Category Archives: Home Organization

Ideas and tips that I have found helpful as I create my space into what I want and love, surrounding myself with things that make me happy!

Woo-hoo! A Simple Weekly Planner!

I have posted before about the planners that we have made, used, and tweaked (see here and here).  I still felt that they weren’t exactly what I needed since I still had to figure out how much time each person spent on their core subject hours (required by the Missouri Home School Laws) each day, and I was still responsible to make sure that each week’s schedule was written in.  After pondering a few weeks last summer, I decided to keep the elements that had worked for us from the other two and just see if I could get it down to one page per week.

I always sit down each planning period and make a list of the books each child will be using for her school year. I print that out for the portfolios and for my personal use through out the year. I also sit down and plan the amount of time needed in each subject and We tend to be start-at-the-front-of-the-book-and-work-our-way through-the-book people as it is easier for me to know where we are at any given time. Once I recognized that, my planner issue was mostly resolved.

The lists are as comprehensive as I could make them, listing all school subjects and includes such things as Life Skills (aka Chores), a place to record the amount of time spent doing their Personal Progress (a program teenage girls do at Church to help them develop spiritually) as well as including the time spent learning new skills and having social time at church on Wednesday evenings. This eliminated the need for more than one schedule a week per person.

So my last years page ended up like this:

Improved Weekly Schedule 1

  1. I made my header with our school name on the top line, so it says “Heritage Haven Academy’. 
  2. In the second line, I personalized each one with the student’s name (“JitterBug’s Assignment List”), tabbed over a space and put in “Term # ______” and “Week # ______ so I can use it for all three 12 week terms.
  3. Then I made a table with 5 columns in Microsoft Word.
  4. Each column is labeled Day 1, Day 2, etc.
  5. I color-coded for ease of finding the daily list, using light colors. This made it much easier for my APD children to find daily lists, but it is SO much easier for me too!
  6. Family subjects (aka Morning Basket or Morning Time) are listed first, divided among the 5 days for the spreading of the feast. This usually takes 1 1/2 hours a day.
  7. Individual subjects are listed next. I tried to list them in the order that I wanted/needed in order to switch subjects up as well as give me time to work individually with someone.  
  8. Language Arts has at least five components to it that I need to track for our Core Hours, so I marked them with an asterisk. History and science can also have different components, so for ease of computing my hours, I marked those with a different sign. 
  9. I put a number at the end of every single subject every single day. That is the actual number of minutes I expect to spend per subject – and we use a timer to keep us moving along. Occasionally I have to change the time for something and it is simple to pencil in the change.
  10. As we finish each subject, a single line is drawn diagonally through that subject. Doing that shows that it is completed, while allowing me to still read what they were assigned. 
  11. At the bottom I put in a line for the dates of that week. “Dates _________________”
  12. I made a space for notes with 6 lines to record things like illnesses, field trips, etc.
  13. I also made a space titled “Core Time Totals” and created lines that allowed me to total up the minutes spent each week in Math, Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, Reading, and Electives.”
  14. I can change these as needed during the year and update and switch around each year without having to create a whole new system. We are starting our second year with them and I am still pleased with them!

JuneBug and BittyBug are not as old as JitterBug and HorseyBug, so their schedules look a bit different. Their lessons are not as long, but the law requires that they spend as much time as the older kids in learning. To that I end, I have scheduled them learning activity blocks of time. That is when they are allowed to choose educational activities to do at the table or in the school room with me present while I am spending one-on-one time with the older girls. This has worked very well since I have tried to include learning activities that they can do together or separately. At the bottom of their page, I listed a large variety of things that they can choose from and track that on my sheet as much as possible.

Here is a sample of last years form:

Weekly Schedule 2

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An “Official” School Room

Dining room school room

I have been toying with the idea of moving our formal school subjects that we typically did around the dining room table to a school room in order to create a more peaceful and relaxing environment for myself. There is something about homeschooling that creates a constant need for me to think about and never quite shut school out of my brain when it is time for other things…homeschooling truly becomes a way of life. 🙂 Especially when you are trying to set an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.

