When Did Busyness Become A Badge of Honor?

When_Did_Busyness_Become_A_Badge_of_Honor?As I sat visiting with a friend, I began to notice a distinctive quality to our conversation. After being asked about my oldest daughter’s college classes, we had moved into her work opportunities, then on to the general homeschool calendar. Family activities soon followed. What bothered me wasn’t the current topic so much as the pride which seemed to be creeping into my tone. Our ridiculously over-filled routine had me brimming with pride. When had busyness become a badge of honor?

The Lord used that teachable moment to remind me of something important. It is dangerous to allow our worth and value to be caught up in our routine. We are not more successful because we are busy running around town. A lot of tasks completed does not, in fact, make me more accomplished.  It just makes me more busy.

On the flip side, neither is the notion of doing nothing a badge of honor. I am not a better parent, or closer to my children, because we go nowhere and our calendar is clear. I can equally ignore my children at home as not meet basic needs by being constantly on the go.

The goal is to be content with where God has placed us. To be in the center of His perfect will. At times this will give us a full schedule, while others allow us rest. Neither has anything to do with my ability, and everything to do with God’s goodness.

A good place to start is by doing a heart check. When choosing activities, are we doing so because the Lord has prompted our hearts and moved us in this direction, or because everyone else is doing this and I am worried others will think we are failing to be sufficiently involved? Perhaps I am cramming much into our schedule for fear of missing out. If we refrain from activity, are we judging others for their busy lives while we appreciate a season of peace? Neither course of action is wise. Both lead to a prideful heart unfit for service.

When sharing, I want it to be from a heart so full of Jesus I am overflowing with joy at what He is doing. Even if what He has brought is a season of rest. What is important is not what we have done or not done, but how God is moving through that moment.

May the only thing I glory in be God alone.

But he who boasts is to boast in the Lord. For it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends.”
~ Corinthians 10:17-18

Your Turn!: Where does the Lord have you right now; in a season of rest or activity?

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Factoring Birthdays Into the Homeschool Routine

Factoring_Birthdays_Into_Homeschool_RoutinesFor whatever reason, when we’re planning out our yearly routine, it never enters my mind to factor in birthdays. With four kids, two parents, and several grandparents it might be time to start factoring in the many celebratory days I seem to overlook when creating our homeschooling routine.

If you’ve been following us on any of our social media sites recently, you’ve noticed the stream of birthday posts coming in during the last few months. My kids have birthdays pretty much one month after the other, and those in-between months contain holidays. The fun never stops! Call us funny, but it just doesn’t seem right to make a kid do “school” on their birthday, so we take the day off and do whatever they like. As the teacher, same goes. Pop’s the principle so you know he’s going to want the day off. As for extended family, we’re helping them celebrate so that deserves a day of rest, too.

This doesn’t seem that big a deal, really. Until I remember her birthday happens to land on a test day. Or his birthday is also our routine science experiment activity. Then, the homeschool scramble begins… Do I switch up that test and make her take it the day before her birthday; the day after; do I skip it all together? Should we do makeup work the following day or double the previous so we finish our materials by the end of the school year? It’s crazy, I know.

After several – several – years of homeschooling, you’d think I’d have this down to a science, but this always slips my mind. Their birthdays are firmly imprinted in my mind. I know we’ll be taking the day off. Yet, every single time, I forget to include this factor on our homeschool calendar. Meaning, I forget to mark down, “No school today. Birthday.” Essentially ignoring all dates what-so-ever, and only focusing on routine. Instead I happily plod along and mark down, “Arithmetic Test Today”. It’s not until the week before the special event I actually look at the dates on my nicely organized homeschool calendar and realize my mistake. Then, I scramble. This is especially true when one honey’s birthday happens to always land during the last week of school. You know, wrap up week? Goodness.

It’s a laughing matter, truly. What’s a few days here or there? The moments spent together far outweigh the issue of missed work or tests not taken. It’s merely the fact I overlook this each and every year which continues to amaze me. Perhaps by the time my youngest graduates high school I’ll finally have it down. Then again, who knows?!

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
~ Psalm 118:24

Your Turn!: Do you pencil birthdays into your homeschool calendar or routine?

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Interrupting School For Activity

Interrupting School For ActivityI’m sure if my children had it their way, everyday would find us learning in the field. Often, literally. While I would love to accommodate them, the sad fact is book work needs to be done. Geometry concepts require pen to paper, and diagraming sentences doesn’t work well in the sand. We’re trying to find balance, but just how often can we keep interrupting school for activity?

