbird, St. Brigid, Candlemas, Groundhog Day, St. Blaise, Superbowl Sunday)

 

February

6 - by the hearthside (Full Snow Moon, OL Lourdes, Abraham Lincoln's Birthday)

13 - Valentines (St. Valentine's Day)

20 - winter citrus (Presidents' Day, Chair of St. Peter)

27 - potted plants (Ash Wednesday/Lent begins, St. David's Day, March comes in like a lion ...)

 

March

6 - thaw (Full Sap Moon, Daylight Savings Time begins)

13 - returning light (St. Patrick's Day)

20 - pussy willows (St. Joseph, Vernal Equinox, The Annunciation, Laetare (Rose) Sunday/Mothering Sunday, Uncle Greg's Birthday)

27 - spring wind (March goes out like a lamb ...)

 

April

3 - at the spring pond (Palm Sunday)

10 - eggs at Eastertide (Holy Week, Full Pink Moon, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil, Easter Sunday)

17 - April showers (Earth Day, St. George's Day, Shakespeare's Birthday, Divine Mercy Sunday)

24 - faeries in our garden (St. Mark, Walpurgisnacht/May Eve)

 

May

1 - spring fire (May Day, Cinco de Mayo)

8 - in the meadow (Full Flower Moon, OL Fatima, The Freezing Saints, Mother's Day)

15 - milk & honey (St. Isadore the Farmer)

22 - fresh air (BC Commencement, Ascension Day, Little Bear's Birthday)

29 - a family garden (Memorial Day, The Visitation, Uncle Matt's Birthday, Pentecost Sunday)

 

June

5 - strawberries (Whit Monday, Full Strawberry Moon, Trinity Sunday)

12 - butterflies (Flag Day, Father's Day, Corpus Christi)

19 - the summer sun (Summer Solstice, Bookworm's Birthday, St. John's Eve/Day, Midsummer)

26 - medicinal herbs (Sts. Peter and Paul, St. Junipero Sierra)

 

July

3 - God Bless America (Grandpa's & Aunt Ami's Birthday, Independence Day, Full Thunder Moon)

10 - thunderstorms (Bill's Birthday, St. Kateri Tekawitha)

17 - farmstand (St. Mary Magdalene)

24 - seashells (St. James, Sts. Joachim and Anne)

 

August

31 - little harvest (St. Ignatius Loyola, Lammas Day, The Transfiguration)

7 - mermaid tales & tears (Full Green Corn Moon, Crackerjack's Birthday)

14 - blueberries (Assumption Day, Blueberry Festival)

21 - bats (Queenship of Mary, St. Rose of Lima)

28 - sunflowers (Labor Day Weekend, World Day of Prayer for Creation, Sunflower Field)

 

************

 

Well, there you have it! I will be adding to the list of events as the year goes along ... field trips and social gatherings come up as they do! And sometimes I switch themes up or continue one theme into the next ... I try not to sweat it too much! For instance, we are still looking around for autumn seeds (it was drizzly that week) and I switched up autumn orchard and crows/corn as they were originally scheduled - an apple picking opportunity came up and it just made more sense!

Now, as I've mentioned - once, twice, a thousand times before, lol - what I'm doing right now is building a book around these themes, something I'll most likely self-publish - and hopefully a planner as well. (Something along the lines of the seasonal planning sheets I've been sharing this year.) I am truly sorry I have not been able to finish up this project and make it available to you as I'd hoped to earlier in the year. All I can promise at this point is to keep writing and blogging and sharing and the very moment I have something (really) ready to go - I will let you know! Thank you for all your support and encouragement - I appreciate every bit of it, every kind word, thoughtful suggestion, and friendly "wave" across the Internet. :)

But for now, I will wrap this up because dinner prep has started in the kitchen and - from the sounds of it - clearly Mama's help is required!

Enjoy the rest of your evening my friends ... I hope to be back here again very soon!


My Early Autumn Planning Sheets (Printables!)

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Happy Sunday, everyone! I hope you are all enjoying your weekend! :)

Here in America we are celebrating Labor Day weekend, which means tomorrow is a holiday for most of us. It is also considered the unofficial "end of summer" since most children have returned to school by now. (We return to lessons Tuesday!) We're still summery though, weather-wise - after some rain and wind from Hurricane Hermine tomorrow, we are expecting a return to the 90s for the balance of the week! But this is how it goes at this time of year ...

The mornings and evenings ARE cooler and the light is different now, too. The signs of seasonal change are subtle, but -  if you pay attention - then over time instinctually you can tell when these little shifts are taking place. It feels good to be connected with the rhythm of the year. Like being privy to some vital (though often overlooked) information ...

