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April 2010

Lesson Planner Layout

Hi Dawn, 

Thanks so much for sharing your planning info. Do you use one lesson planner for all of your children? We have subjects we do together (history, science, bible, etc.) and subjects the kids do separately (math, phonics, etc.) I'm trying to figure out how to plan these things in one planner.



Hi Linda, 

Yes, I use one planner for all my children. As you can see in the picture above, it is laid out in a 5 row by 8 column format. The rows are for the five days of the workweek of course, and I assign the eight columns as follows: 

1. "Notes" (ex. "orthodontist," "Book Group," "French class," "OT/ST," "Arbor Day")

2. Earlybird: I've learned it's too ambitious to assign individual actions to one specific day, so I just list my ideas and goals for the week in his column. I then refer to the list through the week to match activities with his moods.

3. Math and English - Crackerjack

4. Math and English - Bookworm

5. History and Science - CJ

6. History and Science - BW

7. "Other" - CJ

8. "Other" - BW

(Note: "Other" would include things like hobbies, sports, misc. club activities, volunteer work, chores, foreign language, music or art and religion.)

I purposefully put CJ's and BW's "History/Science" and "Other" columns next to each other as we do overlap a lot. I can write something like, "Watch National Parks DVD's" in between the two columns with arrows on either side, indicating the activity is meant for both boys.

I don't follow one umbrella curriculum (such as A Beka or Oak Meadow), but rather a curriculum for each subject (i.e. Saxon Math, BJU English, Joy Hakim History, Beautiful Feet Geography etc.), so breaking down a week's worth of work is pretty easy. I just have to make sure we're keeping somewhat on schedule to finish up by summertime. (More than once a year I'm re-tweaking what and how much we do in a given week!)

I work on my planner every weekend and I find it a great help to keeping my days straight, balancing the work of three children. During our work days, I keep the planner open on the kitchen island, along with the boys' work piles (photocopies, worksheets, etc.). I use a red pen to make check marks next to the items we've accomplished.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have bought this planner every year for the past several years. Some years I use it faithfully, other years I hardly touch it. This year I've used it pretty regularly and I truly believe it has been essential in keeping on top of our lessons and weekly activities. 

I hope this post helps, Linda ... and if it would be of further help, I could post next week's lesson plans here at my blog. I'll be working on them Friday through Sunday. 

Happy Wednesday, everyone - I hope you're all having a good week!

Spring Officekeeping


Crisp new folders, a little sprucing up of the file crate corner ...


I usually choose earthy or primary colors, but pastels are a nice change. As you can imagine, with three boys in my house, there is very little pastel to be found around here. ;)


They look so pretty in the sunlight. :)

I bought some wider hanging folders for the back of the crate for holding information important to our home, family and homeschool - but not pertinent to any one week. 


^^ This week's file folder. ^^


^^ My lesson planner. ^^

I use an "Elan Weekly Lesson Plan Book (edition W 208)." I have used this particular planner for years. I am able to purchase mine at a local teacher supply store. They run around $5.00.

As for my general calendar/planner, I am in transition at the moment. I have been using a Blue Sky monthly/weekly planner for a while now (they can be purchased at Target). But as much as I love the look and the format, I just don't seem to need the weekly pages - therefore, a large portion of the calendar goes to waste. I do like a larger (8.5" x 11" or so) format for writing lots of notes, so I will probably return to my DayMinder (as seen tucked in the back of my crate). I will keep you posted on my calendar choices. :)

Hope your week is off to a great start! :)

April Nature Club ~ Amphibian Day!

First of all, my friends ... Happy Earth Day!

It's a beautiful day here in New England - sunny and warm (70 is the predicted high!). The boys and I plan to spend a lot of time in the yard today, cleaning up the birdfeeding area, pulling dead leaves and debris out of the shrubbery, perhaps we'll take a walk down to the riverbank ...

For this morning though, I'd like to share some pictures from our Nature Club meeting last week. My friend Natasha hosted the April meeting, and her activities centered around amphibians. I'd like to share some photos from our day - there were MANY children attending as well as several moms too (and a dad - my Bill!). We could not have asked for a lovelier spring day - sunny and cool (but not cold), in the 50s.


Natasha had set up her dining table with a really cool craft - making salamanders and frogs with clay:



The table itself was covered in butcher block paper and interesting amphibian facts were noted here and there ...


Natasha's whole living area was devoted to amphibians, including ...


