Friday, October 16, 2020

When The Boys Are Camping...

 ...the girls have a tea party!

With my Great Grandma's china tea set of course!

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Putting It All Together - Part 2

 I have hesitated writing this final post in my homeschool series for several reasons.  First, everyone thinks and therefore plans differently.  So how I do it may not really work for you.  You really have to figure out how you think and how your family functions, as well as play with things until it all works for you.  Second (but probably the biggest reason), is that this school year has not gone as planned for us so far.  And so I feel a little preachy showing you how we do it, and really what we are doing now is a bit different.

But!  That's part of what makes all of this homeschooling life work.  Challenges come and we deal with them and face them and emerge stronger because of it.  Our schedule, our plan, all of it is built with flexibility and our own unique family in mind.  

So I will write the post.  And if it helps someone, even just to see how it can be done, then it has done its job.  Even if you go off and do it completely different, but it works for your family and this post has helped you think through that, great.

A quick recap:

We've talked about some general thoughts about what a homeschool day can look like.

We've talked about Morning Time.

We've talked about curriculum for each grade.

We've talked about Book Baskets as a way to get things going, as well as living the liturgical year.

Today (and finally), we'll talk about how I lay our plans out and get things from a general idea to what we do each day.

Once I've ordered my curriculum and it begins to come in, I sit down with my calendar and map out our school terms.  We plan for 32 weeks of official school.  Each term is 5-6 weeks with a week of prep in between.  Our school year generally begins in July, we take a very long break for Christmas, and we are generally done in May.  This plan allows for flexibility in case of sickness, or visiting family, or vacation.  I can just move our prep weeks around, we can start earlier in the year, or end later.  It's flexible because life is often messy.

(Click each picture to enlarge.)

Next, I open up an excel spreadsheet to map out our Morning Time (don't let me lose you here.  You don't have to use spreadsheets or the computer at all.  I plan well this way, but pen and paper, or Word or whatever else can work just as well.).  I always start with Morning Time because it determines what happens for the rest of our school day.  Each week looks something like the sheet below, for 32 sheets/weeks on Excel.  In generally Monday through Wednesday are heavy school days for us, including a full Morning Time, with Thursday as a light day with very little to no Morning Time, and Fridays are bare minimum as I set aside that day for time with dad (he has every other Friday off from work) or chores/errands.  Life is school as well and so we try to bake that in.

Once I know my Morning Time plan, I make an excel spreadsheet plan for each school age child.  I decide how much time each child should spend on a given subject per week and then fill in assignments from there.  Most "school" books are easily divided into weeks, and for those that don't you just divide the number of pages in the book by the number of weeks and ta-da! you have the number of pages in the book per week.  

I try to tie in their assignments with what we are doing in Morning Time.  I group as many of the subjects as possible as well.  I know our family schedule, I try to know what days we have outside classes, and I plan around that.  But I don't know everything, and so as the school year goes on I have to adjust the plan a bit.  

A really great breakdown of time for each subject and how to decide all of this (and frankly where I learned how to plan) is Sabbath Mood Homeschooling's My Matrix (check out all of her planning posts!) and Brandy Vencel's Planning Posts.  This planning takes a lot of time, I admit, but every year, I thank myself for doing this.  Because once it's done, I know weekly what we are going to be doing and I don't ever have to guess or make things up.  And I can still be flexible with it all, as I'll explain soon.  

So I consider that my big planning.  It does take a lot of time, but I view it as I either spend the time planning up front and then I'm mostly done, or I do it each week.  I know myself and know I can be very undisciplined and that we would end up in a pickle if I didn't do this big planning.

Now comes the implementation.  I do not just hand one of these spreadsheets to my kids.  They would get overwhelmed immediately.  These sheets are for me only.  Each week, either Thursday or Friday (or Sunday night or Monday morning if I've gotten behind) I sit down with my planners and my kids' planners and hand write out their assignments.  Some years I've used Sarah MacKenzie's idea of notebooks, some years I've pre-printed out checklists and filled in the blanks.  This is how I'm doing it this year.  My planner and the kids' planners all came from The Catholic Daily Planner.

