Tag Archives: scheduling

Chore planning resource

Since January’s a great time to work on getting organized, I’m going to be focusing on some of the websites and tools available, at least for the next week or two.

Motivated Moms has a planner available in several formats. They’ve taken all the typical home chores and spread them out through the calendar year, and included a few extra personal-care things, like taking your vitamins. You can get it with or without a Bible reading plan built in.

I’ve used this planner for a few years. Sometimes I’m good about it, and sometimes it goes by the wayside for a week or month or more. I admit it, I’m scattered. If I were more methodical, I might not need a chore planning calendar. On the other hand, there’s something about checking off items on a checklist, that even my born-organized friends seem to appreciate.

I was going to try to go without their planner this year, but I’m already finding that without their prompts I’ve forgotten to water my plants. I’d sigh, but the tool is available, after all, and it’s not too spendy ($8 for a year), so I should count my blessings, bite the bullet (to mix a few metaphors), and use it.

Yes, I just now bought and downloaded the PDF file, and I’m printing out the page for this week. Here’s a sample of what I bought. They have samples of their other products, too (just scroll to the bottom of the page at the link). There’s even an app in the App Store (I have no idea what that means, being still in the dark ages so far as cell phones is concerned). They used to offer the out-of-date planner for free, but I don’t see that on their website now. (Could be there and I’m missing it, or could be they left it off.)

Anyhow, I heard somewhere that when you check things off a checklist, something in your brain releases feel-good chemicals, serotonin or something like that. If you need a checklist to help you keep your plants from dying of thirst, to remind you of myriad homekeeping details (albeit in bite-sized pieces, a few things a day, to keep the whole thing from being overwhelming), or just to get the serotonin flowing, it’s a good tool.


Homemaking schedule help

Here’s a handy homemaking calendar to help you with your resolution to keep up with the house in this new year. (Yeah, I make that resolution every year. Or would, if I made New Year’s resolutions. I don’t need to make resolutions anymore, I just consider the areas I need to improve as things in need of my attention and effort, any day of the year.)

Suggested Chore Schedule

The JustMommies Home Organization Plan offers suggestions for establishing daily tasks, plus weekly and monthly tasks that are updated daily. It’s a way to spread out the things you need to do to keep your house running smoothly, so that it’s not overwhelming.

Decluttering lists

The website offers a new focus area for decluttering every month. For example, on the list for January, with a focus on the Master Bedroom:

Clean out dressers and closets. Get rid of outgrown and unused clothing.
Clean baseboards.
Wash window treatments.
Clean windows.
Flip mattresses.
Clean doors including door knobs, molding, and trim.
Spot clean walls of any marks, scuffs, or handprints.
Sweep ceilings for any dust or cobwebs.
Clean air vents.

I look at that list and think, “It’s doable!” (How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.) Keep on keeping on, and by the end of the year you’ll have gone through your entire house, all the while keeping up with daily, weekly, and monthly chores.

Of course, I’ve had to add some things to the list. This cleaning and decluttering list doesn’t deal with the stacks of books and papers cluttering up our Master Bedroom, for example. (Do you have that problem? I am a paper packrat. *sigh*) And it really ought to include cleaning out under the bed. We have a couple of containers of out-of-season clothes under the bed that are supposed to be there, but where did all that other stuff come from? (Shoes, books, more paper… Got to sweep it all out and then I can deal with the dust bunnies.)

Can’t flip the mattress — there are springs sticking out on the side that’s facing down. Sharp springs. One of these years we’ll get a new mattress set…

The site has links to monthly calendars you can print out. The calendars include the daily, weekly, and monthly tasks (sounds overwhelming, busy, and cluttered, but really it’s designed not to be). This gives you an at-a-glance page to suggested chores for each day of the month.

Catch up days and free days are built into the calendar, but if you take a specific day of rest each week you’ll need to tweak the calendar a bit.

You can also assign specific chores — just write someone’s name on the calendar next to their daily or weekly chore and post where everyone can see it. (And remember, you might need to do some chore training, and you’ll definitely need to follow-up. You know the rule: You get what you expect when you inspect.)

If you were born without a homemaking gene (or didn’t learn along the way, before being put in charge of a home of your own), following this type of calendar could give you a jumpstart to more organized living. If you have more than a smidgen of organization in your bones, you can use the JustMommies calendar as inspiration for making your own calendar and tailoring it to your family’s schedule.

Either way, it’s a good tool for digging out from under a messy, cluttered house.

Summer Schedules

Our first year homeschooling, we made several mistakes.

Well, okay, we make mistakes every year, but hopefully we’re learning from them and not making the same mistakes over and over again! (Like Eldest likes to say, “I might make lots of mistakes, but I don’t make the same one twice.”)

One mistake was to do school-at-home. We ordered an entire 2nd grade curriculum from a well-known Christian curriculum company. We tried to do everything in the Teacher’s Manuals. We tried to stay on schedule, a lesson a day in each subject. We were sitting at the kitchen table from just after breakfast until well after dinner. We were exhausted!

