Why Am I Two Steps Ahead?

why_am_i_two_steps_aheadI can’t help it, really I can’t. Once the end of our learning year seems to be in sight, I am already starting to think of what comes next. I don’t wait for the year to finish, I don’t wait for summer time; I start planning the minute the urge takes over. It looks like this year is no different. We hadn’t even finished our third quarter and I was already two steps ahead.

By nature, I tend to be an overly organized person. I also tend to obsess over things and continually think over them until I’ve made myself crazy. When I consider what next year might bring, it helps to start writing things out and narrowing down decisions. This gives me plenty of time to thoroughly inspect new ideas or activities and test out concepts to see if they work practically. It also helps in being able to do research, if some of our new interests require a financial investment or a great deal of time. Once ideas are written down, I don’t have to worry about forgetting a truly awesome idea or keeping information in my head. It’s down on paper and I have plenty of time to get to it.

I also tend to write down thoughts on how our routine is currently working. Is our day Bookshelf_Feb2010running smoothly? Will our day need to be adjusted next year to accommodate our children’s needs or household schedules? What is working well this year that I don’t want to change? What is not working and needs to be revamped? Which things need a complete replacement?

Planning ahead has also helped me in mapping out our children’s educational futures. By looking in the direction our children are headed, I have a better idea of how their learning should be planned out now. If my child wants to be a zoologist, I don’t want to wait until her junior year of high school to start bumping up her science courses; that is something we need to start looking at in junior high.

The only downside I see to being two steps ahead (or three, or four), is that I get anxious to start. I become excited over new projects, new school books, new routines, and new opportunities to learn. While I understand the current year needs to be completed, I’m chomping at the bit to move on.

Above all else, I am continually praying for our coming year. No matter what new changes – and there are going to be some awesome ones – come our way, I want to make sure we are following the path He has laid before us. If I do this on my own, I know I am going to fail. With Him, this next year looks to be an excellent one!

The heart of man plans his way,
    but the Lord establishes his steps.”
~ Proverbs 16:9

Your Turn!: When do you begin looking at next year’s routine?

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A Simplified Life

Simplified_LifeBefore summer gets away from me and life once again becomes crowded with too many homeschooling resources, parent-taxi responsibilities, and an overburdened calendar, it’s time to take a moment to breathe and simplify life. Perhaps you’re feeling like me and could use a little encouragement. Join us in reviewing this fun, simple to follow series!

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

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

Coincidence? I Think Not!

CoincidenceHere I sit, our astronomy textbook in hand, organizing the year to come, and God meets me where I am, reminding me He is in control. For the –nth year in a row (because I don’t know how many years He has been doing this now), God has completely taken our homeschooling year and fit it according to His purposes.

Every term I bow my head in prayer, asking the Lord’s will in our homeschooling year. I don’t want to drudge through curriculum He has not given, nor forcefully push through lessons for my own sake. I want the Lord to be the center of all we do, and that starts with planning our year to come.

God never ceases to amaze me. No matter how I proceed with our planning, the Lord always orchestrates so everything comes together.

For the past several years, I have sat down and created lesson plans for science. I lay out which lessons will be covered each week, and bookmark coordinating activities. Once this is complete and finished (this is key!), I then sit down to tackle history. No sooner do I begin laying out our history lessons, in the same fashion, when I begin to see a parallel with our science. Lessons align, topics come together; blending perfectly and harmonizing with one another.

While this might seem probable for those using a boxed curriculum or purchasing all materials from the same company, what makes our situation unique is that we’re eclectic homeschoolers. Very few of our textbooks come from the same company. Yet, year after year, the Lord continues to show His hand in our planning.

I have even gone so far as to re-organize our textbooks, switching chapters; yet God still aligns. I have used curriculum from different grade levels. God perfectly fits them together. Field trips have been known to come together, which I could not have foreseen. Books will be given to us by people who have no idea what we’re studying. Literature I did not plan at the beginning of our year corresponds to our lessons. Language arts, and even spelling, have been known to supply details – not mere general subject headings – uniting our learning.