We’re probably not the first family to discover this dilemma, nor will we be the last. It helps – or hurts, depending on your perspective – that we live in an area where homeschooling abounds and there is never a shortage of activities available. How do we determine which to include and how often?

In our learning routine, we try to include one outside activity per week. This is fairly easy, as our PSP has weekly activities. However, our PSP is not the only group we’re associated with. Our nature groups also meet once a week. Then there is library involvement, volunteer work at the kitten hospital, personal field trips, and more. Pretty quickly, we could be spending everyday learning in the field and getting little to no book work done. Narrowing down our choices is a challenge, a hard one. We want to do it all!

  • Which activities do you think warrant a change in schedule?
  • Do you prefer to plan these activities or be open to spontaneity?
  • How many days of the week do you spend away from book work?
  • Are certain days of the week better than others for activity?
  • Is there a time-slot you prefer for activity (mornings/afternoons)?
  • How early is too early; how late is too late?
  • How do you know when you’re too busy and need to hit the books?

Trying to find balance can be tough. Our kids would gladly drop their books for sunshine and walks by the beach any day of the week. Mom needs to rein in their adventurous natures, and lay foundations in learning. On the other hand, too much book work is also a danger. Getting outdoors is vital.

Through the leading of the Spirit, we’re making the most of both our book time and exploration of the fabulous world God has created. We’re daily inspired to make the most of our time together and enjoy this adventure called homeschooling.

“Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.”
Psalm 37:5

Your Turn!: Share your thoughts with us on how you determine when to interrupt school for activity.

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Before Over-Booking Gets Out of Hand

before_over-booking_gets_out_of_handIt’s coming; I can feel it. Once the learning year gets underway, things start moving along at a faster pace. Then the holidays hit, and chaos begins. We go from just a few activities a month to activities several times a week. We jump from one event to the next, trying to fill our days with fun and fond memories for our kiddos. In all the planning, sometimes we bite off a little more than we can chew.

One of the dangers in being a parent is over-planning. Now, add homeschooling to the mix and you have one crazy household! Not only are we planning our learning routines, but we are adding in sports events, field trips, visits with friends, play dates, swim days, crafting opportunities, and more. Before you know it our calendar can be overbooked.

Perhaps I’m not the only one to notice this strange phenomena and all the challenges which come with it? Our intentions are well-meaning and our hearts are in the right place, but, next thing you know, the kids are getting cranky and you are all tired of running in high gear. Slowly, but surely, you become overwhelmed.

Might I make a humble suggestion, to myself as well as everyone else? Instead of over-booking our lives with event after event, let’s save time for things which really matter and events which benefit our families the most. Not every opportunity needs to be taken, and not every event needs to be attended. We need to learn the fine art of saying, “No!”

Just looking at our current calendar, I can already tell we are starting to hit our limit. Before bite off more than I can chew, it’s time to start saying, “No!”

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to [His disciples], ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’”
~Mark 6:31

📢 Chime In!: How is your currently calendar looking? Is the coming month starting to look overbooked?

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Planning the Homeschool Year: Planning Your Day

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.

…..

Planning out the homeschool year is just the beginning. Once we’ve established an annual routine for our learning, it’s time to get down to daily organization. What time should we start? How much time are we required to spend on each subject? Would a routine or a schedule work better for our family?

Routine or Schedule?

I’d love to start our day at the same time each morning, pushing through each subject in a given amount of time. However, this would not meet my family’s needs. Instead, we choose to focus on a routine. A methodical movement from activity to activity, no matter what time we start or how long each subject takes to complete.

Test out what works best for you. You may find working on a timed schedule is best. If so, go for it! One word of caution: Don’t allow your schedule to run your life; make it work for you, not you working for it. For those who choose to be more relaxed and function on a routine, learn to forget the clock and abandon the concept of ‘running late’.

When Do We Start?

In California, by law, our children are required to be under adult supervision from 8am-3pm. This does not mean we have to be schooling at precisely eight o’clock, just that we be with our children. We have the freedom to start school at whatever time works best for our family. That might be eight o’clock, but, then again, it could be closer to ten; it might also change from day-to-day. (Generally speaking, I prefer to start no later than nine. But, that’s just me.)

55 Minutes Per Course!

It is generally accepted that fifty-five minutes per day, five days a week, constitutes a proper course in any given subject. Once you’ve been educating for a short length of time you’ll start to notice something. Subjects do not fit into neat little boxes, only dealing with their own topic; they cross over into many other fields.

