Last Minute Tips {Homeschool Planning}

/ Sunday, September 10, 2017

It's Back to School season right now, even among homeschoolers. For as flexible as we claim to be, most of us follow a more traditional school year--myself included. So what if we aren't quite ready to start and are feeling like there are loose ends we still need to tend to? Here is a quick list of things that can be done relatively easily to help homeschooling get off to a good start and continue to flow well.

create a daily flow for each subject
Not all of us use a curriculum that has lesson plans laid out for what we are to do each day. In fact the majority of my curriculum is not laid out for me. So it helps me to make my curriculum choices "open and go". I do this by selecting assignments in advance to be done each time we do that subject. (This is great when homeschooling more than one child because you can use that assignment list for the next child!) I also create a daily flow to each subject. For example, in science, my middle grade children work according to this rhythm every science period:

  1. Read the lesson up to the "experiment" section.
  2. Complete the experiment and then complete the rest of the reading.
  3. Define any science terms and copy any science principles.
  4. Answer the discussion questions/notebook page.
Then I put that daily flow plan on a sticky note or index card (taped) inside the child's text book or notebook, so they will know what's expected and it helps them become more independent in their work.
*Note: selecting assignments in advance can be done for the entire school year, half the school year, or quarterly. . .just so long as you are ahead of where your children are.

print worksheets and make photocopies ahead of time
It never fails that in the middle of a lesson, you realize that you need a paper printed and you don't have it. My experience has been that I can't find the original, or that my printer won't work, or that my computer is running slowly. Meanwhile the kids are kind of in a lull, waiting for me to fix the problem. It just becomes an interruption to our day.

So, I print every worksheet, test, coloring page, map, quiz etc. for each of my children, for every subject ahead of time. Yep, that's a lot of copies. Yep, that's a lot of ink. But the peace of mind, friends. . . that's the goal. If printing for the year is too much, try it quarterly. The whole point is to be ahead of the children so you are prepared.

weekly work binder
Now that you've printed a massive stack of papers ahead of time, file them away according to subject, grade, child or whatever works for you. Then before the start of each school week, put whatever worksheets or print-outs each child needs for the week into that binder, again filed according to subject, grade, child, day, etc. This keeps hand-outs in a central location so each person knows exactly where to find what they need for the week. I can keep up with my little ones' work and my older children know where to get what they need without needing to ask me. Also, it makes their work portable as we do our school work in a couple of different places in our home. I came across this brilliant idea HERE and we are trying it out this year.

color code
This tip is as old as they come, yet I'd never tried it before...until now. I've got four kids that I'm officially schooling and our colors are green, blue, black and red. We are using composition notebooks this year, and those colors were readily available. Plus, green and blue are my oldest girls' favorite colors, so that worked out great. Anyway, I'm not big on color coding every little thing (like cups, plates, and bath towels), but I do like the convenience of being able to glance at a notebook and know exactly who it belongs to. Color coding by child might not be your thing, but you could color code by subject or day of the week to help you organize school work.

organize materials in a way that makes sense to you
So, if the above color coding advice sounds like a nightmare to you, don't do it!! Go with what makes sense for your family. For example, our history book suggested organizing any written work by continent and our writing curricula said to organize essays by type (narrations, historical, fiction, etc.). While that sounded great when I read it and organized our binders, it ended up being a disaster for me. I realize I am a chronological mama--I like things to be filed in the order they were completed so that I'm better able to see my children's progress. Also, when my homeschool portfolio review comes around, I can pull samples of their work, in order, to show a logical progression of what they did each month. So we will simply organize things one lesson at a time.

get a new planner; don't wing it
It's just better for all involved if you have some way to track each day. You can purchase a planner, from a simple calendar book to something that schedules every hour of the day. It can be on paper or online. What has worked for me is to make my own planner each year. There are tons of free planning pages online so it can be very simple to pull together a custom planner to fit you and your family. I get most of my planning pages HERE. In times past, I found that the planners I purchased had 2 major problems: 1. lots of pages I never used and 2. not enough space to write in daily assignments. So, I make my own now and I love it. If you choose to do this, you can print the pages and stick them in a binder (which is what I do) or take them to an office supply store and have it laminated and comb bound for you.

