Living in Season Feed

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, ✅ cross things off that we skip ❎ and put an arrow next to those items we'll push forward.➡️

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!


My Bi-Monthly Bullet Journals

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Hello my friends, and Happy Wednesday! 
How is your winter going? How about your new year??

I'm so sorry it's been so long since I last posted! I have in fact had a draft open on my computer for the past couple of months (months?!) but free time has been thin on the ground lately. All that said, I'm sitting down today in the mid-afternoon, to do my very best to get that darn post up at the blog before nightfall! (Or bedtime - whichever comes first!)

Anyhoo - how are you all? I hope you are all well! We are doing just fine here if perhaps stretched a wee bit thin lately from busy schedules and non-sleeping children - but that's a post for a different day! Today I'd like to give you a little tour of my seasonal bullet journal system. I actually have several planning (and tea!) posts percolating, but I'm going to keep things as short and simple today as possible. (Longtime readers know I love long posts - but I also tend to overcomplicate things which keeps me from finishing!)

Ok, onto the bujos ...

So I've posted about my journaling habits here many times before, but "bullet journaling" is a happy little hobby (some might say, lifestyle) I've been exploring just recently. Do any of you keep a bullet journal? Or any kind of journal? I'd love to hear about it if you do! (I'd especially LOVE to hear about bujos you use as self-made planners!)

I'm really still feeling my way around with this concept, but I do LOVE the idea of a bullet journal. And the way other people's journals look on Pinterest. Oh my gosh, i could waste spend so much time on Pinterest drooling over other folks' spreads!

Journal envy aside however, the "bujo" format appeals to me personally for so many reasons - it's creative, flexible, comprehensive and unique! Plus as a life-long DIYer, I just had to give it a go!

Basically, bullet journals meet more than a few of my most pressing planner needs:

I need my planner to be portable - easy to grab and take with me.

I like my planner to be comprehensive - all aspects of my life-planning are in one place.

I enjoy being different. I like for my planner to look like MY planner.

I desire for my planner to be intensely seasonal, a tool for connecting with the rhythm of the season at hand.

I have a few other planners as you all know: a devoted daily planner, a pretty little weekly planner, a binder "household" planner, and let us not forget my own homemade seasonal planner! I have not yet let go of any of these other planners but have instead just set them aside - just for a bit. I've been feeling the need to simplify lately, and use my limited free time as wisely as possible. I bet many of my planner-junkie friends here know what I mean when I say, it's hard to find ONE system that really ticks all the boxes. But it's also hard to truly give a new planner a fighting chance when you have a few other "systems" already in the works!

So I'm on a little planner "diet" while I delve into my bullet-journaling and see if I can make it work all on its own.

(Naturally I immediately broke my "keep it simple" bujo rule, and came up with the idea of a "system" of six journals instead of one. But bear with me - there is a method to my madness!)

As you see in my top picture, there are six journals, and each one is focused on two months, or one season. I keep the current season's journal with me (or close at hand) while the others reside at my desk.

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(They fit very nicely in this rack set inside a rolling cart. Isn't rose gold so pretty?)

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Top shot. Love the look of fresh notebooks!

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This handy rolling cart is situated right next to my "corner office" - a tour of which will be coming next week! (Finally getting it deep-cleaned and re-organized now that Christmas stuff is safely packed away.)

And now for a quick walk-through of my current bullet journal for "Deep Winter" (January & February).

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Front cover. As you can see, I haven't done much with the cover(s) yet - I'm still deciding if I like them kind of plain or if I'd like to "collage" them a little. I did use a set of pastel adhesive labels to color-code each seasonal journal. I chose a soft snowy blue for Deep Winter.

That soft snowy blue is followed by a light spring green, then deep blossom pink, sunny golden yellow, warm harvest orange, and finally, a crisp frosty lavender.

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(Note: I found these notebooks on Amazon. They come in a pack of two for $12. I ADORE these notebooks! They are a nice size, the paper is wonderfully smooth, the dotted grid helps me keep things neat and the whole kit-and-kaboodle is spiral-bound. Spiral-binding is a must for me when it comes to journals, so this one really hits the journaling spot for me!)

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Title page - pretty self-explanatory!

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January and February, at a quick glance. Dated calendars above, events of note below.

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❄️Exploring Deep Winter nature!

On the left, I listed our weekly seasonal themes and devoted a little space to seasonal brainstorming. I just jotted down any thoughts that came to mind when I pondered the season of Deep Winter ... what we do, what we notice, things we eat, etc.

On the right-hand page I have phenology wheels for the months of January and February, along with a temperature chart. I found the wheel templates on Pinterest. I shaded in the moon phases and every day I draw/write in the weather icon, high temp for the day as well as the sunset time.

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(A note on my pens and pencils. In all my planners I use, exclusively, Frixion Erasable Fine Point Pens in black. For the temperature shading I use Raffine Colored Pencils.)

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I find using practical tools like paper clips, binder clips and adhesive tabs and flags not only increases the efficiency of a planner but also adds some visual interest! I like using the flags and tabs in the midst of my journaling - sometimes I like to pause and create a list or plan and it's handy to have a way to find that list when I need it! The paper clip's job is described a bit further down in my post.

(Note the next spread was a bit personal, having to do with personal New Year's Goals, so I am skipping that part of the tour. What I did was to write out some personal "Year 50" goals as well as some Winter Wellness ideas and break them down into simple actions to insert into my schedule. That might be a post for another time!)

Ok, next comes the monthly calendar spreads:

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And it's as basic as it looks! I just drew in the grids and wrote in the dates, etc. I added washi tape to the edges of this calendar section so it's easy to find it when making appointments or plans. In the leftover white space I added in seasonal quotes and information ... something I have yet to do in my February spread!

(Note: I use Frixion Erasable Highlighters to color-code activities. Green - I'm going somewhere. Blue - the boys are going somewhere. Pink - happy things/self care. Yellow - home-based entertainment/projects. I also have a lavender highlighter for feasts and faith-related activities but I've lost that darn pen!)

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Another thing that helps me find sections quickly - paperclips!

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I use a large metal paperclip to connect the monthly calendar wth the current weekly spread. This makes it really easy to flip back and forth between my two most used page spreads!

And directly after the monthly calendars comes the weekly planning section. I used three pages for each spread ...

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The page on the left side is for the first half of the week. In the top corner I noted the week's dates (always a Monday start) and seasonal theme. I highlighted the month in blue highlighter, indicating it's a "wintry" month. The week-at-a-glance begins with a To-Do column - which admittedly is a little narrow - but since I'm comfortable writing tiny it's no trouble for me. 

I wrote the agenda's hours alongside the spiral binding, and left space at the bottom of each column for pertinent daily notes.

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I like that these columns allow for timely planning - it lets me see how full a day might be, and where there is "white space" for other tasks and activities.

The very next page is used as a "middle insert." I think it's kind of like a "dutch door" concept but I don't make any cuts. Instead, I keep it folded so I can see both sides of a weekly spread. I keep it flat in off weeks so as not to add to the journal's bulk.

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The folded middle page allows for four sections of notes: seasonskeeping, home lessons, homekeeping, general notes.

The right-hand side of the weekly spread is for the rest of the week, Thursday through Sunday. In the upper righthand corner I have the week's dates and month again along with the current lunar cycle. (As you know, I'm such an "Ooh, look at the moon!" kind of person.🌝)

There are nine weekly spreads in this bullet journal, the very weeks that make up the season of Deep Winter. (Next season's bullet journal, Early Spring, begins with the week of 3/4-3/10.)

At the end of the weekly planning section I have a two page spread for a reading log, then another spread for my thoughts on Winter Homekeeping and connecting with the season of Deep Winter (a time for resting, rejuvenating).

Next comes a journal index page where I will note anything pertinent at the end of the season - information I'll need again and where to find it.

And then begins the true "journal" section of my seasonal bullet journal ... :)

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I chose a pretty image from a New Year's card I received from my cousin. (I took a photocopy and taped it onto the page.) 

And the rest of the pages are just being slowly filled up with my thoughts and any clippings I like! These are just a few examples ...

