Day 19: Color-Coding to Save Time and Money #B2S #31Days

B2S Day 19 Color coding 1

I was with my 3 kids in the Dollar Store over a month ago. We were shopping for birthday party supplies.

This was during our major move in and settle season – trying to only bring into the house the things that we need, to live simply and holistically with our life’s purpose.

So buying a bunch of cheap storage bins wasn’t on the list. (Always shop with a list in that store or you’ll end up with a total over $40. That’s 40 items! Everything is $1.)

But as we walked in circles, my daughter being the ring leader of our little band, I noticed multiple different organizational bins and containers all in the same colors.

B2S Day 19 Color coding 4

Color-coding has saved my sanity so many times that I immediately began thinking in code. I started to formalize what bins I would need to contain everything from markers to stuffed animals. I imagined where the “home” for each bin would be in our home and realistically (as much as I could for imagining) thought about my routine and whether I would use a bin for the purpose I was imagining.

B2S Day 19 Color coding 2

All systems were go, so I asked my kids – which color do you want to be your color? And the rest is history.

Here’s what I color code:

  • Water bottles
  • Lunch containers
  • Bins on the stairs for items that belong in their rooms
  • Containers for craft and school items

B2S Day 19 Color coding 5

  • Notebooks for school work
  • Pens and pencils
  • Scissors
  • Bullet Journals
  • Toy and personal item bins

I found an amazing deal at Walmart (which I only shop in 1-2 times per year, so I think this was miraculous) in the check out aisle for glass water bottles for less than $4 each and silicone containers – in their colors! (You’ll notice the green water bottle is missing in the picture. We are also working on not losing things – also why a $4 water bottle is my happy place.)

B2S Day 19 Color coding 3

Caution: Do not pick a child’s color and then buy all the things in that color. Have a place and purpose already picked out for any item before bringing it into your home.

5 suggestions for color-coding:

  1. I love my colorful cart for color-coding my children’s work and subjects (seen here). Last year, my color code wasn’t per kid, but per subject. This system worked well, and we will continue with it for this year – changing the items inside the drawers to reflect our new work.
  2. Towels. This has been on my list of things to color-code, and I already do it to the extent that I can with the towels I already own. I would like to be able to purchase new towels (who doesn’t like new towels?) eventually to reflect their color within the house.
  3. Count the cost up front before even beginning to code. For me, this color-coding only cost an additional $6. I was already buying school supplies, so making sure I had “green, blue, and red” pencils wasn’t a matter of buying extra.
  4. Use Washi Tape to code things that can’t be a specific color. I have black notebooks for my kids that I was sad wouldn’t be coded, until I remembered that I have blue and green Washi Tape – just measure a piece that will run the length of the spin and I’m all set. Proof that you don’t need new and fancy to establish a color-coded system.
  5. If you’re going to be collecting items for your color system over a period of time, then choose colors that are always available. I chose primary colors because they are usually available at the Dollar Store.

I couldn’t find many articles to refer you to on this topic – so please share with me what you find helpful in color-coding!

Other helpful things:

  • Today on Simple Homeschool there is a giveaway for the Teaching from Rest bundle – the book, journal, and audio conversations on the topic with some spectacular experts. From the post: I’ve been down this new-year-of-homeschooling road a few times, and I want to tell you the secret for setting out for a new school year with mindful intention that has the staying power to carry us through the year– that will get us through that November slump and even the February burnout that threatens us year after year. (You should click here to read the rest and enter to win! Good luck! Or maybe just buy it here and then give away your freebie to a friend and keep each other accountable.)
  • Don’t forget to mark your calendar for August 25th! This is the one-day-sale of Crystal’s course Make Over Your Mornings. In review of this course, I would say that this course will do more than make over your mornings it will make over your thinking. I needed a major help in my processing and decision-making – this course was that help. Read my full review here.

This is Day 19 in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.

Break life’s tasks into manageable chunks: download One Bite at a Time by Tsh Oxenreider today!

Thank you for reading this post. If you've found it helpful, bookmark or share it for future reference. There are affiliate links in this post, because that's just good business - they are all marked by underlining. If you want to know more about affiliate links read my disclosure. As always, be sure to subscribe for more free content and to download your free guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.