But anyhoo - I am very happy to FINALLY present my next set of seasonal planning sheets to you ... once again with my sincere apologies to be so VERY last minute. sigh My computer crash definitely slowed me down this summer, but honestly, it just took me a while to get around to ironing out all the details! (Not just the plans themselves, but the colors and the clipart!) I have such fun, thinking about these kinds of things, though ... I have always maintained that if we don't plan for joy as carefully as we plan for work, then we might just miss out on a lot. Too much. There are way too many things I LOVE about autumn that I want to share with my children. And I now have a good idea just how fast the years fly ... my oldest "baby" is 21, while my newest is a very busy and delightful THREE. How did that happen?

I may not ever do everything in my plans but I am grateful for what we can do and glad I have made myself (and my family) aware of these kinds of things. These are the things that enrich the ordinary ... make the everyday special ... set one day apart from the next ... and remind us just how BLESSED we are to get to do it again, year after year ... as long as God allows.

Well, ok - time to get down to the nitty gritty! Here are the planning sheets for the next season ahead, which I call "Early Autumn" (September and October). I have my "themes and plans" overview first - one with my notes and one that is blank for you to fill up with your own ideas (though you're welcome to try mine!). Then there are the multi-week planning sheets - an overview that allows for space for you to plan a weekly theme, days of note, home & garden tasks, comforts & joys, meal plans and to-do's ... along with a little vintage clipart and a snippet of an idea from me. :) These go from this coming week (9/5-9/11) through the last week of Early Autumn (10/31-11/6).

And finally, there is a home learning planning sheet in complementary colors. You might use this differently if you don't homeschool - maybe just notes for each of your kids. Goodness knows our kids always have a lot going on! I myself have three boys I'm currently homeschooling so there is room for their lesson notes as well as a day-by-day overview. And if you need a different number of boxes, let me know - I can tweak my original and email you a new copy. :)

Early Autumn Overview (Dawn's)

Early Autumn Overview (clean)

Early Autumn Planning Sheets

Home Learning this Week (Early Autumn) 

I do hope these are of some use to you - I'd love to hear feedback if you have a minute! And please let me know if the links are wonky - I check on my end, but who knows what glitches might come to pass in cyberspace!

I will be back next - PROMISE - with the 52 seasonal themes. (I think that's the third time I've promised them!) And in another month or so - hopefully sooner than later! - I will be back with my last set of seasonal sheets, Late Autumn (November and December). It is my fond hope to publish these on the early side and include some holidays sheets in there too. But we shall see. So please stay tuned,  and thanks so much for stopping by! 

I will 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:

IMG_2422

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.

IMG_2425

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 ...


Themes & Plans for May (Updated!)

Violet in grass

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

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

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

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

~ Themes & Plans for May ~ 

Nature

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

Folklore

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

Food

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

Faith

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

Household (& Garden)

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

Life

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

Book Basket

Field Trips & Outings

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

Crafts & Activities

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

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

See you all again very soon ... :)

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


Themes & Plans for April (Updated!)

Daffodil 1

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

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

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

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

~ Themes and Plans for April (PDF) ~

Nature

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

Folklore

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

Food

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

Faith

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

Household (& Garden)

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

Life

Book Basket 

Field Trips & Outings

Crafts & Activities

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

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

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

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


Themes & Plans for March (updated!)

Crocus

{Happy Monday, my friends - and Happy Leap Year, too! I have started the process of updating my old Themes & Plans series (eight years old and in need of some pruning!) and I thought I would start with March since that month begins TOMORROW! So I'm fixing broken links, adding new ones, and correcting dates to correspond to 2016 ... I hope you find these posts useful or at the very least provide something happy to read. 😊} 

March brings breezes loud and shrill, stirs the dancing daffodil ...

So tell me friends, how will March greet you this year? As a LION or a LAMB? Or perhaps somewhere in between? Pansyegg_2

Here in New England we've enjoyed a relatively mild Winter and this week looks to follow a similar pattern. Tomorrow (March 1st) is forecast to be sunny and 50° - not too lion-ish I'd say!

Though Old March can be fickle - chilly and gray one day, mild and bright the next - he brings with him Spring's first tender tidings - a soft breeze, a few bits of green, and the stirring of hope in our hearts. And so, with faith in Spring's return, I offer you some ...

~ Themes and Plans for March (PDF) ~ 

Nature

  • a quiet gray landscape, awaiting its green garb
  • the old March wind arrives to blow winter away
  • blackbirds returning (that squeaky gate sound)
  • drip, drip, drip - melting underway
  • pussywillows along the riverbank
  • mud, mud and more mud!
  • potholes that will eat your car in one gulp
  • forsythia blushing yellow
  • little pots of shamrocks at the grocer's
  • The Full Sap (or Worm) Moon (23)
  • migrating salamanders on mild, wet nights
  • robins hopping in the yard
  • maple sugaring in the woods
  • the first colorful crocus, tiny jonquils, too ...
  • the sun gains warmth; the days lengthen
  • skunk cabbage in wetland areas
  • fox sparrows passing through
  • lambing time at the farm
  • a surprise snowstorm is not out of the question ... ?

