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March 2019

Welcome Spring Week!

(A peek at how I plan my seasonal homeschooling!)

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A few days ago I shared a picture on Instagram which shows the primary picture books I'll be using with Little Bear this week. Our seasonal homeschooling theme is "Welcome, Spring!" (in honor of the Vernal Equinox this Wednesday) and so I chose five favorite books that highlight the spirit (and science) of the new season ahead. I also promised to follow up with a breakdown of how I used these books to create an easy and enjoyable lesson plan for the week. So today I'm here to describe my proposed plans for the week, and chat a bit about our style of homeschooling in general.

Now, the heart of our seasonal homeschooling is really found in embracing annual traditions, observing subtle changes in our habitat, acquainting ourselves with local flora and fauna, and enjoying our large collection of seasonal picture books. Reading the same stories at the same time of year, year after year, reinforces family memories while connecting us with the cycle of seasons.

So the books I chose for this first week of spring are:

Monday: And Then It's Spring by Julie Fogliano

Tuesday: When the Earth Wakes by Ani Rucki

Wednesday: The Spring Equinox: Celebrating the Greening of the Earth by Ellen Jackson

Thursday: The Seasons: Spring by Nuria Roca

Friday: A New Beginning: Celebrating the Spring Equinox by Wendy Pfeiffer

I keep the current season's books in a special basket, but I like displaying the "books of the week" on a separate shelf ...

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When I started formulating my seasonal lessons - and this all goes back MANY years seeing as how my oldest is now 23 years old! - one of the first things I did was to begin collecting high quality books that reflect the seasons and natural phenomena. I buy as many books as I can, but I also make note of titles we can reliably borrow from our local library. All these books (divided by season into bins) provide a wonderful base for our seasonal homeschooling. These days we have a rather large collection,  but I am always happy to add a new book if it has a meaningful message and lovely illustrations. For instance, I just purchased this book because we so enjoyed the winter tale by this same author!

Equally important to my planning is our established weekly rhythm and pre-selected weekly seasonal themes. With all of this in place I am able to organize my ideas more efficiently and realistically.

You can find a list of my 52 weekly seasonal themes in this post from 2016, and below is the weekly rhythm I pin our home lessons around:

  • Monday: Nature Walk
  • Tuesday: Crafting
  • Wednesday: Storytelling
  • Thursday: Cleaning
  • Friday: Tea
  • Weekend: Family Time

Once I've chosen the stories for the week's theme, I flip through each book to get ideas for follow-up activities. I write things down on sticky notes and then arrange those notes in my planner (see photos below). Here's what I jotted down for each book this week:

And Then It's Spring - observing the brown all around, planting seeds

When the Earth Wakes -  wooden bear mama & cub, drawing of four seasons

The Spring EquinoxAnglo-Saxon legend of Ostara, goddess of spring and dawn

The Seasons: Spring - making a weather chart

A New Beginning - special food celebrations including eggs

Next I expand on each day's activities, giving thought to our schedule, as well as the holidays and events that will shape our week.

🌱Take pictures of backyard; repeat each Monday throughout spring. (Mon)

🌱Bake donuts for St. Joseph's Day, an annual tradition. (Tues)

🌱Sing a sweet "Winter Goodbye" song (found in this book) on the last day of Winter. (Tues)

🌱Carefully pack away our winter books. Bring out the Spring Book Basket. (Tues)

🌱Make a pretty spring wreath for the front door. (Wed)

🌱Sweep and clean up our front entryway, in anticipation of spring visitors. (Wed)

🌱Tidy the nature table - make room for spring treasures. (Wed)

🌱Prep vegetables for Pasta Primavera (our traditional spring equinox dinner). (Wed)

🌱Use my story apron and wooden animals to retell the story of "The Rabbit and the Carrot" (as found in this book). (Wed)

🌱Create a paper chain countdown - just one month to Easter! (Note: I keep a list of daily activities in my planner for this countdown.)