Day 18: Chores, Grace, and Sales Announcements #B2S #31Days

B2S Day 18 Chores grace and sale 4

Yesterday I wasn’t feeling good, and my mom helped me out big time. She took my kids and allowed me to rest. When she brought them home, her being in my home helped me more than she knows. Her physical presence cast a different light on my priorities.

During this back to school series, I have intentionally spent more time blogging. I can’t believe that my daily word count has been in thousands! It truly has shown me how much I’m capable of writing, and has put to rest the fear that I won’t be able to finish what I started.

But when one thing receives more attention, another thing usually receives less.

In this case, it’s been my housekeeping.

B2S Day 18 Chores grace and sale 3

Writing this series is just for a season, and a short one at that. It’s a special situation taking attention and intention in order to accomplish. This morning, I woke up still not quite right, so I went back to bed.

I preached grace to myself that if I didn’t post today – the world would go on and my readers would understand (you’re great like that – thanks!).

While I think it’s important to be flexible; it is also important to recognize when a special situation has taken too much away from the normal order of priorities.

And that’s how my mom’s presence helped me yesterday. Seeing her in my space gave me the perspective that I need to slow down and reorganize my priorities in order to accomplish more housekeeping.

My focus on setting up the schoolroom for officially starting school has been getting more and more unbalanced and the rest of the house has suffered.

But that’s not all. I realized that since we moved into our house at the beginning of July, I haven’t had my children do any household chores other than clean their rooms.

So today that all changed, and boy are we are better for it.

Back2School Logo

The challenge for today in the #Back2School in #31Days series is to set up a daily chore list for the kids in addition to my regular chores.

Ironically, housekeeping came up in a conversation over swings with another homeschool mom this past weekend. I told my friend, I do one household chore per day. I don’t overload myself and I don’t do housework perfectly. One area per day is enough to keep me focused and consistent.

Here’s my regular chore list:

  • Monday: Kitchen
  • Tuesday: Bathroom
  • Wednesday: Tidy Bedrooms, declutter
  • Thursday: Tidy Main Areas, dust and declutter
  • Friday: Floors
  • Saturday: Catch up day

I also try to keep a steady flow of laundry – one load per day. The free videos from the last Ultimate Bundle Sale addressed this, and it really has helped me with creating and maintaining a better laundry routine (although writing this series has set me off that routine a bit).

B2S Day 18 Chores grace and sale 2

For the kids, I started them off today with household chores! I assigned jobs based on ability and interest:

  • My detail oriented son: vacuum
  • My collection and pattern friendly girl: fold laundry

The schedule for them will be flexible for a while, but I’m so excited to get little chore routine established for them that goes well with our block schedule.

Kids’ Chores Research:

B2S Day 18 Chores grace and sale 1

Now for the sales announcements!

Coming soon, the Ultimate Bundles team will release the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle. It’s sure to far surpass expectations. And the pre-sale freebie is available now! Check out this link – 4 Essential Habits of Healthy Families Audio Course – and get the course for free for a limited time. Think of this free audio course as a try before you buy sort of thing. If you like this, then you’ll certainly benefit from the bundle. (More on when it will be available soon!)

Crystal has announced the sale date for her course: Make Over Your Mornings! Mark this down: Tuesday, August 25th the course will be $7 OFF retail price! You can snag this course and change not only your mornings, for just $10. Also, if you aren’t sure this course is for you, she’s offering a sneak peek at the course for free – this week only.

This is Day 18 in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.

Break life’s tasks into manageable chunks: download One Bite at a Time by Tsh Oxenreider today!

Thank you for reading this post. If you've found it helpful, bookmark or share it for future reference. There are affiliate links in this post, because that's just good business - they are all marked by underlining. If you want to know more about affiliate links read my disclosure. As always, be sure to subscribe for more free content and to download your free guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.


Day 15 – Bullet Journal, Home School Planner #Back2School in #31Days

B2S Day 15 Home School Plans 1

Back to school can feel like January, but heavier for me as a home school mom.

Resolutions to try harder to teach more, train better, and treasure this time with my kids. Because, after all, it is my choice to be with them 24/7.  And everyone says they will grow and be gone before we can blink.

As a home school mom, preparing for the new school year is rough.

I have to not only prepare for the future and add in all the interests, skills, and resources that are necessary for each child in my home, but I also have to repair what was broken in the last year. The unfinished projects, the failure to manage my time, and the lack of plans simply because I didn’t make it a priority to stop the rush.

