Happy Mama, Homeschooling, Routines

Back to School Tips for Homeschoolers

It’s almost time for Back to School!

OK, well, for homeschoolers that may or may not be true. Maybe you homeschool year round, or maybe you started school in July, or maybe you’re not starting back until September – you can do whatever you want! But we have chosen a traditional school year so we’re getting ready to start soon! These are some practical and fun things I’m planning for this school year.

Side note: As a fairly new homeschool mom, I sort of feel unqualified to offer “homeschool tips”. I’m still figuring some of this out! But I’m also a second generation homeschoolers and was homeschooled from kindergarten to twelfth grade, so I do have a little experience under my belt.

Create a Routine

Homeschooling offers lots of freedom and flexibility, and while we love that, it’s helpful to give your kids (“students”) an idea of what to expect from day to day. It doesn’t have to be a rigid schedule of time blocks (unless you want it to be), but a general idea of what is coming next is helpful. I’m planning another post on our family’s routine soon! Maybe take some time to explain the routine the night before, or on the first day of school and then implement it each day your first week to get everyone used to it.

Plan your Lunches

I don’t know about you, but lunchtime can be a little hectic and I can end up standing in front of the fridge just wondering what to feed everyone. You might consider it a perk of homeschooling that you don’t have to pack lunches every day, but planning ahead can create a peaceful mealtime with minimal interruptions to your school day. You can make this as simple or as involved as you want. You could prepare lunches the night before (Maybe even put it in lunch boxes for fun!) or just make a note of what you’re planning to eat. If you have older kids who can fix their own lunch you could put a “Menu” on the fridge of lunch options that are available. I recommend some Simple kid lunch ideas here  And don’t forget your own lunch! My favorite is to have a salad for lunch (which I eat with lots of dressing!) so I feel like I had something healthy and filling.

Give Yourself Quiet Time

As homeschool moms we are with our kids ALL the time – which is great! But it can also be exhausting. With little kids, nap time is a helpful time to take a breather and refocus for the rest of the day. But older kids (and moms of older kids) need rest and quiet too. So I recommend that you have a set “quiet time” every day. After lunch in the early afternoon seems to work well, but do what works best for your routine. Send everyone to their own space for rest or for reading, drawing, listening to music, even playing quietly. My younger kids still nap, but my oldest has time in her room and has a clock so she knows when it’s time for her to come out. I use that time for my own rest or reading.

Remember to keep it Fun!

There is plenty of work involved in schooling our kids, but I always consider that my biggest job is to help them develop a love for learning. I don’t want to just stuff them full of information and hope they remember it. I want them to discover how to learn for themselves and to dive into subjects that they are interested in. And I truly believe that when they think it’s fun to learn, they will learn more and learn well. Let your kids choose fun science projects, or make messy art. Read books with them about adventures and wonderful stories and about nature and the world around us. Math facts are important, but alongside those be sure to play games and sing songs and enjoy the journey.

 

We are looking forward to a fun year and I wish you the same!

 

Happy Mama, Lunch, Meal Prep, Mom Life, Preschool, Simplify

SIMPLE LUNCHES FOR KIDS

Do you ever find yourself staring into the fridge around noon while your kids are climbing the walls and declaring that they are starving just hoping that some prepared meal is going to suddenly appear for you to take out and serve for lunch?

Me too!

Lunch is one of those things that use to stress me out. I would try every day to come up with some grand meal for my kids that wasn’t the same thing they had eaten yesterday. But I finally figured something out: my kids don’t care if they ate it yesterday! They don’t care if they have the same meal every day for lunch all the time. So I stopped trying to be super creative and decided to be super simple instead. I do have a few different options that I pull out, but for the most part lunch for kids is pretty much the same things. Here’s what we do:

Protein Choices: Cheese and Turkey cut up into bites (or something fun shapes if I’m being really fun), yogurt, peanut butter sandwich, or peanut butter spread on crackers, or a spoonful of peanut butter

Grain Choices: Whole wheat crackers, pretzels, cheese crackers

Fruit Choices: grapes, bananas, apple sauce, or oranges. (I’ll pick one or two that they have all week)

That’s it! Super simple, super quick, super happy kids, non-stressed mama.

 

Part two of how this works really well for us is this: Make lunches for the whole week!

