A Little R & R

Holiday R&R

We’re taking a little holiday break this week and pray you are, too! May the Lord use this time to refresh, renew, and rebuild; both spiritually and physically. Enjoy the holiday, friends. We’ll see you back here next week!

In the meantime, catch us on social media and share in the fun!

🎄Time to Chime In: Is taking a break part of your routine right now?

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Renewing a Simplified Life

Simplified_LifeEver summer, we take the opportunity to review and renew our household management. We look for ways we could simplify our lives, leaving time and opportunity for the building up of family.

With these basic, easy steps, we hope to help simplify life. Join us as we review and renew our thoughts on how to simplify all areas of our lives, homes, and learning.

A Simplified Life

A Simplified Life: Menu Planning
A Simplified Life: Chores
A Simplified Life: Homeschooling
A Simplified Life: Educational Resources
A Simplified Life: Extra Curricular Activities
A Simplified Life: Free Printables

May these ideas help you as much as they help me!
Cristina

📢 Chime In!: In what ways are you choosing to simplify life and enjoy the everyday?

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5 Things I Do Everyday

5_Things_I_Do_EverydayMy day is filled pretty much from the moment I wake up till the moment my kids’ heads hit their pillows. (And, sometimes even beyond that.) Life is busy. There are a multitude of things I am responsible for, and even more things trying to get themselves added onto my ‘to do’ list.

While I’d love to say I always get to it all, I am only human. To help maintain order, and keep me feeling as if I haven’t failed by not doing it all, here’s five things I do everyday; no matter what:

Sit in Quiet (& Hear the Lord) – It is all too easy to surround myself with busyness and noise. There are times God speaks in the chaos, but more often it’s in whispers. If I don’t make a point of slowing down, I risk missing the voice of the Lord.

Pray Over My Children – Each day, I start out praying over my family. I have specifically assigned days to pray over every one of my kiddos, but always say a quick prayer over all of them each morning.

Bless My Husband – Being a homeschool, stay-at-home mama, my day tends to revolve around my home and kids. I don’t want my husband to feel as if he doesn’t matter. I make a point of asking him each morning (and often throughout the day) how I can bless him. Does he need anything of me; is there something I can do for him; or would he like my company? I want him to feel loved and important, no matter how full the day might be.

Increase in Wisdom – No matter where I am or what I’m doing, I like to become a little wiser each day. Whether it’s from books, people I know, or reading online posts, I enjoy learning and growing closer to the Lord.

Think About Naps – Notice the word think. Napping is a dream. Kind of like wanting to go to Tahiti or something. It sounds lovely, but I just can’t manage to get there.

These five, simple things keep me going strong and ready for what’s coming next. However, there are a few things I’m not doing that I probably should be:

  • Taking those silly naps!
  • Giving myself permission to rest.
  • Hugging my kids more.
  • Digging even deeper into God’s Word. (I’m fixing that with a new Bible study!)

Life might be a little crazy around here at times, but with the Lord’s leading we’ve established positive highlights in our day. By taking time to hear God’s voice, pray, and seek wisdom, we are choosing to focus on what’s best for our family.

There’s always going to be more busyness with which we could fill our day, but nothing will ever be more important than these. Now, if only I could manage to get to those naps!

 “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This [is] the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.
Isaiah 30:21

đź””Time to Chime In: Is there something you should be doing daily, but aren’t?

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A Simplified Life: Extra Curricular Activities

Simplified_LifeThis week is full of activities; yesterday we had a field trip, today we’re going swimming, tomorrow is grocery shopping, and this weekend is my birthday. Not every week is this busy, but when it is, there are some key things I can do to ensure events are as stress-free and simplified as possible.

Before planning out an event, there are some questions I should ask myself:         

•Did I pray about this? (Perhaps the Lord has other plans?)                                            •Did my husband say it was okay? (As a Christian wife, I respectfully keep my husband   aware of all our plans.)
•Will my family benefit from the event? (Not all good ideas are good for us.)                  •Will I stress out trying to make the event possible? (Do I already have too many events planned on the same day?)

If my event has passed “inspection”; off to the calendar I go. I prefer to do my scheduling on a computer, there I can schedule email reminders and sync with my mobile device. It will also allow me to add notes regarding the event, such as “pack swimsuits”.

Prep for the event by getting any necessary materials ahead of time. Certain events, such as potlucks, often require me to bring food. When putting the event on my calendar, I will make sure to add these items onto my grocery list. If I have a birthday present to purchase, that will be added to my errand list. (See Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail: Part One) The day before the event, I usually try to make sure my car has enough fuel (it is always a pain to get in the car and realize I now have to stop for gas… talk about stress!)

