Monthly Archives: August 2008

Links posted!

I spent some time this evening posting links to various helpful sites.

You’ll find links for making a cleaning schedule, menu planning, and lots of free homeschool forms, just for starters.

There is such a wealth of information on the web that this small list barely scratches the surface.

Why not comment with your favorite link or two?

Planning: keeping the home fires burning

Let’s think about the kinds of things we need to plan.

What needs to go on in the background? Meals, laundry, keeping the dust bunnies at bay?
(I admit I’m usually pretty good at getting food on the table and having clean clothes, but those dust bunnies… I am a reforming clutterer. *sigh* “Reforming” means “getting better,” doesn’t it?)


There’s a lot of help available for the domestically challenged. Just do a search on “meal planning” or “cleaning schedule” or even “laundry”.

For starters, you might try:

(Disclaimer: These sites have been in my bookmarks for a while. I clicked on them to make sure they still exist. I didn’t *see* anything offensive when I looked through them, but my online time is limited and I don’t have time to click on every single page or link. Also, different people find different things offensive. /disclaimer)

Warning: Stone of Stumbling Ahead

Here now seems a good place for a warning: It can be very satisfying for those of us who struggle with organization, to *read* about organizing and planning… so satisfying, in fact, that we never seldom get around to actual organizing and planning. Don’t fall into the trap!

Starting Out

Start simply and build from there. For example, with meal planning, can you write down seven different dinner meals that your family enjoys? (Fourteen would be even better. I find myself re-doing this when I’ve gotten out of the habit of planning meals ahead of time, and notice I’m serving spaghetti for the second time in less than a week.) Just write the dinner meals down and tape the list to the inside door of your cupboard.

Um. It helps if you have the ingredients on hand! (If you don’t, do this the day before your shopping day and add the necessary ingredients to your shopping list! Did you know that having a plan and shopping from a list can save you money?)

For those with character flaws (like mine)

I am a rebel at heart, I’m sorry to confess. I put a menu plan together and put it on a calendar, and I come to the day that I assigned “tacos” and think, “I *don’t* want to make tacos!”

I do better if I write down seven meals for the week in list form, and then I choose from the list, cook it, and cross it off the list.

However, now that we’re getting back into a formal fall schedule, I’m going to have to change my ways and go with a calendar plan. This way my assistant cook can know ahead of time what’s cooking, and I can plan a regular crockpot meal on co-op day. I’ll have to stifle my rebellious ways. It’s probably a good thing for my character.

(A real help in this struggle has been a menu planner I got at this summer’s curriculum extravaganza. It allows you to post your menus for two weeks, but they’re attached with velcro and you can move them around!!! See

This has been a lengthy post, and mostly about meal planning! Here it is, Labor Day weekend, and you haven’t got your school plans done!

Getting started, Take 2

…take a deep breath. Breathe out slowly. Another deep breath. Good.

If your house is in chaos, how well do you think you’ll manage academics?

If you’re disorganized, take this weekend to set a few systems in order. Food. Clothes. A basic cleaning plan.

Oh, and go to the library and get the stacks of non-fiction easy readers I mentioned earlier, and a good read-aloud book to read together next week while you’re getting your academics lined up. We’ll be talking about that soon, as the Lord allows!

(If you’re antsy about your children’s education and need a plan just for the peace of mind, a couple of sites that have booklists, links to free e-books, and schedules you can use are and

If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

Schoolhouse Planner winner!

The winner of the Schoolhouse Planner e-book is…

(drum-roll, please)


So, Virginia, I will be providing your email address to The Old Schoolhouse, and they should send you a link for the download. Let me know if you have any questions.

I’m sorry I couldn’t give one to everyone who commented! However, watch for another contest next week!

Contest ends tomorrow!

Hoorah, I’m back online!

Just a reminder that the drawing for the e-book Schoolhouse Planner will be tomorrow (Friday), August 29th. Last chance to enter!

Leave a comment here: (click on link)
Schoolhouse Planner Giveaway Deadline

If you leave an anonymous comment, please at least sign your name so when I post the winner you can give me your contact information!