Since I’m a stay-at-home-mom and we homeschool, we are home for lunch most days. But I figured out it was still easier to pack a bunch of lunches at the start of the week and then when my kids are unable to live without food a second longer ready for lunch I can just grab the containers from the fridge and set them on the table. It also works great for days that we have co op or head out for a playdate or even need to run errands during lunch time. I don’t have to even think about it, I just throw the containers in a bag and we’re ready to go. I like these Bento Divided Lunch Containers the best, especially since they have different colored lids for each kid.

 

Do your kids have a favorite lunch?

 

 

Birmingham Moms Blog, Pregnancy, Routines, Simplify

SURVIVING THE FIRST TRIMESTER WITH OLDER CHILDREN – BMB POST

This is my latest post for Birmingham Moms Blog!

People always ask if my pregnancies have been similar or different (usually it’s a question of feeling different with different gender babies). But my first pregnancy is so much harder to compare with the others. Why? Because it was my first baby and I only had to worry about myself and the baby on the inside — not other littles that were running around outside my body!

If I was tired after working all day, I would tell my husband the dishes could wait in the sink while I lay on the couch. But with my second, third, and now fourth pregnancies, things have been very different. I still don’t have a lot of energy during the first trimester, but there are a lot of people counting on me and I have to keep things afloat a lot more than I did that first time.

So how do you survive the exhausting first trimester when you have other kids running around? These are just a few things I have found helpful.

Click here to read the rest of the post – – – – – – >

Homeschooling, Kindergarten

HOMESCHOOL KINDERGARTEN CURRICULUM

We are officially a couple months into “real” homeschool journey in kindergarten. Phoebe misses the kindergarten age cutoff for public school by about a month, so if she were going to public school she would not be in kindergarten this year. But we felt she was definitely ready to start some formal learning and that’s one thing I love about homeschooling – the flexibility to do what works for each child! And we will just see where she is as she grows, whether we need to slow down or keep going. But so far it’s going great and she loves it!

We chose a gentle kindergarten curriculum and so far I’m very happy with our choice. I had read a lot about Charlotte Mason teaching methods, and I love the idea of reading and learning around what she calls “living books”. As a little bit of a type A personality, I felt like I needed a really concrete curriculum to feel like I was covering all the bases.

I’ll be completely honest. Last year we did preschool at home, and while I loved it and I do feel like Phoebe learned a lot, I just wasn’t very good at being consistent and I wouldn’t prepare well ahead of time. So when I found a curriculum that was all planned out and told me what to do every day I was stoked! I know that doesn’t work for everyone, but right now since I’m homeschooling and have a preschooler and a baby at home too it just helped me to have it all laid out.

I did look at and consider a number of different programs before I chose this one. The program we chose is My Father’s World Kindergarten – “God’s Creation from A to Z”. You can read more details and see samples of the curriculum on their website (because of copyright I won’t share any images of the actual curriculum pages here.)

Not only is it a great curriculum with learning letter sounds and learning to read, it’s also ALL about the world around us and  both Phoebe and Phin are enjoying learning about creation. So far we have talked about things like the science of leaves and trees, the sun and moon, and learned about apples and different types of animal homes. We get to do crafts and experiments mixed in with handwriting practice. A lot of these would just get left out if I were planning it on my own. But the curriculum is FUN! There is plenty of play included, like dancing to classical music and tracing shadows outside. And of course, we read loads and loads of books – my library card is certainly getting a workout!

We have added a few things to the curriculum just because I feel like Phoebe is benefitting from it. You do not have to add anything to the kindergarten curriculum. We are using “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons”. We had already started it and so we are continuing. We are almost halfway through and I’m proud of how well she is doing. We’re also using Math-u-see Primer. It’s a good base of math skills. Phoebe really likes it. I’m still not sure if I love it, but it works so I can’t complain and we’re going to finish it, so I’ll hold off my review on that.

One thing I love about My Father’s World is that they have really thought through making it work for a homeschooling FAMILY. It’s easy to incorporate younger children into what we’re doing. And if we continue to use it as we get into the upper grades of the curriculum it combines a lot of the work for the whole family. That way the teacher (i.e. me) doesn’t have to prep multiple lessons for multiple students, it just teaches a lesson and gives assignments for each student based on grade level. We’re a little ways away from that, but I hope that will work well for us one day.

So that’s our Kindergarten plan! I’ll be sure to post a review when we’re finished to let you know how the year went and my thoughts after doing the full curriculum.