🌱Paper chain day 1: Make birdseed eggs to hang in our garden (Thurs)

🌱Begin spring cleaning! Start by organizing our natural cleaning supplies. (Thurs)

🌱Paper chain day 2: Let's have an Early Spring Tea. Perhaps invite nana and papa? (Fri)

🌱Bake seed bread/cake and mix up honey butter. (Fri)

🌱Slice boiled eggs. (Fri)

🌱Brew Spring Tea with Mama. (Fri)

🌱Listen to Vivaldi's "Spring" during teatime. (Fri)

🌱Paper chain day 3: Set up greenhouses in sunroom with Daddy (Sat)

🌱Paper chain day 4: Do yard work with Daddy; rake the yard clean! (Sun)

If you notice, many of these ideas involve the whole family or parent and child working together. I feel these kinds of learning/living activities are every bit of important as more "child-centered" things they might do on their own. This instills a sense of how important the season is to the household at large and the family's sense of togetherness and well being.

Here are some pictures of my planner page showing how I organize my week:

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Left side of the weekly spread shown above - where I make note of weekly events, theme, dinner menus, homekeeping, crafty/comforting ideas and to-dos.

And then on the right-hand side ...

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I have the week's agenda in a vertical column and next to that, a lined note-space. I added a bit of washi tape just for fun. :-)

Now, this week I am using my homemade planner for lesson plans. Recently I've shown you how I use the Erin Condren teacher's planner as well as my bullet journal for lesson planning. The EC planner is very specific to academics while my bujo is a rather free-form kind of planner/journal. The planner shown above falls somewhere in between. It's less structured than the EC planner, but it also has more writing space than my bujo. Needless to say I'm still trying to figure out which platform works best for my planning!

Well my friends, I hope you've enjoyed a peek into our "Welcome Spring" week, as well as a breakdown of how I work out our seasonal homeschooling. Let me know if you have any questions! Drop a note here or email me at drhanigan AT gmail DOT com. And if you are interested in my homemade seasonal planner, check out this post for my 2019 printable planning sheets. 

As always I thank you all for stopping by! I hope to see you here again very soon ...

HAPPY SPRING!


Post-Its, Planning and Very Full Plates!

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Hello my friends, and happy Sunday! I hope you are all doing well. 😊

I've posted about planning here for many years now (13 years next week in fact!) but that in no way makes me an expert on the subject. I often struggle with time management and staying on top of it all - especially when I have a lot going on and/or our status quo is changing. But it is a topic that keeps me thinking and strategizing and striving for improvement - so today I'd like share a (hopefully) helpful idea for when you're feeling overwhelmed by all the things for which you are responsible and are perhaps struggling to keep on top of it all.

For instance, right now I feel like my current planning system is just not adequately meeting my current planning needs - and so I've been shifting back and forth between one planning platform and the next. At times, I'm juggling several planners (all meeting different needs) and at other times I try to rely on one single planner to meet all those same needs. Hoping that by simplifying my planners I will somehow simplify my life ...

If only it were that easy, right??

So I decided to take a deep breath and step back and take a look at just WHAT ALL I am attempting to manage. I've done this before so this might look familiar to some of you. It might seem like overthinking things, but I find the exercise truly helpful when I'm feeling a little off balance. It's a bit like a brain dump for planning ... getting it all out there and then looking at it all with (hopefully) new eyes.

Now, as most of my readers know, I am the mother of four sons and each of them are in completely different stages of development and have widely varying needs. Our oldest (23) is out of college and juggling the new demands of adulthood, while our second oldest (19) is a freshman in college and adjusting to a more independent lifestyle plus more challenging studies. Our third son, Earlybird (17), has autism, and has been homeschooled all his life with the support of a wonderful in-home ABA team these past five years ... but this very week - tomorrow in fact - we are putting our Earlybird in school. Yes, I just wrote the "s" word, and yes, that's the big change I've been alluding to in recent social media posts!

Certainly this new educational "adventure" will be the topic of an upcoming post, but I can tell you all that this is a good thing, and that we made this decision very mindfully and cautiously. We are still homeschooling our EB, but he will be attending our local high school for a few hours each morning so he may take part in a special needs life skills program. We are praying this will be a good fit for our boy whose needs have changed and increased in recent years and will only continue to become more challenging in the future. It is our dearest hope that we can find support, community and guidance for our son as he nears and enters adulthood.

