Category: Homeschool

Organizing: Do NOT Plan Or Schedule One More Thing Until You Do This FIRST

Priority Scheduling and Planning

How many days a week do you ACTUALLY get everything done on your schedule?

How often to your plans get changed or go awry? And do you ever sit (or stand if you put it on the fridge like me) before your schedule and wonder WHY? Why did I do it that way? Why isn’t everything getting done? And why don’t I feel satisfied?

If you are planning for the sake of planning, putting stuff on a schedule because you know you need to do something like that, or simply living week to week based on the the latest needs and emergency, then you are missing the KEY to planning! You are missing the FOUNDATION to build on.

I know, because this is what I have been doing for far too long and God has shown me a better way.

Super Simple Planning and Scheduling

The Key To Good Planning

I have been planning without purpose. Oh, I have some goals: get the house clean, homeschool the children, make sure errands are getting done… but I am not putting before me each week WHY. Why does the house need to be clean? Yes, I know there are lots of good reasons, but what is MY FOUNDATIONL reason?

The key to change my haphazard daily and weekly planning was that I FIRST needed to define PURPOSEFUL goals for my current season of life.

I needed to know what my priorities for my life (and my families life) were and then I could proceed to make a useful, working schedule for myself and my family.

Start With A Simple Daily Schedule

Blank Schedule
Blank Schedule

Here we have an empty weekly schedule. Notice how simple it is (the name of my site IS A Simple Life Too). Notice that it is not defined in an hourly fashion. I am a fairly organized person, but I am simply unable to stick to an hour by hour schedule. Outside of maybe one miracle day per month, it NEVER goes according the the schedule… so then I have to start erasing and moving stuff… crying a little as I am wasting more time doing that instead of the task… and feeling like a failure because I could not stick to the exact schedule.

Therefore, I do a daily task list instead. I keep it as close to the order the tasks and events should occur and I DO write down a time if there is an appointment. This way, if we don’t start “on time” or if a task takes longer or if we have to adapt and add something to the day, we can still be on track.

If something does not get done, I circle it and refer back to it the next day to see where I can fit it in.

How Priority Based Scheduling Works

Before I start entering ANYTHING into my weekly schedule, I write down my priorities on the bottom or top of the page. Some of them are the same for many weeks, even for years. Some are week, month or season specific. Theses priorities, in order, dictate what I then put on the schedule for that week.

For example, my first priority is a life priority, I have chosen to follow Jesus. My priority is to become more like Him and serve Him.

In a practical sense, this means the first thing I schedule each week it my time with God, my time to do devotionals with my children, any service the Lord has asked of me, church (and church events), and Bible Study.

Schedule With First Priority Tasks
Schedule With First Priority Tasks

My second priority is to take care of my family. This means time with my husband, homeschool, healthcare for the children (we have had a LOT of that lately), and some time for self care.

This results in me adding homeschool tasks, any doctor’s appointments, any outings with the family, children or husband, plus my every other week outings with myself or lady friends.

My third priority is a deeper teaching for my children. I have been reading the book of Titus over and over again for the past couple of months in our Tue night Bible study and the section on what older women should teach the younger has been a guidepost for me:

Titus 2: 4 – 5: so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

I am especially honing in on the “workers at home” part. So I am teaching my children to how to cook, how to clean, how to decorate, how to host, and much more. This dictates how I fill in most of the rest of the schedule with housework, who cooks what, time for our home based business, creative pursuits, etc…

The next priority can sometimes end up higher then the second or third. These are seasonal and holiday priorities. For example, we just had the Hanukkah / Christmas season. Since we were off of school for a couple of weeks and we had lots of holiday activities to do, this took precedence over everything except for devotionals, church and doctor’s visits. Yes, it even took a priority over housecleaning!

Final Schedule
Final Schedule

If other things come up, I evaluate them against those first sets of priorities, decide if they fit, if they bump out other things, or if they have to wait until there is a slot. I create a little list on the bottom of my chart called “to be scheduled” to keep track of them.

I sincerely hope you find this useful and that you find your weekly schedules having more purpose going forward. I am open to any thoughts or feedback you may have.

Feel free to use my Super Simple Homeschool Planning Worksheet. It takes about 1 minute to type the framework into your favorite spreadsheet program. Then you can update it on the computer or pencil stuff in (which is what I usually do) or you can get some great planners on Amazon!