My planner has the school planner add on, and here I write out the week's Morning Time plan.  Why do I write it out each week when I already have it printed on the spreadsheet?  Because of flexibility!  Some weeks we may have missed something or gotten ahead on something, or our days are a bit different and so we need to move things around.  This way, I can write out a plan that will actually work for us that week, check off the things as they are done on both my weekly list and my spreadsheet and just keep going if we miss things.  No worries if we didn't get to lesson 3 day 2 on Tuesday of week 3.  We can do it on Monday of week 4.  Or maybe we already talked about whatever it is somewhere else and I feel we can skip it.  Remember, the curriculum and the plan works for you, not you for the plan!

Again, after Morning Time is planned, I can plan the kids' individual work.  I hand write this out in their planners, including whatever I have to work through with them towards the bottom of the list so it is clear to me.  Then when it's each kids turn for lessons with mom, they bring me their list, and the books we need for the plan and we can just begin.  I know I'm not missing things or adding in too much.  The plan has already been thought out and we can roll with it. As they complete things independently, they check it off, set their completed work on our hutch in the dining room for me to check and then they move on to the next thing.  

A younger child will need mom through more of these steps, and an older child can be pretty independent.  You know your kids!  Work with that and it will work.

An example of another way to do this is below.  I've had to experiment a bit with different forms for one of my children.  Currently I am printing out a form I made on Word and then I just fill in the blanks.  The planning on my side is definitely easier each week and this child has more freedom to do lessons when they choose (or I can take the list myself if they get overwhelmed and tell them what to work on next.)

During our "Prep Week" I sit down with my checklists and see what prep I need to do for the upcoming month, refill Book Baskets, etc.  

I also will have to periodically update our Average Day plan with whatever new schedules we have for activities.  I use all of this as a guide and not a law.  Actually I'm pretty terrible at following a schedule as written, but it brings us all peace knowing how our days are structured and keeps me from trying to cram in too much.

If I've not lost you completely, I hope something here helps you plan your own homeschool days for your individual family.  

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Happy Fall

We put out some of our fall decorations this morning.  The sky is dark and cloudy (actual clouds, not just smoke!)   I'm on my third cup of coffee this morning trying to map out our next term of school (more on that another day, but we're fighting burnout over here) and we needed a bit of a break to get our home (and everything else) back in order.  So the kids have cleaned their rooms, the front stoop and walk have been swept, the back yard has been cleaned up...overall a pretty good morning.

Our scarecrow family.

Why yes, that is last year's candle.  It has been blessed though, so that's a win!

We call him Sully.  He's my kitchen window buddy.

Even our prayer table has a bit of fall color added to it.  I need to have the children pick some flowers for Blessed Mother!

I went out back to check on things (my excuse for getting fresh air!) and I was surprised by a few drops of rain.  It has been so dry this year, that this little bit feels like a downpour.  We'll take whatever blessings we can get!

Our chicks have grown into chickens.  Now if we can just get some eggs from these girls, I'll be a happy woman.

Mrs. Muggins and Mrs. Potts...curious little chicks.

Our garden is really doing well.  At the bottom of the picture you can see our watermelon has sort of taken over that part of the garden.  No fruit yet though.  The lettuce is keeping my table well supplied with greens, the basil is tall and fragrant.  And that pumpkin!  Seriously, it's gone crazy!

Look closely and you may spy a pumpkin growing (it currently looks more like a zucchini).  Only one so far...

This little corner of the world is a haven for us right now in the ever growing darkness.  When we look back on these troubling times, I hope we remember more of our family banding together and praying together, and searching out our little community, and less of the troubles and anxiety that threaten to take over the peace.  And I pray that we are made stronger because of it all; stronger in our faith, in our convictions, as a family.

by Fanny Crosby

'Tis whispered in the ear of God,
'Tis murmured through our tears;
'Tis linked with happy childhood days,
And blessed in riper years.

