Thursday, July 16, 2015

Nine Ways To Organize Your Homeschool

I am neck-deep in my super-charged, time-to-get-'er-done season of ultimate school planning and organizing.


Secretly, I love it, but shhhhhh, don't tell anyone.

I love the challenge of going through all of the curriculum and getting it organized and planned out.  There's something about taking chaos and turning it into order that soothes every homeschool mama's heart and slight OCD compulsions.

But before I show you how I love to organize our school year, schedule and room, I am so excited to share these lovely ideas that you might be able to use.  You have to know that I found these on Pinterest, of course, because well, why wouldn't I?

Anything else would just be non-sensical.

If you're looking for some color-coordinated organization love, this post from Mrs. Terhune's First Grade Site! is so full of fun ideas!  Many of her ideas can be easily modified for a homeschool room.  I've implemented a just a few of her ideas so far, but keep visiting her site to get more inspiration.

My precious friend, Heather came up with this free printable a couple of years ago to help parents set goals throughout the year for their kids.  Plus, her blog ( is simply encouraging, especially as a former homeschool student now homeschooling her own kids.

Intentional parenting means setting goals. Pray, plan and then act intentionally. {free printable semester goal sheets}
This post from Life of a Homeshool Mom is a great starting point for when you're beginning to plan out your year.  It's thoughtful and thorough, reminding her readers that this is what works for her, not necessarily for everyone.
Homeschool Planning 101 A 7-Step Guide to Planning Your Year
We homeschoolers LOVE anything free, right?!  Look at how cute these free printable binder spine labels are!  Many thanks to Vanilla Joy for making these available.
notebook binder spine labels free printable
This next one is something that is one of my favorite ways to organize my year.  Pieces of Us shows how she tears her workbooks apart then files the pages in the appropriate weekly file.  I do this with our workbooks as well, I'm just envying her rainbow colored folders!
This will be our first year of the high school portion of our homeschool (oy vey!) and this post from Tina's Dynamic Homeschool Plus gives some very practical ideas of how to bless and encourage your highschooler.
6 Ways to Organize Your Homeschooled High School Teen @ Tina's Dynamic Homeschool Plus
Do you need some encouragement in remembering why you're doing this?  Ed Snap Shots gives ten fantastic ideas of things you want to be doing with these days.
The 10 Best Things You're Not Doing for your Homeschool
I love labelling things, don't you?  These labels from Live, Laugh & Learn in Second Grade aren't printables, but I think they would be pretty simple to make and they're so cheerful!
I saved my favorite for last.  Please, don't forget the most important thing to do for your homeschool is to pray!  This is a lovely list from Life as a Homeschool Mom will give you several different verses to use throughout your year. 
We are all always looking for ways to be more organized and prepared for our school year.  We take on massive amounts of responsibility and it can consume so much of our attention.  My goal is to hopefully have given you a few ideas of things that you can do to make your days (and year) more smooth, enjoyable and lovely.
Happy planning!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Because Apparently Homeschoolers Are Supposed to Have Chickens?

I was in a conversation recently with an acquaintance and mentioned that we were planning on raising hens for the eggs.

His response? "Well, of course you are.  You ARE homeschoolers."

Oh.  I didn't realize these things were mutually exclusive.

There must be some unwritten rule somewhere that if we teach our children at home, that chickens are part of the package deal.

I wish someone would have told us sooner.  Here I've been, teaching my children for nine whole years now without the very necessary aforementioned laying hens.  How have we made it so far?

Now that we have our five ladies clucking around in their coop, I can't recall any of them asking us, pinning us down with their very beady-eyed looks, if we were homeschoolers, preparing to refuse to go with us if we answered in the negative.

I'm so thankful that if they had asked, though, we would have been able to answer correctly.  We really dodged a bullet there.

We have Maggie (Jack named his after his big sister), Lucy and Ethel, Camilla and Katherine strutting around, cackling, probably somewhat surprised that their names are nothing like Fluffy or KFC.  Our children have very exquisite taste in selecting chicken names.  I think they inherited it from me.

As we are learning about them, we are understanding the meaning of the phrases "hen-pecked" and "pecking order" in a whole new way.  Part of our education is how chickens can be so mean to other chickens who they view to be as outsiders.

However, nothing too terrible has happened yet and we're busy feasting on our fresh eggs they so lovingly give to us.