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I'm not very strict with my journaling - I don't even do it every day, though I really wish I would. I start with the date and the weather icon/temp. and then I just ot down whatever comes to mind. Things we did, people who visited, observations of nature, ideas for seasonal meals, etc. I want my journal to be something that when looked back upon years from now, there is a sense of me, and my family and home ... and time of year! They're certainly not very exciting and perhaps not all that interesting, but I do love looking back at my journals. It's such a great way to preserve memories and inspire seasonal awareness.

I've kept journals like these since high school, but I've mostly kept them separate from my planners. In recent years however, I have tried keeping my journaling notes inside a three-ring binder, along with planning forms. While I like that idea very much, it's just not very portable ... and so I tend to work in that platform a little less than I'd like. I'm finding this small book is fun and easy to carry with me and work in whenever mood strikes.

Here is my current journaling spread:

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I added that pretty February note page but have yet to use it! Not sure if it will be a list of goals for the month or a catch-all of monthly folklore and storytelling ideas. The blue post-it note was for monitoring yesterday's daily to-dos. (I know ... I KNOW. I used this simple little sticky note instead of using a page in my Day Designer and I felt ... well, a little guilty! But a little relieved, too.)

The right -hand page has clippings to be added and you can see the little binder clip I use to mark my spot in my journal. Another handy-dandy tool that helps me find my place fast!

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Back cover - the end! :)

Well, I hope you enjoyed this tour of my little seasonal journals! I will revisit them in a future post and let you know how I'm doing with them. I will also post again to update you on how all my other planners are faring. But for now - as the darkness descends out my windows and the ovens come to temperature ... it is time for me to move away from the computer and get my family's supper started!

Thanks as always my friends, for stopping by ... and thanks too, for your patience, when I'm unable to blog. I will always return no matter how long my "breaks" ...

See you here again very soon!


Holiday Tea at Dawn's ~ Cozy Nests (Pt.2)

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Hello my friends, and Happy Monday! Welcome to part two of last week's Tea post! (Yes, I am a  bit "off-schedule" here - but that's the way of things lately! Please see my updated Tea schedule at the bottom of this post.)

Now, to continue with our conversation on "cozy winter nests," I thought I'd share some pictures of my own special spot as well as some thoughts on how to go about creating your own! I'll get to the nest photos in a moment, but to begin with, a quick word about the tea set shown above ...

Some of you might remember this pinecone tea set from the days when my older boys were little. I came across these darling dishes at the Christmas Tree Shoppe for a song and just knew immediately they were perfect for our nature-loving, woodland-based homeschool! My boys and I had "seasonal tea" regularly throughout their childhood and this basically involved milky tea or cocoa (or maybe hot cider) and something yummy (and hopefully homebaked) as well as read-aloud or puppet story. This sweet set began with bowls and plates, but those are long gone! I still have a small set of mugs, the charming tea pot and one little bowl which I use to hold tea bags. Happily nowadays both my younger boys love tea, too - and so the homeschooling tradition continues!

In the above photo we were enjoying a special "candy cane" cocoa for St. Nicholas's Day, our traditional treat on this feast day. I usually hook candy canes on the mugs of hot chocolate (aka bishop staffs), but had forgotten to pick up some natural ones at Whole Foods. (You may recall we have EB on a special diet free of artificial colors and flavors.) So instead, I just added some organic/natural peppermint extract to the simmering milk and mixed it with our homemade hot cocoa blend. ❤

I've been keeping this pretty tea set on a high shelf in my kitchen but have decided to bring it down and keep it handy - it won't get used otherwise! And so our pinecone set has found a home in my "cozy winter nest ... I'm keeping it on a tray so it can be moved about as needed. 

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(Notice the little Lego on the corner of that table? That would be a Minecraft pick-ax, in case you didn't know.)

Ok, now back to our NEST discussion!

I'd like to first talk about a list I made for myself when I began setting up my nest. I first asked myself some questions about the concept of "keeping cozy" and then brainstormed some general ideas. My first list just appeared rather randomly in my doodle notebook ...

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This is my brain dump, and as you can see it's a bit of a mess! I use it for writing out weekend plans and shopping lists ... and lots of odd bits and bobs, too!

I then refined my list to be clearer and more "presentable," lol ...

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I'll keep this list in my December planning pages. :)

Here's my own Cozy Winter Nest breakdown. I would encourage you to ask yourself the same questions!

Why? Because there's a long cold winter ahead and instead of dreading it, let's make the best of it. Why not feather a cozy little "nest" for ourselves - a spot exclusively for comfort and joy - where we can hunker and hibernate till spring?

Where? This will be a space where we can rest and replenish our winter "stores" - ideally out of the way of the general household hubbub.

What? What will make this spot comforting? What items will bring joy? This list will be different for everyone!

When? How often can we actually BE in our nest? Will we roost here daily or will it serve as an occasional retreat?

Now, I think I've probably addressed the "Why" question pretty thoroughly by now so let's skip to the "Where." It is my firm belief that your nest can be ANYWHERE ... from a whole separate room to the end of a couch and/or bookcase ... even a dedicated window space can serve to enhance your level of winter coziness.

(I think it's helpful to start by brainstorming WHAT your ideal nest looks like and then look around your home for a fitting spot.)

Personally, my nest needs to be somewhere a little apart from family "traffic," but still close enough that I feel I'm handy to my kids if they need me. So I've claimed a portion of our living room for my nest, and here are some pictures I took the other day ...

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This is the epi-center of my nest - Mama's Reading Chair!

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It's a bit old, it's a bit squishy - but I love it! I keep a small table next to it for my tea mug (etc.) and I use an ottoman on the other side for planners. There are also plenty of baskets about for books!

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(The basket beneath the ottoman holds catalogs and coupons.)

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Cats are a nest must-have - even when they're being naughty!

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A birdfeeder outside the window is another must ...

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And plenty of natural light plus cozy lighting!

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Library loans are kept nearby - it's handy to keep them all together.

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I like to fill the coffee table with seasonal reading materials ...

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And there needs to be special spots for the cats to snuggle in, natch.

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Cats are natural-born nesters ... :-)

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And blankets are always a draw!

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And they too love sunny spots ... in the winter, a south-facing window provides soul-soothing warmth and light.

Other essential nest items not shown include:

journal-keeping supplies: notebooks/binders, pens, scissors, tape, clippings to add

children's storybooks: my nest is a GREAT spot for read-alouds!

music: I like the Pandora app; currently I'm listening to old English Christmas carols.

video: I use my computer for watching DVDs - now showing, "Take Peace: A Corgi Cottage Christmas."

correspondence: notecards, stamps, address book, etc. I'm working on Christmas cards at the moment!

candles: I have scented candles here and there but I like battery-lit ones for every day use.

hand lotion: I keep Curel at my kitchen and bathroom sinks but a tube of lovely rose-scented cream in my nest!

What would you add to my list? :)

As for the "When" question ... well, for myself, I enjoy "nesting" every day. Because I'm up so early, I start my day here (I'm talking 4 a.m.), and I also sit here at least once a day to read with Little Bear and/or Earlybird. On the weekends I try to have a block of time devoted to keeping "office hours," and here is where I like to work. If you're used to being in your nesting space you will naturally gravitate there, but if it's a new idea to you, you may have to create an actual nesting schedule! At least to begin with. Begin by feathering this space as you like, and then consider how often you can indulge in a little nesting behavior. Let your loved ones know this is important to you, and if you have to write it on the family calendar then do just that!

Because a nest of our own is a help as much as it is a haven. It's a place where we might battle winter's darkness and soothe our world-weary spirits. It's a place to cultivate creativity and bask in the comforts of home. Even if all the space you have is a kitchen window-sill, arrange a few special things there (a pot of herbs, a picture frame, a nourishing lotion, a scented candle) and let that be a place you go for a moment of mindfulness each day. ❤

There's so much more to say about the benefits of "nesting" but I will wrap up for now. That said, I would love to revisit this theme after the holidays - say mid-January. The next month is busy for most of us, with Christmas coming and all, but once Epiphany's come and gone, I will take a fresh look at my nest and see how I can spruce it up for the "deep winter" months. I think for many of us there is a sense of melancholy when the festive season has passed and the pretty decor of the holidays has been packed away. But let's not let that happen! We'll come up with a wonderful winter plan and see ourselves through the long cold weeks ahead ... 