This year, I have distilled the failures that I believe had the greatest negative impact on our home and life, and that’s what this whole series has been intended to help me fix.

I know now that I need to study my patterns in order to fix or break them.

There’s no such thing as a magical curricula, planner, or eCourse for doing the life change for me.

So, as I address my need for planning this home school year, I know I need to set up a plan for how to plan. (Wow. That sounds redundant and complicated, but I think it’s going to work. Stay with me.)

I want to be able to Bullet Journal my life and home school plans. I appreciate the fact that I have almost everything important in my life contained in one spot. (Yesterday’s post was all about how I’ve set up my Bullet Journal – you should check it out. There are even videos.)

It’s tempting to think that a nice new home school planner, designed with me in mind, would revolutionize my world of home education – but I think I’ve been down this road before and it ended with less money in the bank and a fancy planner only partially filled out.

But before I give the impression that I don’t make myself finish things or that I give up easily, or worse – that I don’t have hope that I can stick with a system – hear me when I say that I just don’t think these fancy planners play nice in my brain.

They are linear and orderly. When I think and plan, it’s a mess. I’m writing down when to start making dinner right next to the notes I’m writing for the card I need to mail to a friend.

The Bullet Journal lets me do this on-the-same-page, which is freeing and beautiful in a messy, unique sort of way.

So before I start this home school year, I want to set up a plan for how I will plan in the Bullet Journal and when I will do it.

Accountability folks. It’s all about doing what’s right, not just knowing what’s right. 

8 things I need to do in order to incorporate my home school plans into my Bullet Journal:

1. Write out each subject with 1 major goal and method to accomplish it

The reason I want to take the time to include this is to have accurate records for state. (See Day 12 for a detailed break down of the requirements for my state.) I do not believe that every subject needs to be taught equally or every day for that matter, but to be intentional up front and make myself write this out will serve as a foundation for the year.

2. Outline major events in each month on your family calendar, including any time sensitive field trips or vacations

Don’t write subject plans farther in advance than one quarter at a time. It’s tempting to me to repeat a mistake from last year. I wrote in the sections of our history and science for every month in the planner I used last year. As soon as the first 3 weeks of school passed, I knew we would never finish the whole science text by May and I felt defeated in my planning. Like I would have to go through the whole schedule and cross out and rewrite. Rewrite. Rewrite.

Family events are different. Planning around a trip to see grandparents is important to have written in advance.

B2S Day 15 Home School Plans 2

3. Read to understand the Instructor’s Guide (IG) Intro

Often, the creator of the guide has tips and practical ways to best use the resource. Read to understand. I appreciate the helpfulness of others, but I don’t like making more work for myself. So, I try to think through the heart of what they recommend and then apply it to how I work best. Don’t get caught up in the “rule” of what is recommended or the helpfulness is lost.

Also, IGs usually include recommended resources and supplies. If there are things I can wait to purchase later, start a list in the Bullet Journal and add it to the Index: Supplies needed for X-subject by the end of the 1st quarter.

A lot of times, when I’ve started reading the IG’s it is a day or maybe a week before I want to start teaching the material – only to find out that I should have already bought a bunch of things or read another resource which leaves me feeling behind and discouraged.

Mentally prepare to feel partially unprepared, and continue preparing anyway.

4. Write a key

Write out a code or notation of some kind that makes sense and use it. Store this in the front or back of the Bullet Journal.

Things like recording memories matter just as much as recording the mastery of multiplication facts. Seeing myself and my child as a whole person is better than having everything categorized and separated into compartments. This is why I want to write down the interesting questions Graham asks in the car as just as important as what lesson he’s working on in math that week – chances are there is a connection yet to be seen between the two.

5. Use the key to thread topics.

With schoolwork, lessons, and things in progress and things complete – there needs to be a quick way to see and use old plans. I like using Washi tape on the edges of the page to quickly see plans on the same topic, but also threading makes it possible to take this even further.

Combining threading and the key – FIAR = Five in a Row and EAH = Early American History.

Next to the page number at the bottom of the page, I can write past and future pages on the same topic or using the same key to better weave together a continuous flow of plans, ideas and progress across multiple weeks.

Have you ever felt like you started a great project or conversation with your kids over a book or subject only to forget it because it wasn’t written down? I think threading can help by not only recording these projects but also by building upon them through review and connection.