 

Community, friends, Happy Mama, Mom Life, Stay-at-home-mom

BUILDING COMMUNITY AS A STAY-AT-HOME-MOM

I have a passion for building community and living and sharing life with the people around us.  But as a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) it can be a real challenge to find community and build solid relationships in between diaper changes and nap times.  Here are a few suggestions for building community as a SAHM:

  • Attend or start a playgroup – Playgroup can be so simple if you just get started. All you need are some moms, some kids, and a place to meet.  A group of moms from our church gets together every other week.  We take turns hosting at different houses so no one person feels overwhelmed, and whoever shows up, shows up.  It’s not a big commitment, and it just works as an automatic plan.  See if there are playgroups already going on in your church or neighborhood, and if not, start one!

  • Meet new people – Kids are a GREAT way to meet new people and make friends because it is SO easy to start a conversation about your kids.  Take your kids to the park or indoor playground and just start making conversation with other moms.
  • Video chat for Coffee – Let’s face it, some days it’s just too much to get out of the house.  Schedules might be crazy and getting everybody dressed and ready to get out the door can be a lot of work.  So once your kiddos are down for a nap or having quiet play time (or a movie!), grab a cup of coffee and “meet” a friend over a video chat.  Be sure to schedule it ahead of time, and be and mindful of each other’s time, but this can be a great way to sit down for a conversation without leaving the house.

  • Make friends in your neighborhood – There’s nothing better than having a friend next door or just down the street! Start building relationships with the people around you by inviting a neighbor over for coffee or to take your kids for a walk in the neighborhood.
  • Communicate frequently – It’s hard to build relationships when you only see someone once a week or a couple of times a month.  Make it a habit to communicate frequently with your friends, whether that means getting together, talking on the phone, or just sending a “How are you this week?” text once in a while.

Having children is a true blessing, but the time when they are little can be difficult to build and maintain relationships.  Take the time to make friends and invite people into your life where you are and walk through the childhood years in real community.

What are some other ways you can live in community as a busy SAHM??

Birmingham Moms Blog, Preschool, Reading

SIMPLE WAYS TO RAISE READERS – BMB POST

I’m excited to announce that I’m a new contributor for Birmingham Moms Blog!

My first post is live today and you can read the full post on the blog. Here’s a little sneak peek…

Growing up I didn’t just like to read, I LOVED to read. I was the kid who was supposed to be cleaning my room or coming down to dinner, but instead I was reading. I never went anywhere without a book, and at night I would crack open my closet door and turn on the light so I could sneak in and read (sorry, Mom!).

Reading can be an education, an adventure, and an escape. Sometimes it means getting lost in a story in another world, and other times it means learning something new. Since becoming a mom I have hoped that my children would grow up as readers, but sometimes it’s hard to know how to foster that at a young age. These are a few simple things I recommend to raise readers.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THE POST…

Routines, Simplify

ROUTINES TO SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE

Being a mom is filled with many tasks and to-dos. And in-between  the tasks there are a hundred things to be done that aren’t even on the list. “Mommy I need a bandaid”, “I’m hungry,” “Can you play a game with us?”. And because those are the things that are most important to me (and probably to you), it’s hard to feel like I accomplish anything most days.

Do you feel the same?

Oh good. I’m glad I’m not alone!

But I have finally figured out how to get done the things that really need to get done. And the secret is actually really simple.

Routines.

I know, you’ve probably heard it before, and I had too. But the key has really been creating simple (SIMPLE SIMPLE SIMPLE) routines and following through with them every day with very few exceptions.

Here’s exactly how I have done that.

1 – I wrote a list of the things that really needed to be done. And some of them were the things I was really struggling with. And to start with I kept it to the most basic things. I felt like I could add more things later if I felt like I got these under control. For me they are: Get dressed every morning. Empty the dishwasher and wipe the counters and table after breakfast. Start a load of laundry in the morning and have it put away before bed. Have the floors cleaned up before bed.

2 – Decide when those tasks need to be done and assign them to one of two routines: Morning Routine and Evening Routine.

3 – Create the exact routine for Morning and Evening with the needed tasks and WRITE THEM DOWN and POST THEM. This is KEY! I simply wrote the routines on sticky notes. My morning routine is in two parts because I have one part of the routine straight from getting out of bed before I leave my room and one part in the kitchen during and after breakfast. So I have a sticky note on my bathroom mirror that says: Put on clothes, Wash Face, tinted moisturizer. Then one in the kitchen says Empty and Load Dishwasher, Wipe counters and table, start laundry. Next to the Morning Routine is my evening routine. It says Load and Start Dishwasher, Clean off counters and table and wipe off, Make Coffee, Fold and Put away Laundry, Lay out clothes for tomorrow.