Every parent has to face the hard truth at some point that we can no longer "do it all" for - and be everything to - our child, but this is perhaps especially so for a special needs parent. This realization in part is what led us to explore other options for EB ... but I'll get into more details in that forthcoming post. I just wanted to mention this new development because it's a big part of why I feel I am at a point where I need to re-evaluate my routines and take stock of all my plates in the air! Kids change, parents change - and our planning must always be flexible!

(Note: Of course our homeschooling continues not only with Earlybird, but with our youngest son, Little Bear who at five is still in the midst of his kindergarten year! I am in the process of taking stock of where he is at and what our educational goals are for the spring and summer. In September he'll begin first grade at home.)

But back to the post-it notes!

Now, this activity might not work for everyone, but for me, it's a good way to slow down and simplify. I start with the very basics of planning and that is by asking myself ...

Just WHAT ALL do I need to PLAN?

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I love using post-it notes when I'm working out a project of any kind. The tiny ones (like these) are especially helpful for organizing individual steps or ideas.

Here's a brief rundown of my method:

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This will be different for everyone of course, but here's how mine shaped up:

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Categories:

  • personal matters
  • family matters
  • bloggy business
  • household matters
  • to-dos (and projects)
  • time management (calendars, agendas)
  • financial and security issues
  • routines and house cleaning
  • homeschooling (education)
  • nature and faith

I then started thinking about all the things I need to focus on and how pressing they might be. Big or small, I wrote it down, and here's how my post-it page ended up ...

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As I outlined three pictures above, I tried to group the post-it notes according to how often I need to access each kind of information. So the notes on the far left are things I need to think about or look at the most often (every day), while the next column to the right is for items of a more weekly nature and so on.

Now, this is as far as I got, to be honest! But I wanted to post while I had some time today at my computer. 😊

My next step will be to add more post-it notes as I think of other activities/responsibilities. As strange as it may seem, sometimes it's hard to think of all these categories! I think we parents often go on auto-pilot when it comes to caring for our home and family but when we stop to think about it, there really is a LOT to manage. For example, most of us enjoy travel and fun family outings, but without a little (or a lot) of forethought and planning, this kind of activity is not bound to happen - at least not in my family!

(Feel free to use my ideas pictured here but also check out Pinterest for more ideas. Use a search time like "home management binder" or "planner contents.")

Next I will be figuring out WHERE DO I KEEP ALL THESE PLANS?

Which of these post-it notes work best together and what kind of platform would serve each type of planning best. Binder, folder, bullet journal, formal planner, phone ... there are so many platforms to consider.

Ideally, I'd like to keep my planning system as streamlined as possible. Currently I seem to have too many parts in play! (And this is, of course, impacted by my *ahem* ongoing planner addiction. I know many of you can relate to this struggle!)

Once I have my platform(s) in place, I will give some thought to planner maintenance - aka WHEN DO I DO ALL THIS PLANNING?

It's great to put things on paper, but I need to find time in my schedule to actually do all this planning!

Where in my daily routine do I make time for writing in my domestic diary, jotting down nature notes, reviewing lesson plans, looking over our family calendar, popping onto social media, sitting down to think and pray?

What day of the week do I devote to meal planning? Budgeting? Catching up with correspondence? Going through my "slush pile?" 

I'll check back in as I make progress on this project so I hope you'll stay tuned! I'd also LOVE to hear from you and how your own planning "system" is working for you these days. Have you found something that works really well? Are you dissatisfied with your current planner(s)? Are you feeling overwhelmed by all the "to dos" and "to remembers" in your life? Drop me a note if you have a moment and we'll catch back up in my next post - you can leave a comment here or send me an email at drhanigan AT gmail DOT com.

And yes - I'll be back to tell you more about how Earlybird is doing on his new "learning adventure" ... please keep him in your thoughts and prayers if you would!

For now though, thanks as always for stopping by and have a great week, my friends!

See you here again very soon ...