Now, about my Tea schedule going forward! I have to be honest with you all and myself - I had hoped to sneak in another Tea post mid-week, but instead I will stick to my original schedule and be back on Monday with our next Holiday Tea. Our theme will be "O Christmas Tree" and I will share pictures of our home's holiday decorations, plus we'll talk about the upcoming Winter Solstice.

For now I will say goodbye and thank you all for joining me ... I'd love to hear your thoughts on Cozy Winter Nests so please drop a comment if you have the time! I'd also love to see YOUR Christmas trees, so please consider sending me a picture if you are able: drhanigan AT gmail DOT com.

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


Holiday Tea at Dawn's ~ Cozy Winter Nests (Pt. 1)

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Hello my friends, and Happy Monday! I hope you all had a nice weekend and that your December is off to a great start! â¤ï¸

Well, I just had so much to share with you today, I decided to split this post in two! More on that in a bit, but first of all, WELCOME! Thank you so much for joining me for another weekly tea. Today we'll chat about crafting a little "cozy" for ourselves before winter sets in. We'll also talk about my favorite tea, my homemade planner and few of our Advent plans for the week!

But let's begin by talking about tea - which for me, is pretty much synonymous with "cozy" - so let me ask you this if I may:

If you could conjure up the perfect, most comforting and appealing "tea" you could imagine (with or without goodies), what would that tea look (and taste) like?

Well for me it would be a big mug of a preferred and special hot beverage, accompanied by just a little something sweet and homemade, such as a plain cookie or biscuit. I usually just drink black decaf (tea) through the day, but lately I've been indulging in an extra special evening tea that - though it requires a little more prep - is entirely worth the extra effort!

So, have you ever heard of a London Fog Latte?

< Now, here is where I would have posted a picture of this very special and preferred tea beverage of mine, only - real life got in the darn way! So today's afternoon tea became a less "special" affair, though certainly no less satisfying. Earlybird had a physical this afternoon at 1:30 and, as many of you know, our autistic son has some BIG anxiety when it comes to doctor's appointments. Happily, the appointment itself went really well ... but unfortunately, Bill got called into work, so he had to miss the doctor's visit (we usually go together to the kids checkups) AND so, he was not on hand this afternoon to make me my very special beverage!! (He's quite involved in the prep work, and it's just not the same without him!) Anyhoo, the appointment (though great) went long, we had some food shopping to do (natch), and we just got home now (at 4:13 p.m.), so I've made myself a very "regular" cup of tea - my old standby - and this is what I'm having right now as I type ...

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It's so dark at this time of day!! I know that bothers a lot of people, but I don't mind so much. The sun was going down as we finished up our errands, and it just felt SO GOOD to get home ...

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... I might have had to slow down and take a dashboard pic of this sunset! For me, whatever the season, watching the sun set is always a cozy moment - but perhaps all the more so in late autumn.>

Ok, let's get back to our tea discussion now! In my NEXT post I will show you what my favorite drink looks like, but for now you will have to just take my word for it: it's a very pretty drink!

I stumbled across a London Fog Latte - on Pinterest maybe? - but the first time I ever had one was at Starbucks. They don't list the drink on their menu, but I heard it through the grapevine you could ask for such a thing, and so that's just what I did! Admittedly, I might have felt a little silly asking for something off-menu (much as I did the time I requested a "Franken Frappuccino" or some such nonsense one Halloween) but the barista barely blinked at my request and got right to work. It was a very good and memorable drink - but I like the ones we make at home even better!

Here is how I make this comforting and delicious hot beverage:

I first prep a cup of Earl Grey tea just as I usually do. I use Bigelow's decaf version with one sugar and a good splash of milk. As my tea steeps, Bill starts steaming some whole organic milk. He uses a Breville Milk Frother to steam and froth the milk (a gadget we've had for years but I've never used myself). You could just heat some milk in a saucepan but then you wouldn't get those lofty peaks of dairy delight!

Once the tea is prepared, I add a splash of vanilla, and then I top it off with the delicious and creamy frothed milk Bill has prepared ... and it is just so, so good! It would perhaps be really nice to make some lavender sugar to dust on top sometime ... but I am a little hesitant to mess with perfection!

Now, I don't drink this every night but maybe once or twice a week. I started drinking it a few months ago, when I found myself needing more of a "ritual" for unwinding in the evening. It's soothing and just a little sweet, and it just presses a button in me somewhere that says, "slow down and settle yourself." :)

Also, fyi, I recently found a loose tea blend from Harney & Sons called "Victorian London Fog."

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I have yet to try it but will let you know once I do!

Now, let's talk about the cookie portion of my "tea" and for me, I can think of no "cozier" cookie than shortbread. I made these little "bites" on Friday, in honor of  St. Andrew's Day. They are incredibly easy to make and keep really well!

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Shortbread cookies have long been my favorite - to me they are an absolutely perfect treat: small, simple and suffused with a soft buttery flavor. I use a recipe I found online and it is just so super easy! Just three ingredients: butter, flour and sugar. What's not to love??

I usually cut the baked dough into simple rectangles (with the iconic fork marks) but I decided to try star shapes in light of the first week of Advent. (As many of you know, we follow a nature-based Advent tradition, and this week our theme is "seeing the light of earth & sky." For more on our family traditions, please see my Advent Crafts and Plans archive and in particular, for this week, this post.)

Now at this time of year, it's all too easy to spend time inside, where it's warm and bright and ... yes, cozy! But there is something to be said for getting outside when we can ... and creating a little light of our own to hold fast against the gathering darkness. So the other night we took advantage of dry conditions and had ourselves a little "Welcome December" bonfire ...

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(Pop on over to this post to see a quick bonfire video!)

You all know I love to talk weather, so I must ask: how's the weather where you are? Is it chilly and gray, inspiring you to seek your comforts indoors? Or is it mild and bright, luring you outside? It's been up and down here in New England. As I began the draft of this post, it was a very dark and rainy Sunday ... but as I finish up at Monday teatime suppertime, the day has been sunny and unseasonably mild!

Speaking of weather, one thing that can be tricky when planning out an Advent Countdown is, in fact, the weather. Sometimes I have a particular activity in mind, but if the weather turns foul a change in plans becomes necessary. So one of the things I like to do when I sit down to plan out our week - any week of the year - is to consult the Weather Channel app on my phone. 

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Not that the weather can't change, but usually the weekly forecast gives me a pretty good idea how easy it will be to get the kids outside! (Happily the week looks great for finding nests, gathering branches, and taking an evening "lights" walk!)

On that note, since we're now talking about plans, here is a better look at this week's spread in my homemade seasonal planner ...

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This week's seasonal theme: "Cozy Nests." Our first week of Advent theme: "sticks, stones, stars."

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The left-hand page is an overview of the week ...

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While the right-hand side is set up for the week's agenda (schedule) and homeschooling notes ...

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It was important to me to include a section in my planner for seasonal crafts & comforts ... 

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(We don't do it all, but I do keep the plans from year to year!)

This corner shows where I write out all the "events of note" for the week, as well as our dinner menus plans.

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And finally, here is where I write in my little weather notes!

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All these pages shown here are in my spiral-bound planner, but I have been experimenting with keeping these pages in a three-ring binder instead. Each planning platform has its merits - I just need to figure out which works better for me!

Now before I go (for now) ... I feel I need to tell you about some really wonderful holiday programming on this Thursday night!

First, at 8 p.m. ...

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A Charlie Brown Christmas ... :)

It's family tradition to all sit together and watch this show WHEN it is airing on national TV. Sure we could watch it anytime on DVD, but that's just not the same.

Amiright?

And then, immediately following ...

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The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition!

I'm very much looking forward to watching both of these shows. The Baking Show is on after my bedtime, so thank goodness for that DVR!

Well my friends, I'll be off for now since I've kept you here for so long. We have more "cozy" concepts to discuss, so I hope you'll join me later this week in a follow up post. I will share thoughts on enhancing the comforts of home, as well as some pictures of my own "winter nesting spot." And if anyone would like to share their own nest, please feel free to email me your pics (with a brief description) and I will include them in my post!

drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

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


Advent Countdown: Stories & Simple Activities

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Hello my friends and Happy Thursday! I know we're but a few days away from the 1st of December, so you probably have your Advent plans already in place, but here I am anyways, to share what my Advent project looks like this year ... :)

In addition to a few treasured traditions, I really enjoy coming up with something new for my boys every year! (Check out my Advent Plans & Crafts archives if you'd like to see past projects.)

