4

Bullet Journal Attempt

I have about 20 blog post drafts, 3 gifts to make and a Thanksgiving celebration to plan.  So I thought I’d take a moment to do what I do best: procrastinate.  It’s sort of Amy Jo’s fault.  Okay, it’s all her fault.  She mentioned Bullet Journals, and I just HAD to look it up one morning, which led me to discover that it would solve ALL of my problems and I would magically become superwoman!

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Okay, not quite.  I’m jumping in mostly because (A) I’ve had this grid journal for years and now have an excuse to use it and (B) as much as I love Paperless Organization, there are aspects of it that really didn’t work for me. It requires periodic access to an electronic device, and I’m wasting too much time on those.  Also, I don’t think it’s good for the children to see me constantly checking my tablet, which they mentally associate with gaming.  But I absolutely need something which I can access repeatedly.

I don’t know if Bullet Journaling will solve any of these issues, but I managed to set my system up in tiny bits throughout the day: it was the least time-consuming to figure out of all the systems I’ve tried.  Admittedly, the principles and methodology laid out in Paperless Home Organization have gone a long way towards helping me discover what does and does not work.  All that to say… I couldn’t find anything about homeschool mothers utilizing such a system.  So I figured I’d talk a little about what I’m doing, and later I’ll decide if it works.

I have a set of “beginning pages” immediately after the index which contain information I need to reference to plan my days.

Daily Rhythm this page reminds me not to get bogged down into one particular aspect of our day.

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Recurring Tasks These pages remind me of tasks that will roll around regularly.  I have one page for monthly tasks, one page for each day of the week, and I *might* add a daily page, I haven’t decided.

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School Notes  One page for each topic, in which I can write down a book to buy, a memory selection to add to the rotation or a resource I am considering utilizing.  Many of these ideas come to me during school time, and I don’t like trying to enter them into the Evernote.

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Important Contacts  There’s not very many addresses and phone numbers that need to be kept on paper: but for those that do, they go on this page.

Planning Ahead If there’s an important event that’s far enough ahead I don’t have the pages prepared for it, I will mark it on this page and then transfer it to the appropriate month when ready.

Chore Lists  We have 1/2 hour chore times after every meal, but I have trouble focusing on my work and coming up with tasks that the children can tend to. They each have a few standard chores, but those only take them 10 minutes or less. I’m hoping that by having a standard list of appropriate chore ideas, I can look at the beginning of each day, decide what is the most pressing need and add it to their list of assignments.

I gave each month it’s own shopping list.

The Daily Calendar is where I really changed things up.  I tried going with just one page, but not far into the first day I realized that  I’m going to need a two-page spread for each day.

Each daily page will be given 5 sections

Household is anything related to indoor maintenance.

School is anything related to the children’s education.

Personal is where I jot down tasks for my personal education, notes on the children’s health or behavior, a prayer request, an inspiring thought or a tender moment, a book I want to add to my list, a letter I want to write…..

Farm is for anything related to outdoor maintenance: the garden and animals both come under this heading.

Writing is where I will add blog tasks, thoughts I want to share on the AO Forum or note one of the 100 random (but catchy!) sentences that occur to me throughout any given day.

 

 

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6

Simple Systems: Hymn Study

Throughout the month of October, Mystie did a splendid series on what she called Simple Home Systems.

I like to turn to systems when I have something I want to happen, but don’t have the brain power to dedicate to it to think it through every time deliberately. Whether it’s what I wear to what’s for dinner to almost any other small but essential responsibility, making it a system is a way to reduce decision fatigue and have more energy to invest where you get better returns on it.

As I contemplated this concept, I realized that the changes which made the greatest difference in our home have usually been Simple Systems.  In my case they generally begin as a Problem, for which I create a Complicated Solution, which leads to More Problems, then finally a Simple Solution.

Take Hymns. Hymns are a big part of our life.  They are a part of our school day, an integral part of family devotions, and an important aspect of church worship.

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Problem

With hymns spread across so much of our lives, we ended up learning new hymns or reviewing old ones, but rarely doing both.  I wanted both consistent learning and consistent review.

Complicated Solution

At first I began printing out hymns and adding them to our Memory Work Binders.  This worked well during our Circle Time, but not so well for family devotions, which usually occurred with several children piled onto their father and a squirming baby in my lap. (Imagine torn page protectors, binders opened and pages spilling everywhere: in short, frequent chaos.)  I began to notice that the versions I printed off of the internet were occasionally different than the versions we sung at church.  Add to this the fact that hymns were rapidly filling up our memory binders and making them difficult to navigate.  A long term system was needed.

Simple Solution

As our Big Purchase for this school year, we ordered four of the hymnals used by our church. These hymnals are kept right beside the Family Bible.

Each morning we begin our Circle Time with two hymns: a hymn we’re learning and a hymn we’re reviewing.

The hymn that we’re currently learning is sung every day until we know it by heart.  When we’ve learned a new hymn, I carefully “highlight” the title in the index.  (I use colored pencil, as an actual highlighter would bleed through the page.)