6. Record to remember, not to impress

I’m not a scrapbooker just like I’m not a baker. I just can’t control my hands that well. I make mistakes, cross things out and spill. The fear of failure has no place in my Bullet Journal because the goal is to just keep writing, not to make something worthy of display in the home school mom hall of fame (which doesn’t exist anywhere expect my mind).

7. Plan in layers

Don’t begin everything all at once. One thing Sarah McKenzie said in the podcast with Tsh Oxenreider that struck me (about the use of notebooking for her kids) was:

“When I plan the night before, I don’t over plan their day because I’m planning from the perspective of what was just done. When I plan in the morning, I tend to overfill their schedule in the hopes that we will do it all.”

I’ve said it before, and I’ll preach it to myself again: Do one thing well and then add one more thing. Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.

8. Make a plan for when to plan

For me, it’s more important when I plan than how I plan. I have the ability to do a daily routine, or even a weekly one without ever setting any thoughts or schedules down on paper. This nearly always ends with me frustrated for forgetting chores, appointments, or other fringe items that should have been accomplished – and would have been easy to do in one setting if only I had made a point to remember them.

I think this is the usual hook for wanting to buy something new – the desire to use something new and write things down is huge when I’ve paid money and bought the promise that my life will be better with a product.

The problem is that I can’t buy a new me.

I need a plan for when I will plan no matter if I’m using something fancy or just a Post-It note to contain my intentions.

B2S Day 15 Home School Plans 3

My big question:

What will this look like for real? On the page, in the journal.


I’m not sure, and I have to be okay with failure up front. Change isn’t the bad guy. It’s rebellion and choosing to do nothing that’s the bad guy. If this doesn’t work – I’m just going to change it or scrap it. There’s no shame in learning by trying when it comes to planning.

I know a planner is good for me when it helps me remember what I’ve written and doesn’t distract me or pull me to think in a different way. This is why I love the simplicity of the Bullet Journal. There is space to write what I need to remember to save it for future use, but the priority is staying in the present – just write in today. I don’t feel pulled to write ahead, dream ahead, or plan ahead. I feel capable of stewarding today.

Just today.

Further reading on home school planning:

This is Day 15 in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.

My favorite eCourse is going on sale again soon! Check it out now for more information: Click here for details.

Thank you for reading this post. If you've found it helpful, bookmark or share it for future reference. There are affiliate links in this post, because that's just good business - they are all marked by underlining. If you want to know more about affiliate links read my disclosure. As always, be sure to subscribe for more free content and to download your free guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.

#Back2School in #31Days: Day 13 – Why Bullet Journal

July 2015 Recap 2

Back to school, for me, used to mean buying all the new planning, scheduling, and organizing things that promise to make my life easier and help me get more things done.

The promise was, however, dependent on me actually using the things purchased. 


Please pardon me as we don’t not talk about all the money I wasted on these.

I’ve finally figured out a way to make myself process prior to handing over my debit card. 

It has taken me years of practice to learn to say no to myself when shopping the aisles of the office supply section, but I was finally sick of spending money on planners or printer ink because of all the promising things I never used.

I exhausted all the planner fails:

  • Do nothing.
  • Fill in everything for the year in advance.
  • Try to keep everything in my head.
  • Try to keep everything on 3 different calendars.
  • Switch from calendars to categorized notebooks to keep lists of all-the-things.
  • And again, back to doing nothing. (This time in frustration and discouragement, because after failing at trying to do too much – more than anyone should do – the most logical reaction is take a big long break.)

So before I start a new year of home schooling, I asked myself:

What do I need in a planner?

I need a place to store our Year at a Glance, Goals, Lesson Plans, Commitments/Anchors, and Lists – chores, daily thoughts/ideas/inspiration, etc. I need a system of recording my life that is easy to use and to carry with me everywhere I go.

I need something that can contain everything in one place so that I don’t have 4 different notebooks all 4 pages in with content from 4 distinct categories.

B2S Day 13 Why Bullet Journal 1

Another option I’ve failed at is using a printable. I don’t like loose papers floating through the house. So, I tried using a clipboard for printables that would eventually get 3-hole punched and put in a 3-ring binder, but I didn’t follow through on the binding part. I just had a clipboard with the spring stretched to it’s maximum capacity.