A fun frog craft station ... 


An informative and colorful display of books and pictures ...


Posters depicting the life cycle of a salamander ...


An enormous salamander in the windows ...


And a tiny (but real!) salamander in a tank on the kitchen counter!  

(This is a "spotted salamander" by the way.)

After the crafting, Natasha circled the children around and talked about amphibians for a bit, asking what they already knew and sharing some very interesting facts. Then we headed outside to for a scavenger hunt!


The kids teamed up in pairs, and using shovels and pails, and looking under rocks and old fallen logs, they searched for things like slugs, spiders and millipedes, etc. 



All good food for the salamander!


Once the hunt was complete, and the lists were discussed - and the salamander was fed! - we headed out into the woods to explore a large vernal pool ...


A vernal pool is a temporary body of water - in other words, come midsummer, this area will be dry. Vernal pools are filled with winter rain and snow melt and are an excellent breeding ground for amphibians (such as frogs and salamanders) and of course, insects.


The kids had a grand time exploring AND getting muddy as all get out. ;)

A few things we found:


A garter snake ...


A fiddlehead (I think?) ...


A wood violet ...


Skunk cabbage ... stinky!


And an interesting tree - a birch of some sort?

It was a wonderful experience - another one of those days when I just feel SO lucky not only to homeschool, but to be part of such a fantastic support group. Many thanks to Natasha and her family for organizing such an awesome day!

Before I go, here are the clay creations Crackerjack and Earlybird made: 


They are residing front and center on our Nature Shelf!

Thanks so much for stopping by - I  hope your day is a good one - and I will see you here again sometime soon! 

A Bit of Domestic Bliss

It's National Pineapple Upside Down Cake Day!

Why today? I have no idea - but I've been wanting to make a pineapple upside down cake for a while now, and today seemed as good a day as any! I had a couple of recipes in my file folder, but neither one was the cast iron skillet recipe I really wanted to try. No matter, the one I ended up following was relatively easy and as you can see, quite successful!



And GOODNESS does the house smell amazing!

  So this will be dessert, but for dinner we're having grilled turkey burgers on toasted wheat kaiser rolls, roasted asparagus with soy butter and noodles. It feels like a very spring supper. :)

And by the way, THANK YOU all so much for the terrific advice and links and kind comments on our new kitchen floor! I will be considering all your input before I choose a cleaning system - I'll keep you all posted on my progress! (That said, the floor cleaned up beautifully today with just a dust pan and damp rag. *wink*)

Have a great night, everyone!

Our New Kitchen Floor!

Well, this project has been a looong time in coming ... our kitchen floor has been in various states of "undress" for a few years now. But we finally found a long (and conveniently rainy) weekend for Bill to get it done. And after lots of measuring, cuts and maybe a few muffled cusses ...

... here it is!


It's an easy care laminate called "Tuscan Stone Bronze." The funny thing is, I told Bill I didn't want anything other than wood (or wood-look really) and I certainly didn't want stone. ;) But he brought home a sample and left it there against the cabinets for a while so I could think on it .. and think on it I did ... and finally I said, "OK, let's try it." :)

End result - a finally finished kitchen floor that I really like! I think it goes nicely with our cabinets and appliances ...


And it's so clean I can hardly stand it! (The floor, not the kitchen lol!) But in regards to keeping it clean, Bill says I can use a "swiffer" (sp?) on it - anyone have experience/advice to share?

I hope you all had a nice weekend - long as it was it still went by too fast (Bill had last Thursday and Friday off). We have a busy week ahead (natch) but I will be back just as soon as I can. See you all soon - and as always, thanks for stopping by!

A quick note ...

This morning my mum alerted me to the fact that my blog has been loading very slowly for her, and so I would assume it's been the same for other folks, too. After a little tinkering and the removal of a few old (possibly wonky) links, it seems to be working much better. I hope this helps anyone who has had trouble loading my blog - please let me know if you have any other issues!

Thank you, and have a wonderful Sunday. :)


How to Train Your Dragon: It's a Hit!

How to train your dragon 

Have you seen this yet?

The boys and I went with some friends yesterday and I can honestly say I ADORED this movie. It was fun, funny, exciting, touching, and truly enjoyable from start to finish. Visually it was amazing and we didn't even see it in 3D (my stomach can't handle 3D movies!). The kids all loved it and my friend Lisa and I were grinning from ear to ear and wiping tears from our cheeks as we left. I HIGHLY recommend this movie for families - the action might be a bit much for younger children but otherwise it's suitable for all ages. (It's rated PG for sequences of intense action and some scary images, and brief mild language.)