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The highlighted titles become our review list. We start with A and work our way through the alphabet, singing one highlighted song each day until we get through Z, then going back to A and starting over.  The hymns sung during family devotions are chosen from the highlighted titles, and the hymnals are not only easier to manage than binders, they’re also sturdier.

Simple.  Reliable.  Usable.

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America the Beautiful

While choosing memory work for the children, My Man discovered that the version of America the Beautiful which we know was not the original poem.

The first four lines of each verse are much the same today as in the original, but the ends of each verse have been significantly altered. For instance,

Verse 3, popular version

America! America!
May God thy gold refine;
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

Verse 3, 1893 version

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain,
The banner of the free!

We’ve decided to memorize the 1893 version, as we think the ideals it portrays are better.  You can see the full text of both version at the Wikipedia page.

3

Introducing Life

Picture books.  The alphabet.  Mud.  Snuggles.  Sticky hands.  Reading aloud.  Crayon-covered walls.  The early years. The learning years.

This post was supposed to contain a detailed analysis of why I don’t “do preschool,” the great importance of play, and why I now avoid academic activities for my youngsters.  But today Zorro piled sand in the basket of clean laundry.  We washed, filled and hung all our bird feeders. Pumpkin had several wakeful hours.  Rosie danced and twirled and fell repeatedly instead of walking placidly about.  Boo shed three different outfits as she followed her brother and sister around the yard, returning for new clothing when she became chilled.  No one wanted to vacuum.  Now it is late at night and I want to get to bed.  *snore*

Once upon a time, I planned to use the “formative” years of my children to give them a strong foundation.  I planned games and researched educational toys.  I carefully taught them their letters and arranged sensory play activities.   I spent quite a bit of time trying to teach them to write their letters in cornmeal, and then cleaning up the ensuing mess.  Then I sent them off to their room to play while I cleaned and cooked and washed, because we were a little tired of each other’s company after our activity filled mornings.

Then Ambleside Online introduced me to Charlotte Mason, and I became convinced that all my well meant activities were not only unnecessary, they were far from ideal.  Charlotte Mason told me that

“Parents and Teachers must sow Opportunities.––The educational error of our day is that we believe too much in mediators. Now, Nature is her own mediator, undertakes, herself, to find work for eyes and ears, taste and touch; she will prick the brain with problems and the heart with feelings; and the part of the mother or teacher in the early years (indeed, all through life) is to sow opportunities, and then to keep in the background, ready with a guiding or restraining hand only when these are badly wanted. Mothers shirk their work and put it, as they would say, into better hands than their own, because they do not recognize that wise letting alone is the chief thing asked of them, seeing that every mother has in Nature an all-sufficient handmaid, who arranges for due work and due rest of mind, muscles, and senses.” Volume 1, page 193

Slowly, I began to see that the best use of the first 6 years of a child’s life was not to rush them through a series of planned activities, but to walk beside them as they discovered life.  My job was to make the introduction, not have the conversation for them.   But once I had decided that this “wise letting alone” was the path I wished to pursue, I wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. How does one let go when you have Pinterest of all the carefully laid plans?

I’m still not sure what I’m doing, but I have a better idea now than I did 2 years ago, and I’m starting to hear the voices of other mothers who long for a little guidance, a picture of what this unfamiliar life could look like.  Here is a glimpse of what it looks like for us, in all its ever changing glory.  I hope you glean many ideas for how to implement a “wise letting alone” in your own home.

This series will ramble all over, much like children exploring the world.  Small pictures of our life.  Lots of picture book reviews.  How I am introducing our little ones to God.  Critters of all kinds.  Music.  Storytelling.  Car rides.  Life.

 

3

Homeschool Library Organization: Part 1

Within the innocuous shed that borders our patio, a storm awaits.  This shed houses my beloved book collection and our craft supplies, and it is sadly out of order.  This is what I’m up against.  Yes, I know it’s gotten awful.  I cry when I see books treated like this as well.

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West side, facing the patio

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East side, Facing the garden

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East side, facing the patio

It needs painted.  It needs more light.  Most of all, it needs organized in a way that I remember and use.  *gulp*  All of this needs done without neglecting school.  Or chores.  Or sick children, or healthy meals.  Therefore, it must be done in tiny increments of time.

It’s not all awful.  Some shelves look neat and organized.  (Mostly the shelves the children can’t reach)
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But by and large, this place needs work!  A few plans:

Rather than alphabetizing, books will now be divided up by Reading level and Ambleside Online years.   I’m sure there will also be a million miscellaneous shelves, but I haven’t gotten that far yet.  🙂

The dresser needs moved out and a reading nook created in it’s place so my older children have a quiet place to read without the little ones trying to steal their books and turn pages for them.  Thank goodness for Pinterest!

