Lesson Planning Feed

This Year's Lesson Planner ... and HELLO!

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My goodness, my friends! I cannot believe it has been so very long since I've been here sharing and just chatting with you. What a long, strange several months it's been, and I sincerely hope you (and your loved ones) are all doing well ... staying safe, keeping healthy, feeling positive and finding peace and joy when and where you can. πŸ§‘

So I have a fun little lesson planner post for you all today, but first I want to just give you a little update on how we are all doing here. And I'm glad to say we are all doing fine. All of us are home ... working at home, remote learning at home and (of course) homeschooling at home! I cannot believe however, I have been away from this blog as long as I have. This is definitely a record for me. I hope to be back to blogging a little more consistently in the season ahead, because there is always so much to talk about! 

Unfortunately I've had to slow way down when it comes to enjoying my favorite activities - reading, writing, journaling, close-up work of any kind etc. - due to some rather extreme eye strain and tension headaches I developed this summer. It's a long and boring story but I'm glad to say I am finally on the mend and slowly finding my way back to "normal" (or as normal as we can be in these trying times!).

Anyhoo - let's talk about that planner! You might have seen my post on Instagram back in May after I purchased this pretty thing at Target. (Or through Target (.com) because back in May we were still barely leaving the house):

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So as you might remember, I am a HUGE fan of Blue Sky Planners - and I always find their academic year lesson planners especially impressive. And I really like the extremely reasonable price of these planners which is generally around $13. This one came with a multi-colored polka dot cover as you can see - definitely cute, but not really my style. Happily though, it turned out the cover was actually removable! So inside the front clear pocket I slipped a piece of my favorite β€œvintage style” scrapbooking paper which I plan to change up every month. 
 
(This particular planner does not seem to be available anymore, but there are similar versions still available at www.target.com.)
 
Now, since I’m a homeschool mom, I tweaked a few pages to better suit my needs. So here’s a little flip-through with deets on each pic:
 
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Inside the front cover (showing the pretty back of the October design), is the planner title page. I wasn't a huge fan of the polka dots, but I really love those rainbow stripes!
 
Next two pages:
 
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I used the dated calendars to highlight time "in school" and our "off" days. Quick tip - my highlighters wouldn't dry properly on the laminated page so I covered the area with some clear packing tape. This kept things set!
 
The righthand page was for recording school information and contacts, which isn't really something I need as a homeschooler, so ... I covered it up with some dot-grid paper (fastened to the page with some cute alphabet washi tape) and set up a tracker for recording days spent homeschooling. 
 
Here's a closer look:
 
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Ok, next spread:
 
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A bunch of monthly holidays and special dates are outlined on these pages, to which I added family birthdays, feast days and full moons. :-)
 
And then we have, one of my favorite spreads!
 
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The page on the left was for "class birthdays" but I decided it would be a great space for listing out my weekly seasonal themes!
 
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(I'll have a post about these themes coming up soon - I hope!)
 
And the right hand page of the spread is for mapping out your weekly activity schedule, and so that's just what I did ... :-)
 
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After this page comes the monthly calendars of May, June and July at which point the weekly spreads kick in. Here is how my October calendar looks:
 
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Obviously I had fun with those seasonal stickers! πŸŽƒ
 
And here is a look at the colorful weekly lesson planning spread:
 
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I am a big fan of this colorful spread!
 
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And then the rest of the planner is filled with monthly calendars and weekly planning spreads through June 2021, followed by a final laminated page showing annual holidays (through 2023) and a map of the United States and capital cities. 
 
And there you have it, my "tweaked" lesson planner for the academic year 2020-2021!
 
In my next post I will share my Early Autumn Bullet Journal in which I flesh out all those seasonal themes - aka the heart of our nature-based learning at home!
 
Thanks so much for joining me here today, my friends and as always, I thank you for your patience! Please drop me a note if you have time and let me know how you are doing and of course, if you have any questions!
 
Stay safe and well everyone ... I will hope to be back here again very soon!

Spring Learning Week 3: "Quiet Eggs & Noisy Nests"

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Hello my friends, and Happy Holy Saturday! I hope this post find you (and your loved ones) safe and well. ❀

I apologize this post is so very late, but although we are all doing fine here, Earlybird has been having a little trouble this past week and most of my attention has been focused on just getting through the days and not rocking the boat! (Ever so grateful for our home ABA - she's a life saver in so many ways!)

Anyhoo, I'm here today to share my latest seasonal lesson plan with you all, and this one coincides with Holy Week, a time of new life and miracles ... a time of emerging from the darkness into the light. A perfect time to learn about and celebrate the return of life and loveliness to the land. (And as it happens this year, a really good time to embrace the concept of the family nest!)

So here is the PDF, fresh off the morning presses:

April 6-12, 2020: "Quiet Eggs & Noisy Nests"

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Please let me know if you have any questions or problems with any of the links. (I've had some trouble getting mail from Typepad, so feel free to email me directly: drhanigan AT gmail DOT com.) As I mention in my plans, I have a Pinterest board for each week's activities and you can find this week's pins here. :-)

As always my PDF is printable and free for your personal use and is filled with many links to stories, activities and recipes, etc. Also, as always, I must note that we do not plan to do everything on this plan! But I do find it fun to brainstorm these ideas and I do hope you find it useful for you and your own dear ones!

Ok then, I'll be off - but thanks so much for stopping by today ... I pray your week ahead is a good (safe and healthy) one! And if you celebrate, I hope you have a very Happy Easter. We will be at home tomorrow (of course) but hoping to "join" our family at an afternoon Zoom Easter gathering. 

 Take care of yourselves and your loves ones, my friends ...

I'll see you here again very soon!


Seasonal Learning, Spring Week 2: "Spring Is Soft"

(A free printable!)

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March comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb ... (traditional folklore)

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Hello, my friends ... I hope this post finds you and your loved ones safe and well. What a long strange week it's been ...

We're all doing fine here ... still hunkered down of course, as is most of the world these days. Counting our blessings, while praying fervently for an end to this awful virus ... 

Anyhoo, I wanted to pop in today to share the next installment in my Seasonal Learning series, and this week we're exploring the idea that "Spring is Soft." You'll have to check out my PDF (linked below) to find out just what I mean by that!

A few highlights: pussy willows, lambs and baby animals, gentle rain, warm sun, soft earth and fresh air! Plus we're getting ready for Easter and we're doing some spring cleaning as well!

Ok, here 'tis:

March 30-April 5, 2020: "Spring Is Soft"

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Please let me know if you have any questions or problems with any of the links. (I've had some trouble getting mail from Typepad, so feel free to email me directly: drhanigan AT gmail DOT com.) As I mention in my plans, I have a Pinterest board for each week's activities and you can find this week's pins here. :-)

As always my PDF is printable and free for your personal use and is filled with many links to stories, activities and recipes, etc. Also, as always, I must note that we do not plan to do everything on this plan! But I do find it fun to brainstorm these ideas and I do hope you find it useful for you and your own dear ones!

Ok then, I'll be off - but thanks so much for stopping by today ... I pray your week ahead is a good (safe and healthy) one!

Take care of yourselves and your loves ones, my friends ...

I'll see you here again very soon!


Seasonal Learning, Spring Week 1: "Sleepy Seeds"

(A free printable!)

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Hello, my friends ... I hope this post finds you well.

And, my .... what a few weeks it's been. I hope and pray you are all safe at home with your loved ones and that you're all feeling well. We are all ok here - just taking things day by day and trying to be as careful as we can be. Massachusetts, like many other states and countries around the world, is now under a stay-at-home advisory, so aside from going out for groceries and essential supplies (medications and such) we are just not leaving our home these days. Thankfully, Bill can work from home and the older boys are doing their college classes online, and Earlybird is working with his ABA each day for several hours. Renee has been an amazing support for us through all of this and we are grateful ABA is considered an "essential business."

In the meantime, Little Bear and I are plugging along with our homeschooling, enjoying the novelty of having everybody home at the same time as well as the lovely surprise of an early spring. As I mentioned in my last post, I am going to be sharing our nature-based lesson plans with you all here, in case they might be helpful to someone, especially those who are new to the whole homeschooling gig! Most of our activities and books are geared toward younger children but as you will see, some of the ideas can be easily adapted to include older kids, too. For reference, Little Bear is six years old and we are doing first grade at home.

My hope (and my goal) is to publish these posts weekly, as we go along in our own homeschool journey. The PDF below is for this current week, but aside from the connection to The Feast of the Annunciation, the theme of "seeds" can be explored at any time throughout the spring.

Ok, here it is, the first weekly installment:

March 23-29, 2020: "Sleepy Seeds"

Please let me know if you have any questions or problems with any of the links. (I've had some trouble getting mail from Typepad, so feel free to email me directly: drhanigan AT gmail DOT com.) As I mention in my plans, I have a Pinterest board for each week's activities and you can find my sleepy seeds pins here. :-)

Well, I'll be off for now, my friends, but thank you as always for stopping by. I say this every time, but I've never meant it so sincerely: please take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I'll see you here again very soon!


My Printable Lesson Planning Spreadsheet ❀

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Good morning, my friends. I hope you are all feeling well and safe.

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I'm popping in today to share a printable lesson planning sheet I created a few years ago, in case it might be helpful to anyone currently or suddenly homeschooling:

Seasonal Journey: A Lesson Planning Worksheet

You could use this form to sketch out your weekly plans, or use the "theme" column for the days of the week (M-S/S). Please see this post in which I share a few other forms and describe my thoughts behind using this particular planning worksheet.

As I mentioned on Instagram and Facebook yesterday, I am working on a resource which will outline the weekly themes Little Bear and I will be exploring throughout the spring and summer. This printable PDF will include some suggestions for books (and/or story prompts), nature study, crafts, family activities, etc. I hope to have that resource available here at the blog within the next week to so, so please stay tuned!

Blessings to all ... and please be safe and stay well!

 

XoXo

~ Dawn


Tea @ Dawn's ~ Fading Light, Cranberries & Frost ❀

Hello my friends, and Happy Friday! Thank you so much for joining me ... I am so pleased to welcome you to "my place" for Tea. ❀IMG_9532 (1)

As I announced last week, I am bringing back my blog "Teatimes," in a celebration of Late Autumn,Winter Holidays ... and the very comfort and joy that is Tea!

By necessity of course, my Teatimes are virtual -  but my hope is that my words and pictures will make you feel like you have truly popped in for a cozy visit. And I like to imagine you're savoring something you love while you read my post - perhaps a cup of freshly brewed coffee, mulled cider or hot chocolate if you're not one for tea. :-)

Here at my home I'll always have a pretty mug of tea in hand, and a sweet or savory seasonal snack to share ... as well as many seasonal snippets revolving around: current projects, nature news, corners of my home, kitchen notes, holiday preparations, my kids, my journals and my seasonal planners, etc.!

I am also hoping some of you will join me this season in sharing your tea virtually - whether in pics, thoughts, recipes, etc.! I am happy to include your submissions here in my post and/or link to your own post elsewhere. And please feel free to share my Teas wherever you'd like! I am grateful to my dear friend Kim of Ordinary Days of Small Things for her lovely post - I knew I could count on Kim for her enthusiasm and support! And MY goodness, just take a peek at her beautiful Teatime banner! I am quite honored by her kind words and creative design. ❀

* And this just in! Please stop by Kim's for her Teatime post today! It is chock-FULL of wonderful seasonal ideas! (Thanks so much, Kim!) *

Now, for today, I would like to offer you a comfy cup of my favorite autumn brew ... the very gently spiced and soothingly citrus, Constant Comment. Today I am serving it in a sweet little pumpkin mug (a Stop 'n Shop find!) because ... 'tis the season for pumpkins!

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Did you happen to pass these pretties on your way up my drive? It's such a lovely New England tradition - pumpkins lined up on a stone wall in the fall!

And speaking of pumpkins, the treat I'm serving at Tea today is not a slice of pumpkin bread as you might suspect ... but rather, an apple-squash variation! I followed my favorite quick bread recipe using up some leftover butternut squash and spiced applesauce from our Halloween party. The two flavors combined beautifully and the bread turned out tender and moist. This easy recipe is always a hit in our family, especially because it makes not one but TWO loaves!

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On Sunday I am planning to bake up an old family recipe called, Poor Man's Cake. It's something my grandmother made quite often and was a favorite of my grandfather's. I like to bake this for Martinmas (the Feast of St. Martin) which is this coming Monday. It's actually quite delicious and especially nice with a cup of strong Irish tea! (Grampa's beverage of choice.)

 

✨Fading Light✨

Now, if you've followed my blog for some time then you know we like to live and learn around a rhythm of weekly seasonal themes. When my boys were little this made up the bulk of our homeschooling "curriculum,"  but as they grow, I continue to keep the seasons by fostering awareness and appreciation in our home while tweaking activities to fit our family members' interests more authentically.

So this week our seasonal theme is "Fading Light," in honor of the darkening days at this time of year. I always schedule this theme for right before or just after Daylight Savings Time ends. (We pushed the clocks back last Sunday.)

Here are some of my ideas for this week's activities as noted in my Late Autumn bullet journal:

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This page shown here is my seasons keeping page, found smack dab in between the two-page weekly planning spread! (Please see last week's post for a more thorough explanation of how I set up my journals.)

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Happily, Fading Light  is a theme that is very easy to explore, because there are so many nuances to the concept!

In Late Autumn, the earth is slowing down and nature needs her rest - the shorter and darker days means better sleep! (This is a wonderful theme to weave into storytelling with the children, especially those that are sad to see their gardens wither.)

And just like the natural world around us, we have our OWN need for rest in what is usually a very busy time of year! It can be hard to resist the pull of the "hustle and bustle," but quieter evenings and solid sleep are often just the fuel we need to keep our own inner lights burning.

Around our homes we find special ways to bring extra light into our life ... making colorful homemade lanterns, twining strings of lights through leafy garlands, setting tea lights in dark windows, taking the time to notice and honor the sunset - perhaps with a special prayer of thanks for another day together here on earth ...

Stopping the car just to marvel over a soft, milky sky...

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November's sun may be weaker than June's - but it's certainly no less lovely!

One of our favorite November pastimes is to make lanterns for Marintmas. Yesterday Little Bear and I sat down in the (sunny!) kitchen to do just that ...

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I like to try a new lantern craft every year, but this time we kept it super simple. We took a piece of watercolor paper and attached some leaf shapes with a dab of glue stick. Then Little Bear started painting (with watercolors) ...

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This boy could paint for hours - he's a big fan of Bob Ross, fyi! I love the playful shades he chose ...

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After the picture was dry we carefully peeled off the leaves ...

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And then we stapled the ends of the paper together to form a lantern shape.

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It was fun to line up lanterns from festivals past as we watched the sun go down ...

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At 4:30 p.m.!

It's a lovely, peaceful thing to sit quietly in a darkening room, appreciating the lights - and the darkness!

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(Here are two older posts  - Martinmas Day with My Boys and Lovely Lanterns for Martinmas - which show a few different lantern options. It's a very simple yet satisfying craft! One of my favorite Martinmas traditions is the lantern walk we take at dusk on November 11th. It's just us - with our lanterns - traipsing about our yard as the sun goes down, but it's yet another sweet, seasonal memory I hope my children carry with them as they go about making their own lives.)

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We can bring light inside our hearts too ... by doing things that fire us up!

❀ favorite hobbies and pastimes

❀ spending time with people we love

❀ doing things together that makes us happy

❀ remembering to be grateful for the many blessings in our life

❀ finding ways to give to others in need ... 

Kicking off the month of November with this theme of light and darkness, I thought it would be nice to weave light into our annual gratitude project! So here's what I put together ...

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Burlap ribbon runner in the front window √

LED votive candles, one for each day leading up to Thanksgiving (28) √

Kraft paper leaf cut-outs (lots) √

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Every day we write on a leaf (or leaves) something we were grateful for and/or something we did to help someone else. We place those leaves beside a candle and light it once the day grows dark.

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(The silver votives represent Sundays - when we reflect a little more deeply on the blessings we have received, and hopefully bestowed.)

