Friday, August 31, 2012

Meal Planning with the Kids

If you've been following me for awhile, you already know that I'm big on giving children responsibilities.  This summer, while attending a festival in NC, I attended a workshop facilitated by Sister Aljoise Aldrich Knight on the topic Women's Work in the Creation of a More Perfect Union.  (I loved the title.) Basically she lead a discussion about what we're doing as women and mothers to create the kind of people we want to see in the world.  She shared several examples of things she did with her own children to help them become successful adults.  During our conversation, a good number of the women who attended were able to share things they were doing as well.

I have to say that most of what people shared wasn't new to me.  Truth is, most of us pretty much know what "things" we should do.  But sometimes we just need to hear it again, through another person's perspective--in their words, for it to really set in.

This conversation was that for me.  I've been putting things in place for my children to be responsible and to contribute to our home, to contribute and participate in the good of our community.  But there is definitely a bit of control I've still had.  I mean, at the end of things, I want things done a certain way, during a certain time, with a certain amount of speed....(you get the picture!).

Well, since that time this summer, I've been actively working to equip my children with the skills needed to be pretty good at what I'll be asking them to do this school year.  I'm also letting go of a lot of the control I've had.  Little steps, little steps (smile)!  But I've got to start somewhere, right?  I don't want to end up with nearly grown people who don't know how to take care of themselves all because I had to have it done a certain way.

As I've previously shared, we've taken most of the summer months to learn how to do a good job completing the chores around the house.  Each of my children started with a specific list of things they learned how to do thoroughly.  After they could do it without any help, they then become responsible for teaching their siblings how to complete the job.  Yes, there were several days that I felt like I was going to LOSE MY MIND!!!! But, I kept remembering Sister Knight's words about mothers needing to let their children figure things out and do for themselves.  How giving them that space grows them and relieves the pressure and stress so many mothers carry around.  I'm proud to say that all this teaching and learning time has not only benefited them but me as well.

That being said, I decided this morning that instead of doing all this meal planning and cooking myself, I should now involve my children.  I told each of the children that after breakfast I wanted to meet with them so we could plan our meals for next week.  Each of them perked up with excitement.  (They are really liking this 'conferencing' that we've been doing and so I'm going to use it.  By making appointments with each of them, they seem more willing to wait their turn.)

We started by listing all the different meal options that we have (on hand, since we just went grocery shopping) and then another list of meals we liked (and would plan for).  I then took each of them through what kinds of foods we needed to have from each food group (pulled on our food pyramid lessons!!).  I let Pretty Girl start by planning our breakfasts.  She will also be responsible for preparing them.  After she finished, Sweetie Pie then decided on what we'll have for lunch each day--she too will be responsible for preparing them (with help).  The Boy and I will finish up with dinner plans.

Two things about this that stood out to me:
1. Each of my children came up with good ideas and took ownership of thinking through how each meal should compliment the next (we don't need to have the same foods all day long).
2. My level of 'stress' associated with coming up with meals is gone!!!

By simply equipping my children to do it, it got done.  Meals are planned! Whoopie!!!

At the end of next week, we'll take time to plan for the following one.  I will pick a day, for each of them, to try a new recipe so that we don't get bored with the meals and add some variety to our dishes.  I'm feeling good about that--and, more importantly, so are they.

I am hopeful that I am growing and making room for each of them to develop and practice new skills so that they can become the kinds of people I want to see in the world (kind, compassionate, responsible, trustworthy, respectful, passionate, generous, honest, considerate, spiritual, thoughtful, hard working, creative, etc., etc., etc.)

Are there ways in which you need to stretch yourself outside your parenting comfort zone?  What specific thing or things are you doing to raise your children to be the kinds of people you'd like our world to be filled with?  Please share a comment below!  If you've already blogged about this topic, please a link.  I'd love to hear what other like-minded mothers are and have been doing.  Thank you.