After all, we are homeschoolers.  Would you expect it any other way?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Why You Need to Read Aloud to Your Children Now

Book Club

I have given birth to five bookworms.

(They're also Mexican jumping beans.  Well, only 1/4 Mexican jumping beans, but I digress.)

Five bookworms they are, and five bookworms I am planning on them staying.  Reading to me is as natural as breathing and the love of books ranks high on my list with chocolate truffles and coffee. There is never a time when there is not a half-read book somewhere in my general vicinity.

There must be something in the genes or perhaps passed along through the umbilical cord, as life-giving as oxygen and nutrients.  There was never any question in my mind that my children would be readers.  Just like they had no choice in their genetic makeup, they had to know that they may as well have been born holding a library card.

I remember my very first readers that my parents bought for me.  Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel and Little Bear by Else Minarik became dog-eared, the spines cracked and read until they were falling apart.  I loved them so.  Neither of my parents were habitual readers nor particularly inclined to read aloud to us.  I remember compensating by reading aloud to myself as soon as I was able.  I never thought twice about it.  The simple act of knowing the words and putting them together in the building blocks of literature had become as necessary as sleep, overshadowing dolls and being outside.

One of the greatest pleasures in going to school for me was when my teacher or librarian read aloud to us.  I remember the kindly librarian introducing me to the Anne of Green Gables series with a twinkle in her eye and the whisper of, "Oh, you're just going to love this." As we progress on our own homeschooling journey, I always try to make sure we're knee-deep in a piece of literature that gets us out of our school room or family room and transports us somewhere new, old, familiar, or different.

I've heard for quite a while that reading aloud to your children is highly beneficial.  To me, it's simply a lovely thing to sit and peek at their faces as I'm reading, watching them experience the beauty of language and the power of a good story.

As I researched the benefits of it, for all age groups of children, it has become more apparent how important reading aloud to them is.  Babies who are read to at age 8 months have a more varied and well-rounded vocabulary by age 3.  A better vocabulary means that when they start school, they will be able to listen to instructions given by their teachers.  Early education is based on oral instructions because children are usually not reading enough to get all of the information they need to complete work.  The less they're able to succeed in doing their school work, the more likely they are to drop out, setting themselves up for a much harder life.  Reading also stimulates memory, curiosity and motivation. (source)

Here are a few things that I've noticed on my own with my children, no fancy research here, just plain living:

  • Children automatically turn their attention to the rhythm of the written word, whether it rhymes or not.  It's a given that if I sit down to read with my four-year-old, all of my kids will crawl out of the wood work to come and snuggle up on the couch.
  • The physical closeness is a lovely thing.  Even my older ones tend to come closer to feel their arm against mine or choose to pull a younger brother on their laps.  Reading aloud, I can pretty much rest assured that no one will be hitting or kicking one another.  It's beautiful.
  • They learn so much about other cultures and time periods.  They are learning history and about other kinds of people, just by picking up a story book.
  • When it's illustrated, my kids are feasting their eyes on art while listening.  The colors, the shapes and the words produce a harmony that appeals to several of their senses.  If there aren't any illustrations, their imaginations are hard at work.
  • They are learning different literary devices that will help them with speaking and writing later on down the road.  Things like allegory, similes, metaphor, idioms and hyperbole are all things that will give them a better understanding of the world and people around them.
  • Even though they may be reading at a certain grade level, they listen at a totally different one.  Don't be afraid to read books that are too hard for them on their own or even revisiting the ones they loved when they were younger.  
As we cracked open The Magician's Nephew tonight, by C.S. Lewis, none of my children made one motion to move away from the table.  I loved hearing their guesses as to what was going to happen next and listening to my youngest as he processed the words I was reading.  I have so much satisfaction of coming into a room and finding one of my older ones curled up with one of the younger ones, responding to, "Please read to me."  I have many dreams and desires for my children, like all mothers do.  Reading to them all now is one of the ways I can help them later on in life.

I challenge you to use this summer to read aloud to your children and then stand back and watch them grow.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Homestretch

Every mama knows about the homestretch to the end of the school year.

It doesn't matter if your kids are in public school, private school, homeschooled or in a charter school whose niche is learning to weave rugs on a loom using the wool the students sheared off of the sheep in PE.

We all know it, love it, loathe it, breathe a huge sigh of relief when we're through it.

This is our reality and the reality is that we're tired.