What other tips do you have to make homeschooling go smoothly for you? How do you organize your school work? What type of planner do you use? 
Happy schooling, y'all!



It's Back to School season right now, even among homeschoolers. For as flexible as we claim to be, most of us follow a more traditional school year--myself included. So what if we aren't quite ready to start and are feeling like there are loose ends we still need to tend to? Here is a quick list of things that can be done relatively easily to help homeschooling get off to a good start and continue to flow well.

create a daily flow for each subject
Not all of us use a curriculum that has lesson plans laid out for what we are to do each day. In fact the majority of my curriculum is not laid out for me. So it helps me to make my curriculum choices "open and go". I do this by selecting assignments in advance to be done each time we do that subject. (This is great when homeschooling more than one child because you can use that assignment list for the next child!) I also create a daily flow to each subject. For example, in science, my middle grade children work according to this rhythm every science period:

  1. Read the lesson up to the "experiment" section.
  2. Complete the experiment and then complete the rest of the reading.
  3. Define any science terms and copy any science principles.
  4. Answer the discussion questions/notebook page.
Then I put that daily flow plan on a sticky note or index card (taped) inside the child's text book or notebook, so they will know what's expected and it helps them become more independent in their work.
*Note: selecting assignments in advance can be done for the entire school year, half the school year, or quarterly. . .just so long as you are ahead of where your children are.

print worksheets and make photocopies ahead of time
It never fails that in the middle of a lesson, you realize that you need a paper printed and you don't have it. My experience has been that I can't find the original, or that my printer won't work, or that my computer is running slowly. Meanwhile the kids are kind of in a lull, waiting for me to fix the problem. It just becomes an interruption to our day.

So, I print every worksheet, test, coloring page, map, quiz etc. for each of my children, for every subject ahead of time. Yep, that's a lot of copies. Yep, that's a lot of ink. But the peace of mind, friends. . . that's the goal. If printing for the year is too much, try it quarterly. The whole point is to be ahead of the children so you are prepared.

weekly work binder
Now that you've printed a massive stack of papers ahead of time, file them away according to subject, grade, child or whatever works for you. Then before the start of each school week, put whatever worksheets or print-outs each child needs for the week into that binder, again filed according to subject, grade, child, day, etc. This keeps hand-outs in a central location so each person knows exactly where to find what they need for the week. I can keep up with my little ones' work and my older children know where to get what they need without needing to ask me. Also, it makes their work portable as we do our school work in a couple of different places in our home. I came across this brilliant idea HERE and we are trying it out this year.

color code
This tip is as old as they come, yet I'd never tried it before...until now. I've got four kids that I'm officially schooling and our colors are green, blue, black and red. We are using composition notebooks this year, and those colors were readily available. Plus, green and blue are my oldest girls' favorite colors, so that worked out great. Anyway, I'm not big on color coding every little thing (like cups, plates, and bath towels), but I do like the convenience of being able to glance at a notebook and know exactly who it belongs to. Color coding by child might not be your thing, but you could color code by subject or day of the week to help you organize school work.

organize materials in a way that makes sense to you
So, if the above color coding advice sounds like a nightmare to you, don't do it!! Go with what makes sense for your family. For example, our history book suggested organizing any written work by continent and our writing curricula said to organize essays by type (narrations, historical, fiction, etc.). While that sounded great when I read it and organized our binders, it ended up being a disaster for me. I realize I am a chronological mama--I like things to be filed in the order they were completed so that I'm better able to see my children's progress. Also, when my homeschool portfolio review comes around, I can pull samples of their work, in order, to show a logical progression of what they did each month. So we will simply organize things one lesson at a time.