Looking forward to talking more about planning tomorrow. For now, g’night! Sleep tight!

(and as our youngest says, “Don’t let the bad bugs bite!”)

Book list

Some books we enjoyed reading aloud at the beginning of our homeschool journey:
(I am typing in haste, so please forgive misspellings)

The “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Ginger Pye by Elanor Estes
Pollyanna (I forget the author’s name, but the book is *way* better than the movie!)
The Little Princess
James Herriot’s books
The “Little Britches” series by Ralph Moody
The Wheel on the School by Meindert de Jong
101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith
Charlotte’s Web
Black Beauty (my mom started reading this to me when I was 3!)

For your younger ones:
The story of Ping
Make Way for Ducklings
James Herriot’s stories made into picture books, such as “Bonnie’s Big Day”
Anything by A.A. Milne, both his “Winnie the Pooh” stories and his books of poetry.

Everybody, even the public-schooled neighbor kids who stopped by to share our blanket and listen, when we read aloud on summer days, loved books by Burgess, like his Animal Book, Bird Book, and “Old Mother West Wind” series. If you’re a Christian, you can also talk about the difference between the character “Mother Nature” and the Creator, while you’re reading.

Hope that gets you started!

(If you have some favorite books to share, please comment and I will unmoderate the comments when I get back online.)

Pause to consider

Timing sometimes creeps up and bites us on the ankles, making us jump and flail and not accomplish as much as we might with a cool head.

Look at me, for example. I started this “planning” workshop late, and being without Internet the next few days will push it later, and I worry that maybe someone’s waiting for that “gem” that will get the homeschool year off to a good start. (Ah, ego.)

Ok, are you ready? Here are a couple of gems for you. The first is a link, that at the time I post, is still working. It’s good reading, and great food for thought.

Here’s another thought for you. If you’ve pulled one or more children out of school because they weren’t doing well, and you’re in a panic thinking you have to recreate a school day and all those subjects lined up in a row like little tin soldiers on a shelf, think again.

Why would you want to re-create the system that failed your children in the first place?

Don’t be in a hurry to start academics this year. Find some good books to read aloud. If the weather’s nice, pack a picnic and take a blanket and find some grassy, shady place to sit and read together. Take some paper (sketchbooks would be better, if you have them already or can afford to buy them) and pencils and go in the back yard or to a park and everyone (you, too!) find something to draw: a bug, a tuft of grass, a tree, a flower.

Read aloud from good books and get outside every day (Get field guides from the library to identify trees or caterpillars or animals or birds). Play games together. Get the house in order. Go to the library and get a lot of the nonfiction easy readers in subjects that interest your children. (Sports? Insects? Reptiles? Horses? Dogs? Cats?)

I was going to say “slowly add in academics” but reading good books together and doing nature observation *is* academic!

While you’re doing this, you can be reading up on home education, various methods, advice from other homeschoolers. There are a lot of how-to books out there, and a lot of websites that will tell you about homeschooling.

Since I’m going to be “gone” until Friday, let me add this last suggestion.

If you’ve been planning all along, and have a class schedule set up for your studies, you can make it a lot less stressful for yourself and your children if you start small and add to it. What I mean is, we start with our most important subject (Bible and hymn singing) and that’s all we do “school-wise” the first day or two. Then we add math, so all we’re doing the rest of the first week of school, formally, is Bible and math. Then we add another subject, building over the course of a couple of weeks to our full schedule.

I will hope to see you on Friday, if not before!

Schoolhouse Planner giveaway deadline!


I am reminded that I am not going to be able to access the Internet this week until Friday. Therefore I’m extending the time to sign up for the drawing until Friday, August 29th, and will post the winner’s name on Saturday.

To be in the drawing for the free Schoolhouse Planner e-book, a $39 value, be sure to leave a comment to this very post, or at the link below, by Friday!
Schoolhouse Planner Giveaway!

(p.s. I don’t know how to contact you if you comment anonymously!)

Haven’t heard about the Schoolhouse Planner?

See a description here:
Schoolhouse Planner Review

The winner will be announced on this blog on Saturday, August 30th!