Let me be clear, these are all things I do not plan into our year. Yet, year after year, God does this. This is not a coincidence. This is not a one-time happening. God is constantly showing Himself to us, even in these little details. And it blows my mind.

I love how God chooses to show Himself to us in the tiny details. I do not plan for our history and science to harmonize, but God does! I could not have foreseen a spelling lesson to perfectly align with our reading selection, but God knew. Things I do not think of, details I do not plan… Yet God is in control.

When it comes to our homeschooling, nothing is a coincidence. When we allow God to take charge of our children’s learning, everything comes together perfectly. And the best part is that we don’t even need to try. He does it all in His own power, and often without our help. Coincidence? I think not. This is ALL God!

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”
~ Proverbs 19:21

📢 Chime In!: Share how God has brought plans together, showing evidence of His hand in your learning!

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Planning The Homeschool Year: Reality, Religion, and Socialization

School-PlanningWith the close of this month, we put to rest our series, ‘Planning the Homeschool Year’! It’s been fun exploring incredible ways to organize our learning routines and better meet our family’s needs.

For those who have been following the series, thank you for stopping in and joining the fun. We appreciated hearing your feedback and learning from your life experiences. It has been wonderful sharing thoughts with you and getting to know you better.

Before we sign off for the week, and end this series, we’d like to leave you with a few posts which help in keeping our homeschooling in perspective. All were written from a homeschooling father’s perspective, my man!

Reality, Religion, and Socialization

Forcing Religion on Your Children
And They Will Not Depart From It
Homeschooled Kids Are Not Socialized and Other Stupid Myths
The Village School System
Reality: A Multiple-Choice Quiz

As the school year is just getting under way, we pray the Lord blesses each and every one of you. We pray He graces you with patience, wisdom, and an enthusiasm to continue with the adventure called homeschooling. May your year be blessed!

If you, or someone you know, is in need of a little more encouragement or help in their homeschooling adventure, please check out our various series we feature which include Homeschooling 101; Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail; and A Simplified Life.

🔔Time to Chime In: What are you most looking forward to during the coming learning year?

Want to stay connected & up to date with A Homeschool Mom? Don’t forget to follow on FacebookInstagramTwitter, &  Pinterest!

Planning the Homeschool Year: Finding Sanity

School-PlanningIt’s back to school season! While we don’t have to be on the curb at the crack of dawn or make sure our children have their lunch money, we do need to plan out our coming year of homeschooling. Let’s get started!

…..

Amidst all the homeschooling fun, a busy parent could use the occasional quite moment; an opportunity to breathe, relax, and be at peace. While we touched on this topic briefly during our ‘I Can’t Homeschool‘ series, we felt the need to once again encourage fellow homeschooling parents to include this important step in their homeschool routine.

With a little thought and a smidgen of planning, finding free time is not only obtainable, but completely within reach!

Pray About Your Time – May all things start in prayer. We need to ask the Lord to show us how our time ought to be structured and allow Him to show us ways in which we could be using our time more wisely, making space for much-needed down time.

Restructure Your Thinking – During our prayer and devotion time, we need to ask the Lord to help us focus on the greater good. We might like having several hours to ourselves each day, but the Lord knows best. We should ask the Lord to help us focus on what’s most important, removing any selfishness on our part.

Focus on Your Goals – While we all need moments of downtime, what are our overall goals? When we focus on the end goal, the day-to-day struggles become less important.

Find Practical Ways to Have ‘Me’ Time – 

  • Wake up a little earlier.
  • Stay up a little later.
  • Schedule in downtime. (Who days quiet time can’t be planned into each day?)
  • Teach the kids to play/work independently.
  • Schedule playdates with a friend. (One day we get free time, the next day they do. Each of us get a little time to yourselves, and our kids get to have fun.)

Still Too Busy? Consider Reorganizing Your Day – Hard as it might be, if we just can’t seem to find time to enjoy a quiet cup of tea, much less enjoy an hour of free time, it might be time to start looking at our weekly routine. Everyone’s life goes through busy seasons, but constant busyness might be a sign that we’re overdoing it. It all goes back to praying about how we use our time and allowing the Lord to lead our days.