That being said, don’t allow the concept of fifty-five minute classes overwhelm you. Aim to master whatever it is you are teaching, and forget the clock on the wall. If you finish in less than fifty-five minutes don’t sweat it, you’ll either make up the time on another day when the work takes longer or you’ll compliment the lesson with something learned in another area. If you go over, enjoy the journey.

(For those with children in junior or senior high needing to complete courses for credits, please see The High School Handbook for details on accounting for time.)

Every Subject, Every Day?

The same goes for covering each subject every day of the week. If you would prefer to cover history two days of the week, and science another two, then go for it! We are not called to mimic public schools, but to teach our children how they learn best. Find a learning routine that works for your family and go for it. Don’t be afraid to move things around on occasion, just to shake things up and find what works best.

Do We Get Breaks?

Public school kids get a morning recess and lunch. What do homeschoolers get? Pretty much whatever they need. If you find the kids need a break between each subject, go for it! Again, find what works best for your family and make it happen.

I Still Need to Clean House!

While our main goal is to focus on better organizing our home school year, we also understand that we function as a family. Our family needs food, a clean house, and clothes on their back. Thus, chores play a part in our daily routines.

I humbly suggest that chores, and the like, become part of your learning routine. Make it a goal for cleaning to be a family activity, where the children learn to be keepers of the home. Include the kids in laundry exercises, seeing who can fold fastest. Have them help in the kitchen, assist with errands, or anything else you need to accomplish. Over time, you’ll discover this to be a blessing. More hands make the work faster and fun!

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Planning the homeschooling day doesn’t have to be a stressful event. Pray about how the Lord would lead your learning, and proceed as He guides. Allow Him to be the center of your home and focus all your attention on what He wants of your family.

For more details on our family’s homeschooling day, take a look at our Daily Routine! Prayerfully it will give you a few ideas for scheduling your own family’s homeschooling day. Don’t forget to peruse our record keeping menu and other printable documents, to help assist with your homeschooling needs.

“Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”
Psalm 127:1

🔔Time to Chime In: What time does your day usually start? Share your thoughts with us!

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Do I Need a Lesson Plan?

There it was, sitting in my shopping bag. A gift from the educational store where I had justDo_I_Need_A_Lesson_Plan purchased a myriad of homeschool supplies for the coming year. It was basic, nicely offered, but, frankly, confusing. As a homeschool parent, did I need a lesson plan?

For whatever reason, I had never thought to purchase or use a lesson plan. If I had to give an explanation for this, I would be hard pressed to provide a suitable answer. I’d just never given it that much thought.

I suppose it always made sense to simply follow the books I bought. Our books came (and still come) with the pages already mapped out; each page marked with a lesson number. We did one lesson per day, with a total of a hundred seventy lessons during the year. Considering our books were cleverly labeled, why did I need a lesson plan?

It wasn’t until we started using unit studies to cover history and science, that I finally began mapping out our lessons. It made sense to schedule out how long we were to be spending in each unit and which activities were to be covered within each. I was visually able to see the expanse of our year, planning more thoroughly. While I wasn’t planning out every aspect of our day, writing down each child’s lesson assignments, I learned the value of organizing certain portions of our routines.

Did I finally dig out the planner the helpful educational store had offered me? Um… yeah, no. Honestly, I had completely forgotten about it. Plus, I found doing things on my computer more suited to my needs.

Does everyone need a lesson plan? I would never argue a particular curriculum or plan works for everyone. I will say having a general plan for your day and an overall plan for your year is not only beneficial, but wise. When we have direction, we are less likely to stress over subjects possibly forgotten or enough time in our year to cover everything desired.

Whether we choose to use a pre-printed planner from a store or use a computer based application to do our organizing, I highly recommend taking a few minutes to systematize life. Make up your own routine and put your plan into action.

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” – Proverbs 16:3

🔔Time to Chime In: Did you use a lesson planner? How much of your day and/or week do you put down in print? Share with us your method of organizing life and help new homeschooling families learn the art of planning!

More Than You Can Chew

More Than You Can ChewIt’s coming; I can feel it. Once the learning year gets underway, things start moving along at a faster pace. We go from just a few activities a month to activities several times a week. We jump from one event to the next, trying to fill our days with fun and fond memories for our kiddos. In all the planning, sometimes we bite off a little more than we can chew.