That hallowed word is ne'er forgot,
No matter where we roam,
The purest feelings of the heart,
Still cluster round our home.

Dear resting-place, where weary thought,
May dream away its care,
Love's gentle star unveils her light,
And shines in beauty there.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Fall Term Book Basket - Or Putting It All Together Part 1

The other posts in the How We Homeschool Series Are:

2020-2021 Morning Time Plans

2020-2021 School Plans

Each term (a term for us is 5-6 weeks with a week break in between), I fill a basket full of books for our next term.  The basket sits out in our family room for free reading (and some assigned reading) for the family.  I choose books for the term based on what we are studying in history and science, as well as where we are in the liturgical year.  I also choose a selection of books based on where we are in our reading lists for "Preschool".  

It used to be that I would plan to read that day's saint book aloud.  Since the children have grown older (and more numerous) I find it very hard to keep up with that.  So I began to put all those books, along with other living books in a term book basket and it makes it much easier for me to implement, and takes away any guilt I might have for not getting to a certain book on a certain day.  If it gets read during the term (either aloud by me or independently by them), I'm happy.

Liturgical Books

I have a good sized collection of picture books relating to saints and the liturgical year that I have been slowly adding to over the years.  Many of these books have been given as gifts to the children.  Books always make great gifts!

Preschool Books

I use several book lists organized by theme to pull a selection of books from our shelves for the term book basket for the preschoolers (although many a big kid can be found reading these books as well).  Little Saints Catholic Preschool is one of them, as well as A Year of Tales.  This term we are talking about colors.  Even if I never get to any crafts (and that's pretty likely) we will get to read many wonderful books!

We are currently enjoying Mother Goose as well as Arnold Lobel's Fables.  And we are continuing to enjoy our Treasure Box Books.  These tie in with the liturgical year as well, since St. Therese's feast day is coming up, as well as the Feast of the Guardian Angels.


We are studying the human body this year, and this term we will be looking at muscles, the digestive system, and the respiratory system.  I shopped our shelves and pulled these out:


This term in history we will be studying Peoples of the Levant, The God of Israel, The Kingdom of David, The Bearded Kings of the North, The Splendor of Babylon, and The Rise of Persia (chapters 6-11 in The Story of Civilization).  I plan to read aloud King David and His Songs.  The rest of these books will be assigned to various children.

A term book basket is a very easy way to pull resources together and make reading good books happen in your family!

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

2020-2021 School Plans (8th, 6th, 4th, 2nd grades)

This is part 2 of How We Homeschool.

The big thing I try to keep in mind while planning for our school year is that these are JUST PLANS.  The school year will not look exactly as I have it planned out.  We will not get to everything on our lists.  And one of my favorite things to remember is from Sarah Mackenzie.  My curriculum works for me, I don't work for my curriculum.  Once the materials have done their job, we are done with them.  And if the curriculum does not do it's job (for us), then I may need to move on to something else.  The planning stage is all my best guesses.  So while reading this post (and it's probably going to be long), please keep that in mind.

Also note: I am a fairly eclectic, classical homeschooler.  I follow Charlotte Mason's principles (at least how I interpret them.  I'm always afraid someone will see something we are doing and shake their heads and say that this is exactly what Charlotte said not to do. :) ), and I use a little of this and a little of that.  I get most of my ideas from Mother of Divine Grace, Ambleside, and Mater Amabilis. Homeschooling for this many years has taught me my strengths and weaknesses (of which there are many) as a teacher, and the strengths and weaknesses of my children.  I generally know our learning and teaching styles.  But this has taken lots of trial and lots of error, and what works for our family may not work for yours.  Ok.  Moving on.

Fritter -8th Grade


Various reports, written narrations, and notebooking.


(Here's an example of how change works in our homeschool.  We started the year planning to go through the second half of Highway to God together.  However, I quickly found Fritter needs less of me, not more of me.  So the following plans are what we are doing now.)  
Fall semester - MS Homeschool Connections Old Testament Bible Class
Spring semester - MS Homeschool Connections Gospels Class

 Various historical fiction and other reading which I will list in a separate post.