Planning: Setting priorities

Before we get down to the brass tacks of planning, we’re going to do some thinking, and then go to the pencil-and-paper work.

If you’re continuing with me from our previous discussion, you’ve been thinking about your target, your aim, the kind of adults you want your children to be when they’re grown and released into the world.

Keeping that target in mind will be a great help in this next exercise.

I must credit Susan Bradrick and her workshop, “24 Hours is All You Get” for this idea.

You probably have a good idea of all you’re planning to do when the school year starts. Our family, for example, is signed up for a homeschool science class, a Gileskirk history and literature co-op, and a FirstClass Friday school. (Doing this much would not have been my first choice, but the three fit our family’s priorities and dh’s wishes, and so we will make it work. I must admit to multitasking, as I will be teaching “Pride and Prejudice” at both co-ops, meaning I prepare once and teach twice.) I can already see that this is as much as we can handle, and I can’t add anything else to the schedule, much as I would like.

First, pray. Ask the Lord for His help, wisdom, and guidance. Dedicate this coming year to His glory, and He’ll bless your efforts.

Get out pencil (or, if you’re bold, pen!) and paper. Write down everything your family will be doing during the school year. This might include sports, church, Bible study or quiet time, chores (every family needs food and clean laundry, at a minimum), music lessons, AWANA, hobbies, play dates, 4H, co-op… oh, yes, and academics.

Brainstorm! Ask for suggestions! Make an exhaustive list, every thing you can think of.

(Do you tend to cram your schedule full, and then when something unexpected comes along, you try to squeeze it in? Been there, done that. Learned my lesson, I hope.)

Is your list done? Great!

Now comes the hard part. Being brutally honest, label each item on your list with A, B, C, or D.

A’s are the must-do’s, the things that are absolutely essential for life. (Think eternity here, as well as sustaining life in the body.) Reading the Bible and praying would come in here. Probably eating physical food would be as well!

B’s are very important things, like keeping the health department at bay, having clean underwear, learning to read and write and cipher, as they used to call arithmetic.

C’s are nice-to-do’s.

D’s are not really essential but they’re on your schedule anyhow.

Are “good things” threatening to crowd out what’s “best” for your family?

(I remember the first time I made up a schedule as suggested by Teri Maxwell of I made up the list of all I had to do, estimated the time each task would take, and ended up with a 28-hour day… or was it 32? It added up to a lot more hours than a day, that much I can tell you.)

Consider the cost, and look at each item on your list in terms of the target you’re aiming for. What fits? What doesn’t?

Remember, too, that you are home schooling. That means that some of the time you really need to be home, and not just to sleep, either.

Give it some thought, and we’ll get back to planning next time.

Planning: Calendar Year Overview

Getting started with planning!
(if the fonts are wacky, I apologize ahead of time. I’m still learning how to use wordpress)

Glad to see you! Did you print out your calendar and bring it with you? Good!

(If you’re just joining us, you’ll need a 2008-2009 at-a-glance calendar today. You can print out pages 8-9 from the Schoolhouse Planner, or print one from an online calendar creator if you like. See previous post to this one for links to the Schoolhouse Planner and a calendar creator website.)

Now just put it down for a few moments, for we’re going try to do things in order… and the first thing to do is to consider what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it. Helps with motivation.

Webster’s 1828 defines “plan” as “a scheme devised; a project; the form of something to be done existing in the mind, with the several parts adjusted in idea, expressed in words or committed to writing.”

Wow! Committed to writing!

Part of planning is goal-setting. Do you find that a scary word?

But slow down, take a deep breath, and do the next thing, which is actually the *first* thing!

You have two assignments today, one is to get an overview of planning, and the other is to start to plan.

First things first! Let’s stop to pray! Consider these scriptures as you begin:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10)

Consider also:
Proverbs 3:5-6
Proverbs 16:1-3,9
Psalm 39:4
Ephesians 5:15-16

(I’m not advocating taking verses out of context. It’s good to read the surrounding context as you consider the verse.)