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Adding one light each night, our window will be brilliant come Thanksgiving eve! Oliver apparently approves. :-)

Now speaking of Thanksgiving ...

 

✨Cranberries✨

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Next week our seasonal theme will be At the Autumn Bog  - aka Cranberry week! I'll be sharing more ideas over at Instagram in the days to come, but to begin with, here's an old post from 2011 with some ideas for exploring this tiny tart berry.

And what you see above is our attempt to create a signature "mocktail" for Thanksgiving! We'll have a lot of young kids this year at our holiday table so I wanted to have something special for them to drink. (Aside from the usual apple juice and milk!) 

We're calling this fun, festive drink a "Frosty Cranberry," and we're still tinkering with the final recipe! For one thing, I'm planning to use citrus zest-infused white sugar not this decorative red but you get the idea. (P.S. I use India Tree (plant-dye-based) Sparkling Sugars in my holiday baking.) 

Now, full disclosure: I loosely based this mocktail on a ginger-beer-based drink I saw on Pinterest, but I wanted to make it a little more child-friendly. We took a glass and wet the rim with a cut orange. We then dipped the rim in the sugar and filled the glass with ice. Next, we poured in cranberry juice, about halfway up the glass. Lastly we added crisp, apple-flavored sparkling water and it foamed and fizzed quite prettily!

The initial taste test went ... ok ... but Little Bear felt it was a tad too tart, so after I took pictures we added some orange juice which not only made it sweeter, it changed the shade of the beverage to a gorgeous "autumn sunset" red-orange. I think the kids will like it  and I am going to find some cute acrylic "glasses" for them to use - for safety reasons, natch!

In the meantime, next Tuesday night I'll mull a pot of cranberry-apple cider on the stove in celebration of The Full Beaver Moon. And you're probably thinking: what might beavers have to do with cranberries? But see I'm going with the whole "bog" theme next week ... cranberries grow there, and beavers live there!

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(Spotted at our Audubon Nature Class this week!)

Despite the fact that we live in a state rich with cranberry bogs, I'm not planning to trek my kids down to Cape Cod next week. Instead we will visit a local "quaking bog" which if nothing else features a really lovely, late autumn landscape. We do happen to have plenty of ponds and creeks in our town and if we wish, we can easily observe a beaver's lodge from a safe distance.

But, moving on ... because November's full moon is ALSO known as the Full FROST moon ... the next theme we'll be exploring is:

 

✨Frost✨

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I cannot tell you how happy we were to see that first frost this year! I think I mentioned in an earlier post how challenging outdoor activities had become here in Massachusetts (and many surrounding communities) with an escalating and extreme threat of mosquito-borne viruses. Now that we've finally had a hard frost, we can relax for a while.

Frost may kill off mosquitos (and flowers and other tender plants) but it also brings back our dear little snowbirds, the Juncos - a species we look for every year in late October. Dark-eyed Juncos are lovely little birds that fly north for the summer (leaving around Easter) and return to New England just as the cold weather returns.

I spotted my first Junco around Halloween, but have yet to get a decent picture. Here's one little fella perched in a pear tree yesterday morning!

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So this week we'll talk a little about ol' Jack Frost - I have some sweet verses to read, and a peg doll story to tell - and weather folklore in general. Isn't that vintage illustration above sweet? I plan to show it to Little Bear and weave a little story about the Chipmunk who wasn't quite ready to hibernate ... he was too busy helping his jolly friend Jack paint those leaves!

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And now for a few random things I'd just like to share ...

(By now I'm sure you all need a fresh cuppa ... and please help yourself to another slice of apple-squash cake!)

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Digging into my reading basket! It's my favorite month of the year for magazines! What magazines do you like to read?

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And here's a sunny window set up for seasonal exploration ...

We read In November every year during the first week of the month and it's just such a lovely book - that happens to feature an illustration of Juncos(!) which of course ties in nicely with our nature study. Windows is another perennial favorite - a sweet and simple tale following a young boy on an evening walk through his neighborhood, finding comfort and joy in all those glowing, interesting windows. I like to pair this book with a "windows walk" of our own one night! Our Little Bear is a wee bit afraid of the dark, so we're always looking for ways to soothe his anxiety and reassure him there is nothing to be afraid of, if we can look for the lights - while understanding the dark a little better.

And in the foreground is our gorgeous nature poetry book (a daily staple in our homeschool!) open to this week's poems. Timely too, since we had a merry bonfire just last weekend, another annual tradition around the first of November. Last week's theme was "goodnight, garden" so we were burning branches from a Halloween windstorm as well as plenty of withered garden debris.

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I was simply enchanted by this beautiful artwork, found online - and it's now my phone wallpaper! I suppose one might look at this painting and find it a little eerie, but honestly, I see it as rather comforting. In the midst of all that dark and fog, the house with its beaming window, a loved one looking out from within, represents a safe, solid harbor. Dotted in the landscape are more bright beacons, welcoming other weary travelers home. 

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And speaking of welcome ... it's such a universal, human thing, to breathe a sigh of relief when we finally turn that last bend and our favorite place in this world comes into view ...

I was just pulling up our drive after dropping Earlybird at school, but I had to stop and relish that gorgeous foliage-enhanced light. I was tired (EB had me up super early and I had a whole host of things I wanted to attend to once I got home) and yet, how could I not pause and absorb all this lovely, autumnal light? How could I not take a moment to feel thankful for my blessings - for my very breath - and yes, even for the busy-ness of my day ahead. All the little things that would need my attention after one more deep and gratifying inhale/exhale ...

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And finally, here is my Little Bear at his Audubon Nature Class this week - simply thrilled to hold a garter snake! Our autumn classes have now come to an end, but we'll return to the sanctuary in January, eager to explore the wonders of the winter woods with our amazing Audubon teachers and homeschool families! 

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Well my friends, I am so very thankful to you all for joining me for tea today. I know this was a very LONG post, but I do hope you enjoyed it! I truly enjoyed sharing all these thoughts and pictures with you all ... and of course, the pumpkin-squash-apple-orange-spice ALL KINDS OF AUTUMN GOODNESS Tea! ❀

Remember, if you'd like to join me in my Late Autumn & Winter Teatimes - I'll be posting here every other week through the season - just zip me an email with your submission (or link).

drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

And of course, I'd love to hear from you in a comment below!

Enjoy the weekend ahead my friends ... I'll see you here again very soon!


A Peek at Our Week - and My Lesson Planner!

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Hello my friends, and Happy October! Boy, it's a crazy-windy autumn day here in New England, and many local communities lost power overnight! Thankfully - *knock on wood* - we did not lose power on my street, so we're simply listening to the fierce wind howl, watching the colorful leaves whirl past our windows, and wondering at the beauty and power of a blustery autumn day ...

Anyhoo, I took some pictures of my lesson planner recently, in order to share how I'm merging our Oak Meadow curriculum with our weekly homeschool rhythm and my own seasonal homeschooling plans. Since I tend to get fairly wordy when I share things like this, I thought it best to post my pictures here rather than over at my social media sites. Actually, I'm sure I'll post some of it over there, too, but here is where I can get into the real nitty-gritty!

So as you see above, I'm using a rather straight-forward lesson planner this year. It's made by Blue Sky Planners and I purchased it at Target back in August. Mind you - AFTER I had already purchased a darling, smaller lesson planner at Staples - also made by Blue Sky - and in the interest of economy, perhaps I should have stuck with my original choice, but there are two things I prefer about this particular planner:

Larger format -- > room for more details!

Hard covers (front and back) -- > easier to write in!

Unfortunately I can't find this exact planner online - I believe they are sold exclusively at Target and are no longer in stock - but this one at Amazon is very similar - as well as more colorful!

(Fyi, I'm using the smaller planner as a place to record extra weekly notes.)

To give you a closer look at the inside of this planner, here is this week's spread, open on my desk this past weekend:

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I'm not a huge fan of the blue-grey design, but this spread gives me a solid template for planning out what we'll be doing (or hope to be doing) each day of the week. 

Best of all - and an absolute MUST in any lesson planner I purchase - the blocks are LINED! I love how they keep my handwriting neat and tidy.

A few more pics of the spread:

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I added a little washi tape for fun and a sticker to highlight this week's seasonal theme.

In addition to our traditional first grade curriculum (Oak Meadow), I like to weave into our week my own style of seasonal homeschooling. I've talked about this concept many times before, so I won't bore you with the story of how this came to be our thing - but basically, I work off an outline of 52 weekly themes, and each of these themes reflect a particular nuance of the current season.

My primary goals for seasonal homeschooling are this:

β€’ organizing meaningful (and memorable) family activities

β€’ forging a connection between nature and home

β€’ instilling in my children an attitude of wonder and respect for the world around us

β€’ increasing our knowledge of and comfort in our own local habitat

β€’ linking the rhythm of the natural year with the liturgical calendar whenever possible

Really, I see "seasonal homeschooling" as more than just a way of teaching my children - I see it as a whole family lifestyle. Like nature itself, I repeat most of my themes year to year, but I try to tweak our activities to reflect my kids' changing interests and abilities.

Back to the planner then, and here's a little peek at our week! I like to use the first column (after the calendar) for recording my seasonal ideas. I like to keep them right up front! Our theme this week is "The Magic of the Autumn Woods."

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We didn't "do school" on Monday as it was a holiday and everyone (Daddy, brothers) was home. Instead we took advantage of glorious autumn weather and explored the changing woodland habitat around us.

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On Tuesday morning my folks and I took Little Bear to a local apple orchard.

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This tied in nicely with our Oak Meadow science lesson this week (observing plants and seeds). At home we took advantage of the brisk and bright fall day to scour our yard for small twigs for future craft projects. (We're making up a nature treasure chest.)

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Yesterday we attended our weekly nature class at a local Audubon sanctuary ...

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The kids and teachers searched the woods and fields for spiders and their webs, and I wove a funny little arachnid into our afternoon story time . Apples from the orchard were served alongside!

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As I mentioned at the start of my post, we had a crazy rain-and-wind storm today, so our outside time was limited. (We quickly ran out to dig up a plant to sketch, filled the bird feeders, and grabbed the mail!) Tomorrow's weather promises to be much better, and so as "homekeeping day" during "autumn woods week," we will ...

β€’ spend some time tidying things up - particularly toys!

β€’ open up the windows to let in all that fresh, rain-swept air

β€’ sweep our front steps and back deck of fallen leaves and debris

(and)

β€’ polish our wood surfaces with some natural, lemony polish!  :-)

(Over the weekend we will have an evening bonfire to take care of larger branches and take a woodland walk as a family before Sunday lunch.)

Well my friends, that in a rather large nutshell is a tour of my lesson planner! I thank you, as always, for stopping by and if you have any questions at all, please drop a comment below. As ever, I'm slow on replying (and posting ...) but I am trying my best to keep up! I hope you are all doing well and enjoying your autumn whatever it brings to your world. I have more blog posts in mind for the upcoming months - including a series of Late Autumn and Holiday Teas!

So please stay tuned and I thank you for your patience! Take care of yourselves and your loved ones and I will see you here again sometime soon ... ❀


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!


Blending Curriculum + Seasonal Lesson Plans

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As I mentioned in my last post, I have not been using my Erin Condren teacher's planner on a regular basis this year. It is a beautiful planner to be sure, but sometimes it's just a little TOO much planning for me, if you know what I mean! Some weeks I appreciate the freedom of working off a big "brainstorm" list - no plans set in stone, just working within our own happy weekly rhythm. And honestly, some weeks I just don't have enough time to fill in yet one more planner!

All that said though, I feel like our homeschooling has been off-track since the holidays - those big lists aren't translating into productive days - so I thought perhaps I'd return to a more structured planning format and see if that gets our weeks running a little more smoothly.

So since it was a very pretty, sunny weekend, I took pictures of my lesson planner as I worked, and popped over here to share! I also am including pictures from my seasonal bullet journal where I began our weekly planning with a little seasonal brainstorming!

(Reminder - we are doing kindergarten this year with our youngest (5yo Little Bear), while our 17yo Earlybird (who has autism) joins in (with support from his ABA therapist) as he can. Big news on the EB front however, there are some very big changes for our boy coming up in a few weeks and I will share more on that very soon!)

Ok, here is my planner spread, alongside our battered and beloved Oak Meadow Kindergarten syllabus. (I think it's about 15 years old!) As you can see in the top picture, as I worked here at the kitchen table I was joined by the ever-helpful (yet, napping) Archibald Fred.😸

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Left-hand side of the spread ...

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I love how this planner shades its pages in correspondence with the month - eg., blue for January, pink for February and then green for March, etc.

Right-hand side of the spread which I "gussied up" a bit with some stickers. I don't usually do this but since I knew I was going to post my spread this week I was inspired!

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I do love seeing all those plans all neat and tidy. The lined boxes and smooth paper make for a very nice writing experience. As the week goes along I will check off lessons as we complete them, βœ… cross things off that we skip ❎ and put an arrow next to those items we'll push forward.➑️

Close up of how nice the blocks look all filled in!

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As you can see, I also like to incorporate seasonal homeschooling activities into our weekly plan. This week's theme is "winter citrus," and I hope to balance our Oak Meadow lessons with some activities that let us explore this particular theme.

Here are some pics to show you how I organized those ideas late last week ...

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1. Gather resources: storybooks, recipes, verses, playthings, craft materials, snack ingredients and instructions.

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2. Make and organize photocopies for activities.

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3. File photocopies into weekly lesson plan folder.

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4. Write out seasonal ideas in my "Deep Winter" bullet journal.

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5. Request books we'll need from the library. (I did this late last week. Orange in January is "in transit" as I type!)

Once I had my seasonal homeschooling ideas in order, I checked our schedule for the coming week and any "events of note." Then I
looked through our current Oak Meadow lesson, identified individual actions and jotted them down on small sticky notes. 

(I know this seems like maybe a bit of extra work and even a waste of paper, but it really helps me fill in my planner when all I have to do is sort those sticky notes!)

Referencing both the citrus ideas and OM lessons I then filled out the EC teacher planner.

And then I took pictures, natch, and threw everything in my teacher tote. Next week I will launch into our plans and do my very best to keep up with them!

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Well my friends, as always I thank you for stopping by and hope you are all doing well! I have a tour of my "planning spaces" coming up ... as well as a peek at some of my plans for our early spring living and learning, so for now I will say goodbye ...

... but hope to see you here again very soon!


Seasonal Homeschooling: Using a Lesson Planner

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Hello my friends, and Happy Wednesday! 

Today I'd like to talk a little more about my seasonal homeschooling routine, specifically - how I plan out an individual week. addressed this issue to a degree during last Friday's Inspire webinar (the replay of which you can watch here), and the short answer is: there are lots of layers to seasonal planning! But since I'm not known for my short answers, here is the long answer ... :)

I start with the big picture, dividing a year into thoughtful segments. And by thoughtful I mean ... well, they make sense to me! So for this New England girl there are not four, but six seasons in a year, and two months per season. (September and October are "early autumn," for example.)

Next I brainstorm ideas to capture all the nuances and blessings that return to us again and again. This takes some thinking and imagining and reviewing of nature notes, retired calendars and favorite seasonal resources. (I made up printables for doing this, and they can be found here.)

Finally, I assign the most interesting ideas, or themes, to the weeks themselves and then I work said themes into the individual days of the week! All according to our weekly homeschooling rhythm ...

Phew, right? Lol. Well, it sounds more complicated than it really is and I will talk more about it in future posts, but for today I'm showing you how today I planned ONE week of seasonal activities, revolving around an assigned theme, and using a (really cool) lesson planner to do it!

Best of all - and the point of this post! - I found this particular planner spread allowed me to easily merge our Oak Meadow Kindergarten curriculum with my own seasonal homeschooling plans! So without further ado, here's a look at week one:

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This was the first time I put paper to pen! It's such a big lovely planner, I was a little intimidated to start writing in it to be perfectly honest. I am using my preferred Frixion Erasable Pen here in bright blue ink. Plus some Frixion pastel highlighters (also erasable!).

I sat down with my OM Kindergarten syllabus, open to Lesson One, and my seasonal planner (the one I'm GIVING AWAY tomorrow, as you might remember!) open to my "corn and crows" notes.