Map Quizzes for Egypt, Middle East, and Europe


Nature Lore
Nature Notebooking

Shakespeare: Macbeth and Merchant of Venice

 Various poems by Shakespeare and GK Chesterton

 Piano Lessons

Latin Mass Practice

Ladybug - 6th Grade

Various reports, narrations, and notebooking


Map Quizzes Egypt and Middle East

Gospel Study of Mark and Luke


Nature Lore
Nature Notebooking

Various Literature posted in another post.

Robert Frost

A Selection of a few of the books Ladybug will be enjoying this year:


Violin Lessons

Sunflower - 4th Grade

Language Arts


Map Quiz North America

Last year was supposed to be Sunflower's Confirmation year, but while she did receive First Holy Communion (praise God!), Confirmation for her is now this year.  Pray for her!

Piano Lessons

Various Literature posted in another post.

Nature Lore
Nature Notebooking


Here are a few of the books Sunflower will be enjoying this year:
Sherlock Holmes

Emily Dickinson

Froggy - 2nd Grade

Recorder lessons from mom :)


Language Arts

Various Literature posted in another post.

State Capital Flash Cards
Family Tree

This is Froggy's Confirmation Year.  Pray for him, please!
7 Sacrament Lapbook
Confirmation Saint Lapbook


Nature Lore
Nature Notebooking

Here are a few of the books Froggy will be enjoying this year:
Folk Tales

Christina Rossetti

Next up: Putting it all together. Stay tuned!

Friday, July 31, 2020

2020-2021 Morning Time Plans

I'm planning on listing out our school plans for this year soon, but thought I'd do a separate post just for our Morning Time.  If you are new to homeschooling, there are many places where you can learn more about the why's and how's.  My favorite resources for getting started with Morning Time are:

Over the years, our Morning Time has gone through various format changes, time changes, and location changes.  This year, we are doing Morning Time at the dining room table, usually three times per week.  We began the year (we are currently finishing week 3) doing it during Cricket's and Bear's afternoon naptimes, but found, for this year anyway, during Cricket's morning nap is better and Bear joins us.  So currently Morning Time starts at 9am, and I call the kids in from outside recess with a song (Little Boy Heart Alive).

Our Morning Time schedule looks like this:

Memory Work Binders (15 minutes)
Activity Loop (30 minutes)
Skill Drills (15 minutes)
Group Subjects (30-45 minutes)

This is quite a bit of content, and Morning Time can last us anywhere from 1.5-2 hours Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  Thursdays we do not do Memory Work or Activity Loop (and sometimes not Drills either) but still do group subjects, so it often only lasts 30-45 minutes.  However, because we are doing so much together, it lightens the individual study work.

Memory Work Binders

Inside our binders is all of our memory work for the year.  Each term (a term for us is 5-6 weeks and we have six of them) gets a focus and then we move the tab and move on.  I don't require word for word memory for anything, but I do encourage it (with chocolate chips as bribes rewards now and then).  I find this method encourages memory though and works so much better for us then the drilling and repeating method.  It's also more fun.  Each child also has a quality coloring book or drawing book that they are working through when others are doing their individual poems.  Our tabs are divided into Hymns, Folk Songs, Poetry, Bible, Catechism, Latin/Spanish, History/Geography, and Science.

Hymns - We have been using Traditional Catholic Living's Hymn Study.  We are doing the Year 3 hymns this year.

Folk Songs - We use Ambleside's Folk Song suggestions and are doing the 2019-2020 list.

Poetry - Each child has their own selections of poetry to memorize.  I use Mother of Divine Grace's suggestion, along with one or two poems of their own choosing from the poet they are studying this year (more on that when I do the post on our individual work plans.

Bible - This has changed over the years.  One year we did whole sections of the Gospels.  Another year we did Psalms.  This year we are doing the memory verses from Our 24 Family Ways (which is our current morning prayer devotional) along with memorizing the Theological and Cardinal Virtues and definitions.