{Printables work for many people, and there are hundreds of free downloads to choose from, but they just didn’t work for my brain. I think if I could suggest one solution to myself, it would be to have the whole planner printed, laid out, and spiral bound by an office store. 3-Ring binders, moving pieces, and I don’t get along well.}

Aren’t there dozens of good planners to choose from?

Yes! And I’m sure I’ve tried a lot of them: expensive ones with soft leather binding, pretty ones with flowery pages, complicated ones like “The Complete…” or “The Ultimate…,” and simple ones like a year calendar from the Dollar Store.

But it was a plain spiral notebook that finally contained my plans and saved my sanity.

I didn’t know that my life was radically changing at first, because I was just making myself write a detailed schedule for each day. It wasn’t perfect, but at the time it was helping create a feeling for time – my personal time budget. Writing my schedule in a plain notebook felt like I was taking a step out of the “planner club” and it was just another evidence that I’m not Type-A.

B2S Day 13 Why Bullet Journal 2

Writing down what I wanted to do and then what I actually did helped me come to terms with just how ADD I behave some days. It helped me accept that I have a creative mind exploding with ideas and realize that I need to capture those ideas on paper.

So in addition to my daily schedule, I started writing everything down. All my thoughts, ideas, inspirations, understandings went into the notebook.

I was Bullet Journaling and I didn’t know it.

My friend and I were talking planners at swimming lessons one day and I asked her how her planner was going. She laughed and said she started doing something else. So, I asked her to show me.

She said, this is called a Bullet Journal and after she showed me how it worked – I knew that she had just changed my planning life forever. It was so close to what I was already doing but so much better.

What is a Bullet Journal?

(This original video does a great job explaining it.)

It’s a journal and a planner. The journal parts are whatever you want them to be – a page for ideas, To-Do lists, party plans, notes from a sermon or lecture, or a reflection – it’s a journal.

There are guides for the planner parts for Future, Monthly, and Daily “spreads.” I’ve even added my own goals spread and incorporated my blog work section into the daily spread so I can see everything in my life for a single day all on one page.

Sounds pretty simple, right? 

The secrets to using the Bullet Journal successfully are:

  1. Don’t make it complicated: apply the “Rapid Logging” concept.
  2. Don’t plan too far in advance: resist the urge to write your whole year on paper.
  3. Use the Index: you’ll be happy you did.
  4. Make it your own: customizing your journal will come with use – taking advice from others is great but know when to just get started.

Still not sure? Check out my video:

I’m really excited to be sharing my Bullet Journal with you, and I hope it helps to see how I’m planning and preparing our schedule for #Back2School.

Tomorrow I’ll post how to actually set up a Bullet Journal, how I’m going to use it for home school plans, and maybe another video!

If you live in Michigan, and you haven’t read yesterday’s post on state requirements and record keeping – you should definitely click here to read it now.

This is Day 13 in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.

My favorite eCourse is going on sale again soon! Check it out now for more information: Click here for details.

Thank you for reading this post. If you've found it helpful, bookmark or share it for future reference. There are affiliate links in this post, because that's just good business - they are all marked by underlining. If you want to know more about affiliate links read my disclosure. As always, be sure to subscribe for more free content and to download your free guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.


#Back2School in #31Days: Day 11 – Planning: Curricula

Have you ever spent a lot of time with someone but looking back on that time it feels like you were with them but not engaged with them?

There’s a big difference.

That’s how I felt about being with my children this past year.

In some ways we had an average year with learning. We finished some of our subjects and totally changed course with others.

We clocked a lot of learning time in our calendars.

But in other ways, our year was unique and came with different challenges.

Before beginning anything new, I like to take a full-stop and think everything through, which is why we are committed to attending the Great Homeschool Convention every year. (This is an affiliate link, but I promise with how much I recommend them – they are not sponsoring me. I’m just eager for free.)

Each year, I’m corrected in my thinking as a woman, wife, parent, teacher, writer, friend – all of it. The sessions always seem to untangle the connections and allows me to understand where each of my roles fit.

I’m coming to anticipate a major shift in my thinking and researching of resources and curricula. It’s stretching for me to trust that God will guide us to the right sessions, booths, and materials for teaching and training our children.