Have you prayed? Have you submitted your plans to the Lord? I’m asking Him right now for wisdom, for you and for me, and for clarity and guidance and relief from fear and anxiety for you if you find planning a daunting task.

For the rest of the day I’d like you to consider your target. If your children are arrows in your quiver, what is your aim? What kind of arrows should they be when released? Think about the kind of adults you want them to be. That’s your goal, and you’ll be working backward from there to determine the steps you’ll be taking between now and then.


Now for a bit of concrete planning. We’ll ease into things, don’t worry, but this is important to establish your plan. Remember that calendar for 2008-2009. It’s time to get it out. Also take a piece of paper divided into twelve boxes, write your “start” month in the first box, and follow it with the rest of the months in your academic year. On this piece of paper you’re going to write the important events that happen each month. If a baby’s due, put it down! For our family, I’d put birthdays, our anniversary, our local homeschool convention, Outdoor School, camping, county fair, the months when our co-op is in session, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Even if I don’t have the date, I know our homeschool science class has Outdoor School the last part of May or first part of June, and that we want to go camping sometime in July. This is part of your framework.

Many states consider a school year to be 180 days. (I remember our school year in the Midwest was longer, because of snow days. We get snow days here in the Pacific NW not because our family can’t get to school–it’s right at home, after all–but because we want to play in the snow while it lasts! It’s also a great time to snuggle under a blanket together, read aloud, and sip hot cider or hot chocolate. But I digress.)

Think about this. If you were to take two weeks off and have a four-day academic week the rest of the year, that would make 200 days!

Mark off obvious holidays. (Um. We do academics on some holidays when the government schools are out. We observe some holidays that the institutional schools don’t. You have flexibility here.) Do you have a regular family vacation? Block that out.

You can have a four-day week, with a fifth day for errands and outside activities, or you can have a five-day or even a six-day week. You don’t even have to limit yourself to “only” 180 academic days a year. I know at least one family that has “school” six days a week, year round, with a month off for Christmas and several scattered weeks off the rest of the year for hunting, camping, and county and state fair. I know another family that takes a week off at the end of every month to catch up on domestic affairs and tackle special projects.

When you think about it, learning is going on *all* the time if you’re trying to maintain an atmosphere of learning or learning lifestyle. But bureaucrats require schedules, and schedules can also keep you on track, making sure you’re deliberate about your children’s learning.

With an eye on your “framework” try to sketch out a schedule of days when you’re committed to do some sort of formal academics. Some families are more structured than others, and I expect these won’t have too much trouble knocking out a school calendar. I know some families that have their days scheduled from dawn until bedtime, and they probably aren’t reading this! Many homeschoolers of my acquaintance, including our family, do at least math and phonics lessons, set aside time for writing and musical instrument practice, and read aloud together in addition to independent reading on the part of older students.

Even during a time when I was very ill and we were for all practical purposes unschooling, having the knowledge it was a “school day” kept my children from running wild and goofing off all day–the words “school day” made them feel as if they ought to pursue something productive, to have something to show for the day.

When you’re done with this pencil-and-paper exercise, you’ll have a “school year schedule” and an idea of seasons and interruptions.

See you next time! (As the Lord allows.)

For extra credit:
Let’s sit down and consider a few questions. It might be good to write out the answers to help clarify your thoughts. I get intimidated when faced with writing things down, so I do it in pencil (I’m giving myself permission not to let perfectionism get in the way. I can erase!).

What are you planning? (academics, meals, daily schedule, fitting it all in, etc.)
Why are you planning? (Possible answers range from: “I like planning!” –you probably have it all done already! to “I hate planning, but last year was a disaster.”)
Why should we plan? (You could list a lot of answers to this question. Search in a concordance for Bible references to “plan” for a start.)

Schoolhouse Planner = easy homeschool planning

Are you a planner? Are you a wanna-be? You have *got* to check out the new Schoolhouse Planner from Old Schoolhouse Magazine.

(You can get a sneak peek of the Planner, including the full Table of Contents and sample pages, at The Schoolhouse Store,

The first thing I noticed when I opened up the PDF file was the little message at the top that told me I could “add comments and markups to this document.” I was grinning with delight when I realized what it meant–I can personalize the pages before printing them out! (I just now typed my brother’s name and address into the address pages, and… it worked!)