Folklore

  • March gem: aquamarine
  • March flower: jonquil
  • March comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb.

Food

  • potatoes
  • carrots
  • turnip
  • radishes
  • spring onions
  • early rhubarb
  • leeks
  • meatless Lenten Fridays
  • egg custards
  • maple syrup
  • shamrock shakes
  • Girl Scout cookies
  • corned beef and cabbage
  • Irish soda bread
  • Irish coffee
  • oatmeal scones
  • sloppy joes
  • donuts for St. Joseph
  • fig tarts on Palm Sunday
  • Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday
  • cheesecake
  • ricotta pie
  • lamb cake
  • baked ham

Faith

  • Month of St. Joseph
  • Liturgical seasons:
    • Lent
    • Eastertide
  • St. David (1)
  • Laetare Sunday (6)
  • St. Patrick (17)
  • St. Joseph (19) 
  • Holy Week:
    • Palm Sunday (20)
    • Holy Monday (21)
    • Holy Tuesday (22)
    • Spy Wednesday (23)
    • Holy Thursday (24)
    • Good Friday (25)
    • Holy Saturday/Easter Vigil (26)
    • Easter Sunday (27)

Household

  • Rake winter debris from yard.
  • Sweep porches, doorsteps, decks and driveways.
  • Inspect yard and home exterior for winter damage.
  • Clean birdfeeders thoroughly.
  • Plan garden plots.
  • Start seeds indoors.
  • Arrange for mulch delivery.
  • Purchase fresh sandbox sand.
  • Put windowboxes up; fill with hardy pansies!
  • Launder spring bedding.
  • Plan Easter dinner.
  • Order ham.
  • Order basket goodies.
  • Buy Easter lilies at the nursery.
  • Organize Easter clothes.
  • Shampoo rugs.
  • Take down storms; hang screens.
  • Wash windows
  • Polish woodwork with beeswax.
  • Re-stock craft supplies for the spring.
  • Organize rainy day play gear.
  • Start planning summer vacation time.

Life

  • National Craft Month
  • National Hobby Month
  • American Red Cross Month
  • National Nutrition Month
  • Irish-American Heritage Month
  • National Umbrella Month
  • March Madness
  • Peanut Butter Lovers Day (1)
  • Dr. Seuss's birthday (2)
  • Alexander Graham Bell's birthday (3)
  • Antonio Vivaldi's birthday (4)
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning's birthday (6)
  • National Mario Day (10)
  • Daylight Savings Time begins (13)
  • Uranus discovered (13)
  • National Pi Day (14)
  • Albert Einstein's birthday (14)
  • The Ides of March (15)
  • Return of the Swallows to San Juan Capistrano (19)
  • National Agriculture Day (20)
  • First Day of Spring (20)
  • National Waffle Day (25)
  • Make up Your Own Holiday Day (26)

Book Basket

Field Trips & Outings

  • Maple sugaring demonstration
  • Visit new lambs & fresh eggs at farm
  • Children's Passion Play at church
  • Museum of Science: Planetarium

Crafts & Activities

Crocus clipart

Now, I'd like to clarify that my family will not be observing each and every one of these March ideas! (Who ever could?!) But having them in mind - and even better, on paper - is a big help when I'm trying to weave a little seasonal awareness, organization and fun into our family life! I like to sit down once a month (usually the second to last weekend) to do a little planning ahead on the seasonal front. I make it part of my weekend "office hours." :) It might seem silly to work "seasonal planning" into an already busy family schedule, but honestly - if I didn't, it's unlikely I'd remember or even try to fit it in!

Well my friends, I've rambled long enough ... thanks so much for stopping by and I hope your March is just lovely, whether wild or mild!

P.S. I wasn't on Pinterest back when I first wrote this post in 2008 - maybe it didn't even exist yet? - but I now have boards for "storing" seasonal ideas such as the ones linked above. I will go through these links to be sure the are still valid and then add them to my March & April board.)


How I Use the Weekly Planning Sheets ...

Sheets 14

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

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

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

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

Sheets 2

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

Sheets 3 

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

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

Sheets 4

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

Here's the clipfolio without the folder attached:

Sheets 1

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

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

Sheets 12

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

Sheets 13

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

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

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

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

Sheets 15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sheets 6

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

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

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

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


Advent Plans & Crafts: The Archives!

Happy Weekend, my friends!

I am very late with this post, because as many of you know, Advent begins in the morning! (Or maybe technically midnight, but who's counting?) And you know, I have been blogging for a while now (nearly 10 years) so I have accumulated a lot of Advent-tagged posts over time. But I tend to get wordy and off-topic, and while some of these posts are, in fact, detailed craft projects and long lists of activity ideas, some are simply reflections on the season itself, and some are just posts filled with pretty pictures (usually of trees and sunsets and such).