Then I set about filling this baby in!

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True confession: I wrote all of this information out on sticky notes first - moved those around where they belonged - and then wrote on the paper itself. I don't think I'll do that each week - πŸ˜œ - but it gave me a little flexibility while I figured out where I wanted certain information to "live."

First thing I did was write our weekly homeschooling rhythm along the left hand side of the planner:

  • Monday: Nature Walk
  • Tuesday: Crafting
  • Wednesday: Storytelling
  • Thursday: Out & About
  • Friday: Home & Garden

Then I wrote in our activities for each day in the first column:
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I used a highlighter to designate the type of activity, something I do in all my planners. So here, yellow means a special activity at home, blue is for EB's therapy, and green means we are going somewhere. 

The planner spread features six columns for planning subjects. Our homeschool subjects this year are as follows:

  • Language Arts
  • Math
  • Social Studies
  • Nature/Science
  • Arts & Crafts
  • Other

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These pertain to our OM curriculum as well as our seasonal living/learning, and I utilized the far right column for specifically seasonal notes!

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I listed notes here for ...

  • Circle Time
  • Book Basket
  • Home & Family

Circle Time will be done each morning and this is influenced by our Oak Meadow curriculum, with a little music and movement, a fingerplay to learn and some calendar and weather discussion. We will also begin our day with a short blessing, not listed here.

Reading from our seasonal Book Basket can happen anytime, but I like to have a designated reading time in the afternoon, after lunch. It tends to happen when Mama gets her first cup of tea made! The titles listed here are ones we own (√), ones we can get at the library (L) and ones I plan to purchase (+).

A lot of people ask me how to involve older students in seasonal learning/living and one way to do this is to plan activities that the whole family can do together. (That's not to say seasonally-inspired academics can't be done at a higher level, but obviously there is just so much more that can be done with younger children in the family!) Celebrating the seasons as a family can be such a meaningful and rewarding lifestyle - making memories and encouraging our kids to slow down and savor the simple things in life. To look for the little gifts that return to us every year, while keeping our eyes open for new discoveries! These kinds of activities bring a family together, and fill a home with a touch of comfort and joy ...

So under Home & Family I included things like - foods we can enjoy, places we can go, seasonal decorations to put up, fun activities we can all do together:

fresh corn from the farm stand β€’ popcorn balls  β€’ corn muffins at Sunday breakfast β€’ the cornfield or corn maze β€’ tying up cornstalks at the front door β€’ how about a taste test! which tastes better: boiled or grilled? β€’ watching a favorite movie with a batch of freshly popped popcorn

Honestly, I think too many families stop doing things together as the kids get older and busy with their friends. But to my mind, our older kids should always feel welcome to join in - but not pressured. It might not be easy to get an older kid to come along on an outing, but they will probably enjoy sharing a special meal or snack, or seeing favorite decorations go up around the house. It's important to keep these kids in the loop in even the smallest ways. 
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Shown beneath the planner here is a folder for my weekly seasonal materials, mostly things I've printed out: directions for making a corn husk doll, a corn maze printable, library request sheets, etc.
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Here's a close up of one square (Language arts on Wednesday, our storytelling day):
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Our morning circle time will include oral exercises and a little nature writing (on the chalkboard). I then chose one suggested OM language arts activity as well as a seasonal/rhythm activity of my own.

OM offers several language-related activities to spread throughout the week and many are wonderful examples of creative, active, outdoor learning. I figure the boys can work on their stick/yarn letter As while a crow finger puppet shares some news from our woods. This story will be part of an ongoing nature tale, taking cues from our backyard critters and the current weather. I enjoy using my storytelling apron for this activity as well as the lovely nature mailbox my mother painted for our learning room.

I added afternoon and bedtime reading selections to my language box - some are filled in, for example, we'll be reading The Popcorn Book on this particular afternoon because on this day we are also doing "popcorn math" and making popcorn balls for a family snack. :)

By the way, if you are not familiar with the Oak Meadow School (located in Vermont), it is a wonderful, Waldorf-inspired curriculum - one we've used for many years, at all grade levels, and this is my fourth time cracking open this Kindergarten syllabus! OM really works well with the addition of my seasonal homeschooling plans - the trick will be trying to have realistic expectations!

This spread here is for one week - and as most of us know, five days fly by very quickly! During this first week of September, if all (or most) goes to plan, we will be reading the Tale of Peter Rabbit and learning to recognize and write the letter A. We'll be remembering Summer and setting up a Nature Corner with which we can welcome upcoming seasons. We'll learn a body-parts song and a sweet finger play and set up a Science Scrapbook. As a family we'll discuss chore division and allowance, an annual Labor Day tradition! We'll learn the difference between crows and ravens, and listen to Native American lullabies. We'll brave a corn maze and soak in the particular allure of a whispering cornfield in late summer. There will be reading and playing and baking and plenty of time spent in nature ... 

All in all, a great start to a brand new homeschooling year!

(And it might sound/look like a lot, but when you view my lesson planner spread, you can see that most days have a pretty good balance of activities. This is not to say that each and every day will go smoothly or to plan! But this is what I have prepared, and will have ready for my Earlybird and Little Bear, and hopefully we will not only learn a lot of interesting things together - but also have LOTS of fun!)

Now, don't forget! This Friday I'll be announcing the winner of my Seasonal Planner! I will be posting sometime later in the day - roundabouts teatime - so there's still plenty of time to leave me a comment and throw your hat in the ring. (Please see this post for all the details!)

Enjoy the rest of your evening, my friends - and as always, thanks so much for stopping by! Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I will see you here again very soon!


Seasonal Homeschooling: A Few Printable PDFs!

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Hello my friends and Happy Wednesday!

I'm popping in again, just two days before the FREE "Inspire" Virtual Homeschooling Conference (mentioned in Monday's post), to share a few PDF's with you all that will assist with my talk on Seasonal Homeschooling: Cultivating a Gentle, Grateful Year. :)

First, here is a simple SEASONSKEEPING WORKBOOK (click on the link - it's a printable PDF!). In this packet you could brainstorm ideas for embracing the seasons of the year:

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There are two pages devoted to each season - one for listing monthly events and one for brainstorming ideas. (In my view, every two months make up a season - so I see the year as divided into six seasons rather than four.)

On the Events page you could list holidays, feast days, full moons, birthdays, anniversaries, sporting events (like the Superbowl or World Series), natural phenomena (such as meteor showers or lunar eclipses) ... really, anything goes! As for the Brainstorming page - well, it could look like a narrative ("Dear Deep Winter, here is what I love about you ...") or it could be filled with words that pop into your mind when you imagine that time of year. For example in the case of Deep Winter, those might be:

snow days β€’ warm mittens β€’ hot cocoa β€’ handmade valentines β€’ birds at the feeders β€’ ETC.

You could ask your family to participate in this activity! The seasons are meaningful to each of us in individual ways. If you're stumped for ideas and looking for inspiration, you might consult your own nature journal or personal diary if you have a habit of jotting down lots of seasonal details (as I do!) or you could thumb through favorite resources or you could even google it! (Pinterest is full of inspiration for the seasons of the year!)

Next, here is the SEASONAL THEMES planning outline I use in my homemade planner:

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You're welcome to use my outline for guidance, but I also have a BLANK version for you to use since you'll probably want to come up with your own themes and ideas. Seasonal themes really resonate when inspired by one's local habitat as well as fond family traditions.example, in a deep and snowy New England winter, exploring themes like "hearthside delights," "glass gardens" and stormy weather all make sense and bring joy - but February might look and feel very different where you live! And of course, each family enjoys its own seasonal pastimes. Maybe you all like to ski in the winter? Well, "hearthside delights" would work great! But what if you'd prefer to escape to the tropics? Well, how about a week devoted to exploring "winter citrus?"

Now, I personally like to break down the year into 52 weekly themes because this just works well with my kids and our homeschooling style. But that might seem like a bit much for some folks, so instead you could simplify things and choose 12 monthly themes for the year. Say, "the autumn orchard" in September," "planting time" in May, or "hibernation" in November.

Also on my outline you can see that I list pertinent monthly events below the themes (in green text) and I use little keys to signify in which week the full moon falls as well as when liturgical events tie into our seasonal theme. For example -

✝️ I connect St. Martin's Day (aka Martinmas) with the darkening days of late fall, and the need to light our own inner lights. (This also ties in with Daylight Savings Time ending on 11/4.)

✝️ I tie in the "sticks and stones" of the early December garden with St. Barbara's Day (and the traditional gathering of branches for Christmas bloom).

✝️ The week of the Annunciation is devoted to "sleepy seeds," and we not only plant our own spring hopes in a potting tray, but we make a sweet seed cake to serve on that feast day.

✝️ For St. George's Day we learn about "dragons of the wood" - aka spring salamanders! (Which were once thought to actually BE tiny dragons!)

The liturgical year has such a beautiful rhythm - a time for all things and a reassuring repetition - and I am often overjoyed to find how neatly it dovetails with the familiar framework of the natural year! Both calendars bring me much peace and by following them with my family, we are continually reminding ourselves of the many blessings to behold in any given year. The very gift of another 365 days on this earth is perhaps the best blessing of all - something to remember as the year turns and we take delight in another first snowfall, first crocus, first branch of fiery foliage, or first bat fluttering across a summer night sky ... :)

Ok, moving on now - here is a SEASONAL PLANNING SPREADSHEET, a new form I made up for myself this year:

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I'm sharing this two-page planning spread even though I realize it's quite personalized, re homeschooling subjects and all. For each theme I have a box in which to plan:

  • Events of Note
  • Nature Study
  • Outings/Field Trips
  • Creative Play
  • Reading ...
  • Verse to learn
  • Language Arts
  • Science/Math
  • Social Studies
  • Crafting
  • Home/Family (bringing everyone into it!)
  • Art/Music
  • Notes

This list represents the elements of our weekly rhythm - one day is for nature study, one day is for crafting, etc. This is the framework of our kindergarten at home - but at present we are still working out a few scheduling details for our new homeschooling year. I may be adjusting our weekly rhythm as September rolls around ...

Well my friends, I am running out of time, so in tomorrow's post I will share a few more things in preparation for Friday's talk. Please let me know if there are any points you'd like me to clarify or expand upon! I'm off for now, but as always, I thank you for joining me and will look forward to seeing you here again very soon ...

Blessings


August Plans & News!

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Hello my friends, and Happy Monday! I hope all is well with you all!:)

I'm popping in today to share my August 2018 planning sheets ... and to say I'm very sorry it's taken me so long to post them! The good news is - it's not QUITE August yet, lol! The better news is - I'll have September through December sheets to share with you within a week or so. :)

But more on my planner situation a little further below, first I thought I'd share a little about our seasonal themes for next month ...

Our August Seasonal Themes

7/30-8/5: bats at dusk

8/6-8/12: shooting stars

8/13-8/19: blueberries

8/20-8/26: seashells by the seashore

8/27-9/2: sunflowers

Here is a look at the "spreadsheet" I designed for planning out our weeks:

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It probably seems like a lot of information overload, but I find it very helpful to see all these variables in one place - though I feel compelled to add, we won't get ALL these ideas done! These are all possibilities ... :)

I get asked about my seasonal homeschooling quite often, and so here's a peek at my list of weekly themes:

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I'm also frequently asked about the themes themselves - do I repeat them from year to year?

Well the answer to that question is yes - mostly. Because for one thing, we almost never explore a theme to the depth it might be explored (and some particularly busy weeks we miss out entirely) but also, the point of this rhythm is to nurture a fond familiarity with the nuances of each season, as well as a sense of happy anticipation throughout the year.

I do change things up sometimes though - for instance, this week we are doing "bats at dusk" but it could have been "first grains" to go along with Lammas Day. Though they won't be our focus, we will be exploring grains a bit - reading The Little Red Hen, baking corn muffins and observing this lovely poster, a gift from a friend:

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Meanwhile, just across the learning room, on display are the books we're using this week:

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Now, why bats you might ask? Well, at this time of year we spend most evenings watching tiny bats swoop over our yard! (And I know that because of the nature notes I keep from year to year, reminding me what to look for when.) Bat-watching has become something of a sweet, simple ritual - sitting on the front steps after supper, watching those tiny dark forms flit about the lavender sky, noticing the warm air and the lingering light ...

It's a fun and interesting activity to be certain, but more than that, this happy pastime reminds the whole family to slow down, pay attention, share in the blessings of each season, and TAKE JOY in the time we've been granted!

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OK, at long last, here in the nick of time are my:

August 2018 Planner Pages !!!

Yep, that's just ONE PDF for the whole month! I finally figured out how to create multi-page PDFs and that makes it so much easier to print out the planning sheets! Please let me know if you have any trouble opening this file - and I hope you enjoy! (I've changed this just a bit ...)

As I said above, I will have the rest of my 2018 planning sheets available to print with the next week. As for my 2019 planner ...

Well, I am trying my best to get that organized, too - and to figure out if this is something I might sell (!) or continue to share here as I've done the past couple of years. The good news is, I have about half the year done already ... so it shouldn't be too long before I have something to share with you.

Ok, and finally - here's some really fun news! On August 17th I will be taking part in a "Homeschool Connections" webinar hosted by Mary Ellen Barrett! I'll share more details in the next couple of weeks, but wanted to let you all know that I'll be talking about my homemade planner, my seasonal themes and kindergarten plans for the year ahead ... plus a few other things, depending upon what questions are asked!

So please stay tuned and thanks so much for your patience ... and as always, for stopping by! I hope you all enjoy these last few days of July ... :)

I will see you here again very soon!


My Review: Blue Sky Teacher's Planner

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Hello my friends and Happy Thursday! I hope your week is going well! :-)

Today I'd like to share a review of The Blue Sky Teacher's Weekly Plan Book, the planner I'll be using for our homeschooling next year (as well as throughout the summer). I've shared a couple of peeks over at Instagram and Facebook, but I thought I'd go into deeper detail here, since many of us are currently "in the market" for helpful homeschooling tools!

But first, a full (Thursday) disclosure! I sort of used last year's version of this planner, but abandoned it after a few weeks. Unfortunately, as much as I loved that planner, it just didn't fit the bill for me. It was (and is) an excellent planner, but I really didn't need so much structure this past year. Not only is Little Bear's prek-at-home VERY low key, but I really can't plan out nitty-gritty daily details for Earlybird. (He's more a "big picture" kind of kid - so I plan lots of "potentials" and then choose what works day-by-day.) Meanwhile, Crackerjack is doing all of his studies outside the home this year. (Save for math - and who needs to plan math? Lol, not me. We use Teaching Textbooks.)

All that said, I have a different PLAN in mind for how I PLAN to organize this year!

Ok. Here we go ...

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I bought this pretty planner at Staples a couple of weeks ago. Funnily enough, I didn't stop at Staples for a planner, but one look at those new Blue Sky displays and I was a goner. This is the time of year when academic year planners are available as well as those dedicated to lesson planning. Most are made for professional teachers but I find many can be easily adapted to a homeschooling mom's needs. 

Now, there were several versions of this particular planner available - identical layouts, varied designs - but the "Ditsy Dapple Floral" cover really caught my eye. I'm partial to florals anyway, but couldn't help noticing how nicely it matched my new Day Designer personal planner!

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The planner cover is protected by a "frosted" plastic sheet, under which the colors appear a little less vibrant (a bit more pastel). As someone who lives in a house with four not-always-careful-or-neat boys, I am very appreciative of that protective cover! The cover itself is made of a thick cardstock material.

(If you can't tell in these pictures, the word "teach" is done in a metallic gold. Sparkly and fun!)

The spiral "twin-wire" binding is very sturdy ...

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A spiral binding is a MUST for me. I need to lay my planner flat when I write in it or prop it up on display! And since my planners get knocked around a good bit, I need them to be well-made and forgiving - and reasonably priced!

Just before the title page there is a double-sided, clear plastic pocket ...

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I plan to file school correspondence here, including submitted education plans. The title page, like the cover, is made of a heavier cardstock.

After the title page shown above, there are dated calendars for 2018 and 2019, followed by a page for recording contact numbers and emergency information ...