Anyway, my problem is that we would get involved in a big project, or someone would still be finishing up something that couldn’t move from the table and so it would stay – through dinner, through a few days to a week. I couldn’t stand that there was no where else to have those things. In order to do a school room, I would have to sacrifice my craft room and the room the kids had their toys in.  Hmmmm!

Craft a& Play Room 2

As you can tell, this room  also became the catch-all room for stuff I wasn’t sure what to do with.

The other problem was stuff! I had stuff everywhere.  Yes, it was generally tidy. Everything had a place. But one day I realized that I needed to stop going up the walls. I needed some space. Something HAD to change. I was unhappy, school was starting to suffer, and I was feeling guilty.

In the midst of these ideas swirling through my head, I attended a homeschool conference for the very first time. I went because the Sipmly Charlotte Mason team was coming and Sonya Shafer (the public face of SCM) was giving several workshops on various topics such as habit training, the Charlotte Mason methods, and was presenting a brand new workshop called “When More Is Less: A Call To Simplicity.” I went with one of my good friends and planned to meet other friends there. My friends and I also had the opportunity to eat dinner with the SCM family and the Creating A Masterpiece artist and family team. It was wonderful to have 3 uninterrupted hours with Sonya, Doug, and Karen. I had so much fun and learned so much from them!

During dinner, Sonya urged me to go with my ideas and feelings. The next day when she presented her new More Is Less workshop, I knew that the Lord was confirming all these thoughts and I was going to make some changes and find a new balance in my life. All the way home, I was full of ideas and was mentally rearranging my house to better reflect the ideas I wanted my life to hold. Instead of hoarding things, I needed to share them. Instead of saying yes to everything, I had to start saying no to less important things. My family was somewhat shocked at how adamant I was about changing our lives! I had to educate them on WHY these changes were important for ALL of us – not just me. 

In order to help me stay motivated and continue to make these changes, I read the book called How To Escape the Clutter Trap. (You can read my review here.) We held a huge yard sale of really nice stuff (and my sweet sister drove 9 hours one way to help me!) and whatever did not sale, I donated to the resale shop, Book Samaritan, and other educational places around town.  

School Room Collage

Here is the basic school room when we first finished it. There is lots of floor space that I didn’t take pictures of.  😉 I painted the walls a light green and made white curtains to match the white furniture. I am deliberately trying add some blank wall space to the room. It is calm and peaceful. The table is a fold-up table and is easily put away when we have company coming to stay. It fits in front of the short bookcases like a door on the shelves and makes the room feel a little less “busy”. Since I took these photos, I have added a nature table/bookcase under the large window. I moved the cd player down there and put the nature study books on the shelf next to it. On the bottom of the shelf I put my Five in a Row books and SCM reading recommendations. That is another post for another day. 😉

Reading rail

Something that I added that I haven’t had before is a whiteboard and some book rails for easy display of wonderful books. 

I love this room. I am actually amazed at how much more consistent we are in a daily schedule, how much less I get interrupted or distracted, and how much better everyone’s attitude is about school and life in general.  Yay!!

Managers of Their Homes

Another step in being intentional this year was my decision that we need to create a bit more structure in our home so that we can be good stewards of our time and get the FUN things done that always seem to get swept away in the tidal wave of unscheduled “emergencies” and general apathy regarding time. 😉

Several friends have recommended a book called Managers of Their Homes by Steve and Teri Maxwell as a great way to get accomplish what you NEED and WANT to in a given day.

managers of their homes cover

 

I have resisted it for a while because the idea of “scheduling” my day is stressful to me – it makes me turn into the Wicked Witch of the West because no one follows what I want done. I prefer the idea of a routine and we do generally follow one. During the last few months especially as I was working so hard to unclutter our home of non-needed and non-favorite things, we have sort of drifted from one thing to the next. I am weary of it all. I want and need our days to have more structure…so I finally caved in and got it.

I took time to read it over a couple of weeks. It is not hard book to read, but again, time to digest and think about what they are saying is important.