So I wanted to give you all a way to access just the posts that pertain to crafts and activities if you're planning out an Advent journey with your family ... without having to weed through all the excess! So I went through my archives and re-tagged those crafty/planning posts with the tag, "Advent Plans & Crafts." (Clever, I know.) Then I went and played around with that vintage clipart I like so much and made up a button - which I plugged into my lefthand sidebar. And that will take you right to that archive!

Advent Plans & Crafts Button

:)

It was fun for me to go back through these older posts and revisit how we celebrated our Advent seasons in years past ... and to see all those sweet little faces - when they were still so very little!

But Advent does in fact begin tomorrow and I will have a lot to say on the season in the days ahead. We will share our first Advent Tea on Monday afternoon ... we'll be talking about "gifts from the heart" and our usual tea notes and pics. (Remember, I'd love to hear from you - in the comments or by email or link to your blog!)

And tomorrow I have a lovely post with cozy nests and thankful tea notes from readers to share. I know you will all enjoy it!

But for now, I must wrap up because we have dinner to get on the table and I've been tooling around on my computer long enough. There's a two year old climbing my back at the moment - sorry, make that, two and a HALF year old - and a few older boys wandering about making noises about being fed ...

Thanks so much for stopping by, my friends! See you here again very soon!


Creating Seasonal Themes: Corn Week!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

🌽

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

🌽

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

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

🌽

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

Corn book 2

The Life and Times of Corn

Corn book 1

Corn

Corn book 3

Corn is Maize

Corn book 4

The Popcorn Book

Corn book 5

Raccoons and Ripe Corn

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

🌽

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

Corn music

Under the Green Corn Moon (Native American Lullabies)

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

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

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

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

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

🌽

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

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

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

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

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

🌽 

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

Corn 2

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Case in point, this post.)

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

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

 :)

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


January Journal Work

January journal 4

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

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

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

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

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

* spiced white hot chocolate (crockpot)

* first bird of the year (robin)

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

* picked up liturgical wall calendar at Mass

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

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

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

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

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

* Twelfth Night - beer-braised beef & parsnip stew

* Little Christmas/Three Kings Day 

* Tasha Tudor Museum Newsletter (order back issues)

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

* Downton Abbey "manners guru" interview

* lemon curd recipe for scones (Boston Globe Magazine)

* aggressive coyote noted in neighboring town

* little notes on Little Bear's words and actions

* spied a weasel on next road over

* Boston is the US 2024 Olympic bid!

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

* book theme idea: "Winter Cheer"

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

* spotted a large hawk in tree by mailbox

* heard a woodpecker knocking in woods

* Patriots are going to the Superbowl!!!

* tag-team scribbles by Earlybird and Little Bear

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

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

* National Hot Tea Month

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

* football-shaped snack ideas (People Magazine)

* National Handwriting Day

* "A Blizzard of Historic Proportions"

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

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

* Superbowl goodies (craft/recipe ideas)

* Downton Abbey TV Guide cover

  January journal 3

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

* info. re ~ a dermatologist to give to Bill

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

* Holy Week Cleaning outline

* Wall-a-Week Cleaning schedule

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

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

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

* passwords created recently to record in binder

* a friend's birthday to add to calendar

* weekly news quiz in Globe (for Crackerjack)

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

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

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

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

*

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

January journal 2

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

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


Journal/Planner Q & A ...

Journal workspace 7

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

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

:)

First, from Kristie:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you take your binder out with you at all?

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

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

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

***

From Amy:

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

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

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

Journal workspace 6

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

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

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

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

***

From Lisa R: 

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

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

Journal workspace 3

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

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

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

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

Journal workspace 4

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

From Coral:

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

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

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

From Denise:

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

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

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

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

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


A Little Love for November ❤

Image

Now I'll just say this upfront: I know November can be a hard month to love. The weather is often dreary (even downright lousy) and the sun is growing weaker day by day. The foliage has dimmed and mostly blown away - what's left behind lies all dull and damp on the driveway.

But I must confess I do love November - just as I love every month of the year! There truly is much to enjoy in spite of, or even because of, the weather ...

The landscape has faded but the shades are only more subtle - auburn, brown, pale gold and blue-gray. The sunlight is weak, but soft, as it slants down to earth at that late-in-the-year angle. This change in light sets our primitive clock back - to run at a slower pace and heed nature's rhythm - though we don't always pay it mind. Jack Frost has stolen our gardens away but even the earth needs a good rest - a long winter's nap if you will. It might be a good idea to take our cue from nature and in the lull between now and Christmas, encourage ourselves to slow down and take a breath - as we make quiet preparations for the season ahead.

