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Sunday, September 20, 2009

8 Habits of a Happy Homeschool Mama

For most homeschoolers, school is in session and has been for a number of weeks. We are on week 8, which is about the time I usually start pulling out my hair a bit. How about you? I think what happens is we start to let our habits slide a little bit in the busy-ness of our day. So, in an effort to refresh my memory, I'm looking back over my habits to see where the slide might be occuring.

Good habits help keep me sane and our homeschool happy. Here are some that I've found particularly helpful:

Habit #1 - Routine is your friend!
Some people like those wonderfully detailed MOTH schedules. Others abhor them (that'd be me). My family needs a routine, and I bet yours does, too. However, our family life also requires a good deal of flexibility on a day-to-day basis. So, instead of adopting a time-based schedule, we use a task-based routine.

I've orgnized our day around certain "hard-stops": breakfast, baby's nap, lunch time, read or rest time, dinner, etc. After breakfast, we have devotions and then finish chores. When the baby goes down for her morning nap, we start school and work hard. After lunch, we have "read or rest" time. After "read or rest" everyone gets their chores done, etc. You get the idea.

However you decide to order your day, by MOTH or "hard-stop", keeping a routine gives your kids an expected pattern to their day. You save yourself and them a lot of frustration.

Habit #2 - Don't answer your phone just because it rings!
I do not answer the phone during school hours. In fact, in our home we rarely answer the phone because we are almost always in the middle of something (school, chores, a meal, a nap). When my phone rings and I answer it, it can easily derail my day. The kids scatter while I talk and then I have to spend 30 minutes corralling them back to their tasks.

So, instead, we listen as the caller is leaving a message and if it is truly an important and/or urgent call, THEN and ONLY THEN do we pick up. During our next break, I sit down and return any calls necessary.

So, if you have an answering machine, USE it...if you don't seriously consider getting one.

Habit #3 - Know what you are having for meals each day.
Having a house full of kids all day, every day can mean a lot of time in the kitchen between snacks, meals, and more snacks. They have to eat, so there is no getting around that, but it sure makes life easier when you know what you are having at each meal and for snacks, too.

Dinner is the most important meal to plan, then lunch, and then breakfast, and then snacks. If you can only handle planning for one, make it dinner. Donna Young's website has wonderful planners, including meal planners. Spend some time each week planning out your meals for the week.

At the very least, make sure you know what you are having for dinner each morning. Allow yourself the time needed to do any prep work, defrosting, marinating, etc. In fact, many times you can get some of this prep work done during the day rather than waiting until 5:00. Also, make sure you have all the ingredients on hand!

Always keep the ingredients on hand for an easy, family favorite dinner. Ours is Tuna Tetrazzini. Everything can be kept in the pantry and needs no defrosting or prep. Other ideas: "Taco Night" and "Breakfast for Dinner". These favorite easy meals are wonderful to pull out when you need to "punt" (see the next habit for an explanation of "punting"). And don't forget keeping meals in the freezer! There are many websites and cookbooks that have great ideas for "freezer meals".

Consider making a master schedule of meals. One particularly busy year, I set up a 4-week rotation of about 15-20 simple meals (dinner). Then I didn't even have to plan each week - it was already done for me!

Habit #4 - Know how to PUNT.
Ok, you are going to have many of THOSE DAYS during your homeschooling career. If you are like me, that might be once a month or even once a week! :) On these days you have to know how to "punt" - a term that means, "setting aside the lofty plans and just getting the job done any way you can". Plans fall apart, kids get sick, moms get sick, friends need big favors, etc.

So, how do you know when to "punt"? Anytime you are feeling overwhelmed and "normal" seems beyond your reach it is time to punt!

How do you "punt"? Keep a PUNT plan in your head - maybe even make a special PUNT box. In this box, keep fun, educational games, activities, books, movies. Throw in some special art and/or craft supplies, too, if you like. This is a good time to plan simple meals (like the "family favorite" mentioned above). Remember, kids CAN live on cereal for a day or two if they have to!

Habit #5 - Nurture the Nurturer
Take care of yourself. I repeat...TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.

Get good rest. Do not feel guilty about taking the appropriate amount of time for rest that you need. Keep in mind this can change depending on your activity level and your season of life. If you are not well-rested you will be more prone to grouchiness. And, did you know, overeating!

Refresh yourself. Introverts need time alone to be refreshed. Extroverts need time with others to be refreshed. Get real and accept that this is the way the Lord made you - and it is GOOD. Find ways to provide this time for yourself on a regular basis.

Cultivate your own mind. Read books and magazines of interest to you - only for you. Spend some time learning something new or researching a subject you are interested in. There are some great online magazines and blogs that will challenge and inspire you - and most of them are FREE!

Habit #6 - Refuse to feel the need to defend your choice to homeschool.
Sharing your reasons for choosing homeschooling with someone is one thing, but don't feel that you need to defend the whole of homeschooling everytime someone questions or disparages your choice. A simple, "We find it works best for our family and our children," will surely suffice. And if not, just change the subject. "Oh, Norma, have you been doing something different with your hair? It looks just lovely!" Develop a thick-skin and a healthy sense of humor - you really can't homeschool without either.