get a new planner; don't wing it
It's just better for all involved if you have some way to track each day. You can purchase a planner, from a simple calendar book to something that schedules every hour of the day. It can be on paper or online. What has worked for me is to make my own planner each year. There are tons of free planning pages online so it can be very simple to pull together a custom planner to fit you and your family. I get most of my planning pages HERE. In times past, I found that the planners I purchased had 2 major problems: 1. lots of pages I never used and 2. not enough space to write in daily assignments. So, I make my own now and I love it. If you choose to do this, you can print the pages and stick them in a binder (which is what I do) or take them to an office supply store and have it laminated and comb bound for you.

What other tips do you have to make homeschooling go smoothly for you? How do you organize your school work? What type of planner do you use? 
Happy schooling, y'all!


Continue Reading
Let me just say, I am usually not the product-pushing type of person. But today, I am! So, I'm just going to put it out there right away and say: take a look at the pencil sharpeners from Classroom Friendly Supplies!!!

If you are anything like us, then you've been through a few pencil sharpeners in your homeschool. We've tried the electrical sharpener that works great until it gets jammed or the motor gives out....or the toddlers stick things other than pencils into it. Then, we've tried the little personal sharpeners for each of the kids and it chews the pencil to a nub before it sharpens, or the lead keeps breaking over and over again, or the lead keeps falling out. We tried a manual with a crank handle, which was great, until someone broke the shavings compartment. It won't stay attached, which means that the entire sharpener won't work.

All of those problems are now solved! This shiny red sharpener arrived a few weeks ago and we love it!!!





It's a manual sharpener that gives a perfectly sharpened pencil every single time. It comes with a mount that gives you the option to secure it to a table or counter top. The shavings tray sits underneath the blades to catch shavings, rather than encompassing the blades. So the function of the sharpener is not dependent upon the tray. Here are pics of my 5 year old son demonstrating how to use it and you'll see how unique this sharpener is!

To begin, slide out the silver face until it clicks in place.

Pinch the 2 black knobs together BEFORE inserting your pencil.

Maintain the pinch and put the pencil in as far as it will go.
Let go of the knobs and the sharpener holds the pencil in place.

Hold the top of the sharpener (do NOT hold the pencil) and crank the handle to sharpen. When the handle feels "loose" and the tension is gone, you know your pencil is ready!

Pinch the black knobs again BEFORE removing the pencil.
Perfectly sharpened pencil every time!

This sharpener arrived right in the middle of our back to homeschool planning, which was great as we've been getting everything ready for the new school year, including freshly sharpened pencils. All of my kids have been scouring the house finding all sorts of pencils to sharpen, excited about having their turn to use the new sharpener. And we've been happily sharpening away!

If you're interested, visit Classroom Friendly Supplies to check out what my family calls the best pencil sharpeners ever!

I received the pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies in exchange for an honest review on my blog. All of the opinions expressed were my own and I was not required to give a positive review.


A Husband's gentle touch
A sink full of dishes
Goofy children giggling
Crumbs on the floor
Slobbery baby kisses
A diaper change
A hot cup of coffee
Full laundry baskets
A candle burning 
School work to check
A blanket to keep warm
Bathrooms to clean

These things are ordinary in my life. At least one of them is bound to happen every single day. But if I'm not careful, it's easy to take them for granted, and I miss the true treasure--blessed gift--they really are.

Some items on the list above, hands down, we'd all agree are the sweetest things ever. But then some of those items, well, we struggle to see the gift they possess. The world would have us believe that some of these things are boring, or they are not worthy of our time. We feel like if someone else can do them, then great, especially if that means getting our hands dirty, yielding of ourselves, and serving those in our own homes.

To do so means a lot less "me time" and way more "them time." It means being faithful and diligent, when no one can see you, without any public recognition over what you're doing. Others would say, there just isn't enough wow factor, that they must be amazed and entertained and these things are nothing but drudgery.