 So on that rather lengthy note, lol - here are my notes re ~ November "tasks." I typed these out on my phone the other day as I sat with a sleeping Little Bear in my arms ... the wind was howling and leaves were whipping by the window and the heat had come on and there was such a feeling of comfort around us. I let myself love on November a little and brainstorm ways to embrace the season in my home and in my heart.

**

(Please note: I formulated these notes with my own home and family in mind. I don't mean for them to sound like "must-do's" for everyone! But I always like reading other people's seasonal plans, so I thought I'd share.)

*

One of my favorite things to do at this time of year is to set up strings of white lights here and there around the house - woven into a leafy garland on the mantle, above the kitchen sink, or around the porch door, etc. When the afternoons grow short, instead of cursing the darkness, we celebrate the blessing of light.

*

Time to make a cozy nest! Change our bedding to flannel perhaps, and warmer colors. Add thick throw blankets to the end of the bed and a pair of slippers by its side. Dress up the night-side table with woven mats (instead of lace doilies), a few good reads, lip balm, a rich hand lotion and a candle or two (battery-lit for safety).

*

Wrap up new warm pajamas and slippers (if needed) for the boys on Martinmas. Decide on a lantern craft and plan for a short lantern walk, while horseshoe-shaped oat cookies bake in the kitchen.

*

Make sure everyone has proper outerwear for the winter season: hats, gloves, scarves, boots, jackets for warmth/weather. Check sizes and condition.

*

I can't wear perfume, but I do like a lightly scented body wash. I like to change my scent with the seasons and at this time of year that might mean ginger, apple, vanilla, mint and/or pine.

*

I'm also not big on nail polish but I do like my hands to look pretty at the holidays. I might splurge on a new nail polish - something deeply hued and perhaps a bit sparkly. 

*

 Before the holidays, I like to clean my wedding rings and other special jewelry. I do this at home with a little mild dishwashing liquid, warm water and a toothbrush. I shine up my Miraculous Medal with a bit of baking soda.

*

Set up a simple remembrance altar on All Souls' Day ... refresh tiny mums as they wither, light tealights during family meals.

*

 Visit the post office and purchase Christmas stamps. I am always excited to see the new designs!

*

Organize this year's Season's Greetings - choose outfits, do hair trims, take pictures, order cards. Set up a basket with cards, envelopes, stamps, favorite pens, seasonal note paper, etc. Do a few cards each night beginning after Thanksgiving.

*

Happily, holiday cards start arriving right after Thanksgiving, so I like to have an idea how we'll display them ahead of time. I always like to do something a little different. Pinterest is a great place for ideas!

*

Look through the pantry and make note of what supplies need re-stocking ahead of holiday baking. It's also a good opportunity to vacuum/wipe out those pantry shelves!

*

Write out this year's Advent plans - how do I envision this time of year? How will I share the beauty and peace of the season with my children? How will we resist the frenzy and keep things siimple? Decide on an Advent calendar platform - gather supplies.

*

On a clear dry day, bundle up and go for a walk - enslit the boys' help in looking for winter craft items: acorns, pinecones, branches of evergreen, etc.

*

Cozy up living spaces with inviting reading corners (book baskets, throw blankets). And clean up the hearth - order wood and stack in the side yard. Inventory woodstove implements.

*

Make a list of in-season foods - like root vegetables, cabbage, brussel sprouts, squash, cranberries, clementines, apples and pears. Work those items into my November menus. Brainstorm hearty/delicious cold weather meal ideas (baked apples, crockpot stews, meat pies, etc.)

*

Prepare for the church coat drive and food drives. Discuss as a family: charitable gifts (time/talent/treasure).

*

Hot drinks bring such comfort (both physical and psychological!) on cold, dark afternoons. Pick up ingredients to make up a fresh batch of cocoa. Stock favorite teas, cinnamon sticks, mulling spices and candy canes, etc. 

*

Talk with Bill about house and garden chores that need to be completed before winter. Fall cleanup and winter storm prep, etc. Work these tasks into our November weekends.

*

Make sure the birdfeeders are ready for the winter season ahead - stock up on seed and suet.

***

I was on quite a roll with my thoughts ... as you can see! And then my Little Bear woke up - all sleepy face and soft murmur - and I texted myself this list.

:)

It goes without saying, of course - all these things will NOT happen. Not in one given year. But I do like thinking them all out ... and writing them all down ... and of course, sharing them here. I think that's something I truly enjoy doing - helping others find joy in the most everyday blessings. It's what I try to do I think, and have always done, since I was little. I  rose-colored glasses because clearly I see that there is unhappiness and hardship and sadness in life. Sometimes too much and too often. But these little blessings are always there for us ... to take a bit of joy from and tuck into our hearts.