Some of these books need to go.  Since I began reading  Charlotte Mason’s works my taste in suitable books has altered drastically, and I’m finding that some of these are no longer the type of book I want to fill my shelves with.  SO some of these dear friends will be moving on to make way for better books.  *sniff*  I’ll probably cry a lot with that part, and every now and then I’ll even post about this painful decision making progress.

Wish me luck: I’m going to need it!

1

Friday Favorites: Heritage History

People don’t happen to history: history happens to people.  That, dear friends, is the core message behind the website featured on this edition of Friday Favorites.

The  folks over at Heritage History have compiled a history curriculum that uses a vast number of engaging historical biographies and delightful tales to teach children all about the events of the past without suffocating their minds with boredom.  They base their curriculum off of a large selection of biographies,  well-written historical fiction and anecdotal collections of historical events that have entered the public domain.

But I don’t use their curriculum.

What I like to use is the website itself.  You see, every book  used in their history curriculum is available on their website.   And this website is very well organized.  You can browse by genre. You can search by author or title. You can search by historical character, by war or by civilization.   The table of Contents for the book you are perusing is always available at the left hand side of the screen, making navigation within individual books a breeze.

I first discovered Heritage History in January of 2012, and I fell in love right away.  I was midway through kindergarten with Zorro and I wanted him to be the smartest kid alive.  (Okay, I still have this wish, but I’ll be quite content if he can just learn to love learning.)  I had found the perfect curriculum to teach him history!  It would work for all 12 years! I fell in love.

Eventually, my frugal side kicked into gear.  After all, my oldest child was still in Kindergarten.  I had set a goal of zero curriculum purchases for his first year of school, and I was still researching educational philosophies as I struggled to decide which path I wanted to take.  Besides all this, Zorro and Rosie are so very different.  How will I know what works for each of them before I’ve tried it?  All I knew was that I wanted to have a literature based homeschool.

Then I dicovered Ambleside Online and Charlotte Mason’s writings.  I soaked it up like a sponge.  Charlotte Mason made so much sense!  Every thing she taught could be applied to all of my children, no matter their personalities.  That was the key: to work with their personalities and not against them.  Heritage History fit perfectly into this plan.

Though I am not currently using the curriculum they offer, I find myself constantly referring back to Heritage History’s website.  When the birthday of a famous person rolls around,  I take a few moments to stop by Heritage History, locate an appropriate biographical tale and read it to my little ones.  I have not needed to purchase or even download the texts for Zorro’s first grade history: the books are already available at Heritage History. Due to the fact that my children are not yet reading on their own, I find that I use the website more than I would use the actual books.  It is so easy to search and see all my different options before I decide which story to read.

My children particularly love the illustrations that accompany these books. I often print one out and allow the children to color while I read the story. I have noticed that they remember the story much better as they make associations between it and the pictures they are coloring.  The large selection of historical maps is yet another useful tool that I am just beginning to explore.

Zorro LOVED coloring this image on April 16th when we learned about Paul Revere and his Famous ride.

I have not yet purchased any curriculum from Heritage History.  For his first year of school we are using the plan of study laid out for Year 1 at Ambleside Online.   But the longer I have researched other history options, the more determined I become that Heritage History is one of the best history courses available, and it is most definitely the one I will have the most fun teaching.  And on the day that I do finally purchase curriculum for Zorro, I plan on my first purchase being Heritage History’s Young Readers Collection.  Until then, I’ll continue using their website for all my history needs.

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Friday Favorites: Practical Pages

Today’s Friday Favorite website is Practical Pages, a helpful blog where a talented lady shares with the world the lapbooking and notebooking pages she designs for use in her literature-based homeschool.  The pages are offered free of charge, and the helpful hints and clear photos inspire you with fresh ideas.

My favorite features:

Paper Dolls

The Charlotte Mason overview

I hope to use several of these pages in our first year of Ambleside Online, which we will start shortly. I hope to post all about our curriculum and plan for the school year within a month’s time.  🙂

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Introducing Friday Favorites: Currclick.com

Each Friday I hope to post about one of our (many) favorite websites.  I will explain why each site is so special and the ways we use it most.  The links you will find here are NOT affiliate links, and we are not rewarded by these websites for posting about them.  So without further ado, let me introduce you to

Currclick.com has been our #1 homeschooling resource since we discovered them almost a year ago.  Currclick offers digital homeschool products of all kinds as well as Live Classes on a variety of subjects.   Their Free Stuff page contained 714 free downloads at the time this post was written, and it changes often.  The fact that they will find any excuse to run a sale and offer extra freebies meant that I simply HAD to sign up for their newsletter.

We have always been happy with the quality of their products and the ease of use.  Most items are well labeled, which means that we have little trouble finding them on our computer when  looking for a specific one.  With the vast array of copy work booklets, math helpers, notebooking pages and lapbooks that they offer, I rarely leave empty handed.

If you homeschool and you are not familiar with Currclick.com,  I would encourage you to visit them and set up an account.  Download a few freebies to become familiar with their download process.  Then wait for one of their inevitable sales and start shopping!