Let’s face it, even machines need a break now and again. Being a homeschool parent does not mean we have to work from the minute we get up ’til the minute we go to bed. If having a little time to yourself is desired, start by praying about your concerns and then moving toward organizing your day with free time in mind.

May I leave you with this thought: We only have our children for a very short time, too short a time. Take a few moments each day to allow the Lord to fill you, refreshing your heart and spirit. But, remember, you’ll have plenty of free time when your kiddos are adults. You can always catch up on your reading then.

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him.”
Psalm 62:1

🔔Time to Chime In: How do you find time to relax amidst all of life’s challenges and learning fun?

Want to stay connected & up to date with A Homeschool Mom? Don’t forget to follow on FacebookInstagramTwitter, &  Pinterest!

Planning the Homeschool Year: Field Trip Field Guides

School-PlanningIt’s back to school season! While we don’t have to be on the curb at the crack of dawn or make sure our children have their lunch money, we do need to plan out our coming year of homeschooling. Let’s get started!

…..

On our field trip check list is a new item for the coming school year: Field Trip Field Guides!

It all started with my oldest daughter wanting to create a scrapbook. To be truthful, I’m horrible at scrapbooking. Let’s just be honest, I am not a crafty person. But, when my child desires to do something creative and educational, I tend to be a softie and indulge them. Thus, the idea of field trip field guides was born.

I wanted to create an organized, self-contained, easily accessible system of scrapbooking our yearly field trips and events. Something I could grab on the fly, which didn’t require a lot of searching and hunting, but could go with us anywhere and serve our purposes.

After a lot of thought and a bit of research, I’ve finally created the perfect system for our family!

Field Trip Field Guide Kit

One plastic container with fitted lid
Five sketch books
Five rulers
Five boxes of colored pencils (your basic 10 pk)
Two pair of scissors
Two glue runners
Pencil Box (pencils, erasers, and sharpener included)
Five basic shape stencils
Package of small ziplock baggies (jewelry size)
Two mini microscopes (loupe)

The plastic container is approximately 14″ x 10.”5 x 3″, making it small enough to fit in any Field-Trip_Guides backpack and easy to grab. The sketch books are about 50 pages, making them thin and light to carry. The idea is to scrapbook field trips and nature walks, thus 50 pages should be more than sufficient for the year. All other items are likewise thin and light, making for an easy fit in our kit and less burdensome to carry. Surprisingly, the entire kit only cost about $20 to put together as most of the items were purchased at the local dollar store.

Me being me, I created covers for each of our field guides (sketch books) and an image for the top of our kit. This makes each guide more personal and fun!

You’ll also note there are five field guides in our kit, but we have only four children. We wanted this to be a family exercise, thus there is an extra field guide for us parents which we share. Sometimes mom is doing the sketching and, because Pop is the better artist, other times it is my husband.

The entire kit being packed in our helpful container, our field guides are constantly at the ready and able to be grabbed on a moment’s notice. If we have a last-minute field trip, I merely grab the box on our way out the door and we are set.

Now, it makes no sense to have these awesome guides and not have a plan to put them into action!

On event days, I add the field trip kit to our backpack and we are ready to go. Simple and easy. Sometime during our trip, whether it be at lunch or we purposefully take a moment to work on our guides, we find a quiet spot and get to work. Glue runners enable our children to adhere event tickets to their guide or perhaps brochures; mini ziplock bags allow our children to add small keepsakes such as sand from the beach or flower petals; stencils, colored pencils, and drawing materials encourage them to embellish their guides with images reminding them of the event; and the microscopes (small loupe) enable us to better see details in nature while exploring.

Field Guides In Use

Putting our guides to the test. They’re awesome!