I map out the day of the event. Knowing what time our event starts is helpful, but that information isn’t always enough. How long will it take me to get to the event? How long will it take me to get out the door? How long does it take to straighten up my house and kids before heading out the door? Do I have anything else going that morning that also needs to be done? Several factors determine how the day will go. I don’t like leaving things to chance; therefore I like to “map out” our day. It looks something like this:

Event Time:          3:00pm (With a drive time of 1 hr.)
Leave Time:         1:45pm ( I like to have extra time.)
Kids shoes on:     1:30pm (Plenty of time to brush teeth, hair, shoes on, and get the car .)
Straighten House:1:00pm (If not decent, I don’t leave. I can’t tell you how often that pays off.)
Lunch:                  12:00 (Plenty of time to eat in peace, wash up, and grab food/presents.)

This routine works well for morning events as well. I simply plug in my start time and work backwards. This helps determine what time I need to wake up, what time my kids need to be up, and everything else that needs to get done before heading out the door.

Because the event was organized and simplified to the best of our ability, we are not rushing around trying to do things last-minute. Everything we need is set in place and ready to go.  Barring any last-minute changes, we are free to enjoy our day and anticipate a wonderful afternoon. With a simplified routine we can truly enjoy the event!

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
Ephesians 5:15-17

🔔Time to Chime In: In your opinion, what is the hardest aspect of getting out the door for an event?

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A Simplified Life: Educational Resources

Simplified_LifeOne of the joys, and hazards, of being a homeschooling family is the multitude of resources available to us. If I’m not careful, we have stacks of craft supplies littering every surface of the house, glue sticks seem to be multiplying quicker than rabbits, pencils disappear in the blink of an eye, and don’t even get me started on blank paper. (It’s an obsession for us.) Let us not forget the multitude of awesome field trips books, pamphlets, and flyers mom has collected over the years as well. There must be a simple, organized way to keep track of these resources, leaving a clean surface for us to work on and a pleasant environment to live in.

My first step in simplifying the resources available to us is to organize and downsize, if necessary. I put our resources into three main categories: Crafting, Documents, and Books.

Crafting Supplies

Crafting supplies are gone through periodically, with us removing anything old, dried up, or damaged. Then, we organize!
At our local dollar store, we have purchased clear bins in which to place various supplies. We have bins for each of the following:

  • adhesives (glue sticks, glue tape, glue dots, double-sided tape, and the like)
  • scissors (both regular and pinking sheers)
  • school pencils/erasers
  • coloring pencils
  • markers
  • crayons
  • stamps (we have four boxes for our ever-growing collection)
  • ink pads/stamp crayons
  • stickers
  • embossing tools
  • modeling/sculpting supplies
  • paints (both watercolor and washable paints, including brushes)
  • glitter
  • yarn, ribbon, and string
  • arithmetic resources (rulers, compasses, protractor, and triangles)
  • science resources (magnifying glasses, rock collections, fossil collections, and more)

Slightly larger bins have been purchased to hold decorative paper for card making and scrapbooking projects our children might wish to work on. In addition to these bins, we also have stacks of blank paper, lined paper, and construction paper readily available.

While I’d love to have a learning room dedicated to just this aspect of our lives, we are using the space we have available; which means we have to be creative in how we store our resources. Thankfully, there is a fairly nice sized closet in our family room which fits this purpose. My wonderful husband installed shelves in the closet, and this is where we store our supplies. The bottom shelves hold our curriculum for the year, along with our portfolios. The shelves above hold supplies our children use on a regular basis: paper (of all kinds), writing and coloring instruments, arithmetic supplies, and painting supplies. The shelves at the top contain items I would prefer be out of immediate reach to littler kiddos: ink, stamps, scissors, glue, and more expensive crafting supplies/tools.

The children have access to this cupboard, and the supplies, all day. When we are not doing formal learning, they are encouraged to use the resources made available to them. The only rule is that they clean up the mess they’ve created.

Documents

Over the years I have collected quite a selection of field trip ideas, along with pamphlets and catalogs from various companies. Storing each of these would take up a bulk of space and keep my desk cluttered. Simplifying this collection is a must.

In recent years I have slimmed down my field trip pile by filing such information on Pinterest. Here, websites can be saved along with a pertinent note regarding cost and/or location. Gone are the piles and seeing an organized ‘board’ is a thing of beauty.

Company catalogs are also recycled or donated. A bookmark file has been created on my browser for just this purpose. Each company I like to peruse or purchase from is listed under a homeschool folder in my browser, always available and leaving more free space in our home.

Documents pertaining to my children’s learning, tests and the like, are automatically filed in their portfolios, removing this clutter from our learning space. My children’s written projects are usually dated and filed in a box we purchased just for this purpose, with a file folder for each child. 3D projects are photographed, kept for a period of time, and then removed when our children seem to have lost interest in keeping them.