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I'll mark these dated calendars with highlighters to indicate time on and off throughout the year - aka vacation days and such.

Next comes a spread for organizing monthly holidays and special dates:

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As you can see, there are lots of suggestions listed here for fun, random things to celebrate such as "Tell a Joke Day" (August 16th), "Make a Friend Day" (February 11th) and "Children's Good Manners Month" (September). There is also plenty of space for recording your own ideas!

The next spread is set up for recording "Class Birthdays," but as you can see, I'm using it for listing our seasonal homeschooling themes:

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This is the only planner page I have filled out so far! I'll admit setting up these themes is my favorite aspect of annual lesson planning!

The right hand page is for organizing a weekly schedule. I will use this for listing out ABA times and our homeschooling rhythm. (For example, storytelling day, crafting day, nature walk day, etc.)

And now we get to the meat of the planner - the monthly and weekly spreads!

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Soft green and white shades, and a lovely and neutral design. I like my covers bright, but my planning pages soft on the eye!

And I love, love, LOVE a lined monthly grid! It really helps keep the handwriting neat. This month-at-a-glance has generously-sized blocks which are another must for me. (I write small, but I write A LOT!)

Now the thing I perhaps love best about this planner is that it provides a FULL year of planning! There are 14 monthly calendars (12 are tabbed), beginning with May 2018 and ending with June 2019. There are weekly planning spreads for EVERY week of the academic year, June 25th, 2018 through June 28th, 2019. So if you homeschool year-round this is pretty perfect for you!:

And here is that weekly spread:

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A closer look ...

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Nice tabs, too. I tend to use paper clips and/or binder clips with my planners for marking my page and/or attaching notes and lists.

My strategy for this two-page spread is to use the left side for our routine/rhythm (first, green column) and then notes for each of my younger boys (2 columns each). The right side will be for "big picture" planning and notes. (That probably sounds confusing, so I'll share more details on my plans for this spread in a future post!)

At the very end of the planner, after the last weekly spread (June 24-28, 2019) there are a few note pages ...

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My "plan" at this time is to use these three pages for trimester reviews (in November, March and June).

The very last page is a listing of official holidays for each of the next four years (including 2018).


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And finally we have a very pretty back cover!

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(Also protected by a frosted plastic cover.)

I also bought a matching wall calendar for the learning room wall, since the one we have now runs out of pages after June!

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And there you have it! A full tour of my new lesson planner ... with more nitty-gritty details to come soon!

Are you thinking about next year yet? Do you have a teacher's planner in mind (or in hand)? If so I'd love to hear about it!

I'm off for now, but take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ...

See you here again very soon!


My Primary Planners & (March) Planning

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Hello and Happy Weekend, my friends! I hope your week's been a good one! 

Well as hard as it is to believe, March is arriving at the end of next week, so I thought I'd share a peek into my planners as I start looking ahead to "what's what" next month. I try to do this around the third weekend of each month - in hopes I'll have enough time to gather my thoughts and any materials we'll need for the coming weeks. These items would include library requests, craft supplies, educational resources, ingredients for special recipes, holiday/birthday cards, and any special books we have set aside in our seasonal bins ...

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(Our seasonal theme next week is "thaw/sap" and our March world culture is Germany.)

Now, note I said planners (not planner) and that's because (as I described in this post from January), I find it a challenge to limit myself to just one! Most of the time I'm just fine with that - because I really do enjoy all my planners and each one of them really does meet a particular need. That said, I also feel like I spend a lot of time juggling all these planners - time I don't really have to spend - and often find myself yearning for a much simpler system. In my heart I'd like to be a one-planner gal but I'm not sure if I'll ever get there ...

So if you use just ONE planner, and it works well for you - well, I am in awe of you! (And perhaps even, a wee bit jealous!)

Anyway, all this planner soul-baring will have to wait for a future post - for today let me get on with the ones I'm using at the moment. And first up is a planner I'm not sure I've shown you before!

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This is my sweet and special 2017-2018 Katie Daisy planner! (It can also be found - for a little less money- at Amber Lotus Publishing here.)

Now, very often one of my planners takes the lead in the ongoing race to be "lead planner," and currently this is the one - because I am just SO in love with this lovely little book! It is, without a doubt, the prettiest planner I have EVER seen. It's the one I reach for most often, and the one I prefer to take with me when I'm running out somewhere. It fits perfectly in my purse ...

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(This is actually a rather roomy tote, but as you can see I can easily fit both my KD planner and a slightly larger notebook in this bag.)

Now admittedly, when I first bought this petite planner last summer, it was one of those purchases I absolutely recognized as extraneous but I simply could not help myself. It's just that pretty. The size of it intrigued me, too - but more than anything, I was completely enchanted by the gorgeous seasonally inspired pages!

So I used it on and off beginning last August, but when I added a set of pastel monthly tabs to the edges I found it even more useful!

(And PRETTY!)

(Note: I paid far less for these tabs at Staples, but I can't seem to find them elsewhere online.)

I also added, along the top, more adhesive flags and tabs marking spots for seasonal planning. Honest-to-goodness, I find myself a little obsessed with these tabs, those flags, and this planner ...

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Happily, Katie Daisy - a brilliant watercolor artist whom I follow on Facebook and Instagram - is publishing a 2018-2019 version of this planner! I was able to pre-order mine here ... and I am positively swooning over that new black floral cover!)

To make this planner work even more efficiently, I use a coordinating binder clip to connect the front cover to the current monthly spread. Then I use a simple gold paper clip to do the same between the month-at-a-glance and the current week's spread. This makes it very easy to quickly get to the place in my planner I need to be! 

Here's a closer look at those clips in action ...

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Now, I'm going to "flip" through the pages of my planner, starting with this week (shown above) and moving forward through March - just to give you a sense for how I'm using it and just how LOVELY it is ...

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The last February weekly spread is split because March begins on a Thursday ... above is an example of one of the many inspiration pages found throughout the planner.

And next comes another pretty pair of pages, with one side for notes. I decided to make this my spot for Spring Cleaning notes, and as you can see I have only just begun to plan it out - beginning with a post-it note outline ...

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(I begin so many things with post-it notes ... what would I ever do without them?)

And now here is the March calendar spread:

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The blocks are a bit small, but I found it comfortable to write all the things I need to write here. (It helps of course that I have tiny handwriting.)

And now here's the first weekly spread in March:

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On the left there is a soft green note page which I'm using for "Vernal Equinox" planning, and on the right, the second half of the first week of March. (Also, note - at the very top of each right-hand weekly page I'm writing out our weekly seasonal theme. This way I'm able to find a week I'm looking for in a jiffy!)

Isn't the green and cream palette just perfect for March?

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Each month is similar, in that, the colors and illustrations match the feel of the season perfectly.

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(You can see more page examples at the publisher's site here.)

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And though you can hardly see it in my pictures, the planner paper (which is very smooth and lovely to write on) has a very faint quad-grid - which is SUPER helpful for those of us who appreciate a little help with keeping our handwriting straight!

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Ok, the very last week in March features a small note space where Sunday would be (because that Sunday is APRIL 1st!) and then the next turn of the page leads to another one of those wonderful inspiration spreads  ...

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And then we are in April!

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(This note page is where I'll be writing out Easter Sunday plans.)

So as you can most likely tell I am very much head-over-heels in love with this Katie Daisy planner! I would really like to use it exclusively because it feels so simply sufficient - and E-fficient - but most of all, it's so very ME. I've toyed around a little with trying to make it meet ALL my planning needs - but alas, I have an awful lot of those and it would be a rare planner indeed that would be able to accomplish that!

So with that pronouncement, I turn to my next planner - my Day Designer!

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So this is my 2017-2018 midyear flagship Day Designer - a daily planner (with monthly calendars included) that runs from June 2017 through May 2018. I now only have a few months left to use in this planner and I can honestly say I've used just about every (daily) page!

The monthly spreads however, I don't really use ...

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... though they're great! And since I hate to waste planner space, I've been trying to come up with other uses for this spread. I think I might keep a reading log here! :)

Here though is the meat of this planner ...

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The daily planning pages! There is one for each day of the year (although weekends share a page) and the layout it absolutely perfect for my daily planning needs. Here's today's page for example:

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I took this picture quite early in the day so I hadn't earned too many checks! As you can see I use this page for essential information pertaining to just that one day. Things I need to remember, and do, and places I need to go. If I was paring down to only one planner, this would be a hard one to do without. It's not as portable or endearing as my Katie Daisy planner, but it is a real workhorse when it comes to the nitty-gritty details of managing my family and home every day!

For more about this particular planner, please see my Day Designer archive here, but now let's take a look at my homemade seasonal planner ...

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This too is a planner I've shown you many times before, but here are the March pages:

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The very first pic at the top of this post shows you the charming divider paper I use for each month in this planner (part of this collection), and above is the back side of that sheet (left) and the March title page I created using some vintage clipart I found on Pinterest (right).

And now here is my homemade March calendar spread ...

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When I made up this planner, I made sure to give myself PLENTY of room for monthly planning! I wanted to be able to add stickers and quotes and all kinds of information (days of note, full moons, weekly themes and ideas). And lined calendar blocks were an absolute necessity!

This month I went with a Beatrix Potter theme, and used colored pencils to softy shade in the quotes. So it's different from my Katie Daisy monthly calendar in that I'm able to include much more information - and yet they both appeal to me visually. And they both make me happy!

Now moving on to my next spread you'll see I have YET ANOTHER monthly calendar here! But this one I use specifically for menu planning. Or nature notes, depending on my mood. (It will be the latter this month so I haven't yet written anything down. I've found I can't really plan out a whole month's menus at a time - too impractical. It's a week-to-week thing for us these days.)

And on the right hand side of this spread I have a monthly overview page for to-dos, home and garden notes, seasonal ideas and goals ...

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I had hoped to have this spread filled out to show you but alas - I have not had the time! (Probably spent it all working on those monthly calendars, right?!)

And here is the weekly overview and agenda for next week, the first week in March (2/26-3/4):

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This is also still a work in progress - I just filled in things that quickly came to mind yesterday and will work on it more over the weekend. The post-it note is our weekend to-do list which I will use when I fill out the next week to-dos. (Whatever doesn't get done over the weekend + whatever needs doing next week!)

I like to start my "next week planning" on Thursdays, though I very often end up scrambling to pull it together over the weekend. Ideally if I begin my forward planning at the end of a week, that gives me the weekend to gather resources and prep materials and devote a little more attention to writing out actual lesson plans. The page on the right-hand side of this spread is for these details.

(Note: I plan "lessons" - or better to say, "learning activities" - for my younger two boys. Four year old Little Bear is doing pre-k and 16 year old Earlybird, who has autism, is working at various grade levels. We are blessed to have two wonderful ABA therapists, who come for two hours each (four hours a day, Monday through Friday) to work with Earlybird on all kinds of things. It's up to me to plan and organize most of these activities - which target all kinds of learning and growing experiences: life skills, behavioral management, sensory challenges, community outings, etc. It's a lot of work for sure, but extremely rewarding and it has been a super fit for our son!)

Happily I'm able to coordinate many activities that will appeal to, and include, both of my younger boys - and to an extent, the whole family. My ongoing goal is to weave our seasonal homeschooling themes into as many aspects of learning and living as I can!

So for example, next week, the first week in March, we will be exploring the theme of "thaw/melt/sap," and here are a few of my thoughts ...

Late February and early March is maple sugaring season in New England! A time when the daily temperatures might reach 50Β° while the nights still dip below freezing. When this happens the earth begins to thaw and the sap begins to run - and local sugarhouses open up to visitors! To my mind, this is a wonderful, and most welcome, first sign of spring! And according to my Weather Channel app, next week looks to fit the bill rather nicely, temperature-wise ... so we'll observe the concept of "melt" and "thaw" here at home and of course, try out some "maple" recipes. In addition, our homeschool group has an annual maple sugaring activity and whether or not that falls in our "sap" week, we'll definitely be participating (as we try to every year)! We'll also observe the Full Sap Moon on Thursday night - just after we enjoy a special St. David's supper (potato-leek soup, Welsh Rabbit and daffodil cake). These are all things we've seen/done/eaten before, but happily embrace their familiar and instinctual joy every year. :)

After all the March weekly spreads, I have a page for a month's end review as well as planning pages for special events such as the Vernal Equinox shown here ...

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My entire planner can be found in my printables archive, but I am working just as hard as I can - which means in fits and starts when I find time! - to make this into something I could publish and sell to interested parties. I thank you all for your patience, and will hopefully have something to share with you before too long (or at least, before the academic year begins!). In the meantime, feel free to help yourself to those free printables and let me know if you have any questions!

Well, now - I'd say it's about time for me to wrap up! But I thank you, as always, for stopping by and I wish you all a very nice weekend. Thanks so much for reading and please leave me a comment if you have a moment! I can be terribly slow at responding, but please know I read (and appreciate) each and every comment!

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


Seasonal Homeschooling: Pumpkin Week Recap!

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Hello my friends, and Happy Tuesday! 

I'm back again because I have SO many pictures of our pumpkin week, and I just have to share! If you're new to my blog you might be wondering what in the heck a "pumpkin week" is, so - just to explain briefly - every week of the year we explore an assigned seasonal theme as part of our homeschooling. These themes are a big influence on our younger boys' learning experience, but they also infuse our family's home life as well.

I won't go into the whole "why and how" of our seasonal homeschooling, but the important thing to remember about it is - it's more a guideline than a rule! :)

Sure, some weeks we do it up big (case in point, pumpkins!), but other weeks just fly by and we only casually observe our theme. We may be very busy that week, or it might be the theme is not quite as appealing as another might be. Well, pumpkins in October (as you can imagine) are a big hit with most children! And pumpkins lend themselves to all kinds of great learning experiences - whether they be in the disciplines of science, social studies, language arts, cooking, storytelling, etc.! It's very easy to plan for pumpkins - just type "pumpkin activities" into the Pinterest search bar and you'll hardly know where to start!

Well, personally, I start with our own book baskets and family calendar - then start plugging things into our weekly rhythm! Here's a glimpse at last week's planner page as I was just getting started ...

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It's important to my planning "psyche" that I incorporate seasonal awareness wherever I can! So divider pages are vintage reflections of seasons and holidays past, ribbons and washi (when I use them) are also seasonally inspired ... as are the font colors I use in each monthly section. I just loved how the light hit this bit of planning paraphernalia on my kitchen table ... :)

Books are pretty much the backbone of our homeschool, so one of the first things I did, as I planned out our week, was to comb through our autumn book bins and pull out any that had to do with pumpkins ...

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Not surprisingly there were a lot!

Then I got busy planning out activities that would potentially A. appeal to my kids and, B. fit well into our week. Post-it notes are helpful for me here - because due to the special nature of our very hands-on homeschooling (one preschooler and a special needs teen) - I need things to be, above all, flexible. It's impractical for me to plan out each day's to-dos a week in advance, though I do set a rhythm to our week. (Mondays are nature days, Tuesdays are crafting, Wednesdays are for storytelling ... etc.)

So on a drizzly Monday we kicked things off with a little pumpkin investigation!

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I had a sugar pumpkin "specimen" all ready and I found a neat worksheet for them to use (on Pinterest). I don't use worksheets with my preschooler very often but Little Bear does get a kick out of them! First thing he said when he saw this one was, "Mama, I need TWO crayons! Orange and green, please!" Then he got right down to coloring those pumpkins!

Once the REAL pumpkin was open though, he was all about the seed scooping ...

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My mum had come over that morning and with her help, and Earlybird's therapist's support, this science activity was a real hit with both my younger boys!

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Soon the sugar pumpkin was all scooped out and carved to the boys' specifications!

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While Little Bear scooped and colored, Earlybird answered the worksheet's questions:

Was the pumpkin big, small or medium?

Was it orange, yellow or white?

Was the outside smooth or rough?

How many lines were around it?

How many seeds did he think would be inside?

How many seeds WERE inside?

Did he think the pumpkin would sink of float in water?

(Spoiler alert: It floated!)