That works so well for our visual learners! They hate a printed form with handwritten adjustments. Sometimes I’ll print a form off the Internet and then re-create it in Word or Publisher just to have it personalized and all in the same font so as not to drive Certain People to distraction! (Names withheld in the interest of peace.)

The second thing that struck me was the sheer size of the document. 247 pages!

(For those feeling overwhelmed right about now: Don’t panic! It doesn’t take 247 pages of work to get organized! *g* Remember that a planner is your helper, not your taskmaster!)

I scrolled through the Table of Contents and my grin grew. There are so many wonderful resources here, tailored to the homeschooling life and beautifully organized for practical use.

You see, the Schoolhouse Planner is organized like a calendar, with lots of resources added. In brief, you’ll find…
– calendar pages
– helpful and informative articles about homeschooling, both learning and life
– recipes
– resource lists (These aren’t like the bibliography in a book where you have to write down the information and then chase down the resource you’re looking for–instead you have clickable links that take you to where you can get the resource!)
– reference charts you can use in your home and homeschool
– even historical documents!

Month by month, from now until June 2009, you’ll find all these gems. It’s sort of like having a calendar and almanac rolled into one.

But wait! (the children chime in. they have seen entirely too much television this summer.) There’s more!

Following the calendar/almanac are two sections of planning and organizing forms, one for your homeschool and one for running your household.

It looks to me like a bunch of homeschooling veterans got together and brainstormed every form that might come in handy for a homeschooling family, and then they designed the forms to be useful and friendly, and included them here. There are forms for planning, for recording information, even forms for your students to use (science labs, for example, and nature notebooks, and more)!

The variety of forms is eclectic in nature; that is, there are forms suited to unschooling, literature-based studies, unit studies, textbook-based learning and probably more than I can think of, what with my mug of tea empty. (Cars run on gasoline, most of them… I run on tea. And sometimes chocolate. If it’s a challenging day, maybe both together.)

You probably won’t need every form here, but there’s a nice selection to choose from, to let you tailor this planning resource to your family’s style and needs. From the first stages of planning your curriculum to the end result, or recording test scores and evaluating your students, with stops along the way for field trips, nature journaling, experiments and activities (just to name a few), you’ll find inspiration and homeschool help at the click of a mouse.

Then there are the household forms!

Here you’ll find just about everything you could think of needed to keep the home fires burning. (In my case, more than I’d thought of. I kept looking through the forms, exclaiming to myself, “Hey, that’s a great idea!” and “Wow.” Just, “Wow,” and a thoughtful nod of the head, or a rueful shake of the head, thinking of things that might have been, if we’d been a little more deliberate in our living.)

I could take a couple of hundred words or more, here, to list all the forms available, from menu-planning to gardening, organizing chores, budgeting… Let’s just say that you’ll find an amazing variety of forms for managing home and homeschool.

There are cute forms with illustrations suited to your very young family members along with the more grown-up forms (*sigh* I still remember when our youngest insisted she was too grown up for pictures on her chore sheet.)

There’s even a plan for reading through the Bible in a year. It starts in July, but don’t worry. It’s never too late to start. You can either jump in at today’s date, or just start checking off Bible readings as you go through them.

I’ll tell you one thing I’m going to do: I’m going to use some of these household forms to train our dc in life skills. There are some great resources here, home maintenance and gardening and budgeting, as I mentioned.

I love the versatility of the Schoolhouse Planner. You can print out all the pages and put them in a binder, writing on them as you see fit, or you can customize pages right on your computer and then print them out, or you can print individual pages as you need them.

In days to come, we’ll be walking through the steps of planning our homeschool year. For now, get a year-at-a-glance calendar that covers August 2008 through July 2009 (you can do this on the Internet, at a site that lets you customize and print free calendars such as — or just print out pages 8 and 9 from The Schoolhouse Planner) and meet me here tomorrow.

(As the Lord allows, of course.)