But if we look closely enough, we find that blessings abound in our regular, routine, day-to-day, ordinary lives. It's the tiny things: the small victories, the sweet notes, a kind word, a song heard. Treasure upon treasure: the people in our homes, the tasks God has given our hands to do, the ability--both mentally and physically--to carry those tasks out. Yes, even the mundane, unexciting, non-glamorous things are a treasure because they hold lessons for us, and if we let them, they refine us and mature us, all to the glory of God.

"Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; 
nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness 
to those who have been trained by it."
-Hebrews 12:11

Remember, sisters, we are to live this Christian life in service to others. And if we refuse to engage the treasures in our own homes, how can we honestly live that out outside of our homes? Even our very own precious Savior, bent low to wash His disciples' feet (John 13:1-17).

I urge you to pay attention to what is around you. I mean really look at your daily life. Stop just long enough to take it all in as more than just the same ol' same ol'. Beauty is every where. Gifts are all over the place.

Crumbs on the floor and dishes in the sink mean my family is fed. And not only are we fed, we had a choice in what we wanted to eat.
Laundry to do means we have clothes to wear and clean running water. And again, a choice in what we wanted to wear today.
Noisy toddler voices become music to the ear when we remember these precious days are fleeting. You'll look up and you have teenagers
Moving a husband's boots to the closet may remind you of how hard he works to provide, that he has a job to go to each day.
You can see the sun shine. You can smell a flower. You can breathe.

Honestly, the list goes on and on and on.
Be faithful in the small things, and even in the hard things, sisters, be faithful.
Treasures abound in the ordinary.


Treasures in the Ordinary

by on Monday, August 28, 2017
A Husband's gentle touch A sink full of dishes Goofy children giggling Crumbs on the floor Slobbery baby kisses A diaper ...


When summertime hits, for some of us, it's all about the beach or the pool, family vacations, or simply a break from the regular routine. I would love to lounge poolside every day and catch up on some good reading or to have an extended vacation and dig in sandy shores all day. However, that is not this summer's reality, here at home with my sweet children. We have been intentional in taking a break from our regular routine, adding a bit of fun and surprise each day. Nothing big or super fancy, but definitely noticeable….like pancakes on a Wednesday, when we normally have them on Saturdays. Or, nap time “sleepover” in the living room, with popcorn and a movie. (Sometimes twice a week: once for the big kids and once for the little kids.)


While my children are resting and recharging, I recognize that I need to do the same, but in a different way. Here are two ways that I am recharging this summer: 1) reading God's Word and 2) organizing all sorts of things.


I know. That probably wasn't what you thought I was going to say, but it has brought a peace to my soul that was very much needed.


God's Word
As Believers we know that we get our rest, our refueling, our peace, our confidence, our sanity through the truth of God's word. Summer has come to be a time where I can focus on my own Scripture memory, learning passages by heart. It's a time when I can dig deep to study and search out answers, giving greater attention to some heartfelt matters. I can read a book in the Bible that I haven't read through yet, or participate in an online Bible study. Simply put, I can take my time and drink in the Word, not feeling rushed by my checklist of to-do's for the day.


Organizing
So the last point may be easier to understand why it brings me rest. This point may be a harder sell; just stay with me. When mom is unorganized, she does not have peace. . .at least this is true in my household. So summertime affords me the opportunity to get rid of things I don't need, to give attention to household tasks I've neglected, to organize school material in preparation for the coming year, to give away clothing and shoes that don't fit, to pass down to the next child clothing and shoes that do fit. I can take the time to organize things that have become a bit frazzled by the end of the school year.


I believe that wanting things “just so” is part of our make-up as women. We are in our element in our homes, as our homes are our domain. Scripture advises us to watch over the ways of our households (Proverbs 31:27). For me, when things pile up because of busyness or even due to necessity, those areas actually become an irritation in the back of my mind because I know they fall under my domain and are my responsibility. Organization recharges and energizes me, because I feel accomplished when I see the progress being made. It also gives me a clean slate to work with in preparation for the adjustments surrounding the start of a new school year.