 


Our 7 Favorite Childrens’ Biblical and Devotional Series On Pureflix

 

7 Favorite Biblical ShowsAre you wanting to find edifying media for your children to occasionally watch?

Would you like to teach them some basic Biblical and Christian concepts and disciplines through engaging videos made especially for them?

Do you want them to be able to watch something encouraging during a sick day? Or when you are too sick to do devotionals that day?

If you answered yes to any (or in our case – ALL) of these, then you need to go and get your free trial of PureFlix!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. 

Here is a list of our 7 favorite Biblical / Christian shows on PureFlix:

Just for kicks, some of these shows are links to Amazon.com so you can see the cost of purchasing them outright and what savings you get from the low cost of $7.99 per month on PureFlix. 

The Torchlighters’ Heroes of the Faith

Friends and Heroes

321 Penguins

Veggie Tales

Juniors Giants

Hermie and Friends

Kingdom Under The Sea

There are many more children’s biblical and christian shows on PureFlix, we just haven’t checked them all out yet!

Click Here to get your first month free!

Our Favorite Educational Shows On PureFlix

our_favorite_educational_shows_pureflixDo you ever use videos to supplement your homeschool / Christian school?

Have you ever had a few days or weeks of sickness, but you want your children to be learning, not just vegging out?

Would you like to have access to a variety of learning and educational shows – Biblical, Historical, Scientific (especially Creation Science based), Artistic, and even Fitness?

If you answered yes to any (or in our case – ALL) of these, then you need to go and get your free trial of PureFlix!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. 

Here is a list of our 7 favorite Biblical / Christian shows on PureFlix:

Just for kicks, some of these shows are links to Amazon.com so you can see the cost of purchasing them outright and what savings you get from the low cost of $7.99 per month on PureFlix. And some of these videos are hard to find, you can’t even get them on Amazon!

Drive Through History

Discover World

Discover Science

Mike’s Inspiration Station

Fit Family

There are also lots of Missionary Documentaries. A couple we have watched include:

Amy Carmichael

Travel The Road

Fanny Crosby

There are over 100 educational shows on PureFlix, we just haven’t checked them all out yet!

Click Here to get your first month free!

 

Encouraging Children: Contests For Homeschoolers

homeschool_contests

 

Academic, Artistic, Service Oriented, STEM and other contests and challenges that are specifically for homeschoolers or allow homeschooled students to enter.



Academic Contests:

Khan Academy 

Who: 18 and older

Dates: June 22nd – August 1st

What: 10 minute video explaining a complex subject – math, physics, engineering, etc…

Prizes: $300 for 9 finalists, $3000 grand prize, possibility to get hired to work for Khan making teaching videos

Breakthrough Junior Challenge 

Who: Ages 13 – 18

Dates: September 1 – October 10th

What: Make a short film about a big idea in science or math

Prizes: $250,000 scholarship + additional prizes

Artistic Contests:

Doodle4Google

Who: All children K – 12 can enter

Dates: September 14th – December 2nd, 2016

What: Using any artistic medium, create a work of art in and around the word Google.

Prizes: $30,000 Scholarship, grant for school for technology (homeschoolers still get some, but much less), Chromebook Laptop, Android Tablet.

Reading Programs:

Pizza Hut

Who: K – 6

Dates: October – March

What: Set a reading goal and then meet that goal each month.

Prizes: free, one topping personal pan pizza each month the reading goal is met.

STEM Contests:

Google Science Fair

Who: Children / Teens (ages 13 to 18)

Dates: Feb 21st – May 18th

What: Similar to a science fair, enter experiments, observations, engineer creations, etc…

Prizes: $50,000 Grand Prize. Various other prizes for regional winners and the special category winners (LEGO Educational Builder, National Geographic Explorer, Virgin Galactic Pioneer, The Scientific American Innovator, and more)…

Book Review: Star Chronicles – A Bible Based Study Of The Stars

Book_Review_Star_ChroniclesOne of the biggest blessings of blogging the past few years is that I have gotten to meet some other amazing bloggers. One in particular has blessed me more times than I can count and I have been looking for a way to return a fraction of it:-)

When I realized that Dawnita from Prairie Dust Trail had a book on the market, I asked her if I could review it! Luckily she said yes, and now I have gotten a whole new perspective on the stars and the Bible with her book: Star Chronicles – A  Bible Based Study Of The Stars

From The Book

Dawnita starts the book with Psalm 8, leaving us in awe of such an amazing creation and giving credit to the Creator for inspiring her book.