One of the dangers in being a parent is over-planning. Now, add homeschooling to the mix and you have one crazy household! Not only are we planning our learning routines, but we are adding in sports events, field trips, visits with friends, play dates, swim days, crafting opportunities, and more. Before you know it our calendar can be overbooked.

Perhaps I’m not the only one to notice this strange phenomena and all the challenges which come with it? Our intentions are well-meaning and our hearts are in the right place, but, next thing you know, the kids are getting cranky and you are all tired of running in high gear. Slowly, but surely, you become overwhelmed.

Might I make a humble suggestion, to myself as well as everyone else? Instead of over-booking our lives with event after event, let’s save time for things which really matter and events which benefit our families the most. Not every opportunity needs to be taken, not every event needs to be attended; we need to learn the fine art of saying, “No!”

Just looking at our current calendar, I can already tell we are starting to hit our limit. Before bite off more than I can chew, it’s time to start saying, “No!”

Time to Chime In: How is your currently calendar looking? Are the coming months starting to look overbooked?

I Need a Break!

A Regular RoutineI didn’t realize how deeply entrenched my mind was in the public school system. For years, I have been running a yearly routine similar to that of when I was in school. Then, a few years ago, a thought finally crossed my mind: I need a break!

I had always started our learning year at the same time the local schools did, right after Labor Day. I ended the second week of June, just as I had for years in my school years. We took a week for Thanksgiving, two for Christmas, and another for Spring Break.

While this routine functioned for a little bit, I soon realized it wasn’t going to work in the long run. I don’t want to take the entire summer off! I want to take more breaks throughout my learning year. (August to Thanksgiving is a really long stretch, in my humble opinion.) Basically, I needed to abandon the system’s idea of when education should take place and just come up with my own plan.

Over the course of several years, we have experimented with various routines to find which works best:

  • No Summers Off – We merely change-up the routine and learn through different formats. We do less book work and more Summer Fun.
  • Back to School – Instead of starting at the beginning of September, we start back at the end of July. This gives us more opportunity for breaks during the learning year and allows us more freedom to do ministry.
  • Holiday Breaks – We’ve extended our Christmas and Easter breaks to better fit our needs.

This year, we’ve decided to add a few more breaks into our year. We are going to take a week off between our first and second quarter of the year; then again between our third and fourth. (No more long stretches between summer time and the holidays!)

We’ll test out this routine for the year and see how things work. If they don’t, we’ll renegotiate and try something else; just one of the many joys of homeschooling.

Time to Chime In: How many breaks do you take during your learning year?

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail: Part Four

Come Monday morning, this policy will once more go into effect. Ah! It eases my mind to know that I will be less like a bouncing ball and more like the loving mommy I want to be. Cristina

p.s.
Should you have missed any of the previous posts in this series, please feel free to visit “Series” at the top of my homepage. I hope you enjoy!

A Homeschool Mom

Fail-to-plan“Mommy, can you explain this?” “Mommy, I don’t get this one!” “Mommy, is this supposed to look like this?”  “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!”

There are moments when I wish I could figure out how to be five 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. (Why five places when you only have four kids, you say? I would be sitting on my husband’s lap, having a fun conversation about his latest piece of artwork.)

While it may be summer time and school won’t “officially” start until August, this might be a good time for me to sit down and figure out an easier way to balance my kids’ schoolwork; since being in five places isn’t logically possible and being in one place can be stressful enough without trying to be in five!


The first…

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Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail: Part One

Summer time is just about over. It’s time to start thinking about our coming school year (one week away!!) and getting our priorities in order. Looking back over this post, I don’t think much has changed. This was a good plan then, it’s a good plan now. It’s time to get moving!
Cristina

p.s.
I have added a new “Series” menu at the top of my blog, which includes the entire “Fail to Plan…” set. Life made easier, both for myself and anyone else interested. Hooray!

A Homeschool Mom

Fail-to-planRecently a friend who is fairly new to homeschooling gave me a call. She had a lot of questions regarding homeschooling, but mainly her problem seemed to be this, “How do I do it all? How do I clean my house, do my laundry, school my kids, do a million other things, and still remain sane?” My one resounding answer was this: organization! As the old adage goes, “If you fail to plan, plan to fail.”

Now, let me be very clear. I am not perfect, nor do I always plan perfectly. There are many times that I have had to restructure my plan. Things change and so do my family’s needs, but the saying still stands true; I will not accomplish anything if I don’t at least have the building blocks set in place.

That being said, how do we go about setting up our schedules? First things first…

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