********
So far, I'm off to a good start with resting this summer. I have memorized Colossians 3:1-8, am reading through the book of Leviticus (after finishing Jude and Philemon), and studying Biblical feasts, as well as Christian head covering.


I have organized my little ones’ closets and the toy closet (again). I've handled a number of small to-do's, am revamping my cleaning routine, while planning high school down to 1st grade for the coming year.


Peace of mind, y'all.




When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. -Acts 2:1-4

We've been talking a lot of Pentecost around here since last Sunday (6/4/17) was "Pentecost Sunday"--the day many Christians around the world remember the day the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples, and celebrate this day as the birth of the Church.

What an awesome day in our Christian faith history! The Holy Spirit of God fell on the 120 or so believing men and women, which included the disciples, where they had been gathered in the Upper Room, according to the instructions Jesus gave them before His Ascension. {Acts 1:4-17} These men and women "prophesied" (meaning, proclaimed the goodness of God) in the languages of those people who were also visiting in Jerusalem at the time. {Acts 2:1-13}

Well, Pentecost is the Greek name for one of 3 major feasts of the Lord called Shavout (Hebrew), also known as The Feast of Weeks, Firstfruits of the Wheat Harvest, or the Day of Firstfruits. {Ex. 34:18-24, Lev. 23:15-22, Num. 28:26-31, Deut. 16: 9,10; 16, 17}  Pentecost means fifty and comes 50 days after Passover, which for the believer is connected with Jesus' Crucifixion and Resurrection, {Matt. 26:17-26}

So, many, many people were gathered in Jerusalem already for this harvest feast and would be present to hear the sound of the mighty rushing wind and also hear these Believers proclaiming the goodness of God.{Acts 2:2-4} So, Peter preaches about what took place, because with tongues of fire and Galileans speaking new languages and all, some clarity was probably needed! {Acts 2:14-36} The Bible says that when the people listening heard the things Peter had said, "they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles,"Men and brethren, what shall we do?" {Acts 2:37}

Peter response is spot on: "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." {Acts 2:38-39} This is the thing to do in life, if we never do any other--to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. And because of the move of the Holy Ghost that day, the Bible says that about THREE THOUSAND souls were added to the number!! {Acts 2:41} What a blessing and a witness that is!! These people could then go back home and share the Gospel with their families and friends (thus the celebration of the birth of the Church).

We are still figuring out how we will commemorate the Day of Pentecost as a family, since this is our first year intentionally noting these sort of Holy Days. We were all going to wear a bit of red (for the tongues of fire), but as you can see below, half of us forgot. We were going to make two loaves of bread (leavened--symbolizing that salvation was not only for the Israelites, but for the Gentiles, too) {Lev. 23:15-17}, but that didn't work out. Some of the kids thought we should bake a cake--actually, if you just say the word "celebrate" my kids automatically think cake should be involved.

I played a game with the kids to help them remember to always listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit: one person was blind folded and one person was the voice who gave instructions to the blind-folded, getting that person from point A to point B. While the voice gave instructions, the rest of us had to shout and make noise and give counter-directions, making it harder for the blind-folded person to hear the right directions. It was fun, but message hit home with my older kids. My husband prays daily that we would hear the voice of God and not be overcome with distractions. This game solidified why he prays that prayer.



Thank you for reading a bit of my journey as we learn to keep faithful traditions to the glory of God. Does your family celebrate Pentecost or any of the feasts of the Lord?

Pentecost

by on Saturday, June 10, 2017
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a...