So this year I decided to revolve our Advent countdown around picture books - meaningful and beautiful stories we've enjoyed as a family for years. As I've blogged about before, we have an awful lot of books - longtime homeschooling family that we are! - and though they are indeed spread out all over the house, I do like to organize them by subject and season.

Case in point - here's our Christmas book bin:

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True confession: there are more books now than can fit in this pretty rolling bin ... and yes, those are my slippered feet in the bottom of the pic!

So, as you can see, we have many, many Christmas books  ... so what I did first was to go through the WHOLE stash and pull out the ones we (ahem, I) love best. Then I looked over our December calendar, considered our weekly seasonal themes and then organized the books into separate piles ...

1st pile: WEEK ONE "cozy nests, stars/sticks/stones" (St. Barbara, St. Nicholas)

2nd pile: WEEK TWO "seasonal spices and Christmas trees" (OL Guadalupe, St. Lucia, EB & Papa's B.day)

3rd pile: WEEK THREE "welcome winter & advent animals" (Winter Solstice, Full Yule Moon)

4th pile - WEEK FOUR (which is just 12/24) "O Holy Night" (Christmas Eve)

I realize this all sounds rather complicated, but there is a method to my madness, I promise! Here is the low-tech spreadsheet I made up for myself as I worked it all out ...

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And here's a corner of my December month-at-a-glance calendar, showing how I note our weekly themes ...

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Next, once I had my 24 books all assigned to their dates, I placed them in a basket so I could get down to work ...

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Naturally, Archibald offered to help ...

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I went through each book and chose an illustration to photocopy, something that would hopefully be rather easy to identify ...

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Then I gathered the rest of my materials: poster board, washi tape, stickers, post-it notes, glue stick, pen. All items I already had on hand!

I figured a post-it was a good size for a small illustration, so I first made sure I could fit 24 on the board and then I started cutting out my illustrations! 

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(Remember - these are photocopies!)

Once I had all my picture squares, I placed them in order and then decorated the edges of the poster board.

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I used an Elmer's glue stick for this and it worked just fine adhering the copy paper to the poster board ...

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I used Christmas-y washi tape to jazz up the poster board a bit. I also used up some old stickers I had on hand as you can see below ..

Next I placed a plain white post-it note over each illustration ...

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And then ... I placed a log slice sticker on the bottom edge of each post-it. The post-it notes hide the illustration and the stickers keep that post-it note from flipping up and revealing any hints!

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Close ups of the poster/post-it/sticker situation ...

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Festive, yes? :)

Lastly, I used a red pen to number each sticker ...

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And secured Archie's approval, natch ...

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And that's it!

Well, actually ... there is much more to it and I will now get to all that. :)

Honestly though, this was a super easy project to pull together this morning. The photocopying took the longest time I think.

Here's how (I hope) my plan will unfold ...

Each day the boys will pull the day's post-it off and, using the revealed illustration, will head to the Christmas Library to try to find the book of the day. (I may also stick a number on the day's book to make it easier for my boys who are pretty young and might need help with this. Little Bear is not yet so familiar with the Christmas book collection and Earlybird may not recognize the illustrations.)

We will then all read the book together! (Please see my book list below.)

I am taking it a little further by planning a simple activity to go along with our Advent reading each day. I am not sharing this "Advent Agenda" with the boys beforehand however, because, as I've learned in the past, it's best to determine first if an activity will work - given the time/energy/weather/mood of the boys - and their mama! I have included my ideas below, next to the book titles.

I hope you enjoy the list and maybe can use an idea or two!

The PDF: Advent Countdown: Stories & Simple Activities

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December 1st

Celebrate Christmas: With Carols, Presents and Peace by Deborah Heiligman

*Set up our Advent Garden.*

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December 2nd

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

*Watch The Polar Express and drink hot chocolate!*

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December 3rd

The Light of Christmas by Richard Paul Evans

*Make beeswax candles for Advent Garden.*

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December 4th

An Early American Christmas by Tomie dePaola

*Nature walk: gather twigs and other natural craft materials.*

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December 5th

Angelina’s Christmas  by Katharine Holabird

*Take an evening stroll around neighborhood  - deliver holiday cards.”

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December 6th

Santa’s Favorite Story by Hisako Aoki

*Saint Nicholas Teatime: mulled cider and speculaas cookies.*

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December 7th

Song of the Stars by Sally Lloyd-Jones

*Make twig stars and other natural-material ornaments.*

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December 8th

Night Tree by Eve Bunting

*Go to The Farm and get our Christmas Tree!*

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December 9th

Country Angel Christmas by Tomie dePaola

*Cookie Baking Day with Nana!*

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December 10th

The Animals’ Santa by Jan Brett

*Decorate a Solstice Tree for the backyard Animals.*

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December 11th

The Golden Christmas Tree by Jan Wahl

*Make golden glitter tree ornaments.*

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December 12th

The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola

*Visit the Nursery to see poinsettias. Make cinnamon-sugar tortilla stars with fresh pineapple-mint salsa. Tacos for supper!*

❤️

December 13th

Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett

*Bake and decorate gingerbread folk.*

❤️

December 14th

My Wonderful Christmas Tree by Dahlov Ipcar

*Write and perform  a Woodland Christmas puppet show.”

❤️

December 15th

Christmas Farm by Mary Lyn Ray

*Take a nighttime Christmas lights drive.*

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December 16th

A Wish to Be a Christmas Tree by Colleen Monroe

*Watch the bird garden at sunrise while sipping hot cocoa.*

❤️

December 17th

The Christmas Bird by  Bernadette Watts

*Set up our children’s creche.”

❤️

December 18th

The Christmas Cat by Efner Tudor Holmes

*Make moon ornaments for Solstice Tree; watch moonrise tonight.”

❤️

December 19th

Corgiville Christmas by Tasha Tudor

*Bonfire night! Make magic pinecones to burn in fire.*

❤️

December 20th

Pussycat’s Christmas by Margaret Wise Brown

*Make homemade gift wrap.*

❤️

December 21st

Bear Noel by Olivier Dunrea

*Family Solstice Supper with hot wassail, cottage pie and sun cake.”

❤️

December 22nd

The Friendly Beasts: An Old English Christmas Carol by Tomie dePaola

*Go caroling!*

❤️

December 23rd

Christmas in the Stable by Astrid Lindgren

*Visit an outdoor nativity scene at night.”

❤️

December 24th

The Night Before Christmas illustrated by Douglas Gorsline

There will be new pajamas and slippers and steamed almond milk before bed!

*

I hope you enjoyed my Advent ideas! Please remember - my goal is not to do every single thing on my list, but rather, to use the "plan" to create an atmosphere ... a slower, peaceful and happy time of anticipation. The 24 days of Advent pass very quickly and I sincerely hope every one of them brings you much comfort and joy!

Well my friends, as always, I thank you for stopping by and wish you all a pleasant day ... see you here again very soon!


❤️Looking Ahead: Tea & Christmas Planning!

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Hello again, my friends!

Well, it's a rather dreary November afternoon here - sleety, cold, and DARK - so I'm taking a break from our Thanksgiving prep to sit down for a cup of tea and to share a couple of quick things with you all. The first thing is what you see above ... this year's Christmas Planner is ready to go!

🎄 Dawn's Christmas Planner for 2018 ðŸŽ„

Now, I'm really excited to dive into holiday planning - but I do like to live in season, and be mindful of our present blessings - so this week is all about thankfulness - and preparing turkey for 25! I also, however, like to get my ducks in a row asap, so I printed out a fresh copy - updated for the new year with a new, pretty cover (and back) page - and added it to my planning binder. There it will wait for me until Friday morning when I'll be raring to go! (Over a cup of mulled cider and leftovers!)

Okhere is a little sneak peek at the inside pages ...