Ok I'm getting sappy now so I'll wrap up! I would love it if you might share with me what things you like to do in November - whether they be practical or sentimental - how do you find joy in a month that can sometimes be hard to love?

Aside from all that, I do wish you all a lovely Sunday ... and I hope your new week gets off to a great start! As always, thank you for stopping by and I will see you here again very soon!


Rabbit, Rabbit! Happy March!

Lion craft

And how did March greet you today, my friends? As a lion or a lamb?

Well, it's quite bright and calm here, but I won't let that sun fool me - the brutal cold is definitely fierce like a lion! (Not to mention the snow storm in Monday's forecast ... )

Now, a few things for the weekend ...

⛅️  Are you looking for a lion/lamb craft to do with your kids? Here's one I did with Earlybird a few years ago: Two Easy Early March Crafts.

⛅️  And here's a daffodil cake I like to make on March 1st, aka St. David's Day. It's as light and sweet as the promised spring!

⛅️  Also, in case you wanted to celebrate Dr. Suess's birthday tomorrow, here's a link to a ham-spinach quiche (a la green eggs and ham) ... it would be perfect for a Sunday brunch.

⛅️  And finally, I wanted to share my Themes & Plans for March this morning - that post's been around a long time, but I still find it useful, and I hope you might too. Some of the information (first gathered in 2008) is out of date - for instance, Easter is in April this year - but there are a lot of ideas and activities for you to check out. I really should go back through those posts and cull any broken links ... I'll add it to the list!

Well, I hope you all have a nice weekend ... we have our Bookworm home for spring break so I'm on top o' the world right now. :) It is SO good to have the family all back together and under one roof. Much to come this week ... and Lent begins on Wednesday ... so I'd best get our Lenten plans assembled. Hmmm. Shrove Tuesday first though - we'll celebrate with paper plate masks and pancakes for supper!

Keeping you all in my thoughts & prayers ... see you here again very soon!


Assigning Weekly "Seasonal" Themes

Dear readers, this quiet Friday morning I'm working on our "plan" for next week and, as I check our calendar and jot down ideas, it got me to formulating this post ...Chrysanthemum-basket

Now, as you know, I just love to compile big lists of ideas for the seasons (both natural and liturgical), and I gather ideas from various resources (books and magazines, etc.), but mostly from my own deep appreciation of the seasons themselves. I've been keeping these lists, and nurturing this passion, since I was a young girl, so I guess you could say seasonskeeping is a longtime hobby of mine! :)

And lists are always wonderful things, but taking all those general ideas and turning them into specific actions (moving them from the list to our life) takes a little extra thought and planning. In other words, looking over my "late autumn" list and seeing inspirational thoughts like "cranberries," "nests" and "evergreens" is one thing - but scheduling activities like "sketch cranberries for nature log," "go on a nest walk," and "visit a tree farm" is the essential next step. 

(Actually, taking those broad themes and brainstorming possible activities based on those themes comes next - then we can pick and choose and fit those ideas into our week.)

But of course, our weeks are already so busy! So how do we fit in all (or just some of) these "extras?"

Well, this could (and probably will) spark a whole post on managing our household in such a way that we make time for the extras, but for today I'll just focus on this one thing ...

I find it very helpful to assign seasonal "themes" to our weeks.

It's often (though not always!) as simple as that.

By doing this, I find it a little easier to fit fun seasonal activities into what is, assuredly, an already jam-packed week. These activities are usually simple things that connect us in some way with the season at hand. And here's another key - they involve all different aspects of our everyday life. An activity might fit into our home learning, or it might become a fun family outing, while many ideas are simply worked into my weekly homekeeping (baking, cleaning and such).

The end result (hopefully) is in keeping our children aware of the natural world and in tune with the rhythm of the seasons - in a casual, yet memorable way.

So this week - when the leaves are tumbling down and the trees are just about bare - our theme is "nests and hibernation."

Next week (Thanksgiving week), we'll work in a "cranberries" theme.

And the week after that, we'll visit the Christmas tree farm, so our assigned seasonal theme will be "evergreens."

These are all easy but meaningful connections ~ and simple, good fun!

Now, I have an outline of themes that mostly get repeated year to year, (seasons may change, but they're comforting in their familiarity and renewal), but as the children mature I change up our activities and focus. I'm currently outlining next year's weekly themes, and I will share them here just as soon as I can.

Also, later today (or possibly tomorrow) I'll post my cranberry week ideas here ... right now I'm just finishing up my weekly planning as I sit here by the fire, sipping coffee and admiring the rising sun with my Earlybird. We're both feeling so much better and this day feels so full of promise!

(From EB himself, as he peers out a cracked-open familiy room window: "Mama! Come here and smell this wonderful morning air!" How that warms my heart! For the verbal skill as well as the heartfelt expression! That's seasonskeeping at work right there, my friends!)