Written by Glenys Nellist
Illustrated by Rachel Clowes

This book is intended for little girls, ages 4-8 years old. It has 14 stories that are all about various women in the Bible--7 from the Old Testament and 7 from the New Testament. Some of the women are well known, such as Eve or Mary, the mother of Jesus. Others are lesser known like Naaman's servant girl or the Widow with two mites.

Each story is a two-page spread: one side for the story and the other for a beautifully illustrated picture. The colors are bright and inviting and I love how the characters are depicted according to the historical setting. Once the little girl reads the story, she can then lift an envelope flap on the page and read a note that is intended to be "written" by God to her. There's even space to write in your child's name so the notes can be personalized, just like receiving their own mail. Each note ties in some truth from the Bible story to a truth about the child. For example, in the story about Eve, the author highlights that God loved Eve as a part of His creation, calling her good, and still loving her after she had done wrong. In the "love letter from God", the little girl is told that He made her and that anything He makes is good. It says that He will love her and offer forgiveness, just as He did with Eve. This pattern is the same through out the book for each story.

I like the idea of the book overall. I think it would be sweet and endearing to a little girl. I understand that the author wants to convey the idea that God loves every little girl and has a personal interest in every aspect of their lives, just as He did with the women in the Bible. However, I'm a little uncomfortable with the notes explicitly saying, "your caring friend, GOD" or "love, GOD," as though He actually wrote it.

Also, each story is very heavily adapted from the recounting giving in God's Word. While this may be thought to be "easier" for the child to read (which I can definitely understand), it interferes with Biblical accuracy, which is really important to me. Also, I am still an advocate of children hearing the Scriptures read to them so that they develop an ear for it, not an ear for paraphrasing. In any case, the Scriptural reference is given for each one of the stories, which I think is very important, so little girls will know where to find the Scripture and story for themselves.

(I received copies of this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> and Handlebar Publishing book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)


We are homeschooling mamas, and we like our planning, don't we? We write on our pretty planner pages in 5 different colors (ahem--maybe that's just me!) and we lay out the day's plans, all inky and fresh. In those quiet moments, we have a tendency to over-schedule, because we aren't quite thinking about all of the unforeseen challenges along the way--you know, a pitcher of water spilled on the laptop, chasing the new dog down in the field behind your house, or the air-conditioner repair guy coming 2 hours early.

Those are the day-to-day, unexpected challenges we face, but what about those scheduled, recurring interruptions to our school work? Things like doctor's appointments, grocery shopping or football practice? I know my tendency in planning on those days is to try to do that scheduled activity, plus all the school work we would normally do, too. You know, because I've laid it out so neatly in my color-coded planner.

Confession is good for the soul.

I've come to realize how stressful and foolish that is. . . as though I could somehow produce an extra 2 hours in my day. The truth is that if a big chunk of the day is spent elsewhere, then it was simply spent elsewhere and I can't take that back. That is okay! I should not feel guilty about that or try to make up for my fabricated guilt by trying to squeeze in school work.

So, how can we deal with it? Here's my new plan for scheduled interruptions:
  1. Do only the schoolwork that is most important for that day.
  2. Do only the schoolwork that can be done well.
  3. Try to do #1 and #2 before the scheduled interruption.
  4. Do something fun, breaking from the normal routine, once the interruption is over.
For our home, doing the first 3 will consist of Bible along with one or two of the three Rs.
But what about #4? Here's my idea: Do those extra, add-on's that I never seem to get to do, in the flow of my normal school day, like:
  • board games
  • crafts
  • nature walks
  • self-led project
  • painting
  • planting seeds
  • unit study
  • free reading
  • computer time
  • music
  • baking
When we've had a scheduled interruption, it is extremely hard to get my children's minds redirected to our regular routine (read: school work). Instead of trying to do that, I think going off the beaten path a bit and enjoying a variation in our learning can be fun. It also gives me the opportunity to try something new or different with the kids without hindering what is already working well.

How do you handle interruptions to your school day? How you do stay on track? How do you incorporate the "fun stuff" in your homeschool?


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