She goes on the clarify that this book is not about horrorscopes (pun intended) or astrology, but is focused on why God gave us the stars – for learning, for study, for prophecy.

The book then goes into the 12 constellations usually referred to by astrology, and brings them into context Biblically.

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him?

Here is an excerpt from the section on Taurus, which I choose, since I spent a little too much of my life trying to identify with being a “Taurus.”

“Aldebaran is the brightest star in Taurus. You can find it by following the stars of Orion. The name Aldebaran means “the follower”, and it looks like it is following the “seven sisters.” In astronomy, the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters, is one of the nearest star clusters obvious to the naked eye. They are mentioned in the Bible three times: “Who maketh Arcturus, Orion and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south.” –Job 9:9 “Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?” –Job 38:31 “Seek Him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night, who calleth for the waters of the sea and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The Lord is His name.” –Amos 5:8”

A lot of time and research went into her book and she does give credit to those who went before her to understand God’s use and purpose for the stars. She gives an intensive reference section.

You can purchase the book on Amazon today. (affiliate link)

Super Simple Homeschooling: How You Can Homeschool For Less Than $20 Per Year (Per Child)

Super_Simple_Homeschool_Less_Than_20_per_yearHave you taken a financial hit this year? Are you struggling to pay for your homeschool supplies, curriculum, field trips, etc…?

Maybe, like us, your spouse lost their job at some point during the year. Or maybe, like us, you have a new addition to the family. Or like us, your children are growing and consuming more and more. Maybe you have been struggling for awhile, ever since mom gave up her job and agreed to stay home and homeschool the children.

I am here to share with you our own experience and encourage you – you CAN homeschool for as little as $20 a year per child.



Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Acceptance

If you don’t accept where you are at, that you simply don’t have the money for all those shiny, new homeschool books this year, you can waste a lot of time and energy and you will have trouble moving forward and actually get going with your homeschooling.

Once I accepted that the money just wasn’t going to be there for workbooks, textbooks, learning toys, etc… this year, I was able to shift gears and get creative with what I did have, and I started to brainstorm what I COULD do for homeschool this year.

Get Basic Supplies

Most of your budget will to go to the basics: binders / notebooks, paper, pencils, erasers, glue, scissors and crayons.

If you opt to go with some of the free online options (see below) for homeschooling, then instead of the supplies above, you will need to invest your budget in printer ink and printer paper. We choose to make sure our children are doing some writing by hand and we are doing some learning online, so we got all the supplies – notebooks, paper, ink, etc… With the cost shared across 3 children, we are still well under our $20 per child budget.

We purchased the printer ink online with Amazon, the paper (both writing and printer) at Walmart, and the supplies at Walmart during their back to school sales.

Search The Thrift Stores

Next, find your local thrift store, especially any outlet stores, and take a few hours to go through their books.

I did not even come up with this idea. My brother-in-law, knowing that we were struggling this year, went to our local thrift outlet store called the Youth Ranch Outlet. He and his significant other spent an hour or so going through the large bins of books and came up with a dozen or so very useful books. Things like science encyclopedias and science experiment books, old math textbooks, barely used kindergarten workbooks and a great math games book.

We will make use of these by reading the science books, doing experiments with stuff we already have, having the children copy passages from the books, practicing spelling words, and more. They then get LA / English out of this too. We will use the kindergarten books for our kindergartener. I did purchase three kindergarten workbooks from Rod and Staff. They are only $3.60 each plus shipping. If you are a Christian based homeschool, they have some inexpensive curriculum available through Milestone Books.

I will state that we have half of our Story of the World History curriculum leftover from last year (which was given to us free), so that is how we are doing history.

For art, we are doing play-dough, creating our own paper dolls, coloring in dollar store coloring books, practicing drawing, making cards and looking for ideas all around us.

Find The Free Online Apps and Printables

For Math, there are LOTs of free online options. You really just need to decide which option you want. You could also use old textbooks for a baseline and write your own math problems weekly.

We have found some free online tests and games, free online printables, and we are also going to give Khan Academy a try, although as of this writing, we haven’t started yet.

There are many more apps and online learning sites to explore – more than you could ever visit in a lifetime. Just start with a topic and do a search. For example, if you want to teach your children about bugs, just Google “learn about bugs” or “homeschool bugs free printables or lessons.”