So I hope you all have a nice Friday ... I'll be back here again in a bit.

:)


November is upon us ...

Snowonflowers2

"November comes 
And November goes, 
With the last red berries 
And the first white snows.

With night coming early, 
And dawn coming late, 
And ice in the bucket 
And frost by the gate.

The fires burn 
And the kettles sing, 
And earth sinks to rest 
Until next spring."

~ Elizabeth Coatsworth

Just after 8 p.m. last night, as we sat down to watch It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, we noticed the cats staring out the back window, peering into the darkness with a look of absolutely enchanted curiosity. We flipped on the outside lights to see what was up, and lo and behold - it was snowing! 

I had just finished telling the boys about my favorite childhood Thanksgiving, when all the cousins went for a long walk after dinner and on our way back it started snowing. I've always held that memory dear - for the family togetherness as well as the perfectly timed first snow of the year. I do love a late autumn snow ...

But this is just crazy.

Snow in October? Snow before Halloween? We have a storm heading our way this weekend ... bringing with it anywhere from 1-3 to 3-6 inches, depending on its ultimate track ...

C-r-a-z-y!

But let's focus on calmer, happier things, shall we? Let's embrace the season before us, and make ready for a new month to enjoy. I spent some time perusing my November notes recently, and I thought I'd share a few themes and plans for next month ... things that make November special for our family.

~*Learning/Living/Faith/Nature/Home*~

Give thanks to the birds ~ make them some homemade suet treats. Set them out on Thansgiving day morning.

On All Soul's Day (11/2), create a remembrance altar - tiny tealights (rosemary candles if I can find them/make them), marigold blossoms, framed pictures of departed loved ones.

Celebrate the Full Beaver Moon (11/10): walk to the river, look for dams or other evidence of beavers; watch this fun movie.

Collect woodland goodies so the kids can make "Thanksgiving Potpourri."

Field trip! Visit a local cranberry bog ~ make a fragrant relish for Turkey Day.

Look under logs ... visit a bog.

Go on a nest walk: look for squirrel dreys and all kinds of (now visible) nests.

Observe varieties of moss and lichens in the woods (and backyard). Sketch in journals ... make a tiny terrarium for the Nature Shelf.

Display our Thankgiving books.

Launder soft throw blankets and place them in a handy basket.

Make watercolor post cards using soft, autumnal colors - russet, amber, gray, olive - and write Thankgiving greetings to send to friends and family.

Look for the returning juncos, our little snowbirds that herald Winter's return. (We spotted one the other day - so I guess this snow should not be surprising!)

Push our clocks back (11/5) and make way for shorter, darker days. 

Read about animal homeshibernation, and how they survive the snow.

Take time to enjoy the sound of geese flying overhead.

Organize the pantry early in the month - make sure we have our holiday baking supplies in order.

Order mixed dried fruit for making fruitcakes.

Mix up mulling spices:

Mix: 2 cups dried orange peel, 2 cups broken cinnamon sticks, 1 cup whole allspice berries, 1 cup whole cloves, 4 broken star anise. Store in closed jar.

To use: Mix 1/4 cup spices per gallon cider, wine or apple juice. Simmer 30 minutes before serving.

(From China Bayles' Book of Days)

Clean, shop, cook for Thanksgiving. (That's oversimplifying things, but that's a whole 'nother post!)

Set up a knitting basket - start working on scarves for Christmas.

Hang our Gratitude Banner to work on all month.

Write out different autumnal and thankful words on small pieces of paper. Let EB make his own "November poetry." 

On Martinmas (11/11), gather donations for the Parish Food Drive. 

Work on Advent Calendar Project (ready to go 12/1).

~***~
A couple more "snow" pictures from this morning ...

Snowonflowers3
Snowonflowers4
It might be crazy ... but it sure looks beautiful!

And as I finish this post (10 a.m.) the snow is all gone. The sun is shining and a seasonable day is ahead. Snow or no, I hope you all have a nice Friday ... and a happy last few days of October.
Take care, keep safe, and be blessed ... 
I'll be back again soon!
:)

Eggs & Nests ~ A Spring Learning Week

Eggweek1

Pictured above is an assembly of things we'll be using in our spring learning this week. All of these activities are meant for Earlybird - but the older boys will most likely pitch in here and there. :)

Also, I should note - I'm certainly not this organized every week! But I love how much smoother things go when I am. To plan out the week, I worked off an "idea" list I had on the subject, and after looking at our calendar (and the forecast) I assigned certain activities to certain days ...

So here are the details:

Our Theme this Week: Eggs & Nests

Monday:

Monday is the day we clean bedrooms. So today we'll make up our own spring "nests" - with cool cotton sheets and blankets. (What makes a nice nest for humans?) We'll talk about animal homes ~ who lives in nests besides birds? And what are other words for animal homes? (Dens, burrows, hives, dams, etc.)

