Coming down from my (blogging) high horse.

I started this blog in 2015 with the intention of making it a professional bloga space for intentional encouragement and help for anyone wanting to learn on their own. The target audience being homeschool families like mine.

In addition to providing professional content, I wanted to build a business that would provide my family with additional income by tapping into the online wealth of affiliate sales, pay-per-click ads, sponsorship, etc. All of this can be done without compromising content, and I saw it as a win-win. (This is not a slam on professional bloggers who do earn their income from their blogs.)

Somewhere between starting the blog, researching brand-building and income sources, and writing inspired content I created a standard for this blog that is higher than I can realistically reach. After spending hours studying what it takes to build a professional blog, I became unsatisfied with just sharing what I had to say.

I rose the bar. I required pictures with text, back links to every possible post I’ve ever written, and a closure complete with disclosures, subscription invitation, and general marketing ads.

For a while, this wasn’t difficult. I had the passion, the time, and the ideas to fuel this standard. I established a routine that worked well for me, my family, and the blog to coexist in harmony.

And then I had a baby.

You’re smiling. Babies always make people smile either because they are just adorable or because you know what I’m about to say. Babies are known for requiring more time than any one person can give.

I was prepared for this, and I didn’t want having a baby to define me. I love all my children enormously AND (not but) I need to maintain my own identity as woman, wife, writer, teacher, creative being, etc.

So, as I was coming to a new normal after Naomi was born, I started writing again. I started an accountability program with those who chose that option in their subscription to this blog (I still know you’re out there and patiently waiting!).

And one Saturday I spent every single spare moment writing one blog post. It took me the whole day. My husband entertained all the kids while I worked. At the end of the day, I was finished but not satisfied.

I was failing the standard that I created. So, I did what every person does who fears failure: I hid.

I didn’t want to quit what I started, but I knew I couldn’t perform at the level that I wanted. So, I avoided everything related to my blog. For over a month, I didn’t even visit the blog myself!

After a while, I had to really confront myself with the decision of what to do next. Do I let it go? Do I pull myself back up, press on, and pretend nothing happened? Or do I lay all my cards on the table and start over?

Well, maybe not start over, but undergo a make-under.

So, I’m going to keep writing. I’ll get back to my roots of sharing what I’m learning, how I’m changing, and why that matters to me. I hope to always spread encouragement and to research and analyze things to make your life easier. I will continue to suggest resources that are relevant and timely, but I’m not going to try to earn an income with every single post. (Can I get an amen?)

I still respect professional bloggers; I think you’re amazing! But I can’t continue to pretend that I’m up there on a high horse too. (No offense, I don’t think other bloggers are arrogant – just above my realistic reach.)

So, high fives all around. This blog is undergoing a make-under. I hope you’ll stick with me.

Here are a few ideas I have brewing for new posts:

  • Organization is like dirty laundry.
  • I’m breaking up with balance.
  • Am I okay with my child’s goals in life? (Why do I feel like she has to do more, be more?)
  • Let’s revisit the beauty of kitchen timers.

Here are a few changes I want to make:

  • Less pictures in each post to relieve the pressure on my writing so that I can actually write more!
  • More pictures on Instagram where the moments really make a difference anyway. Check out my Instagram profile here.
  • No sales. I don’t want to ask you to buy anything or hide a product within a post. 
  • Actual reviews of products when appropriate. I’m keeping the freedom to use affiliate links but removing the pitch that this is for you. If I write about a product, then it will be to detail how it has worked/not worked for me. 

Sound good? Ah. Being down to earth feels much better. 

Keep on learning, growing, changing, and being true to your stage of life!

Year Round School Schedule (A Step By Step Guide)

hsp-year-roundRaise your hand if you’ve been the mom who took a break from routine only to have to enter the war zone of re-establishing expectations with your kids.

You want to enjoy a summer break just like your public schooled friends, but by mid-June there are already signs that this whole “break” idea is ruining everything. The house is a mess, no one wants to do chores, screens are the norm, and there’s nothing predictable about the days or weeks.