Happy Home Learning!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Another Word About Planning

As I've been going through things this week and making sure things are in place for next week, I wanted to add something else that has come up for me:

Make sure you have all needed paper, activities, supplies, etc. on hand.  As I was making assessments of where things were, I realized that I hadn't put together two of the games I have on my list for The Boy to use this coming week.  Which made me remember that there were several copies I needed to make to be ready to start the notebook/lapbook pages we'll start as well.  I then took another moment to look through each of the lessons I'm planning to make sure each item called for, I actually had.  I pulled several things off my bookshelf and have made little stacks of resources for each lesson so that I'm ready!  I've asked each of the children to made sure that their notebooks and binders are where they need to be so we can find them.

So, as all good teachers do, take inventory of your supplies as well as what you'll need for each activity and lesson.  Make sure it's in arm's reach so that you don't lose precious time searching for something you thought was "just right here."

This happens to me a lot more than I'd like.  So I'm making plans to change this.  This is something that I will do weekly, probably on Sunday evening for the start of each new week.

Hope this little reminder tip helps you as well!

In you're planning, what things have you found out about yourself?  What things are you changing for this year?  I'd love to hear from you!

Happy Home Learning!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Schedules: Yearly, Monthly, Weekly, Daily

Since I've started sharing about the importance of planning, I've spoken with a good number of 'new to homeschool' moms and a couple of experienced ones about planning and just what planning consists of.  For my local homeschool group, I'm putting together a workshop with another experienced mother, to give some specifics and benefits from taking the time to plan and then continuing to make the time to do so.

In talking with my husband, who's also an educator, we've decided that the rhythm of 6 weeks on--1 week off flows well for our family.  Just when we'll need a break, we'll have it.  I have my calendar out and will be making two of those days during that 'off' week planning days.  Time for reviewing what was planned, how well it's working and what things I'll modify.  Of course, these are things that take place regularly with teaching, however, when starting new things you have to give yourself and your children time to get used to things and time to see progress.

After planning the general schedule for the year (what months you'll teach what, what holidays and breaks you'll take) the next thing you can do is look at the themes you'll be teaching and how they fall within your year plans.  This can help you with field trip ideas and perhaps you'll tweek your schedule so that important dates (in history, in your family, etc.) can be used to assist with gaining interest in a particular lesson, activity, etc.   As you can see, each family's schedule can look very different, indeed.

Next I would suggest putting together your daily schedule.  I've seen many variations on this, and again, I believe each family new to this should try a couple of different ones to find the one that works for them.  I've seen a lot of mothers try to simply copy another's schedule and then wind up overly stressed out, not always realizing that the schedule just doesn't match her family's rhythms.  Definitely try a couple if you're not sure and make adjustments that meet your children's pace and needs.

Case and point: I have a really good friend who is always telling me how she's done with school by noon, 1pm at the latest.  I've found it rather challenging to do myself.  We end up upset with one another and feel overly rushed.  I had to realize that although we may be up early, well, the children at least, I like to ease into the day.  I had to accept that my natural rhythms don't match up well with early, "rise & shine" schedules. (smile)  And that's ok. My family's schedule of getting started later and going longer isn't a bad thing.  It's just what works for us.

Another thing I've learned is that many of us make a schedule for 'school' or 'learning time' but don't factor in all the other things we need/want to get done in any given day.  Making a daily schedule that includes your person time, meditation, cleaning/chores, exercise, errands, dr appointments, etc. would probably be more realistic and also give you a better idea of just how your day will go--or the goal for that day. (smile)

A few years ago, before I was doing anything formal in learning, I had a weekly schedule and did a pretty good job sticking to it.  Everything got done over a week's time instead of just a day or few days.  Here's what I used to do:

Sundays--Straighten up from weekend.
Mondays--change & wash bedding and bath linens
Tuesdays--Library Day, Errands & grocery shopping
Wednesdays--laundry (everything else)
Thursday--Park Day & an hour of what I wanted to do (I had sitters who'd watch the kids)
Fridays-Thorough Cleaning of Entire House
Saturdays--Rest & Family Fun

I have tried to stay pretty close to this same schedule, adjusting a few things like which day we go to the library. Since the children are older, I've divided up the chores and we work on them throughout the entire week instead of just one day now.