Everything gets a little lax this time of year.  Clothes don't match when we go out in public places, library fines start to add up, and that spelling test on the lesson plans?

Yeah, right.

Summer is beckoning and we would be fools to not heed its call.

We are all longing for some breathing space in our days, extra time for the children to bicker and get on each other's nerves.  We need days with swimming and movies with popcorn and being curled up on the couch with a book.

We are almost there, friends.  We're so close!  I can smell the alluring scent of sunscreen gently wafting in through the windows as well as seeing the glazed look in my children's eyes as we read through our history lesson.  Heck, I have the glazed-over look myself.

We can do this thing, right?

In the mean time, it's back to packing lunches, making sure everyone has clean clothes, or trying to read the history lesson even though you continue to fall asleep.

We've totally got this.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

When Dreams Are Slowly Revealed

I'll admit it straight off right here.

It's taken me twenty-five (okay, thirty-six, really) years to know what I wanted to do when I grew up. Butcher, baker, candlestick maker (or librarian), it has crossed my mind.

Don't get me wrong.  I love my life.  I can't think of anything else I'd rather be doing, in fact.  Even in the hard days of kids who pout because they have to redo their handwriting or chores or the potty overflowed again and the library books are about three months overdue (there goes my chance that library gig), I look up from whatever I'm doing and fully realize that this is the life for me.  It's wonderful and fulfilling and fun. No matter how bad a day has been, I know that by the next morning as my kids stumble out to the kitchen, eyes at half mast, my heart will still be thrilled to be spending the day with them.

But, secretly, don't most of us have a feeling like there's something in addition to caring for our sweet families that we want to do?  Is there something wrong with us?

I would say no.

When I say in addition to our families, I am saying that nothing comes before them in your priority list but as an additional way to expand the gifts God has given

I realize that there are mamas out there who would argue with that with every part of their being and I get that, I really do.

Let me make one thing quite clear.  I am an advocate for mamas to recognize their God-given gifts, training and growing them as a way to bless their family and others outside of it, not in a way that takes away from their families or homes but in a way and in the time frame that God has specifically laid out for them, which will most definitely look different for every woman.

One dream that has started to be revealed for me personally over the last few years is to become a speaker.  Once while listening to a key note speaker, the Holy Spirit tapped on my shoulder and said, "You could do that."  Within about five minutes, my husband leaned over and whispered in my ear, "You could do this."

Holy smokes.

While I'm not sure what my final niche will be yet, quite possibly in marriage or homeschooling, I am thrilled to be starting to see how God is lining everything up for this. My days are still very  much the same.  I still make dinner and grocery shop, clean the toilets and iron my hubby's work shirts.  Super glamorous, I know.  But even when I'm not seeing it, just simply being aware of it, there is training going on.

The wonderful thing about this dream is that it is big for me.  Even as extroverted as I am, I wouldn't consider myself a public speaker.  Except that I am becoming one.  I can see that it is actually something buried down deep inside of me that I didn't even know was there.  With time and practice, it is coming out.

The great thing about God-sized dreams is that this wasn't even my idea.  This is not me at all.  However, I am willing to do the grunt work and let Him take care of the results.

What is your God-sized dream?  Does it seems too big, too unfathomable, too ridiculous?  Awesome! God does His best work when things are too big, too unfathomable, too ridiculous, right?

Saturday, May 2, 2015

A Brood of Hens on Mother's Day {Cluck, Cluck}

Mother's Day around here is always a lovely, perfectly arranged, smooth flowing event.

Until it isn't.

Here's the problem:  My motto in life is "Go big or go home."  (which actually explains my former hair-do's, my bum and the size of my family.)

I get this curious gleam in my eye and ideas spew out of my mouth. My husband tries to run for the hills, but he always gets called back, responding to the voice of the siren, slowly being pulled in, unable to resist its call.

But as a mother myself, isn't it supposed to be a day where my husband and kids do all of the work and I lay on the couch eating bon bons?

As mamas, don't we all know that it isn't all about us?  Included in our family group are my mother in love, my mom, my grandma, my sister and me, which means there are five mamas.  Five.

My grandma and MIL are both widows, my mom is divorced and my sister was a single mom.  That's a whole lot of moms and only one husband... Mine.