We'll have an "Egg in a Nest" for breakfast.

We'll make a paper egg diorama.

On our way home from the library, we'll stop at the market ~ for eggs (observing all the different kinds), rhubarb, a small carton of cream, beets and purple grape juice (for dyes), and some fresh chicken.

We'll read A Nest Full of Eggs.

Eggsbook3

≈∞≈∞≈∞≈

Tuesday:

As the day is forecast to be warm and clear, we'll watch the sunrise this morning. We'll wait for it outside on the deck - it rises right behind our woods. We'll try to be as quiet as possible - to listen for birdsong and for the sake of our neighbors - and we'll wonder at its glory.

We'll then head inside to make quiche for breakfast.

We'll take a nature walk - to find small leaves and/or ferns for egg craft. We'll look for nests in the trees (pretty soon the leaves will be out and we won't be able to see them!)

We'll dye eggs with natural dyes using beets, red cabbage, yellow onions, spinach, tumeric and purple grape juice.

We'll read An Egg is Quiet.

Eggsbook2

≈∞≈∞≈∞≈

Wednesday:

Today we'll prepare a dozen or so egg shells for seeding.

We'll make scrambled eggs for breakfast.

We'll plant spring seeds in eggs shells; each seedling "nest" will get a little sign, and will be set in a sunny window.

We'll set up a small Easter craft basket for Mama.

We'll play with our egg magnet set.

We'll read Eggs.

Eggsbook1

≈∞≈∞≈∞≈

Thursday:

Today we'll prepare nesting material for the birds: bits of shredded newspaper, hair (from hairbrushes) and easy-to-spot yarn. We'll place the materials out in the yard, near the feeders.

We'll hard-boil eggs - and compare an egg pre- and post- cooking.

We'll make observations of an egg, inside and out (raw and cooked). We'll draw and label diagrams. 

We'll work on sparkly, sequined Easter eggs. (This will mostly be my craft, with EB observing/helping as he can.)

We'll read The Egg.

Eggsbook4

≈∞≈∞≈∞≈

Friday:

This morning we'll visit the chickens (and rooster) at our local farm.

We'll make egg salad for lunch.

We'll make an egg-shell mosaic, oval-shaped frame.

We'll bake date breads for Sunday.

We'll read the lovely Petook.

Eggsbook5

≈∞≈∞≈∞≈

So those are the plans for Earlybird's spring learning this week! We may or may not get everything done, but I find it's always helpful to go forth with a list.

Well, I hope you all have a nice Monday ... it's supposed to get to 80 degrees here in our part of New England! I can hardly believe it. We will have all our windows open, letting that fresh spring air inside - and we might even get a fan going before the day is at its end!

Thanks so much for stopping by ... I will see you all again very soon.

:)


Happy February!

Febplans1

Rabbit, rabbit everyone!

Ok, so February can be a tough month to love. It's cold and snowy. Or it's cold and icy. Or it's cold and sleety. With a side helping of slush.

But there are nice things to say about this month, too ...

When I think of February, I think of snow, greenhouse flowers, bakeries, cherries, hearts, Chinese dragons ... seed catalogs, ice skating, snowmen and chocolate.

Those are all some pretty nice things!

Plus it's a short month - only four weeks to go, and we jump right into March, the first month of Spring ... 

Our February learning themes will be: "Families," "Florida," "The Middle Ages," and "Measurements." And as you can see, I've been putting a "seasonal spin" on the learning room decor. (I've also added some new sidebars here at the blog, and I may change the floral banner. I'm thinking of primroses or violets ...)

So here's ...

February @ a Glance:

St. Brigid's Day

Candlemas/Groundhog's Day

Chinese New Year

Focus on the Feeders

The Superbowl

Lincoln's Birthday

St. Valentine's Day

Full Snow Moon

The Great Backyard Bird Count

President's Day

Washington's Birthday

*

February is ...

National Heart Month

National Birdfeeding Month

Devoted to The Holy Family

*

Well, I'm enjoying my coffee this morning (with a bit of that tartlet) and watching the feeder frenzy outside my window. I think the critters know we're expecting quite a storm between today and tomorrow. Before the snow picks up, we'll fill the feeders as best we can. Bill is working from home the next few days, which is a great convenience and a huge relief. 

Later today we'll have an "Irish" snack in honor of St. Brigid, and I'm making a shepherd(ess) pie for our supper. Tomorrow brings us Candlemas and the annual Groundhog report (which I plan to take with a grain of salt, lol). I've got a candle craft in mind, and it will be a good day to kick off our light/shadow/color study.

Well, I hope your February starts out on a good foot - just watch where you're stepping, it's bound to be slippery out there!

Have a great Tuesday, everyone ... see you again very soon!

:D