The Maxwell’s give many examples of their schedules so you can catch the vision and see the big picture of what this could do for your family. Seeing what your big picture or end results are is motivating to a person wanting to make a change. However, it may seem completely unobtainable to an over-whelmed mama!  Knowing that, the authors have tried very hard to break it down into manageable pieces and encourage a family to start with baby steps.

There are several areas that are addressed in this particular book including why a schedule is beneficial for the whole family, the key to successful scheduling, scheduling priorities, chores, help in the kitchen, and more. They even address how to deal with interruptions and de-rails and how to recover. Another thing that they address is how to effectively put a schedule together and successful implementation. They even include a scheduling kit with purchase of a new kit and have started a support forum on their website.

Things that really stood out to me are:

A schedule is not your master. It is an adjustable thing that works as a support for you to be able to accomplish all that NEEDS to be done, all that you WANT to be done, and leaves you refreshed because you are not pulling your hair out while putting out all those “emergency fires” that consume your time otherwise.

An effective schedule does require a commitment. You cannot just drop everything anytime to run to the park or go shopping every time someone asks. But you can add it to the schedule for another time. That way you train yourself to finish what you start, but still allow time for fun. The fun is all the sweeter because you “earned” it.

The Maxwell’s were quite firm in their opinion that Dad needs to be very involved in the process. Maybe not in all the minute details, but he needs to understand, support, encourage, give advice where needed, and live the schedule like everyone else. Without Dad, there is not much incentive to follow a schedule. Dad’s needs can be met as well as everyone else’s with a schedule.

Dad can be a person that children can be held accountable to – and a schedule helps him know where and what to ask about  without Mom tattling. 😉

The last BIG thing that really clicked for me is that not only does Mom have a schedule, so do the children.  Think about it – of there is only one schedule for the entire family, Mom still has to direct children all day, make 50 billion decisions and commands, and get the kids to obey, and still get her schedule done (this is where my stressed Wicked Witch of the West takes over!)  BUT – if every single person has a written schedule just like Mom’s – there is NO need to lose all the children for any interruptions! If the doorbell rings during school…or the phone rings and some one needs Mom right then, a child needs some attention, whatever.  The schedules save the day. Right there is what everyone is supposed to be doing during any given time throughout the day. No more delays waiting for mom to be available.  And if interruptions catch the whole family, it is easy to get right back on task because it is already decided. 

I am going to schedule out everyone’s days. We will sit down and ask the teenagers as well as ourselves what they need and want time to accomplish. We will add those things to our routine things and make sure that it will all work. Here are some ideas of how I will begin creating and implementing a REALISTIC schedule of our days:

    • Write down the the things that we want to do, things that have to happen, and how much time we need to do each thing.
    • Have a master chart with the hours of the day down the side with the days of the week across the top.
    • Start plugging in the items we want to accomplish and when they need to be done.
    • Fiddle with that for a few days and then start DOING the schedule.
    • I will make one for each child. It will help all of us to know who does what, when, how often, and our days will suddenly be more smooth. Because the children know what is to be done and when, they will be happier.
    • If you start feeling overly scheduled, too inflexible, or unrealistic, make a few adjustments and stick with it. Sooner or later, you will find a rhythm that works for you.

Honestly – Even if I am only able to do a few hours at a time, I think that we will all be amazed at how much happier those hours were and how much more got done.

Managers of Their Homes is available here.

I did not receive any form of compensation for my opinion. I am just sharing my experience!

How To Finally Escape the Clutter Trap!

Ha! If that title doesn’t stir some interest, you are either on top of all the little things in your life, or you are in denial of your problems!! LOL

Okay, seriously:

I have been in denial for years about the need to deal with all.the.stuff in my home…the piles on my desk, the craft supplies, the toys, the books, the movies, the clothes: you name it, I have too much. Most people probably don’t see it that way since I keep things mostly tidy and put away.

A place for everything, and every thing in its place” has been my pride for years.

 I know, though, and I am sick of storing it, cleaning it, saving it, and moving it around.