And by the way, my boys have enjoyed the book series this movie is based on ... 

How to Train Your Dragon


How to Be a Pirate

How to Speak Dragonese

There are several more books in the series but these are the few the boys have read so far. Our library has lots of copies, so I bet yours does too. :)

Have a great Thursday, everyone!

April's Awakening


It's misty here today, and cool - around 60 degrees - but the weekend promises much sunshine and warmth. (Or as warm as we can expect things to be at this time of year!) I've noticed that things have really popped here this week; the forsythia is vibrant and full, the azaleas and magnolias and other flowering trees are also in full bloom. The grass is finally greening and the leaves are just starting to come out on the trees. I think it's safe to say that Spring has finally sprung! Is it like this in your corner of the world - or are you still waiting on Old Man Winter's departure? 

While I'm here, I'd like to share some pictures of our Nature Shelf this month:


That plant is actually a few sprouted bean seeds, a science project the kids did last month.


Butterflies, Salamanders and Spring - our themes of the month.




Spring soccer kicks off here tomorrow, and I'm feeling an urge to visit the local nursery for some seeds and plants. Much laundry to fold, several lessons to plan and a breakfast with some dear friends I haven't seen in far too long ...

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend ~ until next time, be well and be blessed!

*April Fun*

Did you know ...

April is National Card and Letter Writing Month?

--> How about setting up a correspondence basket for your children? Place it somewhere convenient (kitchen table, coffee table, etc.) and invite them to sit and jot down a quick hello for someone they know. The basket could be filled with envelopes, note paper, blank cards - of all shapes, colors and sizes - along with writing implements, stickers, stamps and ink pads. (If your children are very young it might be best to keep postage stamps elsewhere for safe keeping.) It might even be fun to plan a trip to the craft store or paper store so you can choose materials together. National Card and Letter Writing Month ends on May 11th (Mother's Day) so maybe your goal can be to make and mail cards for all the special mothers in your children's lives?

April is also National Poetry Month!

--> Help your children find the perfect nature poem to adorn a brand new Field Journal. Spring is the perfect time to start - or restart - a nature journal (diary/log). You might also start a collection of nature quotations to use throughout your journals.

And April 20th is National Upside Down Pineapple Cake Day?

--> I plan to make this recipe on that day. No maraschino cherries for us - Earlybird can have everything else in that recipe and he happens to love pineapple. And that caramel topping sounds absolutely scrumptious!

And of course, the 22nd is Earth Day ...

--> The celebration ideas are numerous for this holiday ~ a nature walk admiring the beauty of the natural world would be an easy and meaningful activity. Take along a trash bag and do some spring cleaning as you walk. A field trip to a natural foods store or an organic farm would also be a great way to spend the day - and over supper you could discuss your family's earth friendly habits and outline some goals to work towards together.

Enjoy your day - thanks for stopping by!

April hath put a spirit of youth in everything. ~ William Shakespeare

The Lemon Marshmallow Cake Recipe


My apologies for not posting this sooner - I didn't realize that I could have just linked you all to the recipe online here! It's a lengthy recipe, but my mum says it's not all that difficult. I plan to make this cake next month for our Mother's Day Brunch because it was simply too delicious not to serve again soon!

A few notes: my mother did not make the lemon curd as described in the recipe - she used pre-made, mixing it with whipped cream to achieve the right consistency and flavor. And because she couldn't find the butane for the creme brulee torch, she made do - a la Julia Child - with my dad's plumber's torch!

If you make it, please do share your results - and have a great Wednesday, everyone! :)

Easter Sunday Snapshots

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday! Here are some pictures from our day ...















P.S. The beautiful cake shown above is a "Lemon Marshmallow Cake" - filled with lemon curd and raspberry jam and topped with a whipped meringue. Let me know if you'd like the recipe, I'll be happy to ask my mum for it!

Happy Easter Monday, everyone! :)

Happy April!

Shepherd "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

The storm has moved on and the flooding has receded - though we still have pumps running in the basement! - I'd have to say March went out like a Lion rather than a Lamb.

On a happier note, our forecast calls for warm, sunny days ahead ... a possible high of 80 on Easter Sunday! Can't wait to watch Spring do it's thing over the next few weeks. :)

Have a wonderful Thursday, everyone !