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I hope this 16-page booklet will be helpful to you as you plan out your holiday season, but more than that - I hope it helps you think about HOW you want the season to feel. Christmas is about so much more than just the nitty gritty details - not that there's not a lot of things to do and keep on top of in order to make everyone's holiday  happy - but it's really about creating an atmosphere, crafting a vision, cultivating and carrying on with traditions that make the season so special for everyone. It is also, if I may be so bold as to suggest, a time for making time for ourselves. A time to connect with the true spirit of the season - whatever that may mean for YOU - touching base with the memories and values you hold dear. These weeks go by so fast, let's give this special time some real forethought and plan a Christmastide that will bring not only happiness, but harmony - inside and out.

Well ... more on all that in posts to come, but on that note ... the other thing I wanted to tell you all today is that I've decided to bring back my WEEKLY WINTER TEAS!

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And so ...

Tea at Dawn's will commence next Monday, November 26th and continue (fingers crossed) every week throughout what I like to call, "nesting" season.

I am still hammering out my thoughts on this special project, as well as my weekly Tea themes, but come next Monday we can start by sharing a little of our Thanksgivings as well as our hopes for the season ahead - not to mention, of course, a lovely cup of late autumn tea!

Guests are always welcome at Teatime - to simply read, or share thoughts, or to participate with pictures - so I hope you'll consider joining me! Grab that Teacup image above if you'd care to spread the word, and if you'd like to send me a picture, please email me:

drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

Our 1st post:

November 26th: "Thanksgiving Memories and Holiday Hopes."

Well friends, I will be off now as dinnertime has approached and I am actually now typing these last words with a five year old in my arms who is complaining of a bellyache! So for now ...

Thanks so much for stopping by, have a nice evening, and I'll hope to see you here again very soon!


My 2019 Planning Sheets: Printable & Free!

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Hello my friends and Happy Sunday! With just a little over a month left to the year, I would like to share my 2019 planning sheets with you all!

Please find all the PDF links below and read on for more information on how to print and assemble your own planner. (With more posts to come on planner "maintenance" as well!)

I believe this is my third (or fourth?) year sharing these planning sheets here at the blog and though I am getting a little more comfortable with the tech side of things, I always seem to scramble to make the sheets "post-able" just before year's end!

This year I'm happy to say I am able to share them in a much more streamlined way - and I hope this makes them easier to use!

Please let me know if you have any trouble printing the sheets or if you come across any typos or incorrect dates. As always, these sheets are very much a homemade affair - a rather personal project I create for myself first, and then make public in hopes others might find them useful. I'm a self-confessed planner addict for sure, but I really enjoy making my own planner because it allows me to create something with my own "mother and homemaker" needs in mind. There are so many gorgeous, wonderful planners out there - and yet I have not been able to find one that not only meets my specific needs but also suits my taste for a planner that's a little old-fashioned, specifically home-centered and has true seasonal "flair."

(To that end, in addition to seasonal quotes on each weekly page, you will notice that font colors change monthly to reflect the time of the year.)

These sheets are certainly not perfect but they do come straight from my heart and it is my dearest hope that they are fun for you to use and maybe inspire you to find a little more "comfort and joy" in the year ahead. ðŸ’›

Now as I mentioned last week, as much as I'd truly love to, at this time I'm not able to offer prepared planners for sale. I'm afraid I just don't have the kind of time I'd need to take on such a project. (Folks who have "won" a giveaway copy before can attest to how long it takes me to make it for them!) I'm definitely not saying never - just not this time around!

What I can do though, is share my planning sheets in PDF form, and make them available to readers for free! I can also give you an idea how to go about printing and assembling these pages into your own personal planner, in a form that makes sense. I myself have gone back and forth between using these sheets in a three-ring binder and having them spiral-bound at the copy shop ... but I'll talk more about that in a bit!. :)

Ok, without further ado, here we go! Each link is a printable PDF file and is free for your personal use.

💛 The By Sun and Candlelight Seasonal Planner for 2019

Front Section

January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December

Extra Blank Pages

 (Please note the November and December files are larger due to holiday planning and might take a little longer to load.)

And now for more details ...

I use HP ink and Staples brand "Premium Bright White" paper:

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The paper is smooth and has a nice weight to it. :)

Other materials I use when making up a planner:

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The planner includes title pages for each month of the year, but I find it handy to insert a thicker piece of paper to set apart the monthly sections. I like to use pretty patterned paper that has the thickness of card stock for this purpose. These papers tend to come in a larger "12x12" inch sheet so I just cut them down to size. I buy mine through Amazon or at the craft store.

As you can see, I really like "vintage" images ...

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(Note - if you have trouble finding paper you like, you could also use card-stock for your monthly dividers. I made up a separate PDF of my 12 monthly title pages in case you'd like to use those title pages as dividers. Just print the PDF file on white card stock so the pages have a thicker weight.)

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I also like to choose an especially pretty piece of paper to serve as my planner cover page:

Planner cover

I sometimes use alphabet stickers for "monogramming" the cover. I'm not a big sticker gal really, but they can be fun and add just the right touch of whimsy.

Now for a very important piece of the planner assembly, especially if you are binding your sheets at the copy shop ...

Chipboard

This is sturdy 50-point chipboard which will give your planner a very firm back cover. I got a package of 20 for $17 at Amazon. (In case you are wondering, a three hole punch does go through this material!)

Speaking of which ...

Three hole punch

If I'm going to keep my planning sheets in a binder, then I use a three-hole punch! The one I have is quite old, but I'm linking one that seems similar: Swingline Three-Hole Punch.

And as for a binder ...

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My favorite binder is a Martha Stewart 1-inch, 3-ring binder. It holds 275 sheets and is wonderfully sturdy and the rings work so smoothly. I honestly have not found another binder that works as well! They are all too stiff and the rings can be lethal! You can find this binder at Amazon but I buy mine at Staples for a much better price!

Last but certainly not least (because they give me such joy!) ...

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I use adhesive tabs for the monthly divider pages. I love these pretty pastel tabs made by Erin Condren. I buy them at Staples but they are also available Amazon and through www.erincondren.com.

Basically I just print out all the sheets and paper clip each section to keep all those pages in order. 

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I add the cover, monthly dividers (with tabs attached) and chipboard backing ... then I either bring the whole thing to the copy shop and ask for it to be "spiral bound" or I hole punch the sheets and file them into a binder. 

A note on spiral binding ... I take my planners to Staples for binding. They offer this service for about $5.00 and depending on how busy the store is, it's a pretty quick job! The spiral binding is made from plastic but recently I was told that they can send out the planners to be bound with a metal coil instead. I have yet to try that but I think metal coils would add a nice sturdiness and a touch of "elegance" to the planner!

Here are a few glimpses of planner construction, but as I mentioned at the start of this post, I will be back with a follow up post to talk more about using the planner once it's all put together!

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planner assembly ...

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ready for the copy shop ...

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the first month of the new year ...

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menu planning and overview ...

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extra planning pages ...

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monthly review and holiday planning ...

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the weekly spread ...

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January shades of brown, blue and rose ...

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the month-at-a-glance ...

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color-coded events ...

Well my friends, that is all I have for today! I would love to hear your thoughts and any questions about my planner and/or planner-making process. As I said, I will be back with a follow-up post to talk more about how I use this planner - my "system" if you will - and I will be happy to address any questions in that next post.

In the meantime, thanks so much, as always, for stopping by - I wish you all well and will 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 - ðŸ˜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 • popcorn balls  • corn muffins at Sunday breakfast • the cornfield or corn maze • tying up cornstalks at the front door • how about a taste test! which tastes better: boiled or grilled? • 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 • warm mittens • hot cocoa • handmade valentines • birds at the feeders • 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


Printable Planning Sheets! Plus, WEBINAR news!

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Hello my friends and Happy Monday! I am so excited to share a couple of super fun things with you all today!

First of all, I have some more seasonal planning sheets for you! These are for the remaining months of 2018, and I do hope you enjoy them! (Please let me know if you have any problems opening these PDFs, or if - heaven forbid - there are mistakes!)

September 2018 Planning Sheets

October 2018 Planning Sheets

November 2018 Planning Sheets

December 2018 Planning Sheets

(Please stay tuned for info on 2019 Planners this fall.)

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And now for more details on the webinar I mentioned earlier this month, and that exciting event is coming up THIS FRIDAY, AUGUST 17th!