Books

Last, but definitely not least, is our every growing resource of books. This is probably the hardest area to organize. Not because we can’t, but because we always adding to our collection and are constantly running out of room! Some shelves in our home are double-decked.

Art books, animation books, and all things pertaining to Christian studies are to be found in my husband’s study. Most of our children’s literature is to be found in the girls’ room. A vast collection of comics is in my son’s, along with a decent supply of Audubon guides, DK books, and the like. The family room contains the classics.

…..

Thankfully, organizing our learning resources isn’t hard, nor very expensive; merely time-consuming. But, once you get the ball rolling, it’s hard to stop! Simplifying and organizing our resources better helps us understand which supplies need to be refilled or refreshed. We are also teaching our children to be responsible, organized, and good stewards of the resources available. Plus, it’s much easier to access when you know where everything is! No more time wasted trying to find those pesky, disappearing pencils or that field trip pamphlet you just filed.

A simplified life makes things easier, and leaves more room for fun!

“But all things should be done decently and in order.”
I Corinthians 14:40

đź””Time to Chime In: Do you find it hard to throw away your children’s projects? I know we do! What helps you determine when a project needs to be placed in the circulatory bin?

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A Simplified Life: Homeschooling

Simplified_Life

There are moments I wish I could be in several places at once. This way, when I am homeschooling my kids, I could stand by each one of them and help them with their needs. Then I would still be free to get things done around the house.

While it may be summer time, this might be the perfect opportunity for me to sit down and figure out an easier way to balance my kids’ learning; since being in several places isn’t reasonable and being in one place can be stressful enough without trying to be in five!

When first beginning our homeschooling adventure, we went through Homeschooling 101. We needed to understand what the Lord was wanting of our children’s education, what the state required of us, and what educational options were available. Having a firm grasp of just these three areas helped us simplify our learning journey.

Even though we’ve been doing this for a few years, we still spend a great deal of time in prayer over each coming year. Through God’s leading, we plan our year.

Our first step in planning each school year, is to narrow down what our yearly schedule will be. This helps us determine when we will be learning, when we will be resting, and how much time we have to complete the materials. Next, we plan our weekly routine. Do we plan to do book work every day of the week; are certain days better for field trips or nature walks; and which day works best for library visits? Once our yearly schedule and our weekly routine are organized, we move on to planning our daily routine.

With a general plan in place, we move on to details. We determine which curriculum each child will need, adding it to our curriculum shopping list. We plan how the materials will be used and how to organize our learning day. We finalize these plans with a course of study for each child. Once the plans are in place, we have fun shopping for all our homeschooling needs and organizing our resources.

With a lot of prayer, and a few basic steps, we can simplify our homeschool year, taking the stress out of learning, and leaving room for fun, family, and memories.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”
Proverbs 9:10

đź””Time to Chime In: Is planning your homeschool year a challenge? What is the most difficult part of homeschool organization? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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A Simplified Life: Chores

Simplified_LifeThe first ministry I have been given is to be a Keeper of my home. The Lord has shown me this must come first. If my home is not in order, I might want to reconsider participating in outside activities until they are.

To help me with this, and to better teach our children how to properly care for their own homes, a chore routine has been established:

Our routine is as follows:

Mondays: adult laundry and bathrooms (thorough cleaning)
Tuesdays: children’s laundry, floors, and dusting (blinds/furniture/ceiling fans)                                                     Wednesdays: linens and bathrooms (thorough cleaning)
Thursdays: kitchen cupboards/hallway walls (whichever needs it most), grocery shopping
Fridays: library and errands
Weekends: surface cleaning of any areas in need

Considering it is currently summer time, now is my opportunity to put this schedule to the
test. Is this working for me? Perhaps I need to change some days around to make things work better. I also want to start taking notice of when is the best time to do my chores. I don’t necessarily set a specific time, but setting up blocks of time gives me a general idea of where I might have “free time”.

Chores being designated and set in place, I now want to start having the kiddos get in on the game. Even my youngest helps out. Each of my kiddos is given a task and we all work until the job is done. Our kids need to learn the value of a job well done, working together, and being responsible. Mommy handles the washing of the laundry, but the kiddos help fold and put their own laundry away. Mommy cleans the basins, but the kiddos do the mirrors, floors, and counters in the bathrooms. We have the joy of working side by side and encouraging each other in doing a good job. They will often hear me saying, “Good job, little man! Keep it up honey, you are going to be a pro at keeping your home when you are a mommy, T!” The kids learn to enjoy their chores, have fun working together, and take pride in their work. To help keep track of everyone’s chores, we have created THIS fun chore chart.