The next day was better for outside investigating so we headed into the backyard with magnifying glasses in hand. Recently - and curiously - we have one tiny pumpkin plant growing alongside the back of the house - and we didn't put it there! So I wanted the boys to look it all over and think a little - theorize - about how it might have sprouted up here if we didn't actually plant it.

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What was SUPER cool about this observation though, was nestled in the center of the plant itself, alongside the one tiny yellow pumpkin bump we found forming, was a milkweed seed! Just one fluffy little seed, and there it was all snuggled up next that budding pumpkin! We do have milkweed growing across the street, but we mused it would take quite an adventure for a seed so small and delicate to find its way all the way here to our tiny plant. (And we were just discovering milkweed last week!)

This "mystery" seemed to me the beginnings of a really neat nature story ... the tale of two wayward seeds. (More on that in a moment.)

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For a craft I had in mind for later, I set the boys to gathering the driest, crispiest, most colorful leaves they could find ...

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Well, you can imagine how Little Bear took this assignment to heart!

The next day we were back on the deck with a little "leaf glitter" craft in the works ...

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Here's Earlybird with his therapist, working on those fine motor skills ... and sensory issues ... and patience!

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I just drew simple pumpkin outlines on orange paper and then the boys traced those lines with glue. Final step - crumbling all those dried leaves to make "glitter" and sprinkling it all over their gluey pumpkins!

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(A craft for the outdoors, for sure!)

Back inside the learning room, here are the boys' pumpkins on display! :)

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Another neat pumpkin activity this week ...

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Pumpkin tic-tac-toe! I saw this idea on Pinterest and knew it would be a lot of fun - especially for our Halloween party coming up this weekend. Fingers crossed the day will be a nice one and I think folks will have fun trying their hand at this tabletop game! 

Back inside, at my kitchen table later in the day: a fortifying cup of tea and a little read-aloud ...

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How I love Tasha Tudor books, and this one especially. I decided to "splurge" and buy a new board book version for Little Bear. He 

And speaking of my LB, I just had to include this pic of him hugging our giant blow up jack-o-lanterns on the front lawn. Pretty much every day this fall, on our way in or out of the house, he just needs to hug his pumpkin friends!

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Now, as I've mentioned before, our weekly rhythm includes a day for storytelling. These little stories are usually simple tales I make up myself, using our own yard, critters, weather, the season itself, etc. as a prompt. I like to place items in the learning room mailbox that will introduce the story theme and offer a few items Little Bear can use to play with as I narrate the plot. Well, here's what he found in the mailbox last week!

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This is a soft pumpkin doll rattle - something we've had for nearly 20 years! It's kind of amazing it's stayed in relatively good condition. The boys used this when they were babies and then it joined our finger puppet stash. (We also have a carrot!) So today this sweet little fella was an adventurous pumpkin seed fairy and as you can see he was surrounded by airborne milkweed seeds! (Remember, my story was reflecting our recent backyard garden adventures!)

I also created a watercolor verse card for us to read aloud. I used a pretty poem I found online ...

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I'm creating a collection of these seasonal cards for our homeschool!

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Now, when I plan out our seasonal themes, I'm mostly following the natural cycle of the year, though I often tap into the liturgical or secular calendar as well. I assigned this week in mid-October as "pumpkin week" for obvious reasons - they're everywhere and on everyone's minds right now! - but it also tied in nicely with the annual showing of this family favorite ...

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Last Thursday night all my boys, save Earlybird who does not like Charlie Brown specials, gathered on our couch to watch that timeless classic, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Yes, we could watch it on DVD (or streaming?) anytime we'd like, but there's something really fun and special about watching "specials" when they're actually being shown!

(The boys were kind of blown away by the fact that *ahem* ... back in our day ... if you missed a special on the night it was shown, well you were just plum out of luck until next year! And there was no pausing or rewinding, either!)

Friday morning - quite serendipitously and generously - my brother stopped by the house with a WHOLE BUNCH of pumpkin goodness for the boys!

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My favorite item so far? The Apple Cider Jam! It's like Thanksgiving in a jar ... 

Now, we didn't get to all the activities I'd planned for the week, but that's perfectly ok. We did what worked and clicked this year - there's always next year for other experiences! On our "marketing" day we tried to find as many pumpkin products as possible at the grocer's and on "hearth and home" day we baked pumpkin donuts for tea. Over the weekend we were going to visit a local pumpkin patch - but unfortunately it was just WAY too busy for my younger guys. (Like, crawling with customers crazy!) I had in mind a far calmer, less commercial experience - so I'm hoping to arrange a quieter visit for my fellas sometime next week. Next year we hope to have a little patch of our own so this past weekend we decided where we'd like to plant it and got the soil prepared. There was also pumpkin French toast for breakfast Sunday morning!

So there's a little glimpse of our pumpkin week and all we got up to! Here's a peek at our learning line and seasonal bookshelves as I tidied them Sunday afternoon ...

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And here's a peek at THIS week's seasonal planner spread ...

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One thing I like to do - because it is of course what happens in nature - is have certain themes trickle into other weeks. So for instance, we did "autumn seeds" weeks ago, but as the fall unfolds there are plenty of opportunities to learn about and live out this theme more. Case in point - those milkweed (and pumpkin) seeds last week! 

This current week's theme is "goodnight, garden" and I like to tie that in with Halloween. To our ancestors, Halloween literally meant the very end of summer - the time to secure the harvest final crops and prepare the land for the cold, hard winter ahead. We clearly don't live quite that close to the land anymore, but I think activities that echo those ancient seasonal traditions often resonate with us instinctually. So this week we are (as you can see from my planner above!) walking the bounds of our property, harvesting the last of our herbs, clearing our garden beds, raking up leaves, tucking spring bulbs in the ground, gathering natural materials for a bonfire, and seeking God's blessings for our "little farm" as winter approaches ...

Come All Hallow's Eve next week we'll be a little more prepared for a season of deep cold and darkness - both practically and spiritually speaking!

✨ ❄️ πŸ‚ πŸŽƒ πŸƒ πŸ”₯ ✨

Well my friends, I guess I'd better wrap up now because once again I fear I've kept you here too long! But I hope you enjoyed this little peek at our pumpkin week. Remember this was an exceptional week - I had lots of plans, and happily the weather, our time, my energy and their interest levels all cooperated! Not every week is quite so "seasonal" but pumpkins were especially motivating - for my homeschooling kids AND their mama!

I will be back later this week with my weekly Autumn Tea - and as I announced here and on social media, we will be continuing on with our Mitten Strings for God book study at a slower pace than originally announced. This Friday we will be talking about chapter four, "Quiet," and I'll be serving up a spot of Halloween Tea ... AND I have a fun little announcement to make in regards to our MSfG re-read, so stay tuned - and please take care!

I'll see you here again very soon ...


Woodland Wonders & a Peek at our Week!

Hello my friends and Happy Weekend! In my last post I promised a closer peek at my weekly planner spread so I'm here to share just that! I'm also going to share some pics and collages from "the week that was" in our homeschool ... :)

This weeks spread woodland

First, as I think some or perhaps most of you know, this is a weekly spread in my homemade seasonal planner (the one I talk about A LOT). And as with the rest of this planner I created these pages in what I feel are this month's colors: orange, purple, brown and green. :)

I like a two-page weekly spread so I can really spread out all my writing ... so I placed a general overview on the left, and an agenda with notespace on the right. On the left page I have at the very top the dates of the week: October 9th through October 15th, 2017. I like to begin my weeks with Monday - it's just the way I "see" the week! Beneath that I have two boxes - one for listing the days and events Of Note this week, and one for noting the week's seasonal Theme (woodland).

Moving down the page we have Meal Planning (which I just lifted from October's menu calendar), and beside that are my House & Garden notes for the week. In this box I write any current tasks we're tackling as well as any seasonal chores. Next I have a To-Do This Week box which is obviously pretty self explanatory! I start this list by using last week's list then add to it through the week as things come up ...

On the bottom left hand corner of the page I have a box called, Crafts & Comforts and this is where I plan out my seasonal "living and learning" ideas. Some of these pertain to our homeschooling, some of them are "personal nourishment" activities, and some are home-centered. It was my desire for this kind of planning space - specifically devoted to seasonal activities - that prompted me to make my own planner! I kept looking for a planner design that included such things in its layout and/or had space I could easily convert for this purpose, but I could never find a planner to satisfy me! So ... I just up and designed something for myself! It's certainly not perfect but it works - and it makes me happy. :)

Anyhoo ... this week's "craft and comfort" ideas are "woodland" related and as you can see I check things off as we do them. It is a rare week we do ALL the things - I'm not sure we ever have, lol! - but I love to brainstorm these kinds of activities! (See pictures below for more info on that!)

Moving over to the next page of the spread now ... and here I'm planning out our Weekly Rhythm and Student Goals. I basically use the left-hand column for listing out the agenda, or schedule, for the week - where we are going, what's going on - and the right-hand column for notes re ~ homeschooling my younger boys. (Actually mostly the preschooler because - as I think I've blogged about before, I'll have to check - I have a whole different system for planning out Earlybird's special needs homeschooling and daily therapies. You know, I think I am due for another "special needs homeschooling" post ... it's been a while!)

And as you can perhaps see, I had a little water spill this past week on this planner page - ACK! - and the remaining October sheets got wet ... and wrinkled ... and well, all ugly, lol. You all know how much I love a smooth planner page! In light of all the troubles in the world right now this is very much small potatoes but it does bug me when my planner (any of my planners) gets wrecked in any way. So I added a little woodland washi tape to cover up some of the damage and resisted the rather STRONG urge to make the whole planner over again!

Now you might notice I like to use post-its for my pre-k planning and I really don't have a sufficient explanation for why - I just do. They help me think and move information around and maybe just relieve me from writing something down next to a day permanently that might not fit well. Plus, I just love post-its. I use them ALL the time, all over the place ... really, my post-it note obesssion might warrant its own post!

Ok, getting back to my planner spread - between today and tomorrow I will review these pages to see what can be moved forward and then work on next week's spread (seasonal theme: pumpkins!). I actually gave a little sneak peek of that spread at FB and IG today!

So that's a rather thorough overview of last week's planner spread! Now, how about some pictures of the week itself? :)

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As longtime readers probably know, our seasonal homeschooling in the younger years involves storytelling in a very big way. We mostly make things up, taking our cues from our own seasonal changes and weather events (an owl visit, a hurricane, a snowstorm or a meteor shower, for example), but sometimes favorite storybooks inspire tales and adventures amongst our rather large collection of wooden figures and finger puppets!

So here we have last week's "storytelling" day, when Little Bear found a cast of woodland characters and some leaf-print fabric in his learning room mailbox. I'd been telling LB an evolving story about a silly old bear who - confused by recent summer-like weather - started emptying his cave of all its warm, snuggly leaves, all while his woodland friends tried to persuade him to stop! "Silly old bear, Winter is coming! You'll need all those leaves to stay warm in the months ahead!" Finally, as night (and the temperature) fell, Bear realized his mistake, and sat down to cry beneath the bright crescent moon. But not to worry (and believe me, my Little Bear was worried!), the bear's friends all pitched in to help and filled his cave with plenty of leaves until his den was perfectly cozy once again. :)

(Next week's story takes place in a pumpkin patch, natch!)

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And here we have a little bit of what I like to call, "parkinglotschooling!" Lol, you've heard of carschooling, right? Well, while we were waiting to pick Crackerjack up from class one day last week, we decided to explore the woodsy lot around us. Little Bear found an old rotting stump and we watched all kinds of bugs crawl over and through it (ants, beetle, earwig) ... and investigated a rather yucky looking fungus that seemed to be spilling out of it. (Ew.) Little Bear enjoyed all of this very much - as did I  - and note the Lego contraption clutched firmly in his hand all the while!

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At home later in the week we spent a bit of our morning watching a grasshopper close-up. We have lots of these insects around here - from the teeny tiny springing juveniles of spring to the quick-jumping, wing-whirring adults of summer. But in autumn grasshoppers begin to slow down, especially as the days cool. This fella was on our patio doors, and the sun had not warmed him up yet much ... so we took advantage of the situation and spent a little time observing. One point up for debate - was it a grasshopper or a cricket? We had our suspicions, but needed to do a little research to be sure!

(I wish I had recorded Little Bear and Earlybird having this very debate - it got quite heated!)

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More "woodland" exploring ... our yard is full of trees of course, but the log pile is especially interesting! (Earlybird was doing this with us but wasn't captured in any photos. He actually got a little freaked out by a spiderweb and quickly moved on!)

Wind chimes

And one day we made nature windchimes - a fairly easy and quick craft made with mason jar lid rings, contact paper, twine and things we found around our yard. Truth be told I did most of it myself - the boys liked sticking things on the contact paper and carrying the branch around, but that was about it. (Branches are always a hit.) I found this idea on Pinterest, and this post has great instructions!

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Here's a quick peek in the learning room where our woodland books are assembled along the windowsills, beneath the weekly learning line ...

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And here we have Archie exploring the "bear cave" (an Amazon box turned on its side and draped with soft blankets). And that's Archie for you - never one to pass up a new nook or cranny to explore!

(And to answer a question that might have popped into your mind - no, our learning room is not always this neat! I find though, that having lots of designated storage space, has really allowed for relatively quick cleanups! Each basket seen in these pictures has a particular type of toy assigned to it - and you can read more about that in this post!)

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A closer look at the "woodland" books for last week ... tomorrow I will be re-organizing this display with our books about pumpkins! (More pumpkin week details at my Autumn Tea next week!)

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More woodland fun - including a few things for Mama. ;-) Pretty journals and a calendar booklet as well as the sweetest woodland washi tape I ever did see! (I bought the journals at Paper Source but I haven't decided yet how to use them. The cute little "Woodland Tales" planner I bought at Whole Foods - it's a 17-month calendar, a perfect size to tuck in my purse/tote when I don't want to lug around my heavier (more precious) planners. The washi tape was found at Joann Fabrics but unfortunately I can't seem to find it on their website. And finally, the felt animal masks were SUCH a hit with my Little Bear! He has been having so much fun wearing the masks around the house and pretending to be each of these woodland creatures ... he's especially fond of the beaver mask. :)

(The photo of the scenic view was taken down the street. There is something so lovely about stone walls in autumn ...)

O with milkweed

And finally ... this collage was from last night, and you might have seen it if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram. I titled this: "Milkweed Magic on a Cool Autumn Evening." My apologies if you've already read this - it's a bit wordy, but it really captures how I felt last evening and I want to remember it! :)

We just had another one of those "daily" moments that really felt special - so special in fact, I took pics and made a collage to remember it by! πŸ’›

We've had a milkweed pod sitting on our nature table since early last month, and today - it burst! Much to Little Bear's delight we had little white seed fairies flying all over the learning room!

So LB (and his Daddy and I) scooped up that pod - and as many of the seeds we could round up - and walked the whole kit and kaboodle across the street where the milkweed patch grows ...

Well, I wish I could tell you how positively gleeful Little Bear was during this whole adventure (though maybe you can tell from the photos!) ... you would have thought we were going to Disneyland! LB cradled that little seedpod so carefully - HE had to carry it! - and then heartily blew its fluffy innards all over the roadside ...

And it was such a beautiful evening, too - that autumn light is so lovely, and the leaves are all changing and the air is still just warm enough to walk outside without jackets ...

Inside we went again - time to make supper - the house all warm and lit and full of big brothers' sounds ...

Feeling grateful tonight for this little afternoon adventure ... and for a child who has such a soft heart for nature's wonders! 

✨ 🍁 🌞 πŸŒ²πŸŒ› 🍁 ✨ πŸ 🌞 πŸŒ²πŸŒ› 🍁 ✨ πŸ 🌞 πŸŒ²πŸŒ› 🍁 ✨ πŸ 🌞 πŸŒ²πŸŒ› 🍁 ✨ 

 My friends, I have kept you here so very long, and if you are still here, I thank you! (And if you bailed earlier, I still thank you!) I do hope you enjoyed a peek into our week and hearing about my planning process. Please let me know if you have any questions! I will be back again late next week with an Autumn Tea to share with you all ... and our first official Mitten Strings Book Study discussion!