Here's a link with all the info and a sign-up form:

Homeschool Connections: Inspire Virtual Conference 

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"This FREE online conference will provide you focus to ramp up your planning efforts while invigorating your outlook for the upcoming school year."

(Did I mention this webinar is FREE?!?)

My dear friend Mary Ellen Barrett will be interviewing five different folks on various homeschooling topics, and honestly I am more than a little overwhelmed by the amazing company I am in: Jennifer Mackintosh, Dave Palmer, Tony Agnesi, and Bonnie Landry! I feel truly honored and humbled to have been asked to join this panel of gifted and accomplished speakers!

Now, when you sign up for INSPIRE, you can choose which talks you wish to "attend" - they begin with Jennifer's at 10 a.m. and end with mine at 2:45 p.m. (eastern time). My talk is titled, "Seasonal Homeschooling: Cultivating a Gentle, Grateful Year," and not surprisingly, I'm still working out my notes! I do hope to have some helpful thoughts to share, a few favorite resources to show you ... and well, you just KNOW I will have a big cup of tea in my hand! :-)

Ok, so that's all for today, but I will have another post (maybe two!) to share this week as we get closer to Friday. I have some PDFs in mind to create and there MAY be a GIVEAWAY in the works!! So please stay tuned, and I will see you here again very soon!

Thanks so much for stopping by!

p.s. Top photo: Sunday office hours - it was a "big mug" kind of day!


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 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 50° 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!


Lent at Our House 💜

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Hello my friends, and Happy Thursday! We are now two full days into Lent, and so that means ... this post was meant to have posted two days ago!

But - and stop me if you've heard this one before - such is the way this week is rolling. The boys have all come down with a cold and it's really gumming up the works around here. (Just a garden variety thing I'm pretty sure - no fever or body aches, thank goodness.) So classes are being missed, lessons are being skipped and our free time is being spent lolling around on the couch with a handful of cough drops, the tv clicker and tea ...

Anyhoo.

(It's rather ironic I felt compelled to give up "complaining" for Lent this year, because I feel like I've been more prone to it than ever lately ... and that's not normally my nature. Generally speaking, I'm very much a "glass is half full" kind of gal - but then maybe that's the point? Lent is a great time to work on one's weaknesses and address any negativity in one's life. So my strategy is this - each time I find myself complaining or feeling the urge to do so, I stop and think about (or ideally, write down) something to be grateful for right that very moment. I'm two days in and so far, I've surprised myself with how often this happens!

So in the spirit of (over?) sharing, I've gathered these beautiful blessings today ...

  • freshly brewed coffee
  • Burts Bees Honey Throat Drops
  • open windows
  • a good book to read at bedtime
  • the sound of the wind in the trees
  • daily behavioral support for my son

And now I'll add (in response to my opening paragraph) ...

The blessing of being at home, with my kids, allowing ourselves a low-energy day and working on things like this ...

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💜

Temps were in the 50s today, so boy did it feel good to stand in an open front door while I worked on this wreath! It was, rather sadly, still dressed for the winter holidays so instead, for the new season upon us - I removed the red-berries-and-golden-bells garland, left the ecru lace ribbon in place and added a dark purple ribbon on top. Pretty plain, maybe - but pretty enough! On Gaudete Sunday (March 11th) I'll switch out the purple for soft rose and then on the Vernal Equinox (March 20th) I'll add some pale speckled eggs. When Easter arrives 12 days later there will also be a host of brilliant silk butterflies fluttering here. :)

In my top photo you can see the wreath on our front door as it opens into the foyer and the kitchen door beyond that upon which I hung our Lenten cross countdown (detailed in this post). You might note there are no fingerprints on the cross yet ... ahem ... and I might remind you that I saw that coming! Definitely going to be a weekend activity, that fingerprint thing. So on Sundays I'll invite the boys to add their colorful fingerprints in multiples as they think back on how their week went. (Easier for washing the ink off, as well - to just do it all in one go.) It's a little strange to see this doorway shut like this because the door to the kitchen is almost never shut! (The door to the left leads to the basement, in case you were wondering.)

Now, moving on through the door to the right (which is not in the picture, but is there all the same), we step into the living room where I set up our Lenten mantle today ...

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I kept it pretty simple as I usually do at this time of year. After removing all the winter items from last month, I wiped down the woodwork (carefully supervised by Archie) then set the following things along the mantelpiece:

  • a glass jam jar for collecting alms
  • our brass crucifix, draped with sheer purple ribbon
  • six tea-light candles, each set in a small grapevine wreath (one to be lit each Lenten Sunday)
  • a large pillar "paschal" candle, also set in a grapevine wreath - which will stand unlit until the Easter Vigil
  • a vase of freshly snipped forsythia branches (in hopes they'll bloom by April 2nd)
  • a plain brown butterfly box in which we've "buried" our alleluia ...

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For this I printed out the words "Alleluia Alleluia" on paper, cut them into a small strip and then we tucked that paper inside a small sack (a muslin mulling bag!). That sack was then placed inside the plain brown, butterfly-shaped box shown above. On Easter morning the boys will find the box open, and the sack empty. There will be, however, a beautiful banner strung across the grapevine cross hanging above the mantle, joyously announcing, the theme of the day: ALLELUIA!

Speaking of that cross ...

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We've had this cross for years and I'm fairly certain I bought it at Michaels Arts & Crafts. (I've seen similar ones at Amazon, but for WAY more than I paid! I think I paid well under $10.) True, it's a little worse for wear, with one or two broken vines now, but I adore it - nature and faith in one symbol - and use it pretty much year round. At this time of year, though, it plays a very special role!

Throughout Lent then, I start adding little bits of (silk) greenery and so the boys see this cross as very much "coming to life" as we near Resurrection Sunday. On Easter eve, before heading to bed - because NOBODY beats Earlybird when it comes to waking - I stuff this cross full of fresh, colorful blossoms. (I always buy an extra bunch of flowers just for this purpose. Nothing is blooming in New England in March and April except possibly for a few tender crocus!) Across the front of the cross, covering up those wooden letters, I hang the aforementioned Alleluia banner.

(Here's a peek back at the cross as it appeared on Easter morning, 2008!)

For now though, I love the "Be Still" phrase on this cross, which I added using a hot glue gun some time ago. It's a wonderful concept to teach children - to be able to slow down and just BE - but I find it especially fitting during Lent. In fact, I find myself using this concept of "stillness" as we talk about the sleeping earth and how we must wait for it to awaken ...

Right now, in the dead of winter, all seems very still. But it's good to be quiet and let the earth sleep - it needs it! Soon though, if we are patient and pay close attention, we will be rewarded with signs of new life!

I love how so much of the rhythm of nature ties in so beautifully with the traditions of our faith, and so I am quite pleased when I find resources to support this connection! Which brings me to this book ...

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Make Room: A Child's Guide to Lent and Easter

Published in 2016, but new for us, I will be using this LOVELY resource with my younger boys this year. Soothing, peaceful, child-friendly ... infused with gentle connections and meaningful suggestions - this is already a new family favorite! 💜

Here are a few peeks inside:

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I just love how it explains Lent to children in a way they can easily understand, posing thoughtful questions and highlighting their own feelings ...

"I like to have nice things. I like to buy treats. And I like to eat my favorite foods. But not all the time. There are times for filling up and times for emptying out. Lent is a time for emptying, for sharing, for giving away. It is good to make space."

I have collected so many books through the years - for just about every season, holiday and feast you can think of - but I often find choosing Easter books for my children rather tricky. The story of the Cross is not an easy one for tender hearts, especially the very young and those with special needs. I might find a book appealing but fear it will frighten or confuse my younger boys. But while the true Easter story is right here in this book, I appreciate that it's done in a way that remembers its audience ...

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If you are looking for a new Easter read this year, I highly recommend Make Room. (If you couldn't tell by my glowing review, lol!) It's realistic and soft-hearted and wise ... and oh so lovely to look at! I feel it was $15 well spent. :)

(Because I've made it a goal this year to spend less on non-essentials, I did check my library system before "splurging" - but I'll admit I was relieved to learn they did not in fact carry a copy!)