My kids like the idea of “no school” but in reality they are healthier and happier if we remove the idea of “school days” and “non-school days.” We are always learning, and I’ve seen the proof that they are happier when we maintain a rhythm for our days and weeks regardless of the time of year.

Enter the concept: year round schooling.

This year, we have been following the year round school schedule by adopting the 6 term structure.

And I’ve received many questions about how we do this.

So, here’s how to do it:

  1. Start by looking up the number of school days required for one year in your state.
  2. Divide that number by 5. (There are five school days in each week.) The answer equals the number of weeks you will need to schedule as “school days.”
  3. Minus the number of school weeks from the total number of weeks in a year. (Ex. 52 weeks in a year – 36 school weeks = 16 break weeks)
  4. Decide on the on/off rhythm that will work best for you. (6 weeks on, 1 week off; 12 weeks on, 2 weeks off, etc.)
  5. Look at a year at a glance calendar, and begin to mark off break weeks for holidays first. I chose to start at Christmas for scheduling our year and marked off 2 weeks there then counted backwards.
  6. Pick one whole month (or more depending on how you schedule) as your break month. We scheduled this for June last year because that’s when I gave birth to baby #4.
  7. Keep a record. It doesn’t matter what educational philosophy you adhere to, I believe you should write down what you’re learning individually and as a family. This helps to ease anxiety and prove the quality of the lifestyle of learning in the home.

To double check that you’ve scheduled the right amount of break days, do the math: 365 days in a year minus the number of days required equals the number of days you have for “break” days. Note: this number will include all weekends and holidays.

We treat “school days” as days when we formally record lessons and learning, and “break days” as special family days. I plan extra fun activities that we aren’t already doing on a week to week basis. We like to schedule movie days, game days, trips to the beach, bowling, and lots of other extra curricular activities during these weeks.

Want to see what I mean? Here’s a look inside my planner:

You can also read Mystie Winkler’s “A Year-Round Homeschool Schedule” for more help and explanation on how to do this.

The deeper I dive into this homeschool world, the more I move away from the traditional model of education, and the happier I become.

I hope this post helped clarify the concept of year round school scheduling. If it did, I would love to hear from you in the comments! If it didn’t, please leave your questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to help!

Want to read more? Check out the Homeschool Planning Tips Series:

Enjoy your learning journey!

 

A “Busy” Mom’s Guide to Weekly Homeschool Planning

busy-weekly-plan

Let me tell you about my “busy.”

It’s 11am. And even though I’ve been up since 7am, I haven’t eaten yet.

I haven’t started teaching the lessons for today yet either. I know I need to start preparing lunch instead of lessons at this point, because if I don’t eat-something-now I may just collapse.

I make a quick sandwich and begin eating.

The 3-year-old sees it and begins whining for food too (I’m never allowed to eat anything without one of the children thinking that they should be given what I have) and the baby works herself from a fuss to a full cry.

Our schedule spiraled out of control all because I was daring enough to take a shower this morning.

All of this chaos keeps me busy. Constantly fighting to keep just a step ahead of the next task, mess, or meal.

This is the type of busy that causes 24-hours to fly by and feel like nothing has been accomplished, and it is often to blame for not planning or setting goals. This is the busy that most often keeps me from my priorities: “inside busy.”

“Outside busy” can be just as troublesome; it is the plague on our culture to book our calendars with good things that take us out of the house.

So, how can I get homeschool planning accomplished if I can’t even make time to eat breakfast?

Homeschool planning guides say something like:

Set an appointment with yourself and ask your spouse to take care of the kids in order for you to focus on planning for the next week.

I tried this.

But it was discouraging because it basically never worked. The “inside busy” always distracted me, derailed my schedule, and discouraged me that I would never have a moment to restfully plan ahead.

And even though my husband is my greatest support, our “outside busy” keeps us from being able to find a concrete time that I can count on to get this task done.

Last year I floundered with our plans. We didn’t have curricula that was highly structured so I could get away with not charting our week or our days. Each day could be planned on the fly. (But I did record everything we did in our Bullet Journals.)

But not so this year. We have dedicated ourselves to a more disciplined path, and with that path comes a higher standard of planning ahead.