And Then There Is The Library

Even if your children don’t read yet or don’t like to read, you can read to them. Everything you would ever want to learn and teach your children is available. Have them copy passages of important information or summarize what they read.

I hope this helps you homeschool your family this year and you will be able to see it as a joy and an exciting challenge. This isn’t everything we are doing, so please ask questions about what you are wanting or needing in the comments below.

If you would like some additional encouragement, check out my post: Homeschooling From The Bottom 10%.

If you have a little more budget to purchase curriculum this year, I have curated some Books, Homeschool Curriculum, and School Supply Deals, Discount Codes, and Coupon Codes for you at: I’ve Got A Deal For That!

 

10 Ways To Serve Part 2 – Academics Are Not Perfect Religion

10 Ways To Serve Part 2 Academics Are Not Perfect Religion
Yes, knowledge is good. Yes, we want our children to be educated to do what God has planned for them. However, reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic is not what the Bible refers to as perfect religion.

What the Bible does refer to as perfect religion: “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” James 1:27 (NASB)

The Second In Our List Of How To Serve

Do you know a widow? How about a single mom who has been abandoned by her husband? I have seen the Bible define an orphan as one without a father, not just children w/o any parents. There are also 1000’s of children in the foster care system that one could consider an orphan, even if the parents still live.

This is where our time should be spent. This is where our heart should be. If you homeschool, you most likely have the time to adopt at least one family or one child to bless. They need you more than you need to complete every page of that workbook. It could be something as simple as taking their children once a month so that mom can have a day to herself. If you have ever spent a few weeks with your children w/o a spouse and/or grandparent to give some time, you will understand what I am saying here.

Maybe they need some supplemental food or household necessities each month. Maybe they need your families hand-me-downs. Maybe they need help with their homeschool. Maybe they just need a few people to understand the challenges they face.

In the end, although we want to be diligent to educate out children, God has made it clear what really matters.

If you know of a widow or single mom who homeschools or wants to homeschool and needs help, contact the HSLDA Ambassador Program or the HSLDA Widows Curriculum Fund. If you know if any other resources for widows and single moms, please let us know in the comments.

Follow the entire 10 Ways To Serve series.

Learning Toys That Last + 50% Off Learning Toy Coupons

Learning_Toys_That_Last

This post came about today because of my observation of my children. Today is a Sabbath, rest day and the children have a couple of hours of free play time. My 7 year old daughter proceeds to bring out a stack of toys – she loves learning toys. As I watch her, I realize that most of the toys are Melissa and Doug toys. Toys that we have had since she was a baby, originally purchased for her older sister. And I observe that the toys are still in great shape, still usable, and still interesting, even though she has had access to them for many years. Her 4 year old sister frequently plays with them also.

Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links. 

If you can’t see too well in the photo, the toy that 7 year old T is holding is MelissaAndDoug – Snap and Sort. The other toys in the the stack include the cutting board (not sure of the exact name) and the Birthday Party. They still have all or the majority of their pieces, and they are all very sturdy and interactive.

100_3370

The Snap and Sort teaches art, colors, sorting, dexterity and creativity. The cutting board teaches the real act of cutting with the wooden simulated fruit, bread and veggies. The girls love to play Master Chef Jr. with the set.

Lastly, the birthday party allows them to create their own cake and party and they play birthday all the time. Someone at this company really got into the heads of what kids would love and continue to use, year after year. When I am asked by family what to get for my children for a birthday, MelissaAndDoug toys are always a suggestion.

Coupon / Deal: I have to state that I am not getting paid for this post – this is a “real life and I love these products, we really use them” review. However, I do have a couple of 50% off Melissa and Dog Coupon Codes for you and if you use it, I do get a small percentage of the sale.
– Buy One Get One 50% Off On All Classic Toys At MelissaAndDoug.com! Use Code: CLASSICBOGO At Checkout!
– Save Up To 50% On Select Toys Now At MelissaAndDoug.com! Click Here!
– Free Gift With Purchase: #8593 Shape Sorting Clock with A $40 Order Minimum At MelissaAndDoug.com!

What are your favorite learning toys?

Save On Melissa & Doug

10 Ways To Serve Part 1 – Have We Pushed Aside Service In Our Homeschool

10 Ways To Serve Part 1

So you are a homeschool family. You have your curriculum, your field trips, your schedule, your co-op, maybe some housework or Home Ec, and maybe some devotionals. Your kids are learning and loving it, and that is good. Then your elderly neighbor falls and injures her hip. You take her a meal. But she needs a whole lot more help. You have a schedule to maintain, goals to be met, extra curricular classes to take, and you just don’t know how to fit in the time to do anything else for her.