Catechism - We use the questions and answers from the Baltimore Catechism 1 and I've divided it into thirds.  This year we have a 2nd grader and 4th grader, so we are memorizing the first and last thirds.  We do a chapter from the first third and a chapter from the last third and move on every couple of weeks.

Latin/Spanish - We are memorizing various Latin prayers and mottos this year.  For Spanish we are using the songs from Learning Spanish with Grace as memory work.

History/Geography - We are still working through the Greek and Roman history timeline from last year, and when we are done with that we will move on to the Ancient timeline.  I've taken various geography facts from Designing Your Own Classical Catholic Curriculum and Living Memory and we just work our way through that.

Science - We are working our way through various science facts from Living Memory.

Activity Loop

During our Activity Loop, we loop our way through various subjects each term.

Folk Dancing - This year we are learning Country Line Dancing using Brooke and Company Volume 1 DVD.  I have a dream of planning a folk dance with our homeschool group, but I haven't managed to do that just yet.  In the meantime we are learning the dances together and it is so much fun.

Nature Journaling - Each week the kids do their own nature journaling, but once per term we take a week to work through the lessons in Nature Drawing and Journaling.

Artist Study - We are studying the works of Da Vinci using Simply Charlotte Mason Picture Study Portfolios.  We study one picture per term.  After studying the picture we display it on top of our piano for the rest of the term.

Composer Study - This year we are studying Chopin.  We listened to the Music Masters CD for the story of his life and I picked six of his works to listen to throughout the year.  We focus on one work during Chopin week and then I play it at various times throughout that term.

Art - We love Meet the Master's for art so much!  This year we are working through Track D.  In past years we have created some very fun works.

Geography - We are continuing working through Mapping the World with Art from last year.  One chapter per term.

Skill Drills

Spelling - My three oldest are using Spelling You See C all together (we have a couple of poor spellers and one excellent speller, so they are all in the same level).  

Math Drill - We do our timed math speed drills during this time.  Fritter no longer has math speed drills (much to his relief!), so he usually works on his drawing while he waits, or he is excused from Morning Time at this time if he is not participating in that particular group subject that is coming next.

Group Subjects

Spanish - As mentioned above, we are working through Learn Spanish with Grace.  We are moving pretty slowly, one page or activity once per week.  This includes Ladybug, Sunflower, and Froggy (Bear if he has stuck around this long).

History - We are loving Story of Civilization - The Ancients.  We do one chapter per week.  Monday I read the chapter aloud while the children color the page in their workbooks.  Tuesday we do oral narrations and review questions (and then for independent work the older kids do a written narration in their history notebooks).  Wednesday we watch the videos and do any map activity in our workbooks.  Thursday we work on our Book of Centuries and timelines.  Fridays we (sometimes) do a suggested activity.  All of the children participate.  The school age kids also have independent books to read that correspond with a particular time period (maybe I'll include the list in another post).  You can see my full review of this program here.

We keep our notes for the week on our family message board.  It also includes helpful bible verses, an extra chores list for children that need them, and a shopping list. :)

Science - We are continue with our Apologia study.  This year we are studying the Human Body using Apologia's Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology.  Ladybug and Sunflower have the Notebooking Journal and Froggy has the Junior Notebooking Journal (although as a young second grader, some of the activities are too much for him, so I just have him skip those).  We do two lessons per week and they do the notebooking activities on their own.  We do include some of the experiments (if they are simple), but not all.

Citizenship - We are studying two Lives from Plutarch (Aristides and Themistocles) and two Apostles (St. Peter and St. Andrew) using Pope Benedict's beautifully illustrated book The Apostles.  We read through the story slowly, once per week, a little at a time and then do an oral narration.  When we have completed each life, we will do written narrations and add them to our timelines.  Everyone is included for this subject.

Geography - Sunflower and Froggy are studying Minn of the Mississippi, including map and notebooking activities from Beautiful Feet Books.

We are really loving our Morning Time this year.  One reason we homeschool is to build close family relationships, and Morning Time is one of the tools we use to do just that!