Two things I should point out. One, while the kids are young, they are going to make mistakes. Try not to clean up their messes in front of them. Wait until they are out of sight and preoccupied, then straighten things up. This will prevent them from getting discouraged, but still keep your house to the level of clean you might like. The second is this, be prepared that the kids will complain from time to time. Let’s be honest; work is work! Don’t give in and do the chores yourself! You are only making your job harder in the long run and robbing them of the joy of responsibility.

With a routine set in place and a fun chore chart printed, we are taking yet another step towards simplifying life.

“For each will have to bear his own load.”
Galatians 6:5

đź””Time to Chime In: How do you keep track of your children’s chores? We’d love to hear about it!

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Keepers #15 (2013-2014)

There is nothing like a simple sewing project to lighten the day. After several weeks of more difficult sewing projects, we decided to slow things down a little. Our project of the week: bookmarks!

These bookmarks are super easy and quite fun! We found the idea on Pinterest and quickly decided this was a must for the girls. All you need is a length of ribbon, a button, and a small band of elastic (we used a rainbow loom piece).

Keepers #15 (1-11) Keepers #15 (3-11) Keepers #15 (4-11) Keepers #15 (5-11) Keepers #15 (6-11) Keepers #15 (7-11) Keepers #15 (8-11) Keepers #15 (9-11) Keepers #15 (10-11) Keepers #15 (11-11)

Based on previous projects, I expected the girls to take more time with these. Surprisingly, they finished more quickly than anticipated. Their sewing skills are starting to increase! (Of course, there was a little less sewing involved as well.)

Everyone seemed to enjoy these projects and I hope they will find them useful. I know our girls can never have enough bookmarks; we are just a bookworm family!

Have you ever made your own bookmarks?

Keepers #14 (2013-2014)

Where has the year gone? It seems like things just got started and we are already winding down. Only two more Keepers meetings to go before the year is over. Before we get there though, a few more lessons remain to be taught. This week… hand sewing with fabric!

Keepers #14 (1-10) Keepers #14 (2-10) Keepers #14 (3-10) Keepers #14 (4-10) Keepers #14 (5-10) Keepers #14 (6-10) Keepers #14 (7-10) Keepers #14 (8-10)

Keepers #14 (9-10)

I don’t think any of the other girls finished their project before the day was out, but my little ‘Mouse’ went without snack just so she could finish hers.

Keepers #14 (10-10)

Then… my little girl promptly went home and worked on a few additional projects I had purchased just for my girls. So cute!

One more week of sewing to go and then, our end of the year party! This was a particularly fun week for all of us. The projects were so cute and so easy to create.

For those interested in doing these yourselves, we found these (thank you, Mrs. Yeh) at Michaels in the American Girl section. There are several varieties to choose from and so many options to help you be creative.

I’m not sure about the other girls, but I know we’ll be stopping by Michaels to pick up a few more for ourselves. This was so much fun!

Keepers #13 (2013-2014)

The month of April finds us Keeper girls still focusing on our sewing lessons. Unlike March, however, we have decided to tackle a few projects. Hopefully, the girls will find these less stressful and intimidating than a few of the stitches previously taught.

We brought along our handy-dandy sewing kits, ready to conquer the project of the day. While most sewing projects involve fabric, our first venture entailed paper!

Keepers #13 (1/10) Keepers #13 (2/10) Keepers #13 (3/10) Keepers #13 (4/10) Keepers #13 (5/10) Keepers #13 (6/10) Keepers #13 (7/10) Keepers #13 (8/10) Keepers #13 (9/10) Keepers #13 (10/10)

Sometimes it’s hard to guess what little fingers will find challenging or not. We thought we had picked an especially simple project, however we discovered several of the younger girls still struggled with this. In addition, being that we were ‘sewing’ on paper and not fabric, a few of our girls lacked any interest in this project.

We are pleased to note that most of the young ladies were excited. They thought the animal cards were adorable and really enjoyed adding the sewn embellishments to their projects.

The girls were encouraged to be creative with their cards. While we did give them suggested colors and a thread count for their embroidery floss, they were free to experiment with different amounts of thread (less or more) and to mix their colors for a more dimensional affect.

While none of our girls finished all four of their animal cards in class, most completed at least one in the hour given; some had a second one almost complete. They were encouraged to take them home and finish when an opportunity arose.

Lest you think I have a creative bone in my body, the images we used and the idea itself were taken from THIS awesome website. I highly recommend heading over there yourself. You’ll be inspired and encouraged to take on your own sewing adventure.

Hopefully, next meeting’s project will be even more successful; we will be sewing fabric animals!