It’s been a huge blessing to trust and commit to the way He shows us. We have made the decision for what we will learn in the fall by April – 3 years in a row now. I have really loved being able to go over the materials during the summer at my leisure – then by August each year I feel not only decided but prepared.

Back2School Logo

So far in the #Back2School journey, we’ve covered the why, envisioning the flow, using Pinterest with caution, creating a book nook, staying in the present while preparing for the future, decluttering before you begin, defining a family culture, and discerning the big picture.

Now for a little more nitty gritty on what we’ve decided to try this year.

I wrote about what I thought we were going to use in the takeaway post from the convention, but we (my husband and I) ended up feeling deeply drawn to reading together as a family. At one point in the exhibit hall, my husband said “I just feel like we need to just read lots and lots of good books together.”

Yes. That.

Let’s read lots and lots of books together.

All you need for a good education is a comfortable couch and a library card. – Steve Lambert of Five in a Row

I wasn’t sure about Steve Lambert’s session – Become Your Child’s Favorite Teacher – for the first 15 minutes. I mean, he was interesting and very funny – his jokes made me laugh out loud and when I repeated one to my husband later, I laughed until I cried.  But I was looking for an “aha!” moment and it never came.

What I did walk away with was a conviction. He emphasized again and again the importance of reading aloud to your children. For me, reading aloud is the easiest thing to put off for later. It’s easier to say, “Go work on a page in your math book” than it is to stop what I’m doing to sit and read together.

By the end of the convention, I knew Steve Lambert had been the most inspiring and helpful speaker for me – and before the convention Five in a Row wasn’t even on my list of curricula to look at.

B2S Day 11 Planning Curricula 3

Long story short, we went with Five in a Row Volume 4 for ages 7-8, which isn’t a well known volume. It comes with the Five in a Row Christian Character and Bible Study content, cookbook, and laminated story disks for a map.

We are really excited to see how unit studies will enhance our home, especially in the 4-corners of our home school puzzle.

The books in the unit study are primarily picture books and at first my 8-year old was apprehensive – and I was too to be perfectly honest. I have leaned on the side of hurrying my eldest to strive for the next levels, the harder challenges, and the deeper materials. So to see “easy” content feels beneath her. But as I was taught in the session “You CAN do unit studies” by Steve Lambert, anyone at any age can do a unit study at their level from great children’s literature. (I wrote an example of how he applied Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel for 4 different age levels in this post.)

Five in a Row unit studies cover all the major subjects: social studies, geography, language arts, art, math, and science – plus Bible and home economics!

B2S Day 11 Planning Curricula 4

We are really looking forward to the relationship building on the foundation of books, the reading – all of us will take turns reading through these stories, the real discussions that will take place as we dig into these rich stories, and the rest from the busyness of trying to build an education from textbooks and worksheets.

B2S Day 11 Planning Curricula 2

In addition to the unit studies, we chose to add a separate history curriculum. Rea Berg of Beautiful Feet Books was also speaking at the convention and I was able to attend two of her sessions. My husband is deeply interested in history and the books included in this Early American History: A Literature Approach for Primary Grades are excellent. For us, it wasn’t a decision from wanting to do more packaged curricula but rather a decision to surround our children with more quality books to choose from in our library.

Many of the books in this package are hard to find on their own. We felt like it was a worthy investment.

B2S Day 11 Planning Curricula 1

We plan to try using lapbooks to enhance the units of Five in a Row. We bought Heidi St. John’s eBook Lapbooking Made Simple to help encourage the set up and follow through of this method of learning.

What is a lapbook?

It isn’t a curriculum. It is a method. It’s like taking a large Science Fair poster board and shrinking it to fit in the child’s lap. You use manila file folders – open it flat, then fold both sides to the middle spine – and that’s it. You now have your lapbook ready for pasting any number of things into the folder on the topic of choice.

So that’s it. This next year is going to be another adventure for all of us in learning together. I plan on sprinkling posts about how things are going with these resources this year – more for accountability on my part to keep going than for your benefit – but I do hope seeing a snapshot of our planning helps inspire you to engage in your learning journey along with us. Let me know if you would like that in the comments or ask anything you’d like about what I’ve shared in this post!

This is part 3 in the Curricula: What We Use series. Click the link to read Part 1: Preschool and Kindergarten or Part 2: 1st and 2nd grades.

And it is also Day 11 in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.