Bless his heart, this man did not know what to do.  There was no way he and our kids could do it themselves, not that he didn't give it a valiant effort.  He really is amazing.  But, I prefer a sane and kind husband to an overwhelmed and grumpy one, don't you?  So he calls in reinforcements from the perfectionist "Go big or go home"-party-planner.  I think that actually might be my most accurate job description.

Let's be honest here, while I don't get much rest, I really love doing it.  I love setting a sweet and feminine table to bless all of the ladies and looking for ways that will minister to them.

Like serving peach sangria.  And everyone asking for seconds.

Seriously.  Nothing says Mother's Day like alcohol?  What does that say about my family?

Every year is different but it's always understood that there will be a brood of hens descending on my house after church on Mother's Day.

Yes, I am one of them, usually the one who clucks the loudest.

When it comes down to it, who else would I want to do this for?  These women surround us with their love and support, their kookiness (some which has been a genetic gift to us) and their amazing Christmas and birthday gifts over the years.

Go big or go home... just because they deserve it.

(Especially my mom because I was her child that gave her the most opportunities to practice patience, kindness and self-control.)

How will you spend your Mother's Day?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

When You are Just So Tired

There seems to be a common refrain that rolls around in our brains and out our mouths until it seems to surround us like a word bubble fog.

"I'm so tired...I'm so tired...I'm so tired."

Sound familiar?

Yeah, to me, too.

We are all busy people.  We know this fact.  We live this fact.  I do not know one person who is not busy and tired, except maybe, uh...  Nope.  There's no one.

Here we go, shlumping about, heads down and feet shuffling, while we're muttering our refrain as a chorus.

What a dismal picture this is.  Okay, so maybe it's not that bad, but it is a reality in and around us.

So what are we to do?

Late last week, as I was muttering to myself about the laundry and the dishes and bickering and the thirteen socks that have seemed to have taken up residence in my Suburban for whatever reason, with the constant reminder to myself about how tired I am, the Lord clearly spoke to me.  And I mean clearly.

"Stop.  It."

"Yes, you are tired.  This is the glorious result of living a life full of little, marvelous people and appointments and commitments, and having a home.  Guess what, girl?  Everyone else in this world is tired, too.  You are not a special case.  Get over it."

Ouch.  Harsh?  No.  Rude?  Absolutely not.  The truth?  You betcha.

So what are we to do?

We certainly cannot neglect our bodies, spirits, emotions and mental need for rest.  There is no way I am advocating that.  We certainly need to sleep (although, think of how much I could get done if I didn't?) and times to step back and give ourselves breathers.  I cannot imagine how I would get through my weeks with out a bowl of Bordeaux Cherry Chocolate and a viewing party of Married at First Sight.  I mean, really.  Let's be reasonable here.  Then, too, there was the thirty minutes today where I took a break from teaching school so I could nap.  A spontaneous viewing of Veggie Tales saved the day, Baby.  Am I embarrassed to admit this?

Uh, no.

Again I ask, what can we do?

We can change the way we speak to ourselves and others.  We can stop reminding ourselves how worn out, exhausted, drained (etc., etc., etc.,) we are.  May I just say that in a few days time, my perspective has changed dramatically?

Yes, I am tired.  However, the more I repeat this to myself, the more I am setting myself up for defeat during my days.

So what words do I say instead?  I'm still very new to this, so I'm figuring this out.  So far, when I've caught myself living in the Land of Weary (and this certainly not all of the time, to be sure), I have smiled and reminded myself at how amazing this life is.  You know what?  I bet your life is pretty amazing, too.

When someone asks how I'm doing, I don't sigh and tell them how busy and exhausted I am.  Now I am verbally reminding myself that I am actually pretty darn good.  Could you say the same?  Probably.

Are you going to turn into a perky high school cheerleader who's pony tail bounces in beat to the cheers and has valley girl speak spewing out of her mouth?  Of course not.  (Although, does that really sound so bad?  Especially when you're thirty six and possess stretch marks, a mortgage and orthodontist bills.)

Does this mean we gloss over the hard times, pretending nothing is wrong?  Absolutely not.  This is not something we do to pretend.  It is about letting our words change our perspectives.  When we speak true and encouraging words aloud to ourselves and others, the natural byproduct is the giving or receiving of encouragement.

Dear one, I know you are tired.  Let's lift our fifth cup of coffee in solidarity.  We do not have to live our lives defeated, exhausted and hopeless.

We can do this, not limping across the finish line, but with our heads held high and smiles on our faces.

We've got this, friend.
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