(And of course, lots of pictures. When you come to my blog you KNOW there will be pictures ... and I'll have a lot to say about them!)

Hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekend ... see you here again very soon!


Autumn Tea and Tidbits!

Tea with lesson planning 2

Hello my friends, and Happy Weekend! Welcome to my first Autumn Tea  - of 2017! Something I hope to make a semi-regular recurrence at my blog going forward. Every so often I'll pop in with a cup of tea and a few bits and bobs from our homeschool ... a way to catch up and celebrate the season at hand. :) I'm hesitant to set a schedule however, as tempting as it is because you know I LOVE schedules - but it's been a little bit hectic so far this school year. Time at the computer (nevermind time for tea itself!) has been a little on the low side. But two things that make my heart so very happy are blogging and savoring tea, so I'm determined to make more time for both in my life!

So since it's been a while since we talked tea ... what are you drinking these days? I myself am enjoying Allegro Black Decaf during the afternoon (sweetened with raw sugar and a splash of whole milk) but after supper, now that the nights are cooler and darker, I am turning to a cup of decaf Constant Comment. There's something about that orange-spice flavor just makes me think AUTUMN! I still savor a cup or two of coffee in the mornings but after that I limit my caffeine intake as best I can ...

Well, I started in on my tea-taking early today as the above photo was taken just now (Saturday around 11 a.m.) because I was ready to get down to the lesson planning and for that, I absolutely MUST have tea! But before we talk about autumn homeschooling ...

Grab yourself a cup of your favorite brew and make yourself comfortable, please ... I have lots to share! :)

Let's begin with a peek into my October planning. Below you see the cover page for this month's section in my homemade planner (also seen in the top photo) ...

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And here is my planner stack on my kitchen counter - aka "mama's command center!"

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Sitting below my homemade planner is my Day Designer, and below that is a project clipboard. (I always put something underneath my planners in case there are spills or marks on the counter.)

So after the cover page (which is made from that cute vintage paper I love!) I have the two-page monthly calendar spread ...

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I added the stickers and a few quotations written with black ink and soft colored pencils ...

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I love peppering my planners with seasonal poems and quotes!

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Next page has my October menu calendar ...

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I described how I fill out these menu calendars in this post, but I want to stress that this is an ideal - we don't always keep up with the "new" and "varied" meals I've envisioned. Often - especially when we're busy or I'm tired (the state of affairs more often than not around here!) - I fall back on tried and true, easy meals. (Homemade pizzas, baked pasta, grilled cheese and soup, burgers, meatloaf and roasted veg, etc.) 

And next comes my monthly overview ...

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I added the highlighted notes at the top of the page this month, and of course there are post-its! The green apples reflect our October homeschooling themes and topics. I try to review this page every weekend to see where we're at and what tasks and activities can be scheduled in the week ahead. Note: "October Goals" became a place to write down upcoming movies, tv shows and books.

A closer peek ...

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And here is last week's spread!

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Next week I will do a WHOLE post on how I'm using this weekly spread, but in the interest of time and word count, let me move on and show you  ...

... next week's spread that I'm filling in now!

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You might wonder how long it takes me to fill in all those spaces, but honestly, it's not very long. A lot of the information is already available (Days of Note, Seasonal Theme, Dinners, Weekly Rhythm) so I just write those things in first. The to-do list is also pretty quick to fill in - I look at last week's list as well as our weekend planner to see what tasks still need doing. I take another look at the monthly calendar to see what new things have been written in for the week (a new event to prepare for, for example) and I also look back at that monthly overview to see what To-Dos can be fit into this coming week.

Beside my homemade planner I have parked my Day Designer ...

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Here's how it looked one day last week (when I first started working on this post!) ...

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Ok, moving on from planning (let me know if you have any questions or would like me to follow up on anything!) ... I thought I'd share some random photos from the past week or so ...

First, because it was the week of the Full Harvest Moon, I had planned to make "Harvest Moon Muffins," (a quick bread recipe baked in muffin tins) but due to the aforementioned busy schedule/tired mama syndrome, I stopped short at "Harvest Moon Applesauce." πŸ˜‰

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I love using my grandmother's food press when making applesauce! 

This was actually part of a little "science" experiment this week, making applesauce together! The boys helped me with counting and measuring before I loaded the apples, sugar and spice into the crockpot, and good GOLLY did it smell wonderful in our house all day! The apples were done cooking just before bedtime so I placed them in the fridge for the next day. After milling the apples into sauce we set up a little taste-test - our homemade applesauce vs. Stop 'N Shop brand! Could people tell which was which? (The answer, happily, was yes!)

Then last weekend I combed through the autumn book basket and pulled out titles that matched October's weekly themes ...

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  • Changing Leaves (10/2-10/8)
  • Woodland Flora & Fauna (10/9-10/15)
  • Pumpkins (10/16-10/22)
  • Goodnight Garden/Halloween (10/23-10/29)

I also have two sweet board books for my younger boys for learning the Hail Mary and Our Father prayers, as part of Holy Rosary month. :)

Speaking of books though, look at these lovely new titles that arrived in my mail last week!

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A couple of picture books we usually get out of the library to celebrate the Full Harvest Moon, a new (and adorable) autumn board book for Little Bear (which might be my new favorite autumn book of all time!), a CD of scientific storytelling for Earlybird (which we once owned but now can't find!) and a new Waldorf-inspired crafting book for Mama. I'm positively swooning over that last one in particular - a bit of a splurge, but worth it!

Here's a gorgeous page from Hello, Harvest Moon ... 

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Did you happen to catch it last Thursday night?

Harvest moon rising

We are surrounded by trees here so we have to wait a while before the full moon is visible ... but honestly, I think the way it peeks through the branches and illuminates the tree-line is quite magical! We let Little Bear stay up a bit late so he could watch the full moon rising ...

LB and the full moon

Now, back to books for a moment ... just look and see what arrived in my mailbox early last week!

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A very thoughtful gift from my friend (and longtime reader), Penny! When Penny read that I was positively pining for this particular PW book, she offered me her own copy. (How nice is that?!) Naturally I said I would just LOVE to have it, so she popped in the mail and I received it a day later! Hooray for packages in the mail and hooray for the ever-speedy USPS ... but most of all, HOORAY for kind-hearted and generous friends! ❀

Ok, now we all know the Pioneer Woman loves boots ... well, I'm no cowgirl, and I haven't been on a horse since I was 12, but how do you like my new "riding" boots?

Boots

I have lusted after these "Westport," Maine-made boots for years ... and finally (with Bill's blessing of course), I made the splurge! I ordered them online because I don't get over to LL Bean's that often, but was very happy that not only do they FIT just as well as I'd hoped, they are truly quite comfortable. I thought they paired rather nicely with a knee-length denim skirt. :)

(This was me on my way to Sunday brunch with my college girlfriends!)

Speaking of shoes though ...

Archie and sandals

That's my Archie, flopped all over my favorite pair of summer sandals ... the ones I can't bear to put away for the season just yet. (Though truly, we've had plenty of summer-like days recently.) But as you can see, Archie's looking rather relaxed here, smug you might even say ... because while Oliver had to be at the vet's annual exam last week, Archie got to skip it completely. And all because he's just SO naughty when we bring him! Nothing like the sweetie-pie he is at home - at the vet he's all hissing, spitting and growing ... frankly, it's a bit of a horror show. The next attempt was going to include some serious sedation ... which makes me very nervous ... but fortunately our vet is wonderful and fully understood our apprehension. We decided he can wait till next year when he is due for his rabies shot. (My cats are indoor cats, but are still kept up on all their vaccinations.)

In other wildlife news ...

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Howsabout this guy???

Isn't he magnificent? This is a Barred Owl, and we hear him (her?) very often in the woods behind our house - usually around dusk, but my older boys (night owls themselves) say they hear hooting late at night as well. Well, there I was at the sink starting supper last Friday night when Little Bear, looking out the kitchen nook window, exclaimed: "Mama, look! It's a snowy owl!!"

And this is what he saw ...

Barred owl on feeders

Isn't he GINORMOUS?? And clearly looking for his supper! I took this picture above with my cell phone, then went outside with my big camera to try for a better shot. The first owl picture was taken from beneath the tree just to the right of the feeders. The owl was staring at me - really peering at me with those gorgeous black eyes! - then his attention would be caught by something moving in the underbrush and he'd turn his head downward ...

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Finally he'd had enough of me, my snapping camera and restless Little Bear and took off ...

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He landed in the front yard where LB and I were joined by Bill and Earlybird and we watched the owl fly across the road and into the woods to the north. Absolutely amazing ...

(Crackerjack and Bookworm were out on a driving lesson and missed the whole thing!)

Ok, and now for some autumn homeschooling ... these pics are all from the past couple of weeks!

First came APPLES ...

Apple collage

Apple Week included apple snacks, an apple star surprise, drying apples, applesauce and an apple-y harvest wreath on the front door. :)

Also, I finally made use of that peg dolls book I showed you a couple of posts back, and look who Little Bear found in his learning room mailbox one morning!

Autumn star fairy

I made this "autumn star fairy" from a wooden peg base, with a little sheep's wool for hair, an acorn cap for a hat and a silk leaf (plucked from a garland) as wings! I made the verse card with a blank postcard and watercolor paints. I just wrote the verse on the card once the paint had dried. I've been using these cards for little poems, prayers and verses this year and I love the effect of those pretty paints!

Next came SEEDS ...

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Seeds week included seed gathering, sorting and observation, seed crafts, seed treats, seed experiments ... and very happy chipmunks!

And then on Michaelmas Day we had our first Nature Club meeting of the year ...

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My younger boys all came along and we met with other homeschooling families to take a walk along a local trail. We found everything on our Nature Scavenger hunt checklist as well as garter snakes, spiderwebs, several types of leaves and some very cool fungus. Best of all, there were Michaelmas daisies growing all over the woods! :)

The next Monday we celebrated the Feast of the Guardian Angels ...

Angel collage

I made another watercolor card for the Guardian Angel prayer and set up this small scene on our learning room table. I lit the beeswax tealight and read the prayer aloud to Little Bear ... who took great joy in blowing out that candle! :)

We also found time to celebrate the Feast of St. Francis, our family patron saint ...

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Little Bear especially enjoyed assembling "all of creation" as I crafted a simple grotto and read aloud our favorite child-friendly version of Francis's "Canticle of the Sun." I made a verse card for the first stanza and plan to make cards for the rest of this beautiful prayer. :)

Last week we also visited a local agricultural fair - along with Earlybird's therapist and Bill who took the day off so he could join us. :)

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And the day after that we joined our homeschool group on a field trip to a local corn maze!

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It was a beautiful day - as you can see, warm enough for short sleeves! - and what fun we had navigating our way through the rows of corn and listening to the raspy dry ears in the breeze and hearing great vees of geese honking overhead! 

✨ πŸ‚ 🍎 🐿 🌻 🌞 🍁 πŸ„ 🌽 πŸŒ› ✨

Well this was quite a long post I'm afraid, but I hope you enjoyed it! I had meant to create posts around each of these collages - with more details - but time kept slipping by and then we'd be onto the next thing! I can certainly expand on any of these themes and projects (as well as my planners) in a future post and happily, though last week was particularly busy with two field trips, a fair trip, a vet appointment AND the SAT ... the coming week will be much quieter! Knock on wood!

So I will leave you now my friends, with my thanks for your visit and my wish that you all enjoy a lovely autumn weekend. I will be back again here just as soon as I can but in the meantime you can always find me on Facebook or Instagram. :)

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


A Close-Up Look at My September Planning ... πŸ‚

September planner page

Hello my friends, and Happy Thursday! I hope your week is going well. :)

Today I thought I'd share my September planner pages with you all. These are part of the seasonal planner I made up for myself some time ago, and if you'd like to read more about these sheets (and access the free & printable PDFs), here are links to a few very detailed posts:

My 2017 (Printable) Planner

I Made My Own Planner (and Here's How)!

My Seasonal Planning Sheets for 2018 

For most of this past year I kept these sheets in my three-ring "homekeeping" binder, but last month I decided to have them made into a spiral-bound planner ... and boy, am I so glad I did! I find using my planning sheets consistently and thoroughly is much easier in this format! Mostly because they're just so much more portable this way. I like to take my planner upstairs with me at night (as well as my Day Designer) and leave it by my bedroom chair to review when I wake up. (I usually have a good 2-3 hours to nurse coffee and plan before my youngest is up for the day.) Throughout the day I keep my planners parked on my kitchen counter so I can quickly check in and see "what's what" as we move through the rhythm of our day ... sometimes I scoop them up and bring them with me to the kitchen table or my family room desk ... or lately, the learning room table. :)

So to begin with, here is the lovely paper that serves as my September divider page ...

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This kind of paper just makes me SO happy. Every day when I thumb to my September calendar to start my day's planning I pause at this page and just soak it all in. :) 

Next comes my own monthly title page ...

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And then the next turn brings me to my two-page monthly calendar spread ...

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As you can see on the left side of the page, I'm using a very simple tool for marking this oft-viewed calendar - the humble paper clip! You can also see that I've added some stickers, washi tape and seasonal quotes to make the spread "sparkle" a bit. :)

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Bold alphabet stickers along the edge announce the month ...

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And here's the opposite corner with a little more seasonal goodness sprinkled here and there!

(Truth be told, I took the above pictures before I had the calendar completely filled out - in fact, our whole ABA schedule has changed! - but you probably get the gist of how I'm using it.)

Now, moving on to the next spread ...

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On the left is the one-page monthly calendar I made for my original planning sheets ... before I decided I REALLY needed a two-page spread! I tried recording nature notes here in August, which was fun, but then I decided my planner needed a little more flexibility when it came to meal planning. So from now on this is where I'll work out a little seasonally-inspired meal planning!

I started by brainstorming seasonal key words on little sticky notes. These are foods I yearn for in September, but I'm sure everyone has their own idea of what foods say "early autumn" to them! Then I began planning special suppers (Michaelmas, Autumn Equinox, Full Corn Moon), then all the Sunday dinners ... and the busy nights that need to be super easy ... and then I checked a collection of recipes I've been wanting to try, and finally a list of old standbys ... before I knew it I had the whole month filled out!

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Best of all - it's all written in erasable ink because you know - the best laid plans and all that. Have I stuck with it so far? Well, for the most part, yes. (So said on the SIXTH day of the month, lol.) Tonight though, instead of American Chop Suey (which for some reason is true Patriots game day food), I decided to go with crescent dogs, crockpot mac-and-cheese, tossed salad and tater tots. (All boy-friendly, comfort food and "football foodstuffs" as well! Tonight is the NFL Kickoff in case you didn't know ... hosted by our beloved Pats, aka Superbowl Champs!)

I didn't make the molasses bar cookies though ... I brought the boys shopping with me over the weekend so we had enough "desserts" on hand as it was. I hope to do some baking this weekend, though - with local fruit, hopefully!

(Also shown in that photo - see two above - on the right-hand side of the spread is the monthly Overview page, and it's pretty self-explanatory I think. I try to check in with these ideas each weekend to see what still needs addressing, or fitting in! Then I tweak the upcoming week's plan accordingly.)

Ok, next up are the weekly spreads and here is the first week of the month before I had written anything down ...

Planner before

In my September section there are five weekly planning spreads, ending on Sunday, October 1st. My weeks run Monday through Sunday because that's just how I see things! 

Here is this week's planning spread "in action" ...

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To be completely honest I am still figuring out how best to "work" this planning spread ... but so far I am loving it! The left side is for more general weekly planning: days of note, our seasonal theme, nightly suppers, house & garden notes, weekly to-dos and a special spot for listing out what I like to call ... "crafts and comforts."

So what are "crafts and comforts" you might be wondering? Well, that's a whole 'nother post but - briefly - in this space I jot down things I'd like to do with the boys in keeping with our weekly theme (in this case, "crows and corn,") as well as a few ideas for enjoying the season myself. I find tuning into the season in simple ways really nourishes my spirit and fills my heart with gratitude. I've been doing this kind of "planning" since I was a young girl, but as a busy mom of four boys, it can be easy to let "seasonal awareness" slide. Since I feel this is an important habit to cultivate, I try to make room for it in my everyday life - via my planner! This was the primary reason I decided to make my own planner ... I couldn't find one that made room for these kinds of plans! (At least not with the colors, quotes and vintage images!)