Here is what I'm planning as a daily schedule.  Let me also say that I'm not big on following a schedule to a tee.  I love flexibility and will allow for that, but will be using this as a general guide, hopefully on most days. (smile)

I'll start with the 'Non-negotibles' (I remember reading that on another homeschool blog, can't remember where, now. Sorry.)  The things that must be done each day before 1pm.  These are also the things that we'll do regardless of the day if we have something outside the home to do.  Adjustments will be made to the time, in those cases.

Meditation/Devotion/Memory Work
Daily Exercise
Morning Chores
Spelling Power
First Language Lessons

After lunch, we'll have a quiet time--yes, I so believe in this and probably will for some time!!  The children will be able to either listen to stories on tape/CD or read quietly to themselves on their beds.  I will take this time to blog, catch up on email, and/or rest myself.

After quiet time we'll do either Science or History depending upon the day as well as the intensity of the learning of a particular unit.

Then we'll do:

Piano Lessons/Practice
Dance Lessons

Again, depending upon the day.

Ending the day with:

Evening Chores

Things will be adjusted on the days we have activities with our homeschool group.  Those are monthly activities: 1st Thursday: Park Day; 3rd Monday: Group meetings; various field trips mainly scheduled for Tuesday or Wednesday; Science Workshops: Fridays in October & November.  I've been trying to keep our weekly library day, but this year I am thinking that we'll do it bi-weekly maybe the 2nd and 4th weeks of each month.  I've just learned about a weekly P.E. class open to homeschoolers that is offering free classes for an hour each Tuesday.  I will be looking to see just how that will work for us. (Already it is making me tired of thinking about all the running around and being out of the house--so perhaps I'll rethink that. lol)

My goal this year is to find our rhythm and stick with it.  Last year we spent many days out and about. Quite honestly, that just wasn't a good rhythm for us.  As much as we enjoyed what we were involved in, running all the time just wasn't good for us.  This year I'd like to be more grounded--flexible, but grounded.

So how are you putting together your schedules this year?  Have you thought about all the things you'd like to do and how you'll get them done?  Yes, it can seem overwhelming, but if you follow my suggested steps I'm sure you'll find success and put together a realistic schedule for the rhythms of your family.  Let me know how it's going!!

Happy Home Learning!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Yesterday I took some time with each of my children to discuss the plans I've been making for each of them for this year.  I showed them their books and allowed them time to look through them and ask questions.  I discussed the overall goals I have for them and asked for their input.

This is the first time I've done it this way--like a conference one might have in school (parent & teacher).  They were very excited about 'their time.'  Also during this conferencing time, we checked the supplies they had and what they needed.  Then they got to get their new supplies for the year, well, at least the beginning. :)

Since we've spent most of the summer learning and practicing our chores around the house, this week we're working on getting back into our school year daily routine.  We're officially beginning on September 4th.  Of course now that the children know what I've been planning (specifically), they're terribly excited and have already asked repeatedly if we can just start now. lol  Little do they know we've already started, but I don't want them to lose their excitement. :)

What routines are you starting this year with your family?
How are you making learning exciting?

I'd love to hear from you!

Happy Home Learning!

Monday, August 27, 2012

The [lost] Art of Letter Writing

When was the last time you received a hand written letter from a dear friend in the mail?

I used to live for those hand written letters!

As a child, I would sit and watch my mother hand write many letters and cards throughout the week. She had nice stationary and matching stickers and would spread out on our kitchen table to catch up with her loved ones and shared with them the happenings of her life.

She past that habit on to me. I started our with thank you notes and then I'd narrate letters to grandparents, aunts and uncles.  When I finally learned to write for myself, she invested in stationary for me.  I would pick things with flowers or butterflies or other nature-type things.  I would spend time writing to all sorts of people--family, friends and pen pals (who became friends).

Then there was the waiting.
The waiting for that returned letter.

That was tough sometimes.

But on the day I'd get a letter back--oh what joy!!

With the advancement of technology, I see how letter writing has been lost, if not totally forgotten.  If any of us gets mail, it's junk or bills.  It's a rare thing for me to get a handwritten letter.  My mother still writes, but uses a computer now--so although it's a letter, it's no longer handwritten.