So, how do I manage to plan when I have to compete with inside and outside busy?

First, write!

I write down anything I can whenever I can, and it helps me get a little bit done here and there. This was hard at first because I despised having to leave the task unfinished. At first, I also struggled to pick up where I left off. But over time this became normal and helped me understand our rhythms even more accurately which leads me to the second tip for planning.

I'm writing a little bit while snuggling the newborn. It's possible; be creative!

I’m writing a little bit while snuggling the newborn. It’s possible; be creative!

Second, refuse to be distracted by bad planning.

  • Planning is not just arbitrarily writing activities and times in my calendar and then crossing my fingers that it will work.
  • Planning is not writing the same schedule over and over every week without actually using it.
  • Planning is not best accomplished the day of or spontaneously.
  • Planning is not pushing on to the next lesson. Neglecting the child’s understanding of the subject and moving on to more and more lessons without allowing time for the child to master the subject is not good planning.

Third, focus on taking baby steps toward the goal.

Like I said in the first point, writing what I can when I can is a baby step toward the overall goal of writing a weekly homeschool plan.

Start planning earlier than your deadline. I need to have all my plans laid out by Sunday evening in order to start the new week on Monday. I used to wait until Sunday afternoon to plan, but after a busy morning at church and a full belly from Sunday lunch I tend to forget how important it is to be productive. So, I finally learned to start planning for the next week on Thursday. By that time in our current week, I have a good handle on what we’ve done and what we won’t be able to do. I am able to see clearly what pace we are currently working at and adjust for the next week – either faster or slower.

Fourth, set a general plan for the month and keep an eye on it.

Before we start our 6-week term, I write out how many lessons we need to accomplish in each subject. I have already calculated an approximate number of lessons we need to work through for each term in order to finish each subject by the end of our school year. But I only write the lessons in the calendar one month at a time. (I explain this in detail in a video which I will publish soon!)

Fifth, know your week.

Remember this “homeschool stuff” isn’t just added on top of your life – homeschooling is a lifestyle. In order to best accomplish your goals for leading your child in the learning life, you need to know what demands on your time you are going to face for the week. Each week is a little bit different in every home. There are appointments, plans with friends, extra trips to the grocery store, etc. If you know in advance that any of these things are coming up, then they need to be accounted for in your lesson plan. 

Watch this video to see what I mean.

I use my Bullet Journal to chart my week. I write out each day of the week on the left hand side of the page, and then I list the events of that day along with what meal I plan to make for dinner.

These are the 2 major variables: where we need to go and what will be for dinner.

These two parts of my day account for the bulk of what consumes my time. If we have a doctor’s appointment for example, it isn’t just that time of day that we are “busy” but at least an hour beforehand in prep to leave the house. Also, we require a transition period once we get home. I have to be prepared for what I’m going to ask my children to do when we arrive back home. This has to be flexible and take into account their energy level, hunger, and time of day. It’s important that I don’t push them too hard nor neglect them because I failed to plan. (Let me know in the comments if this is confusing and I can explain more about how I plan for our transitions.)

IMG_4137

The same idea is true for dinner. Writing out that we will have pork barbecue sandwiches on Monday night requires more than just 30 minutes before 5:00pm to assemble. Every single dinner meal goes through a thorough “how long will this really take to make” process. There are days when I know I will have time in the morning to prep a crock pot meal and mornings when I won’t. I chart out our Outside the House appointments and then factor in how much time each meal requires. (Again, if it would be helpful to have this explained in more detail, I would be happy to share.)

Finally, always think a day ahead.

Because of the lessons in the evening and morning courses by Crystal Paine, I have been trained to plan ahead. I can’t tell you how life changing this little shift has been! Instead of packing the diaper bag on our way out the door, I pack the night before. Instead of writing the agenda the morning of, I write it the night before – this helps to double check our week’s plan one more time too. I take account of our daily timeline for the next day but this time with a lot more perspective. For example, on Monday evening I look at the Week Plan and see that I want to run a couple errands before the library for our “Tuesday Plan.” But Monday was a very tiring day. We had a busy Sunday and needed more rest Monday to recover which means that we didn’t finish our Monday household chores. So, I move my errands to the next opening in our schedule and try to lessen the amount of time out of the house because I know 2 things: #1 we won’t have the energy to run around town, and #2 if we don’t make time for our chores then our home gets out of balance.