Have You Lost Purpose In Why You Homeschool

Does this sound familiar? Have you lost the ability to be available and be in service to others because you have gotten caught up in the school in homeschool? Have you even lost some of your purpose along the way?

I am not here to condemn, but to remind at least some of you as to why you are homeschooling – to teach your children God’s ways and to teach them to be in God’s service. Yes, many of us are doing a good job of teaching them to serve their family in the home, but I believe that God wants much more of us – He wants us to serve our community. This includes our church and our “neighbor.” He wants us to make serving a priority, not something we fit into our schedule, if and when we can.

Our family has setup our homeschool to school year round. The main reason we do this is so that we can be available to help and serve others, if called to do so. If we need to, we can take a day or even a week or month off of schooling and not be bothered by it. The school will eventually get done and the children will actually get more, grow more and learn more from the service, than they will from the academics.

A Couple Of Ideas For Service

If you are needing some ideas for what your family and/or children can do to be in service to others, the rest of this blog series is going to cover 10 ideas for ways to serve and will ask the readers to also contribute what their families are successfully doing to serve. Subscribe now to get notified as the rest of the series comes out.

Service #1 – Bringing Meals To The Sick And Elderly

Although I mentioned earlier in this post that bringing a meal to the elderly neighbor was only a small part of what she needed, it was not meant to diminish the act. In fact, the past 4 months, I have been the recipient of meal service a couple of days a week, and it was very, very helpful and I was very grateful for it. I was on bed rest, light activity only for the last half of my pregnancy, after having two threatened pre-term labors at 19 and 23 weeks an having hot, healthy meals help me be able to follow orders and not overdo. I also received meals for about two weeks after having the baby. Again, a great help so I could rest and recover.

If you don’t currently have a group or ministry at church that does this, you could start one – just ask around who in your community is having a baby, is on bed rest,or who has limited physical ability. Then, you can find out how many meals a week they can use, what their dietary restrictions are, then coordinate a rotation of people to bring them a meal in the afternoon or evenings. The lady that coordinated the meals for our family used an easy, free app called Take Them A Meal.She had about 10 people in the rotation, so no one got burnt out.

If your family has incorporated service into your homeschool, would you please share in the comments below.

Hip Homeschooling

How To Keep Your House Organised And Tidy When You Homeschool

Homeschool Organization and Cleaning

Keeping your home always clean and organised is challenging enough, even without homeschooling. When you also add this task to your daily schedule, you may find it impossible to get everything done.

Since you can’t afford to give up the one or the other, the only thing left for you to do is to find a solution. You may have to accept the fact that no matter how hard you try, you may not be able to handle everything alone. That’s why it is a good idea to ask for help from the other members of your family or occasionally hire professional cleaners who will take care of the disinfection of the premises of your home.

You could also use the professional service as a temporary solution while working on ways to handle the problem within your home (and budget). Here are a couple of tips to implement to help you be able to manage homeschooling and housekeeping going forward.

Make a schedule – This is definitely the first thing you have to do, if you want to be able to get everything done. You may feel like the homeschooling is the most important thing in your life, but you are still a parent and an adult who needs personal time. Therefore, making a schedule is the best solution. You can still make the homeschooling a priority, but also make sure that you designate specific hours of the day for the cleaning and organizing of your home and also schedule time for your hobbies and personal interests.

Avoid the distractions – The distractions are your worst enemies, so you will have to learn to avoid them any way possible. If necessary, unplug the phone when you are homeschooling or doing some of the cleaning chores. The computer and/or mobile phone probably also takes a lot of your time, as well as a lot of the time of your kids. You will be surprised how much you can do when you are not constantly distracted by these things.

Encourage your kids to clean – Take the time to explain to your kids how important it is to keep your home clean and organised. This way it will be easier to teach them to clean after themselves, organize their rooms, and even help you with some of the chores. They can start by just arranging their books and supplies after the lessons.

Give up on some of the additional curriculum and/or activities – When you see that the time is not enough, you will have to make some sacrifices. The extra curriculum activities are certainly important, but they are definitely not most significant. The moment you notice that you can’t follow your schedule, you need to start deciding what needs to be dropped.

How do YOU manage homeschooling, household, personal time and more? What are your best tips?