At least we didn’t go the whole route and buy a little school desk for Eldest, and set up a schoolroom with chalkboard, flag, etc. I know homeschoolers who’ve done this but it seemed kind of excessive for a single child. Also, considering we abandoned the textbook route some time later, we saved ourselves some expense, when you consider the cost of a teacher’s desk, student desk, chalkboard, flag, etc.

When summer came, we took the summer off, just like the schools did. (Our second mistake, did you guess right?)

We had worked through the previous summer (i.e. the summer before we started homeschooling) because that was our test: Our dd had gone all the way through first grade and couldn’t add 1+1. I researched and settled on (Happy Find!) a math curriculum that sounded good. It was advertised for struggling learners and gifted learners and everyone in between. This was the test: If I could teach Eldest addition all the way up to 9+9 over the summer, I could continue homeschooling in the autumn.

By the end of summer, she’d learned not just up to 9+9, but she could add six-digit numbers and columns of numbers and do word problems like adding up all of a family’s menu items at a hamburger place and being able to figure out the bill!

However, we took the summer off after our first full year of homeschooling. We needed it. She did. I did.

When autumn rolled around again, she’d forgotten a lot of what she’d learned.

How most math textbooks are designed

Sometime during this period I heard a homeschool dad talk about math. He said that math textbooks (specifically a certain brand, popular with homeschoolers, but those from other publishers as well) were designed in a way new homeschoolers (who tend to go through a textbook from start to finish) didn’t understand.

The first third of the textbook would be review of the previous year’s material, counting on the fact that the students would have forgotten a lot during summer break. The middle third of the textbook introduced and drilled the new material for that grade. Your average math class didn’t get more than 2/3 of the way through the text. The last third of the book was for advanced classes so they wouldn’t run out of material if they went through the text at a faster rate. This material was repeated in the first third of the next year’s textbook.

Thus, this father opined, you really only had to use the middle third of the book, if you never took a break longer than about two weeks! His children went very quickly through that whole math series as a result. Only if they struggled with a concept did they work the “review” lessons in the first third of a book.

Breaking free from convention

It wasn’t until our third year, I think, that we decided to break free from the institutional school schedule and keep on through the summer. We modified our schedule, to be done by 11:00, and let the neighbor children know not to knock on our door before then.

We cut back to the bare bones: Bible reading, half a lesson of math per day, and fun-but-educational readaloud, things like the Burgess books (Bird Book, Animal Book, Flower Book, Seashell Book, Old Mother West Wind, etc.) and Hillyer’s history and geography books.

We read aloud on a blanket in the front yard, and what do you know? The neighbor children began to join us for our readaloud time! They liked our fun-but-educational books just as much as we did!

Benefits of not taking the summer off

Benefits of keeping a modified schedule through the summer:

– better behavior
– no boredom
– less fighting between siblings (we started homeschooling an only child and added two more along the way)
– easier to ease into a heavier academic/activity load in the autumn
– able to add special activities like swim lessons or swim team, or take a week off here and there for camping

We haven’t started our modified schedule yet. The Parents in the household (yes, dh and myself) have decreed this week a clean-up-the-house week. Our house has gotten pretty trashed from the busyness of the end-of-the-year madness (recitals, plays, Outdoor School, and the like).

Let’s hope we can get it done in a week…

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, http://www.theoldschoolhousestore.com/.)

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 http://www.printablecalendar.ca/ — or just print out pages 8 and 9 from The Schoolhouse Planner) and meet me here tomorrow.

(As the Lord allows, of course.)

Let’s get organized!


The new school year is around the corner! I don’t know about you, but I need to get my plans in order!

A lot of us must be thinking about this topic right about now. I just got notice of the Charlotte Mason blog carnival in my email box this morning, and what do you think the topic is?

You guessed it. Getting organized for the new school year.

Many homeschoolers have the option of starting their academic year at any time on the calendar. Of course, in states that require a certain number of hours during the school year, it might be a little more restricted, especially if you have paperwork deadlines.

That said, I know one local family that starts their school year on January 2, another that starts in October (after the harvesting of their large garden, and the canning), and yet another that starts at the beginning of August. I know a family in the hot South that “schools” through the summer when it’s too hot to play outside, most days, and they take their major breaks in spring and fall.

Most of the home educating families I know will be starting their homeschool on about the same schedule as the government schools. Some of it may be the convenience of their friends going off to school.

We often use that same convenience (the “school kids” going off to school) to take our annual camping trip. The campground isn’t crowded, the weather is still good, and it’s a celebration of our not being chained to the same schedule.

We try to take the whole month of December off, and other than that we take off a few days here and a few days there, depending on camping trips, visits from the favorite aunt, and Outdoor School. We don’t usually take the whole summer off, though we did this year. I wonder how hard it’ll be to round them up and head them back on the academic trail. They’ve been learning all along, just not in any sort of organized way.

How about you? How do you plan your calendar year?

(We can talk about details and planners next time. True confession time: I’m something of a planner junkie, and always struggling against the force of entropy. If you don’t remember “entropy” from high school or college science, look at http://physics.about.com/od/glossary/g/entropy.htm)

By the way, that link to the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival can be found here:

Happy New Year!
(throwing confetti with words, until I can figure out how to paste a sparkly animation here. How would I find out how to do that?)