Well my friends, I thank you for joining me and I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into my home (and my reading basket!) as we begin our Lenten journey. I so love this time of year, a kind of "pre-spring" when winter is waning and hope is building, and we must muster our resolve and weather on through many dull and dreary weeks before LIFE returns to our world ...

Wishing all a peaceful Lent, however you spend it, and hoping to see you all here again soon! ðŸ’œ

p.s. Mitten Strings Tea is coming but MAY not be up Friday afternoon as originally promised. I will do my very best to have it up by Sunday at the latest!


Bits, Bobs & Mitten Strings ... ❤

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Hello my friends, and Happy Monday Tuesday! I'm popping in today to share some Mitten Strings for God book study scheduling news, as well as a few other bits and bobs. :) I had meant to do this over the weekend, but alas ... life! And in particular, special needs parenting life. I won't get into the details of all that right now, but if I may ask for your prayers/good thoughts for Earlybird, who's having a rough time at the moment, I'd be sincerely grateful. â¤

But on with the good stuff! First I'd like to share this quote from our next chapter in MSfG, "One-on-One Time" ...

MSfG quote bigger font

That is Little Bear of course, but the picture's a couple of years old. (It's weird that I can say that about his pictures now. Wasn't he JUST a couple of years old himself?!) It was taken during a woodsy winter solstice walk, and technically, it wasn't a "one-on-one" outing - because Bill was there, too! But I feel like this kind of picture represents the quiet times I spend connecting with LB apart from the bustle of everyday life. For this outing, we had left the noise and demands of the household behind us for a bit and it was a wonderful thing - to just focus on LB and his dear developing personality, to watch his funny expressions and listen to his very interesting thoughts. Young children have such a wonderful perspective on life, don't you think? And that's not to say I don't enjoy time spent with each of my boys, but I find myself alone with Little Bear most often these days. Spending one-on-one time definitely comes with more conscious effort as the kids grow older ... they get busy, and seem less enthralled with what their parents might have to say ... but more thoughts on all this at our next MSfG Tea!

And speaking of! Our next Mitten Strings for God study/tea will take place on Friday, February 16th. It's a bit later than I originally proposed, but I am trying to be very honest with myself about my free time - eg. how much I do and don't have! (Not nearly as much as I'd like but that's just the season of life that I'm in!) So please join me a week from this Friday for a wee chat and a winter's tea here at the blog. Let's talk about chapter 12, and the importance of making time for each of our children - while appreciating each of them for who they are. (As the mother of four sons I can honestly say that children are all just SO different, even same gender siblings raised in the very same way!)

Now, this might be a tricky chapter for me, because I don't think we (as in, Bill and I) do exceptionally well with this concept. As homeschoolers I think there's a bit of the feeling that "well, we spend tons of time together, anyway!" And special needs parenting comes into this, too - the demands it places on family life and the effects it has on maintaining balance - not to mention, sibling relationships. So I have some deep reading and thinking to do ...

As always, I'll be very eager to hear all of your thoughts on this, too! I invite you to send me those thoughts (with or without photo) or just chime in at the post itself. All are welcome to join this ongoing book study! (And at this rate we'll be talking about Mitten Strings all year!)

Now, while I'm here, I thought I'd share some photos from the past couple of weeks, beginning with Little Bear's first visit to the Lego Store ...

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Can you even believe how big he's getting? Granted, we're all crouched down around him, but he's truly getting quite tall. And the way he's talking has changed, you know? Even the way he walks is different now. It's a little heartbreaking how quickly time flies when our children are small ...

Well, about those Legos ...

Last fall, Little Bear - already a huge Duplo fan - discovered the extra-special magic of building with REAL Legos. Like the ones that BIG boys (and girls) build with. He's just four, so he's a bit young for such Lego building - they can be frustrating for little hands - but he's handling it pretty well and just loving all the creating and getting his biggest brothers (longtime Lego fans themselves) to help him out. I love this picture above because it's me with my Lego kids, big and small. And not to keep harping on the "time-flying" thing, but I swear those older boys were just the "little" Lego kids in my house. I certainly have the zillions of Legos to prove it - stashed in the attic AND the basement - not to mention the scars on my feet!

So since I'm now a bonafide 18 years + Lego Mom, I bought myself a minifig for my key ring ...

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That's "Rey" from Star Wars, in case you were wondering! :)

Now, here are some books from my "Deep Winter" basket ...

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Books that had gone MISSING because  - well, I'm not sure why they went missing. It's a bit of a mystery! Usually I'm very careful about our seasonal book collections, but somehow last year our Deep Winter and Early Spring bin got divvied up and the books ended up here and there in our basement. *GASP* Thankfully though, I found them all on Candlemas morning (Feb. 2nd) just in the nick of time to celebrate Groundhog Day!

But to back up a day, here are some pics from our February 1st, also known as "St. Brigid's Day," a lovely feast we enjoy celebrating each year ...

Butter

Firstly, by making our own butter! (St. Brigid, is patroness of Ireland and dairymaids.) This is that ol' marble-and-cream-in-a-ball-jar trick - the one the children think is SO cool until they realize just how hard and how long they have to shake that dang jar! (Mama gets quite an arm-workout on Brigid's Day, let me tell you!) We like to serve the smidgen of butter we end up making with our bread rolls at supper. Daddy always makes sure to be suitably impressed!

We also like to make a Brigid's Cross for this feast, a craft I've only in recent years gotten the hang of ...

Soaking rushes

We started with "rushes" from our yard. (Actually, dried ornamental grass, but they work!) Because the material was rather stiff though, we soaked them in snowmelt for about an hour before attempting to weave our cross.

(And note I said, "cross," not "crosses." Clearly we gathered enough grass to make several crosses, but in truth I overestimated the interest and energy levels of my children and their mama!)

Here's the end result:

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Now this was Brigid's Day morning ...

Muddy melty

Muddy, melty and the ground still smattered with snow ...

Ice

Not to mention ice once the temperature dropped! February can be a fickle month in New England, but mostly it's just cold and snowy ... and cold.

And YET ...

Eggs

Our hens have started laying again!! To me that's a sure sign spring is in the air ... or at least, in the amount of light we are getting every day. (Which has been increasing every day since the winter solstice.) I try to keep my senses very keen to the nuances of each season and I can tell you - the light is changing, and the bird song is different ... and yes, the air smells a little different on those drippy days. I feel certain that spring is stirring in the woods, underneath the half-frozen ground, deep inside those tough yet tender branches ...

Meanwhile, back inside ...

Archie in basket

Archie is purrfectly content (sorry, had to) soaking up the afternoon sun, spending his winter days in a cozy basket. Even when said basket is not meant for him (but rather, my books) Archie considers it fair game.

But really, how could I move him?

So instead I set up at the kitchen table a little to the left ... 

Cirtus week

And worked in my homemade planner to iron out some lesson plans for the week ahead. The current week's seasonal theme? Winter citrus ... :)

Last shot:

Daffs

My kitchen window yesterday morning. It was so bright and beautiful and the air was a balmy 40° ... I allowed myself to focus on these delightful daffs and those fresh eggs from my hens. It made washing dishes a little less of a chore and a bit more of a blessing ... I was home, I had my family to care for, and that sunshine was so good for my soul ...

Oh, and by the way - the first picture in this post is a shot of my writing desk, with a teacup candle I made for Candlemas. Very easy to do with a bit of beeswax and a simple wick ... I think I have a post that explains how this works somewhere here, hang on ...

Yup! Here it is. Same method, just a different vessel this year! :)

Well, my friends, I'd best be off now ... but I wish you all well and thank you, as always, for joining me! I hope you enjoyed these rambling thoughts and photos and I look forward to chatting once again in the not so distant future! For now though, enjoy these lingering winter days, and please take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I'll see you here again very soon!


Tea & Mitten Strings: Ch. 8, "Secret Places"

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Hello my friends, and Happy Sunday! I hope you all are having a nice weekend, and I hope my fellow Americans enjoyed a very happy Thanksgiving! Ours was quite nice - and I do have some pictures to share - but for now, I'd like to serve one last cup of Autumn Tea and talk about our next chapter in Mitten Strings for God, chapter eight, "Secret Places." 

Now, despite the "Christmassy" look of my tea pic above, it actually is still Autumn! But I think most of us are switching gears at the moment ... tucking away Thanksgiving (and maybe Halloween) decor, and working on our December calendars and this year's holiday plans ...