Thank you for reading this post. If you've found it helpful, bookmark or share it for future reference. There are affiliate links in this post, because that's just good business - they are all marked by underlining. If you want to know more about affiliate links read my disclosure. As always, be sure to subscribe for more free content and to download your free guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.

#Back2School in #31Days: Day 10 – Planning: Big Picture

Home schooling is like designing your own puzzle. With each member of the family, commitment on the calendar, activity to be involved in, and all the daily routines of chores, meals, and play comes a piece to the puzzle.

Photo credit: words added

Photo credit: words added

When I started to research home schooling, I relied on the good-ol’-standby-mirroring trick of looking at the “good pieces” of someone else’s puzzle and copying their pieces to add to my puzzle.

It took me years to realize that all I had was a mountain of pieces and no possible way to make one puzzle out of them.

My philosophies were mixed and conflicting, our commitments were more in quantity than quality, and I didn’t know what our goals were.

When I would read and watch other home schooling families, my attention was on the details – how do you teach reading, or when do you read-aloud? I never stepped back to see or ask what their big picture was.

All I had was pieces, no unifying picture to match them to. And more than that, I didn’t know what our big picture would be.

This is about the time (3 years ago) that I went to my first Great Homeschool Convention. Everything changed that year – in more way than one. I was pregnant with our third child at the time, and soon after the convention I went on bed rest. The amount of time I was given to think, pray, and ponder our big picture significantly increased because of this sacred time of rest.

Now, if you’re resonating with my puzzle piece but no picture dilemma, then hear me when I say that there is no fast and easy way to solve it.

For me, I had to move all the pieces I was collecting to the side and start by defining what the major pieces of the puzzle were. Kind of like finding the 4 corners to start the outline.

Photo credit: words added

Photo credit: words added

For now, our 4-corners are: relationships, reading, real discussions, and rest. These are the categories that everything we do will be filtered through. So as I plan for what we will learn, where we will go, what commitments we have – everything comes back to these.


Relationships: my children are still young and building trust and bonds as a family unit are vital. A solid foundation isn’t established by accident. It’s important for my kids to know how much I value them. So even though it bothered me to put our kindergarten language arts curriculum aside, it was more important for me to build a bridge of grace to my daughter’s heart that was strong enough for the truth that “learning is sometime work and that’s okay” to reach her. Guarding our relationships from internal and external threats is a high priority of mine.

Reading: we have found it to be true that when we engage with good books we grow. Our minds are stretched, our curiosities are fed, and as Rea Berg said:

Good books will develop our moral imagination which leads to empathy and compassion. These build up the person from within and become the measure of success of an education.

She also said:

There are 2 things in life that will change you – the books you read and the people you meet.

Real Discussions: an easy thing to miss in life is the opportunities to have meaningful discussions. Often times with little children, they choose the most inconvenient times (from my perspective) to ask the important questions weighing on their little minds. Dr. Kathy Koch said that on average a 6-year old asks fewer questions than a 3-year old because they have learned that their questions don’t matter – that their desire to know more isn’t a priority. This is a tragedy. Curiosity is one of the qualities of a genius. So the reason this is 1 of the 4 corners for us is taking the time to fuel my children’s curiosities and build trust with them through listening to them. I want to honor their desire to learn even if what they are interested in has nothing to do with what was on my “schedule” for the day.

Also, real discussions includes talking about my life and choices, sharing and exposing in sensitive ways the hurts, failures, and sins have changed and molded who I am today.

Rest: we all need sleep right? Well, sometimes I forget to plan for real rest. This has been a personal area of growth for me, and I’m seeing how it applies to raising my children well. We all need a healthy balance of work and rest. Rest is commanded by God and fulfilled in Jesus Christ – so for our family I want to model and train my children to honor rest. To honor God by living well within the boundaries the He has defined. Rest plays a big part in our daily rhythm in balancing indoor and outdoor play, quiet time and silly-fun-music time. It’s important to teach what it means to be fully awake and aware of our surroundings too.

So there they are: our 4-corners for now. I’ve had to learn a lot of this through failure, and I still have gone back to mirroring other families a few times. But slow progress and baby steps are still better than nothing.

And making choices based on right thinking has a deeper and longer lasting effect than basing my decisions on how I feel – either on my own or by comparison.