Habit #7 - Find an "accomplished task".
With motherhood and homeschooling come many, many tasks that are never ending: laundry, meals, kitchen clean up, cleaning the house, planning school, etc. All of which are tasks that have no completion point. (Oh, you complete them for one day, but have to repeat them again the next.)

Find an activity that you can point to at the end of each day or week or month to see an "accomplished task". Try scrapbooking, painting, sketching, photography, crochet, knitting, quilting, etc. Whatever you enjoy!

This blog is one of my "accomplished tasks". Each post is complete and finalized when I'm done. I can look back and see what I've accomplished. Another hobby that I enjoy is crochet. I've always got a project or two going!

Habit #8 - What habit do you have that keeps your homeschool a happy place? Leave a comment!

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Peter Piper's Picks - Sept 19th: Constitutional Edition

St Januarius, St. Theodore of Tarsus

One of my favorite speakers and writers and bloggers, Andrew Kern, blogs about US Consititution Day, Sept 17th. Did you learn the Preamble to the Consitution by watching Schoolhouse Rock, like I did?
ps - if you are a classical home educator, Mr Kern's organization is one you should know: CiRCE Institute. Their most recent conference is out on CD and it will rock your world. Seriously.

What's up in consitutional law these days? Spunky, as usual, has got her ear to the ground. Did you know education is not supposed to be controlled at the federal level? Hard to tell from the recent rhetoric coming from the White House. Check out these two posts (and others...and the comments section, always hopping at Spunky's place) - lots of solid info and many, many links to the issue at hand.

And who do we have in charge (dealing with our constitutional rights)? According to the witty and ascerbic Camille Paglia, "feather-preening bourgeious liberals" and the "back-biting mess" of the GOP. I don't agree with her politics, so it is surprising to find myself agreeing with her. But, I shouldn't be entirely surprised. This same phenomenon (having more in common with someone whose politics are WAY different than mine) happened to me while in Ghana a few months ago.

Finally, some good advice for Christians undertaking debate or discussion with others over political matters (or any matter, really) from Scriptorium Daily: 7 Suggestions for Christians in the Public Square.

Have a beautiful weekend, y'all!

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Peter Piper's Picks Sept 12th: Literary edition

My 17th Wedding Anniversary

I don't know. Do you really buy that biologists can do research on literary history? Evolution science explaining literature? If we turned it around the other way, would the scientists put up with English professors contributing research on scientific theories? Do we let science go too far?

Free is good, right? The internet is Free and has many benefits. But, have you noticed that often it is just plain faster, and easier, to use a BOOK than the internet? So, apparently "Free" does have a cost after all . . . T.I.M.E. and maybe something more.

Why Modern Composition Theory fails. And what to do about it. The first in a series.

Why academics must write beautifully. Have you noticed that some academics wear their "boring" writing as a badge of honor? But why? Why shouldn't all writing, no matter the topic, be artfully written?

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Monday, September 7, 2009

Obama meets Wordle

Obama's Speech, Wordle-ized.

Wordle: Obama: Speech to Students

I think if you click on that it will take you to a larger version of the Wordle (and you can see the words a bit better). If that doesn't work, try this link directly to Wordle.

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Obama's Speech tomorrow

So. . .

You gonna watch?

How about your kids? If they are in public school, will they watch there?

If you homeschool, will you make a lesson out of it?

What do you think about all this?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Baptism, Birthday and visits

Just a quick post! Thought some of you might enjoy seeing some photos from Baby L's baptism and birthday!

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Peter Piper's Picks - Sept 5th - Homeschool Edition

A friend on an online homeschool email group recently posted a link to this as an encouragement, and it really is. Has the start of your homeschool got you a little daunted? Go read this: Home School Mothers - The Beatrice Brigade. Not feeling daunted right now? Surely you will someday, so print this out for future reference!

Another online friend, Desert Mom , from the blog Quotidian Life, posted a link to a wonderful essay that she and her kids read at the start of school to remind themselves that true education is a form of repentence. She also has some good thoughts of her own on true education.

Once you've gotten all "pumped up" with vision and encouragement, you'll need some tools! Jimmie (one of my favorite resource bloggers) has a wonderful post about Graphic Organizers. Her post is one you'll want to bookmark and return to often.

How has the start of your homeschool gone? Do you find yourself reevaluating plans based on "on the ground" circumstances? Or maybe some new insight or encouragement you've received?

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Classical Conversations Cycle 1 History Resource

Hi, friends! Well, I do not know how I finished this this week (baptism, celebration picnic, first birthday, visit from my mom, and first day of CC), but I did! As of now, this is only the first semester. When I finish the second semester, I'll update the file (and post a notice here).

CC Cycle 1 History: Discussion questions, Teaching Points, and Activities. (This is a Google Document. You should be able to download directly from that link to your computer. ) Let me know if you download the file, and if you find this helpful!

The Discussion Questions were designed to be somewhat open-ended and spark a bit of discussion in your home. I hope you enjoy them! If you have any suggestions for other questions or activities, please email me or leave a comment.

The Teaching Points are culled almost entirely from World Encyclopedia.

And the Activities are merely suggestions for ways to expand your students' interaction with the history material. Choose those that sound interesting, but don't try to do them all! I don't even do an activity every week!


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