But outside my window the world still looks very autumnal! There are crunchy leaves underfoot, and some still clinging to the mostly bare trees ... and oh, those late, glowing sunsets! But the chipmunks have gone underground now - we realized that the other day, shortly after we spotted our first dark-eyed junco on the front lawn. These two species disappear (the former) and reappear (the latter) around the same time each year and it's always a highlight in our household - right along with that first hard morning frost!

Who saw the first junco? Has anyone seen a chipmunk lately? Wow the grass is crunchy this morning!

Autumn's ending ... winter's nearing ... it's time to turn inward and "switch on the lights." â¤

Here's a peek at our Saturday afternoon, roundabouts 3:00 ... 

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See how dark it gets around here?! And though my Little Bear is wearing a winter jacket in this picture, the temperature was strangely mild today - very near 60°! And, according to our local forecast, all next week is looking unseasonably mild as well - which doesn't bode well for our pre-assigned seasonal theme of "Welcome, Jack Frost!" Lol, we may be hard pressed to celebrate "frosty weather" next week, with highs near 50° ... though the nights will dip down to the 20s, so there is hope! (I contemplated switching themes, but I think we'll stick with it ... and if it stays mild we'll talk about how elusive that ol' winter sprite can be at this time of year!❄️ )

(p.s. The wooden structure is an Advent project in the works - more to come next week on that!)

Ok, enough with the weather talk now, let's talk about tea! This week I'm drinking my favorite decaffeinated black tea in a sweet mug I bought at Home Goods a year or so ago. It's a good sturdy mug that holds a nice amount of tea - and I love the bright red letters spelling out HOME - and the four birds heading straight for it!

(Note - I find the cutest mugs at HomeGoods for very little money. Well, they're not free or anything - as Bill would remind me - but they're a nice enough price I don't mind splurging once in a while! ðŸ˜‰ )

So I took my tea yesterday in our sunny kitchen nook while filling out my December calendar -  because GOODNESS the new month arrives Friday! (Calendar post to come soon!) And though most Advent calendars begin on December 1st, technically, according to the liturgical calendar, Advent begins on the first Sunday of Advent, which in 2017 is December 3rd. And that's a week from today!

Either way you look at it though - whichever calendar you follow - Advent is coming - and SOON!

Before we get on with our chapter talk though, and speaking of tea and Advent, I have to share this with you all ...

Advent teas

This is MY Advent calendar this year, an extremely generous and incredibly thoughtful gift from a dear friend! It arrived in a wonderful surprise package last week, a lovely and festive box filled with special teas for each and every day of Advent ... 24 in all! I am so excited to try them all, and I love the inspiration they represent - a perfect reason to sit down and savor a few quiet moments each day throughout the season ... to soak it all in and think it all through. Advent goes so fast and we can easily get caught up in the hustle and bustle ... but as we tea lovers know, a hot cuppa something special is all the invitation we need to slow down and press pause. I am planning my teatimes already and making room for these special moments in each day. I hope to share most, if not all, of these teas with you all on social media this Advent season!

Ok, let's now move on to our next Mitten Strings chapter ... and today we are discussing the concept of "Secret Places." Here is a link to my post from 2008 and once again I had a chuckle reading back through my thoughts back then. Different house, different (aged) kids (plus one more kid now) ... unsurprisingly things were so ... different back then! Our house has more floors and our yard now has more acreage - so there are more nooks and crannies to explore - but my primary "secret place finder" is only four years old! So I'll have to adapt the concept of a "hideaway" this time around ...

"Every child needs such a place, a place that invokes the processes of the imagination and the possibility of transformation. A place that is at once a haven from the adult world and a source of mystery and wonder, a place that a child can discover and shape and lay claim by virtue of his or her own quiet presence there, and deep observation." (p. 62)

Little Bear is just at the right age for seeking out such special, secret places - though again, he's too young to be left to his own devices just yet. I hope next spring to help him explore a little more around our property, to find some little nooks in which he might find "a sense of ownership and mystery," (p. 58).

Here is one such place he has taken a liking to recently ...

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As you can tell from my posts, we are surrounded by woods here - even our front yard has "a small wood" of its own! Well, Friday afternoon, as I walked down to get the mail (taking a break from Thanksgiving cleanup!), I heard Little Bear calling ...

"Mama, come see what I found! Come see, come see! Me and Daddy are here now!"

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A little nook right inside this cozy wood, just a slight dip down below our driveway ... with big, moss-covered rocks to climb and (unbeknownst to Little Bear) a vernal pond to explore come spring. (No actual peepers, though. Just lots of muck and murk.) I was so pleased he stumbled upon this spot which is clearly visible from the house but feels "secretive" to him. Four is such a great age, and LB has such an adventurous spirit ...

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This will make a fun, out-of-the-way place for him to explore ... and "claim."

"The best ones are the ones that children discover on their own, the ones that are imbued, from the very first, with a sense of ownership and mystery; places that no adult would ever think to go, that are hollowed by the shapes of small bodies and furnished by wild nature and rampant imagination." (pg. 58)

Kids are magnets for these kinds of interesting outdoor spots, especially when and if allowed to roam (and lead). Their sharp eyes see such possibilities! But winter is coming and the weather will soon be turning inhospitable; outdoor explorations will be put on the back burner for awhile ...

So as we spend more time indoors, I thought I'd take a look around the house and see where else LB might find his own special nooks ...

Here's a great place for a little "fort" ...

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In the library, where Mama reads (and drinks tea) ... in between the chair and the loveseat, just beneath the (rickety) end table. :)

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He'd be snuggled up right next to the heating register, too! And just under the tablecloth there, you see a glimpse of the cats' soft pet-bed. This is used mostly (always) by Oliver, who is our quieter of the two cats. (There's a reason you see Archie in most of my photos - he's my constant sidekick!) Oliver though, likes being out of sight and prefers being somewhere dark and warm. I'm thinking Little Bear could make good use of this space, too!

And here's another possible secret (ish) place ...

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Well, there's really nothing too secret about the loft bed in Little Bear's bedroom, but I think it has "secret place" potential ... maybe with a curtain of some kind providing some privacy ...

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He's too young to sleep up here just yet (and he has a separate single bed in this room as well) but I think this will be great fun for him as he gets a little older and more adventurous! And there's that neat little cubby just beneath the bed as well ... currently it holds out-of-season clothing but that too could make a wonderful "fort" or hidey-hole someday!

You know, "Secret Places" was another wonderful chapter, with some lovely inspiration for those of us with young children ... but I think the whole idea of a "secret place" is of value to all of us. Our imaginations might not be quite so active as we age, but the need to feel out of the limelight and "off on our own" on occasion ... really never goes away.

"Children need their privacy just as we adults do. In the secret places of childhood, the soul drinks deeply, is refreshed, and flourishes." (p. 63)

Do you have a secret place you retreat to? Do your children have such places they call all their own? I'd love to hear about them and your thoughts on this chapter, if you have time! Or how about the weather where you are, or the tea you are drinking these days? Do you, like me, feel called to pour a cup of tea and "hide away" as the days grow dark and cold?

I'd love to read your comments if you have time to leave them, or send me a link, your thoughts and/or pics if you have a moment!

---> drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

I hope to hear from you and I thank all of you who have been reading along and sharing your thoughts as you can! Sorry I am a bit late in my replies - last week was a busy one! I will be catching up with you all again soon (and sharing some pics from our family's holiday too). Next week's Sunday post will be our first Advent Tea and very fittingly our chapter is all about "Wants and Needs." Something to ponder as we head into the busiest shopping time of the year, and choose gifts for our loved ones ...

So until then (or next time, whenever that may be) I wish you all well and a very lovely last week of November! Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ... 

See you here again very soon!


Planning for Seasonal Joy!

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

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!

✨ ❄️ 🍂 🎃 🍃 🔥 ✨

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!)

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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! ðŸ’›

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! 

✨ 🍁 🌞 🌲🌛 🍁 ✨ ðŸ 🌞 🌲🌛 🍁 ✨ ðŸ 🌞 🌲🌛 🍁 ✨ ðŸ 🌞 🌲🌛 🍁 ✨ 

 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!