I have been pondering how to return to a more simple life since Christmas – part of my intentional goals for 2014 – and have been receiving little nudges of inspiration for several months – a talk at a homeschool conference talking about the need for a habit of simplicity, a General Conference talk about the need to draw our line of when enough is enough in a talk titled Where Your Treasure Is, how much happier the kids are when there is less stuff to deal with, how much easier my day goes when I try to do less cramming of stuff and enjoy the moments more, and several friends who have been inspiring me to report on my changes as I attempt to simplify our lives. Even on the SCM forum there are entire threads discussing the desires of many moms for simplicity in their homes, their schools, their lives.

It was in one such thread that How to Finally Escape the Clutter Trap by Robin Konie was first suggested and recommended. It was available as an immediate download PDF file and it was on sale, so I bought it. I read most of it the first hour it was on my computer and it literally was changing the way I viewed my stuff in my head and my heart. That was about a month ago, and since then I printed it out and have read it several times and learn something every time. It continues to motivate me to make real changes and begin to live the way I want.

The Clutter Trap cover

The book deals with the myths of why we save (or hoard) stuff. There are several types of personalities that save stuff, and she deals with the emotional reasons behind the motivations by laying out the myths and facts side by side without condemnation for each personality. Then she offers practical ideas to help you learn how to deal with the emotions about *stuff*.  This is not your usual how to organize your bath cabinets or your closet.

Now – I must say that I have heard a lot of this verbally in all its various forms over the years. Seeing it all spelled out in easy to see, read, and comprehend is probably what made it all start to stick and make real sense. In fact, I have over 40 boxes of GOOD things that we are not using and don’t need or want waiting for my yard sale next week. (My wonderful sister is driving 9 hours to help me with this – she knows that I hate to do it, and she is very good at it!) Once the sale is over, the stuff left over will be donated around town to various places. I have hauled out multiple bags of trash…and I am learning not to guilt myself into keeping things that aren’t bringing me a sense of happiness. (If nothing else, it was worth the cost just for that! 😉 )

Since I bought the PDF, the author has released the book as an ebook available from Amazon – way cheaper than the original PDF. Yippie! You may get your copy of The Clutter Trap for only $2.99. Click here for more information from Amazon.

Do you struggle with too much stuff, too??

I did not receive any form of compensation for my opinion. I am just sharing my experience!

Super Cute Free Home Organizing Planner!

My sister and I have been having conversations about our word for the year. We both think that we need to be more intentional in our actions and less re-active in our choices. To that end, I thought that I would share a site with super cute free printable pages for a home organizing binder:

http://blog.worldlabel.com/2012/organizing-planner-the-harmonized-house-project.html

I have to say that using these types of cute pages make it so much easier to plan my life and be organized. There is something about color motivating me. 😉 This is one way I can be more intentional this year – a place for goals, notes, and staying on top of my priorities, plus maintaining my day to day activities.

The Value of a Home Library

I loved this post about the why’s of building a home library. I hope that you all enjoy the thought provoking ideas presented hereI

Where My Treasure Is

Books! 001

Have you ever wondered why I spend so much of my time searching out books, collecting them from far-reaching places of the country, organizing them and continually putting orders into “Dan’s Workshop” for new bookshelves? (Not to mention running a used book shop and giving books as gifts?)

When I shared my blog series entitled “Building a Library For Your Child” a year or so ago, I wrote it with the assumption that having a home library is something that people actually desire. I’ve since realized that not as many people share my passion for collecting books as I thought. 😉 hee hee.

Do you have a library of books in your home?

A home library is not really about making yourself look prestigious or smart.

Well, maybe it is for some people, but not for us! By the way, did you know that you can furnish a ready-to-go library from this website where…

View original post 1,825 more words

Our New School Planners

I have been using the Simply Charlotte Mason Organizer for a long while and mostly, I love it. I think the reason that I love it is that it automatically changes the assignments on your schedule if you are unable to complete one. Yes!! I HATED erasing my lovely, well-laid out plans when life happened and we didn’t get something done.  So for a while the SCMO worked for us. Then I discovered two serious things…not about the SCMO, but about myself that aren’t so pretty. *ahem*

1.  I have a hard time not being distracted by the computer…forums, email, sometimes blogging, research, news…any and all excuses to be plugged in constantly.