I wrote this a little while back in the learning process:

Comparison is not only the thief of joy, but also the jailer locking you in inactivity. Just because my friend is able to set what I think is “higher” goals for her family, doesn’t mean that my goals are “lower” and inferior. The more I set goals that are attainable, the more success will inspire me to set higher and higher goals. At the end of the day, it’s not about how impressed you are with me – it’s how satisfied I am with myself.

This week it’s time to start planning, and my hope is that by sharing my big picture it will inspire you to examine both your big picture and the puzzle pieces that will get you there.

This is Day 10 in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.

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Further reading:




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#Back2School in #31Days: Day 6 – Finish Summer

Looking forward to #Back2School can be fun, but one tricky thing about beginnings and fresh starts is managing the the present well.

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It can be fun, easy, inspiring to plan and prepare for things to come – but if that keeps me from being grounded, present, and aware of this moment right here then what’s the point?

Plus only looking ahead or behind can be dangerous. Fantasizing what life could be or regretting what was.

So I want to take time in my #Back2School preparation to have a little talk with myself about these 2 sidetracks.

First, too much looking ahead leads to fantasy and unrealistic expectations. If my vision isn’t based on a present-minded, goals oriented, and personality-based plans, then I’m probably getting excited for nothing and setting myself up for failure (more on planning for failure later).

This is one of the reasons why I like the Bullet Journal (again, the post explaining this is coming soon!). I may be weirder than weird, but I think I may never buy a calendar driven planner again.

My brain just doesn’t work that way.

For me, too much looking ahead creates false hopes and fills days with endless good deeds. I forget how to take things step at a time, and I bite off more than I can chew – and all those other metaphors for not being realistic.

Second, looking behind can only be helpful if I’m teachable. How can I learn from my mistakes? What can I discern as contributing factors to failures in behavior, schedule, attitude, etc.?

Last year was just okay as far as planning ahead went. I did better than the year before, but I still didn’t have a good grasp on goal setting and accomplishing.

But farther back than last year, and I am a wreck when I looked back.

I need balance. Patience. Gentleness.

This interesting to me: I’m discovering that underneath my regret is impatience.

And that underneath my fear of the future is laziness.

To move forward, I accept both the impatience and laziness as challenges to overcome, and I talk gently to myself with reminding, preaching, and encouraging thoughts.

So the point of this day was to be in this day. To stay present in the ending of one thing before busily bustling into the next. I don’t think it’s good to rush things, or forget things.

Fear of endings, closure, goodbyes isn’t pacified by ignoring that it’s happening.

I want to own the endings in my life. To model how to calmly bring something to a close. To celebrate goodbyes by honoring memories, capturing moments – staying in the present.

I want to finish summer strong by completing our commitments like our summer reading programs. I went back and thought about all the things I said I was going to do, and made plans to finish them.

  • Summer reading programs
  • Slumber parties
  • Play dates
  • Discovering a (new to us) hiking trail

I want to be a finisher because the heart of my son depends on it. He remembers every word I say, every time I think out-loud and agree to try something new.

He thrives when I keep my word.

B2S Day 6 Finish Summer 1

Which is why I know I need to save the talk about routines, meal times, chores, and all the changes that are but a few weeks away, and just jump in the van and drive around town handing in our completed summer reading programs – while doing little victory dances. (Victory dances look more like bench sitting and pouring over new free books.)

B2S Day 6 Finish Summer 2

It’s the little things, and the sanity things.

Like not rushing to finish all the boxes of the reading chart in one week (we were that family last year, and literally handed our charts in on the very last day).

B2S Day 6 Finish Summer 3

And to my surprise, the boy who wouldn’t read a fiction book when I told him he could buy whatever book he wanted – and as many as he wanted – finished his free fiction books (both!) in less than 24 hours. I’m shocked. When did he decide it was time to finish 200+ page fiction?

B2S Day 6 Finish Summer 4

I guess this day was as much important for me and it was for them.

Noticing how much we’ve changed and how much we all stay the same. Respecting the seasons for growing, stretching, and deepening us.

For today, we celebrate and finish. We live into the day we have right now, not looking back or too far ahead, but staying present we are filled with gratitude for receiving such a full summer.



This post is a part of a #Back2School Series, click here for the index.

Thank you for reading this post. If you've found it helpful, bookmark or share it for future reference. As always, be sure to subscribe for more free content and to download your free guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.