Thus far, our field guides are a hit! The kids love working in them. Mommy is loving the kids’ enthusiasm for the kit. Pop, being an artist, loves having a sketch book on hand. And, everyone is learning tons. Our children excitedly plan for what will be included in their personal field guides, and rejoice over the individuality of the experience. No two guides are the same, and each is uniquely beautiful.

I wish we had created this kit years ago, but, alas, here we are. Now, to put them to good use and plan tons of amazing field trips for the year. This should be fun!

🔔Time to Chime In: Our goal is to attend one field trip a month, minimum, with a nature walk once a month as well. What is your field trip goal for the year?

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Planning the Homeschool Year: What Do I Need?

School-PlanningI don’t know about you, but in our neck of the woods it’s back to school season. This month, public school buses will go chugging down the street, ready to pick up those eager (at least for the first week) children. While we don’t have to be on the curb at the crack of dawn or make sure our children have their lunch money, we do need to plan out our coming year of homeschooling.

…..

You’ve accepted your family has been called to homeschool. You’ve even taken the time to organize your yearly schedule, accounting for much-needed breaks and planning for your daily routine. You’re rearing and ready to go, there’s just one more thing you need. Materials.

Core Curriculum

While I’d love to point you toward the perfect curriculum for your child, only you and God know what will work best. Pray, pray, and pray some more about which materials the Lord would have you choose. Have faith He will guide you in making the wisest choices in this regard.

That being said, if you’re merely looking to gain some insight into what is generally taught at each grade level, HERE is a helpful link listing a scope and sequence for each. You might also consider picking up a curriculum catalog from several companies, comparing standard outlines of education.

Electives

What about those fields your children are interested in exploring, but don’t neatly fit into a core category? Consider making them into electives! Here are a few elective suggestions to get you started:

  • Music
  • Home Economics (sewing, baking, cooking, and more)
  • Foreign Language
  • Computer Technologies
  • and more!

General Supplies

If you’re not quite ready to delve into the mass of creative supplies you could purchase to make learning more fun, there are a few general supplies are probably going to need:

  • Lined Paper (and lots of it!)
  • Pencils (ditto)
  • Pencil Sharpeners
  • Erasers
  • Colored Pencils, Markers, and Crayons
  • Rulers
  • Protractors
  • Compasses
  • Calculators
  • and Patience … wait, you can’t buy that one. Shucks!

Crafting Supplies

For those who really dig crafting and can’t wait to try new things, here are a few suggestions for your crafting closet:

  • adhesives (glue sticks, glue tape, glue dots, double-sided tape, and the like)
  • scissors (both regular and pinking sheers)
  • 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 (but only for the truly brave)
  • yarn, ribbon, and string
  • arithmetic resources (rulers, compasses, protractor, and triangles)
  • science resources (magnifying glasses, rock collections, fossil collections, and more)

This portion of homeschool planning is probably the most stressful. As parents we are constantly weighing the value in what we purchase and stressing to budget appropriately (more on that later this week).

Again, pray about how you should be using your resources, and ask God to clearly direct you towards the curriculum that will best fit your child’s needs. Consider speaking to like-minded homeschool parents you know and ask them what worked for their family. Do a little online research and ask companies if they offer free samples of their materials for new families, some do!

As a final note: Don’t be afraid of switching curriculum mid-year. Sometimes it takes a few tries to get it right. You can always sell the curriculum that didn’t work out!

🔔Time to Chime In: We’ll be covering curriculum in more detail later in the series, but to help out new families just starting their homeschooling journey, share with us your favorite place to purchase curriculum. Is there a website you love; a company you always buy from; or a forum for used curriculum you’d like to share? We’d love to hear about it!

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A Simplified Life: Free Printables

Simplified_LifeWe are one busy family! I imagine most families are. In order to help keep life organized and as stress-free as possible, we’ve created a variety of charts and lists to keep things in order.

On our newest page, Free Printables, you’ll find our collection of free printable sheets, made available for everyone to use. We pray these resources help your family, offering more time to have fun.

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

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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

🔔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?

Want to stay connected & up to date with A Homeschool Mom? Don’t forget to follow on FacebookInstagram, & Pinterest!