So yes, there is also a quote for the week on this page, and each one mirrors the season itself. This week's (an old children's song) works perfectly - the goldenrod is, in fact, vivid yellow ... and just about everywhere you look, the cornstalks are drying out and turning brown ... and the apple orchards are busily bearing fruit!

The right side is for a week-at-a-glance agenda and homeschooling notes ... 

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I added a pretty Susan Branch note sheet here for general notes for each of my boys this month as well as a seasonal study (based on an old Celtic tree calendar I came across on Pinterest). The note sheet was not adhesive so I used a bit of washi-tape to hold it down and it is easily moved from week to week.

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Beneath the note sheet I have sticky notes that let me write down pre-k activities each day that tie in with the rhythm of the day and the theme of the week. So, for example, Wednesdays are "storytelling" days and this week is all about "crows and corn." So I used our black crow finger puppet to weave a little tale involving crows, ravens and cornfields. And on Monday, nature study day, we took a crow walk to listen for crows cawing. These kinds of activities are the foundation for Little Bear's early learning and I have such a lovely time brainstorming these ideas. But even when I have LOTS of ideas, I try to keep things as simple as possible ... you can't fit too much on a post-it! :)

Beneath the sticky notes are more lesson plan notes with little checkboxes and all. This is another area I'm still figuring out how to use (hence the pre-k post-its!) so I'll do a follow-up post with a closer look at this column. :)

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(I will also do a follow-up post on how we do preschool ... which hasn't changed much since my older boys were little! What a gift it is to get to do this one more time ... β€)

Last picture, and a preview of yet another post-to-come ... 

September planning

How do I use my Day Designer WITH my homemade seasonal planner? What do I write where? Which planner goes where? Where is there overlap - and does it matter? Ah ... so much to say on that subject! So it will have to be a post for another time. For now I will wrap up and let you all go. But I thank you for stopping by and I hope you enjoyed my post! In a few days I will be back with a FULL tour of our learning room, all revamped and ready to go for the  new year! (You may have seen peeks on Facebook and Instagram ... I've had such fun getting this room ready!)

So goodnight my friends, and take care ... I will see you here again very soon!


I Made My Own Planner! (And Here's How)

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Hello my friends, and Happy August! Can you believe we're nearing the end of Summer already?! I know some of you are already back to school/homeschool, but we don't officially begin lessons again until the day after Labor Day. So I'm presently attempting to both relish these final days of Summer AND devote a few brain cells to the ed. planning for next year!

As usual I have several posts percolating in regards to my current state of mind, but first up, here's a look at my homemade planner!

Now, you all know how much I love new planners and how I struggle to resist them (there are sooo many beautiful options out there!) but I also enjoy making my own planner from time to time. Because sometimes I just can't find a planner that does everything I want it to do, and so I start getting itchy to create something very personal ... something that more closely matches my own particular needs and tastes ... even if the final results are *ahem* humble at best!

So please bear in mind, this planner I'm about to show you is VERY much homemade. It's not at all slick or professional - a prototype, really - but I am mostly satisfied with the results now that it's complete. And so now I'm here to share how I went about designing and assembling this planner!

It's a super-long post (as if I write any other kind) so best grab yourself a cup of tea and get comfortable! :)

 

PRINTING & BINDING THE PLANNER

Now, while this is not my first time creating my own planner, it is the first time I've used my seasonal planning sheets as the foundation. I was going to tweak the sheets a little before printing them but decided not to take that time - instead I'll just work with what I've got and see how it goes! So I began my new planner project by printing out fresh copies of all the seasonal planning sheets starting with August, 2017 ...

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(Note: all the planning sheets for 2017 can be found here in this post.)

Next I set about creating extra pages to go along with my weekly planning sheets, to address more of my responsibilities - namely, homeschooling our children and managing our household. I also created some sheets that complement my passion for seasonal planning ... and I did all of this using the Pages application on my Mac desktop. Now, I am FAR from tech-savvy, but once I got the hang of it I found it all really fun! (Even a bit addicting!)

Next I chose some very pretty seasonal papers to serve as monthly dividers. Here's a collage ...

Pretty papers

These papers are from a collection of scrapbooking paper called Children's Hour, and are made by Graphic 45. I just love a vintage look - images that harken back to simpler times and pleasures - but since these papers are sized 12 x 12, I needed to cut them down to fit my planner platform. (The above link has an affiliate tag just so's you know. πŸ˜‰ That means if you follow a link to Amazon from my blog, I get a little kickback if you make a purchase. So thanks in advance if you do!)

I also chose a piece of scrapbooking paper with a design I truly loved for the front cover (covers are so important!).  And here's the whole kit and kaboodle just before binding ...

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And ... voila! My finished planner, hot off the presses! :)

Planner in car 

I always go to my local Staples when I need something bound - and as usual they did a great job! I chose a black spiral coil and opted for the additional see-through cover for a little extra protection. (I would LOVE to find a place that does metal coil binding instead of plastic ... or perhaps invest in my own binding machine down the road!)

Ok, now for the tour! 

 

TITLE PAGE

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Well, this is pretty self-explanatory! I have always liked the image of a tiny acorn being nurtured and encouraged to grow into a strong and solid oak. :) I found the clipart on Pinterest. 

Note: This September I begin my 18th year of homeschooling! This year I will have a 12th grader, an 8th grader (with special needs) and a 4yo preschooler! (My oldest graduated college last May!) The 12th grader takes all of his classes save for Math, outside the home (in homeschool group classes). The 8th grader is developmentally much younger than this grade would suggest so I tailor his lessons to fit his unique learning needs. For him and my youngest we are mostly Waldorf-inspired homeschoolers, with some Charlotte Mason sensibilities thrown in for good measure. ;) We have used Oak Meadow curriculum since 2001 - some years more so than others - and this year I am drawing from a couple of grades as I plan out the year for my younger two sons. (More on our actual lesson plans in a future post!)

 

DATED CALENDARS

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This next spread is for general reference but also, I have used highlighters to mark time off and on in our homeschooling year. We don't follow the school calendar - I like to take time at the holidays, particularly leading up to a special day so we can focus on the preparations and really absorb the festive atmosphere. So this means we take off the week before Thanksgiving, the week before (and after) Christmas, and the week leading up to Easter Sunday - aka Holy Week. :)

Note: You can find many kinds of dated and undated calendar forms online for free. These particular calendars were created by The Day Designer - I just liked the look of them!

 

THE YEAR AT A GLANCE

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The left side of this spread is for birthdays, holidays, feast days, and any special days of note. The right side is for my seasonal homeschooling/homekeeping themes. (I assign one per week plus there are always a couple of other seasonal events or concepts to be aware of each month). A later post will discuss my seasonal themes and plans in greater detail!

Note: Some of the sheets I show you will be filled out and some will still be blank. I am slowly working through them, but do plan to talk more in depth about certain spreads in a series of follow-up posts.

Printables available: Year at a GlanceNature Study Themes

 

RHYTHM: WEEKLY & DAILY 

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Every year has its own schedule of homeschool classes, clubs and therapy appointments, but our rhythm - those recurring activities that are tied to a specific day - has pretty much stayed the same. This concept of "rhythm" is something I learned early on as a Waldorf-inspired homeschooler and it's one of my favorite aspects of this educational method. (And ties in nicely with my passion for seasonal homeschooling!)

In the above spread I created forms for working out this year's weekly and daily rhythms ... and below you can see how I'm filling them out!

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(Note: I sometimes get a little carried away with colored pencils. The soft hint of color makes me happy!)

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On the left-hand page I have worked out the basic rhythm of our week. The top row shows the main activity for each day - this is mostly geared towards my younger boys, though in some ways this affects Crackerjack (and even Bookworm if he's handy), too. They are both very good sports about participating and helping out when they can! And on the right-hand page I am just starting to work out the daily rhythms ...

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When planning something like a day or week (or season), I like to use both sides of my brain, so to speak. There are the practical tasks to consider - like make bed, make breakfast, take vitamins - but there are also those actions and feelings I hope will infuse our days/weeks with a sense of care and gentleness. So, I include things like ... sit by the open window and greet they day ... take time for a blessing before the day gets going ... light the "lanterns" as the sun goes down ... etc. Including these kinds of things in my planning not only makes me happy but I think genuinely create a happier day (week, season) for my whole family. :)

Note: Before I write things down I often "flesh out ideas" on post-its as I've done here. Once I have all the information straight in my mind (and on those notes!) I will then write directly in my planner.

Printables availableOur Weekly Rhythm (blank), Our Daily Rhythm

 

LESSON PLANNING: 2017-2018

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This is a two page spread for planning out the topics I'll cover with my younger boys within each subject throughout each month of the year. This is not the spot for nitty-gritty detailed planning, but rather, a general overview of themes and ideas. The left side of the page is for September through February and the right-hand side of the spread is for March through August.

I've made some progress filling these out, so here's a peek! (I hope to finish this coming weekend when I do the bulk of our ed. planning.)

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Our subjects are listed as:

Month/Nature (each month's seasonal themes: ex. crows/corn, apples/the orchard, welcome autumn, autumn seeds)

Reading (audiobook/special picture books)

Country (we're exploring world history/culture/geography by country rather than timeline this year)

Science (zoology, famous scientists, climate science)

Language (speech, writing activities, penmanship)

Crafts/Circle (tied in with seasonal homeschooling - handcrafts, projects, music/movement)

Habit/Value (a concept to work on like, diligence, compassion, courage, gratitude, etc. ... also a saint to learn about)

Printables available: Lesson Planning (as above), Lesson Planning (with blank headers)

 

STUDENT OVERVIEWS & FIELD TRIPS/FAMILY ACTIVITIES

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"This Year's Subjects & Goals" provides a spot for me to create an educational overview for each of my boys (those still being homeschooled). There is also a section for notes. So for Little Bear I'll list things like ... "nature exploration and language development," and for Earlybird there will be things like "improve math skills and penmanship" whereas for Crackerjack I'll list his class titles "Creative Writing" and "Spanish IV" ... etc. I'll add things we'll study/do as a family in the notes section - such as liturgical teas and faith formation, global awareness, environmental education, community service and life skills.

The page on the right, as its title suggests, is for listing ideas for field trips this year and any family activities - for example, "apple picking," "planetarium," trail hikes," "The New England Aquarium," "road trip to Vermont," "Florida trip," etc.

Printables available: Subjects & Goals (blank), Field Trips & Family Activities

 

CONTACTS/CHECK-INS & THE CHILDREN'S CHORES

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The above spread features a page for listing my annual reporting to the school system and related events. I write down when I send something in and to whom I spoke, etc. And this info. has truly come in handy before! Last year I got a mid-year call from the school department asking if Crackerjack was still being homeschooled and if so, why hadn't we mailed in his information. After I recovered from my initial shock (heart pounding, lol) I told them we had in fact been homeschooling CJ and all his info had been sent in back in August and - because I had this page to refer to! - I was able to pinpoint exactly when I mailed it and when they received it. (Plus, thanks to "return receipt" I was even able to say who signed for it!)

I also note on this page when we renew our HSLDA membership and local homeschool support group membership.

The form on the right is for assigning family chores. Every year during the first week of homeschooling (and right after "Labor Day") we re-negotiate the children's chores. Here's where I'll write down the results of that family meeting!

Printables available: Contacts & Check-Ins, The Children's Chores (blank)

 

HOMEKEEPING ROUTINE & WEEKEND OFFICE HOURS

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With this spread I move from homeschool planning to homekeeping responsibilities. So on the left I have a page for my weekly housekeeping routine and on the right I have my weekend "office hours," during which I get a little planning done (or a lot if things are going well!).

Now do I stick with all of this every week? Well, I wish I could say I did, but honestly, life gets in the way ... but I find having a routine to fall back on is helpful. Just knowing what things should be getting done each day is a start, especially when delegating!

Printables available: My Homekeeping Routine (as above), My Homekeeping Routine (blank), Weekend Office Hours (as above), Weekend Office Hours (blank)

 

MONTHLY CLEANING CALENDAR & SEASONSKEEPING

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Here on the left I have one more housekeeping form - a place to schedule my chores in such a way that reflects monthly (or occasional) tasks as well as weekly. As I mentioned above, I like to follow a weekly routine in my housekeeping but because not all room tasks need to be completed each week, I split the monthly chores up over a four-week rotation. (You can read more about my housekeeping calendar in a couple of posts from 2015. Here is post one and here is post two.) The fifth row is for noting the occasional tasks (assigned to certain months, for example - March/September: turn and vacuum mattresses). I think this might all make more sense once I get this form filled in - so I will certainly share once I do that

Edited to add ... it's taking me SO long to write this post, I have completed this page as well!

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Now I know there's a lot of information on this page, but I swear I'm not really a neat freak. You see ... the point is I'm not. I can easily let months (ahem, years) pass by while ignoring (forgetting) all kinds of household maintenance chores. Some aren't that big a deal but others really do impact the overall condition of our home and possessions. As someone with a lot of plates in the air, I need something like this cleaning calendar that takes an area of the house, breaks down what needs to be done and how often, and then finds a spot in my week for it to (hopefully) happen.

I realize this all seems a little confusing, so will do a separate post on how I use it! :)

On the right is the title page to a section of my planner called, "Seasonskeeping: Our Journey Through the Year." This page features a collage of family pictures reflecting seasonal adventures from the past year. I changed the design of this page after having the planner bound so I had to hand-write the title above the collage. Seasonskeeping is what I call my passion for brainstorming seasonal pleasures and ideas - the various ways I weave each season's goodness into our family's life. Because the collage is quite personal, I created a separate title page with a bit of clipart. (In the event someone wants to use my Seasonskeeping pages!)

Printables available: Monthly Cleaning CalendarSeasonskeeping Title Page

 

SEASONAL BRAINSTORMING PAGES

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Above is an example of one season's spread (Early Autumn), but I have six seasons to share! (I "see" the year in this way - with six rather than four seasons.) On the left I plan to write my "love letter" to the season ... just all the feelings and ideas I get when contemplating a certain time of year. On the right I will create monthly dated lists (1-30/31) for noting events with a little space beneath for general events that don't fall on any particular date (for example, the first frost, full moons, etc.).

Printables available: Deep Winter Note Page & Events Page, Early Spring: Note Page & Events Page, Late Spring: Note Page & Events Page, High Summer: Note Page & Events page, Early Autumn: Note Page & Events Page, Late Autumn: Note Page & Events Page

 

MY THOUGHTS ON SEASONAL LIVING & MONTHLY DIVIDER PAGE

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My last Seasonskeeping form is very simply a place where I will jot down my reasons for "keeping the seasons" and why I feel these kinds of activities are vital to our home and homeschooling. That too, is a post for another time as I tend to get pretty wordy when talking about this concept!

Ok, the page on the right is the divider page for my first monthly planning section, and this would be August as you can see. (My planner runs from August 2017 through July, 2018.) I love setting the months apart from each other with such quaint and colorful papers, but adhesive tabs are helpful here, too. At this point I have yet to attach them, but will just as soon as I can locate the little packages I've kept on hand for these types of projects!

Edited to add: I found the tabs!

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These fantastic little monthly tabs were made by Avery and I was able to purchase them at Staples for years. The company seems to have stopped making them but there are other options out there. (Here are some in a primary palette.) You could even use blank tabs and just hand-write the months of the year.

Printable available: My Thoughts on Seasonal Living

 

MONTHLY TITLE PAGE

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Next comes the title page for the month - and all of these can be found in my original planning sheet post. (Note: I'm not sure if anyone will be wanting to make up this planner for themselves, but I will endeavor to get PDFs with edited 2018 dates just as soon as I can!)

 

MONTH AT A GLANCE CALENDAR

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The very next spread is this two-page month @ a glance calendar. This original form is rather plain because I wasn't entirely sure how I wanted to set this up - I only knew that I wanted a two-page spread! I'd already created one-page monthly calendars as part of my original seasonal series, but then came to realize I really need more room for monthly planning. So I came up with this basic spread and just went with it. 