2.  The other issue is that when everything is on a daily planner on the computer, apparently no one in the house can do anything related to school since they don’t have a list. *sigh*  That meant on days when I wasn’t feeling well, had outside appointments, couldn’t use the computer for some reason, or whatever – nothing got done.

So this year, I wanted things to be a bit different. I needed to pull back and see what we could do as a family to make things work a bit smoother.  I researched it a bit (like everything else) but disliked all the pre-printed planners available. There are gazillions – I think every blogging homeschool mom has designed one that works for her. 😉  I discovered two posts from fellow members of the SCM forum that really made me realize that I could design one that would be completely personalized for each of us. Tristan shared her planner for her oldest here and Christie showed hers in a video here (scroll to the bottom for the video). I took both ideas and morphed them into MY planner. (Sorry about the quality of the light of the pictures!)

Planner My Cover

 Inside the covers behind the first term divider:

Planner Book Lists

 Everyone’s book lists for the year

Planner Weekly Schedule

Planner Weekly Schedule 2 Pg

Our weekly schedule of subjects by day

The second divider is Term 1 (Term 2 and 3 are identical to Term 1, except that I decided after I printed a couple of pages not to have the littles subjects on the same page, so I deleted them. I left in them in Term 1 because I didn’t want to waste ink/paper).

Planner Weekly Subject

The first working page is a planning page that allows me to jot ideas or make more permanent plans for our weekly assignments. (Inspiration for this came from the Tanglewood Planner, which is a great CM paper planner.)

Planner My Weekly Pages

This is my weekly spread. I can get all my subjects scheduled on here for the whole week. The days are color coded so that my kiddos can easily keep track of which day they are on. Every Monday morning we have a quick planning session where we make note of what is coming up and what we need to accomplish to stay on track. Then I quickly jot down what lesson/subject each day. I can tell what needs to be done at a glance and can easily adjust throughout the week if needed. As we finish each subject, I make a diagonal line through the box. I can tell it is done, but it leaves the assignment legible for our records.

Planner Weekly Summary

On the left is the Weekly Summary where I make notes for various things – what we studied for Nature Study, doctors appointments, additional books read, places we went, that sort of thing. The right is my Weekly Planning Page from above. Having them side by side helps me stay up and current on weekly subjects.

After Terms 1, 2, and 3 come the Littles Schedule in their own Term 1, 2, and 3.

Planner Littles Weekly Pages

The littles is set up very similar to the older kids. I love that I can tailor the subjects to certain subjects or be more specific with actual titles. That has helped HorseyBug so much, along with the color coded days. Since the littles are included in most family subjects and they are younger, their planning pages are not as long as the older girls.

At the end of the planner, I have included several pages of term and yearly evaluations.

I have three that I really like from Christie’s blog, Learning with Charlotte. Here is a link to them:  http://learningwithcharlotte.blogspot.com/2013/08/2013-2014-curriculum-part-three-files.html

I have a copy of her Character Report (2 pages) and her Progress Report. She explains them very well in her video (linked above in the first paragraph).

Planner Yearly Eval

This is page one of my yearly evaluation of each student (the whole thing is in the planner). I have a place for every subject plus general comments. Missouri homeschool laws require that I have yearly written evaluations and I finally created this form. It works well for me, especially when paired with the Character Reports and Progress reports.

The student planners look similar to mine, but are more specifically personalized:

Planner Student CoverPlanner Student Pages

Planner Student Eval

 Besides the student’s eval, I put the official one for each girl in their planners.

So far the only changes I have decided will be made next year are that their covers will get plastic  😉 and the subject/titles will be changed as they progress yearly.

What is really working for us with these planners:

  • Personalized for each student – instead of saying “Language Arts”, I was able to put in specific titles such as “Discover the Old Testament” or “Writing with the Best”. 
  • The weekly assignments are there. 
  • The color coded days.
  • Children are much more independent and are happier.
  • I always know where I am and what I need to do.
  • At the end of the year I will put the planner with a few examples of work and our required portfolios will be complete for the school year.

Adding it to my Table of Contents organizer (see here) and I have a really solid proof of achievement for my children’s records.