Just a couple months ago I was without technology for about 10 days while my husband went out of town (with our laptop) for a conference.  I decided then to find some paper and write some letters.  I went through my address book and picked out 10 people to 'surprise' with a letter.  I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed doing it.  In each of the letters and told the recipient not to feel in pressure to write back--for I was writing because I had the time (not being on the computer).

I got several calls of thank you and a few emails, from those who wanted to do more, but couldn't. But, to my surprise, one day as I was looking through the mail, I found a letter address to me from one of my dear friends.  She had, too, found some time to put a few kind words and thoughts down on special paper.  It was a pleasant surprise and really meant a lot.

Something so simple. Yet for those of us who have found meaning in it over the year, it can mean a whole lot.

So, I've decided to bring handwritten letters back into style. lol  Well, at least for my little family. We've spent the morning identifying people we'd like to write to and then selected paper to pen our thoughts on.  As a treat, I let the children pick out the stamps we'll use to mail them.  I've set the expectation that we probably won't hear back via the mail from those we write to.  That we'll probably get a phone call, email or Skype invitation on many of them.

But, if someone does decide to pen us back--joy, oh joy!!

(This is also a great way to practice handwriting and other language arts skills.)

How has letter writing been a part of your life?  Or if you've not been into letter writing, what way of communication has meant something to you?

Happy Home Learning!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Planning, Planning and More Planning!!

I've spent the last two weeks fully engaged in planning for this year.  I mean, I've done a few things around the house and with the kids, but I've been putting most of my energy into getting things ready for our next months start of new learning.  You can image what the dining room table has looked like, I'm sure! :)

Yes, I'm definitely one who believes learning happens every day, everywhere, however I do start a 'school year' in the traditional way--helps keep my plans in a bit of order.  Plus, the kids like 'starting' when their non-homeschooled friends do.  I'm ok with this. :)

I've found such great resources online this week.  Pinterest has facilitated in this as I've done several searches of homeschool boards.  If you're on Pinterest, here's a quick link to three of my boards specific to homeschooling: General, Ancient history, American history.  You may find these resources helpful is you're following a classical method, although they can be used for anyone!  I may tweek these boards a bit as the 'general' one has all kinds of resources--we'll see.

I'm finding that a good amount of homeschoolers that I speak with don't take time to thoroughly plan.  Many are good about doing research on what they're going to use with their children, but they end up stopping there.  Then just starting and finding that things aren't laid out as they thought or that in pulling everything necessary for the lesson together they lose their children's attention.  One of the main things I'm sharing now with them is that just as teachers are given in-service days (for planning) and are required to attend workshops on how to use particular curricula, homeschooling parents must make/take the time to do the same.  Planning it more than just making a schedule or list of what you're going to cover, it's about going through lessons, outlining skills, pulling supplies and resources together and getting a good handle on how you will proceed (and ideas on what to do when you may need to reteach something because you child hasn't gotten it the first several times).  Since a lot of curricula designed for homeschoolers is pretty well laid out, not everyone takes this time to read through things prior to getting started.  But this is crucial!

Another important part of planning is scheduling time to plan on a regular basis throughout the year!  Finding natural breaks and making time at the beginning helps not only with burnout but with making smoother transitions.  Giving yourself enough time to evaluate what is working and what is not as well as being able to differentiate between the natural time-period needed to getting into the flow of something new verses things not being a good match for your children/yourself is critical.  Ample planning time is necessary for this.  Uninterrupted time, where you can think is what you need to make room for on a regular basis.

Hopefully you all have been doing this.  This year I've made it a BIG deal here.  The children have been cooperative, for the most part, engaging each other in other activities, since they know that what I'm doing is for THEM!!  I'll take some time over the next few days to share the specifics of my plans for this year on the page designated for that (Curriculum for 2012-2013).

How have you been planning?  What things are you finding and using this year?  I'm always interested in hearing what others are doing and what's working for them.  If you'd rather not rewrite a post you've already written, add a link below.  Thanks! ;)

Happy Homeschooling!!

If you're local and want to join a wonderfully supportive and encouraging community of homeschooling families in support meetings, park days, learning activities and field trips, check out this link.  Not local but want helpf/useful information and resources? Like our group's page on Facebook.


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