But since the above photo was taken I've added lots of details and seasonal embellishment to my August calendar! So here's how it looks today ...

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I found a very pretty washi tape that complements the colors I've used throughout the planner. (In case I didn't mention it, each monthly section is printed in different seasonally-appropriate shades. It's one of my favorite aspects of this planner!) I will use this tape on the left page of each monthly spread, which will help me identify the big calendar spreads. I also used alphabet stickers for the month's title and added a pretty sunflower for a seasonal touch.

As you can see, I had to write in the dates myself because I didn't want to take the time to make up a different version of this spread for each month. I made each calendar block lightly lined with an ecru banner for writing in any events of note. I included six rows in this calendar because some months do need that much space depending on where the first of the month falls ... and I added an eighth column for notes.

I like to use any extra space in my calendar for seasonal inspiration - quotes and poems and such. I write these in cursive with a little colored pencil shading so they stand out and catch my eye. :)

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And that's the month at a glance! I have still to set up the rest of the months (adding tape and stickers and quotes). I must get back to the craft store for more decorative goodies!

Printable available: Month @ a Glance Calendar (blank): Left Side, Right Side

 

NATURE CALENDAR & MONTHLY OVERVIEW

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If you're familiar with my seasonal planning sheets, then you've seen these before! On the left is the original August calendar I created, which I've decided to use for daily nature notes. (See below.) The page on the right is the monthly overview.

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(I like how low-key this nature "journal" is ... there's only room for a few brief notes, and that seems easy enough to do every day. I think I'll enjoy looking back at weather patterns and the unfolding nature events of each season!)

Printables available: All planning sheets including the ones in this spread can be found here

 

THE WEEKLY SPREAD

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And here we have what will be the meat of the planner - the weekly planning sheets I've made up for the year!

The sheet above is for this current week's spread - before I really had written very much in it. I use this spread to write down my "big picture" for the week ahead, and so on the left side I have room for jotting down what we need to do, any home and garden tasks, our dinner menus, and how I'll weave the seasonal theme of the week into our week. And on the right-hand side of the spread I have an agenda for the week with space to plan lessons. (Note, when I make up the weekly sheets for 2018 I will include a version of this page that labels the right-hand column "Notes" instead of Student Goals. This should make it more useful to someone who doesn't homeschool!)

Here is the week as I filled it out over the weekend ...

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And here it is as of Wednesday (two days ago) ...

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As you can see, I've added a few things - including a monthly reminder sheet for my boys' goals. I used a sheet of my "August" notepad (designed by Susan Branch) for these notes and as it wasn't adhesive, I used a piece of washi tape to adhere it to the top of the page. (Here is a link to these pads at the Susan Branch website, but I believe they are sold for less at Barnes & Noble. Look in the bargain aisles near the front of the store.) On this "August" sheet I have written goals for my three younger boys along with some notes for our Celtic Tree month study. I just lift the sheet to see my pre-k post-its and other lesson plans underneath.

Here's a close up of my "Crafts & Comforts" corner ...

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In this box I list the activities I've planned for our seasonal theme - in this week's case, "Bats at Dusk." Most of these are geared toward the younger two boys but I have little stars next to those activities that the whole family can enjoy. Will we get around to all of these ideas? Not on your life, lol! But I love planning for these kinds of activities and tuck away the ones we don't get to for next year. :)

Here it is on last week's spread ...

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Printables available: All planning sheets including the ones in this spread can be found here.

 

MONTHLY REVIEW & EVENT PLANNING

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At the end of every month I have a review page - I use it for tracking monthly expenses and jotting down a summary of our homeschooling. On the right is a monthly event planning page - for August that is "Back to School" planning.

Every month has at least one event planning sheet, and sometimes more. These are events and ideas that need a little more planning than I can fit in just a weekly spread. They don't represent every holiday or feast day - there wouldn't be room! - but the ones that we tend to focus on each year. I make them up in colors that match the monthly palette, natch. :)

So here is a list of all my "extra" monthly event planning pages. (Note: I placed an * next to the ones I make double-sided in my planner.)

AUGUST:

Back to School*

 

SEPTEMBER:

Autumn Equinox

Michaelmas Day

 

OCTOBER:

All Hallow's Eve*

 

NOVEMBER:

Our Gratitude Project

Martinmas Day

Thanksgiving Planner (this is a multi-page planner, something I shared last year - it takes a bit to upload!)

 

DECEMBER:

The Winter Solstice

Preparing Our Hearts (& Homes) for Winter

Celebrating Advent & Christmas (another multi-page planner from last year - the dates are a little off!)

 

JANUARY:

Happy New Year!

Birthday Journal (my birthday happens to fall in January but if you'd like a birthday journal page in a different month's palette, just let me know - easy enough to do!)

 

FEBRUARY:

St. Valentine's Day

Honoring Lincoln & Washington

Lenten Planning*

 

MARCH

The Vernal Equinox

Holy Week

Easter Sunday*

 

APRIL:

Spring Awakens

Honoring Mother Earth

Spring Cleaning*

 

MAY:

Mother's Day

Ascension Day & Pentecost Sunday

Garden Plans*

 

JUNE:

Father's Day

Summer Plans & Goals

Midsummer's Eve

Midsummer's Day

 

JULY:

America the Beautiful

 

YEAR END REVIEW & FUTURE PLANNING

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My very last page is a "Year End Review" (actually two-sided) ... and though I meant to create month-at-a-glance calendars for August 2018 through January 2019 ... well, I plum forgot! So I placed these sticky notes here instead where I can jot down appointments and events as they come up. (For example, if I learn of a publication date for a favorite author's new release or anticipated movie, or if I make an annual exam appt.)

Printables available: Year End Review, Month @ a Glance Calendar (blank): Left Side, Right Side

 

 FINAL PRODUCT!

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All printed, all bound, all tabbed and ready to go! I am just loving my homemade planner so far! I truly enjoy working in it - the pages are smooth and pretty (to my taste, anyway!). The feel of the planner is sturdy but easy to flip around as needed. I am really so pleased with my latest "diy" attempt! 

Please feel free to print off any of the PDFs I've linked here and please let me know if you have any questions. As I mentioned, I will post updated planning sheets (corresponding with 2018 dates) very soon! (My goal is within the next week.) I will also compose a separate post with just the planner links - no need to read through all my babble if you're interested in just printing this planner! I'll pin that over on my sidebar for easy reference.

Also, I will follow up on several of these planning sheets with more of my thoughts and ideas. I would love to know if there are certain areas you'd like me to expand upon and ... if you decide to print and bind something from these sheets, please let me know! My next idea is to create a guide (of sorts) to go along with these sheets - in what form I'm not sure yet - but this would be something that shares how I use the sheets to infuse our family life with the joy of the seasons. (Scroll back to that Seasonskeeping title page collage - this is what I'm talking about!) 

Oh, and one more thing! I ALSO hope to post a little video with a tour of this planner and how I'm using it. Not that I didn't give you quite the peek in this post but I think if I can just chat a little about it and flip through the pages that might help me explain it a little better. Or leave you all a little more confused, lol - so we shall see!

But for now I will (finally!) let you all go. Thank you all for your support and kind encouragement ... I know many of you were waiting so patiently for this post, and I kept teasing you on Facebook and Instagram. (Speaking of which, do follow me on either or both if you have accounts ... I tend to post there almost daily!) I will get those follow up posts up just as soon as I can, the first being those PDFs with updated 2018 dates. I apologize that I don't have them ready for you just yet - I just need to proof them and save them as PDFs - but I wanted to get this post up the very MOMENT it was ready! And I hope you enjoyed!

I also hope you all enjoy this lovely, summery Friday ... I wish you and yours well and I will see you all here again very soon!


Seasonal Homeschooling: June's Weekly Themes!

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Hello my friends, and Happy Friday Saturday Sunday Monday! πŸŒž

(Whew, it's taken me a while to get this post done!)

Lots going on at the moment - homeschool dances, a year-end party, an ice cream social, the SAT, the last week of classes, doctors appointments, job changes ... phew! We're not usually this busy and I must admit, I'm looking forward to life slowing down again, but before that happens, we have a graduation party coming up this weekend! So the weekend was spent picking up party goods and getting the yard in order, and this week I'm cleaning the house room-by-room - but right now I'm indulging in some computer time. For one thing I really want to put up this post - and for another, it feels good to sit in the air conditioned room! (We're in the midst of a heatwave this week!)

Anyhoo, today I'd like to share some of my seasonal planning with you all. :) As I've blogged about before, I have a year's worth of weekly themes planned out, mostly based on the seasons and natural events. I use these themes as a springboard for weaving simple seasonal joys and awareness into our family life - via our home, food, education, activities, etc. Some weeks we do a lot with the theme and others not as much - it really depends on available time/energy/interest/mood/ and the weather, etc. I try to be very flexible and keep my expectations realistic.

For example, this week's seasonal theme is "butterflies," but with the big shindig planned for this weekend, any extra time and energy is focused on party prep these days ... so I know we won't delve into the theme as deeply as we might another year. And that's OK. I'm still sneaking in some butterfly goodness where I can. :)

So below I've written about my current themes for the month of June and why I chose them - as well as a few ideas for each week. I always have a LOT of ideas but that's not to say we do all those things! Some ideas work well while others might get left for next year. (Because I do recycle the themes, generally speaking ... part of the joy of the seasons for me is in the way they return to us every year, always seeming new and fresh but comfortingly familiar.)

You can read more about this idea and see my list of 52 themes here in this post but here's what I've planned for this month ...

5/29-6/4 "home garden"

    * Memorial Day is the traditional planting time in New England! We'll work together to plan and prepare our garden bed, concentrating on a sunny spot behind the sunroom. Keeping it very simple - something the boys can tend and enjoy. I have some books set aside for the younger two: This Year's Garden, Let's Grow a Garden, A Year in Our New Garden - and these will be woven into our home lessons this week. I also ordered two new books I think Little Bear, in particular, will love: The Vegetables We Eat and The Fruits We Eat. We just love those Gail Gibbons books! We'll also take a trip to the local farm to buy the plants we've noted on our list, and plant the seedlings at home. We'll take stock of our gardening tools and come up with a routine (chart?) for taking care of our garden. (Who will be responsible for which tasks and when?)

*True confession - we didn't get our plants planted that week! We talked about the gardens we already have (home orchard, herb patch) and the one we'd like to create (kitchen garden), and we readied a new garden bed ... but have yet to purchase seedlings! That's something I hope to do next week when we're all on a quiet, "home" vacation. :)

6/5-6/11 "strawberries"

    * The time is "ripe" to think about and enjoy strawberries - and for several reasons! This is the week of the Full Strawberry Moon as well as a local strawberry festival AND the berries themselves are just coming into their season. As you can see in the picture at the top of my post, our wild strawberries are blooming well - and all over the yard! Our local farms are advertising that their berries will be in the stands and ready for picking this coming weekend. We'll be reading The First Strawberries, and we'll spend time observing the wild strawberries growing in our yard. We'll take photos and/or make sketches for the nature journals. When they turn red, we'll try some in our morning cereal. We'll moon gaze, of course, and we'll head to our local farm to purchase strawberries in bulk. Back home we'll try making some strawberry-rhubarb jam (using our own homegrown rhubarb!). After we've hulled our berries we'll bring the tops out to our hens - they'll love them! I have a terry-cloth tablecloth with a strawberry print that belonged to my grandmother - that will grace our kitchen table this week. :)

* True confession - We didn't make it to the farm, and we didn't make jam, but I did bring home a big package of organic berries that the boys snacked on all week. I am hoping to make jam next week, once things have quieted down. We do have PLENTY of rhubarb stalks in the fridge, awaiting their sweeter counterpart!

6/12-6/18 "butterflies"

     * Now that warmer weather is here and flowers are blooming brightly, it's a perfect time for watching butterflies! We see them for sure, but don't get a whole lot in our yard, so I'm trying to remedy that with more butterfly-friendly plantings. One thing we'll do in our homeschooling this week is to research what plants attract butterflies. (I have lots of resources in our nature cabinet, and have already flagged the pages that refer to this topic.) I'd like to do a page in our nature journal for listing these plants and keeping notes on butterfly sightings this summer. (Bookworm already caught a lovely winged friend on his phone camera last week - a blue and black beauty that didn't linger long before heading to the skies.) There are all kinds of butterfly crafts we could do (a quick Pinterest search confirms that!) but I'll keep things very simple this year. I would love however, to make a butterfly bath and plan to pick up the materials at the craft store and set them aside for a slow summer's day project. The younger boys will read A Butterfly is Patient, and we'll use photocopies of this butterfly coloring book as we learn about different species. (Fyi, I absolutely LOVE using Dover coloring books with our homeschooling!)

*True confession - as noted above - it's a busy week here, there's not a lot of time for butterflies! Happily, butterflies will be around all summer - and hopefully we'll remember to keep our eyes open for them!

6/19-6/25 "sunshine"

    * The Summer Solstice arrives this week (Wednesday at 12:24 a.m., to be exact!) and so begins the season of SUN! Indeed, the longest day of the year is the Solstice itself so what better week to celebrate the glory of sunshine? We'll learn about the science and folklore of the Solstice, using several books. (Two of our favorites: The Longest Day: Celebrating the Summer Solstice and The Summer Solstice.) Like last year, we will choose a solstice branch from the yard (and/or the wood pile) and hang it in our south-facing, sunny kitchen nook window. How we'll decorate it this year I'm not entirely sure - I'm hoping a trip to the craft store will spark an idea! We will also have a bonfire next week, depending on weather ... and naturally we'll be singing "You are My Sunshine" and "Sunshine on My Shoulder." Or, I should say, Little Bear and I will be singing sunny songs during our morning music time. (EB has sensory issues about singing singing and yet LB absolutely loves it! So in the very early mornings, LB and I sit by the open bedroom window, and sing in our rocking chair. We also sing while potty training - but that's a whole different story!) As a family we'll enjoy some barbecue and sun tea; we'll also make fresh lemonade and homemade Sun bread this week. :)

6/26-7/2 "herbs at home"

    * My hope is during the week previous to this one (our quiet, home-vacation week) we will have a chance to visit my favorite herb farm and come home with some new plants for my herb garden. I LOVE herbs and though my herb garden (or patch, really) is on the small side, I try to expand it a little each year. This week I'd like to use herbs as much as possible at home - in our cooking and cleaning, and maybe even in our health and hygiene. (I have lots of recipes and resources, and am combing through them now to pick out some ideas.) In our home learning we'll be investigating the history of herbalism and I have a couple of great coloring books for the boys to use (Medicinal Plants and Herbs, both by Dover). As we learn about common herbs, we'll make species pages, and note how they were used in the past - by native Americans, early settlers, colonial cooks and physicans. I also have my eye on a game called Wildcraft: An Herbal Adventure - the price is a bit steep so I'll see just how interested my kids seem in the concept of herbal knowledge before I splurge!

Ok, so that's a look at the seasonal themes we'll be exploring this month, and some thoughts on how we might do this - given the time and inclination! I always follow my kids' leads - setting things up for them, inviting them to join me - but it they're not so interested, that's all right, too. Obviously I try to include lots of child-friendly activities, and over the years I think they absorb a sense of the seasons, and the rhythm of the year. I just try to model a constant awareness of and enthusiasm for a season and expose my kids to ideas and interesting activities. I think just being aware of such simple but meaningful concepts - gardening, strawberries, butterflies, sunshine and herbs - can be a little blessing for my family. Kind of a soft balm against a hard world that prefers fast and frenzied over slow and simple. The seasons take their time, and despite what the stores say, they always arrive when they're good and ready. β€

Well my friends, I'm going to wrap up now because as usual, this post went on longer than I intended! But I hope this was fun for you to read or maybe there was an idea or two here that sounded interesting to you. I will be back as soon as I can with a new post - a party recap perhaps, or a review of my new Day Designer (12 days in and still loving it!) as well as some thoughts on revamping my household routines ...

But for now I will say goodbye and wish you well ... hope to see you here again very soon!