The bottom line is that planning requires consistent, daily management. If you will do the daily work of thinking through your responsibilities, then the weekly spread will come together quickly and practically.

Practice makes permanent! Keep planning and it will become a habit regardless of how busy you are.

Want even more encouragement for the learning journey? Click here to join the Accountability Group!

Looking for a way to make staying at home more affordable?

Grocery University will teach you how to save your money so that you can use it on more important things – like books!

(Affiliate links used in this post. At no additional cost to you, any purchase you make from these links supports my family!)

Write Your Plan: Homeschool Planning Tip #5

HPT 5 Write Your Plan

Feeling the pressure to get ready for the first day of school?

Last year, I wanted to force myself to use my time wisely in preparing for a new school year. So I made my daily work public by writing everyday for the month of August. (You can see the whole list of topics here.)

Depending on your family’s needs, this may be crunch time for getting your homeschool ready for the new year. Whether you’ve procrastinated and have nothing ready or you’ve steadily gathered your resources and feel ready, you’ll make some sort of plan (even if it’s just in your head).

But the bigger challenge we all face is creating a plan that can be put into action (you know, not the “ideal” plan but a “real” plan). 

Here’s how:*

#1 Start by mapping your family’s year. This step is defined for you in this post.

#2 Be the student. Read all the Instructor’s Guides, Introductions, and anything else included for the teacher in each of your resources. Pace yourself; don’t attempt this all at once! I disagree with experts who say that you can schedule a Saturday and crunch this all out. I prefer to read one subject at a time. I mull over the information and I don’t move on until I really feel like I understand it. My main goal for this step is to really grasp the main point of the resource. I want to be able to express this goal in my own words.

Ideal. All my resources tidy and in order while reviewing them.

Ideal. All my resources tidy and in order while reviewing them.

#3 Make it your own! Once you grasp the author’s goal for the resource, then you can define your own measure of success in utilizing it. I ask myself this question: “What will it take for us to master this subject?” In most teaching resources, they include a scope and sequence but it may not be titled as such. It might be the “introduction” (scope) and “sample schedule” (sequence).

#4 Pencil in a plan that fits your family. Don’t over stress the details nor throw your schedule to the wind.

Real. This is what it actually looked like while I read and reviewed my resources.

Real. This is what it actually looked like while I read and reviewed my resources.

Here’s what I do:

Read the introductions and sample schedules

Count the number of chapters and divide the material by the number of weeks needed to account for school (remember to review your state’s requirements for what you need to account for)

Plan for the first term and stop there (Resist the temptation to fill in your blank calendar.) Writing only what I hope to accomplish within the first 4-6 weeks allows me to gain perspective on how we actually handle our resources without the pressure to keep the pace. After the first term, I can then adjust our pace based on the first term without having to rewrite our whole year plan.

Write a sample week including all the subjects (Look for a post – coming soon – “A Busy Mom’s Guide to Weekly Homeschool Planning“) 

Use my Ultimate Homeschool Planner’s monthly and weekly worksheets:

  • Monthly set’s a bare bones skeleton
  • Weekly set’s a limited focus on only what I need to accomplish

Pray and get to work!

If there’s one last piece of advice I can leave you with, it is to have confidence. You can figure out how to use the tools you have, you will be able to manage all the parts of your homeschool (with patience and practice), and you are the best teacher for your child!

Here’s to the start of an amazing 2016-2017 Homeschool Year!

*These tips assume that you’ve already defined your teaching style and have chosen the resources that work best for you and your child. If you’re feeling stuck because you don’t know your educational philosophy or you don’t feel confident to choose resources then check out these posts:

Want even more encouragement for the learning journey? Click here to join the Accountability Group!

Looking for a way to make staying at home more affordable? 

Grocery University will teach you how to save your money so that you can use it on more important things – like books!

(Affiliate links used in this post. At no additional cost to you, any purchase you make from these links supports my family!)