 

That’s it. As long as I do those things the house doesn’t get crazy or overwhelming. And it was a lot of work to do all of those things at first, but with the help of the reminders and seeing what a difference it made they are now second nature. They have become a habit!

Meal Prep, Simplify

EASY SUMMER MEALS

Summer is for relaxing and slowing down. So who wants to spend those lovely summer evenings over a hot stove, or slaving away in the kitchen?

Around our house we’ve been doing things super simple for supper…mostly because I don’t want to drag myself in the kitchen for a ton of prep work, but also because it’s been enjoyable for our family. These are a few of the easy summer recipes that we’ve had on repeat:

Grilled Chicken Salad – At the beginning of the week I usually wash and chop up a big bunch of lettuce and vegetables that we can enjoy for salad a couple of times during the week. I like to eat grilled chicken on mine as well to really fill me up and give me the needed protein. Sometimes we will grill a few chicken breasts to have on hand, and sometimes I buy the precooked frozen chicken and just toss some in the microwave as we prep for dinner. Our favorite vegetables for salad are carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes, but you can find your favorites and experiment with different combinations.

 

Fish – We buy the packages of frozen fish (salmon) from Aldi, so we always have fish in the freezer. I can pull out a couple of these in the morning to let them defrost then just add a little lemon juice and some simple seasoning and put them in the oven. SUPER easy. Our family favorites are this Greek Seasoning and Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning. To keep things really simple I will toss some frozen vegetables in a pot on the stove and we’re good to go.

 

Meal Prep, Simplify

SIMPLIFY MEAL PREP

I love finding ways to simplify things around the house, and if I can find a way to do a bunch of work at one time and then not have to do it later I’m a happy mama.

So when it comes to meal prep I have a system that I use some weeks and when I do it I LOVE it.

I prep meals for the entire week on one day in an hour or less.

Yep. That’s right. I spend one hour or less in the kitchen and I’m good for the whole week!

And yes, it’s as amazing as it sounds.

So how does it work. Well I started out using the plans from Five Dinners in One Hour she gives the meal plan, a shopping list, and EXACT directions on preparing the meals. I HIGHLY recommend her plans – she offers a free sample plan to give it a try and there are several different meal plan options to choose from.

From the website describing how it works:

5 dinners 1 hour is a unique meal prep system created to save you time and money. 5 dinners are prepped in an hour (or less) and ready for you to easily cook on on even your busiest weeknights. Meals are fresh, not frozen and hang out in your fridge until ready to cook.

  • Organized shopping list that makes shopping easy and stress free.
  • Detailed prep instructions to get 5 dinners prepped in a hour or less.
  • Cooking directions that help you get dinner on the table fast.

 

I love, love, LOVE this system and knowing that usually all I need to do is pull a dish out of the fridge and stick it in the oven in time for dinner. NO worrying. I use these dishes to easily stack the meals in the fridge until time to cook the meals, then I just stick them in the dishwasher for easy clean up.

Once I had done a few of the plans I felt like I had learned enough to adapt some of my own meals (plus I saved all my meal plans I had received from the site) so now I have a repertoire of meals that I can prepare on Monday and be ready for the week.

If you like preparing ahead of time, but are overwhelmed by things like once a month cooking or don’t have a huge freezer for meals, this is PERFECT! I recommend you give this a try and let me know how it works for you!

Uncategorized

DO LESS, BE MORE

Sometimes when I’m perusing Pinterest I see all the things and think how some people do so much. Some moms do way more than I do, things like work, craft, do photography, run businesses, or just keep their house nice and clean.

And then I read posts about ways to get more done every day, or how to get things done faster so you can do more. And I think those ideas are all great, and I’m glad that so many women are talented in so many ways and they are finding ways to do more.

But for me, that just doesn’t stir my heart. I don’t get excited about having a long to do list or about stretching every second to be the most productive. I want to sit and enjoy, to breathe and take in the moments.

I want to do less.

(Please don’t misunderstand me, sometimes I wish that I wanted to do more, or that I was gifted in the ways some women are, but that’s just not who I am. I really want to cheer women on to do the things they are called to do!)

As I read ideas for getting through tasks quickly or time saving methods, I think of them as a way to have more freedom. If the house is clean enough and dinner is in the crockpot then we are free to go to the park after nap time. If our workout is done in twenty-five minutes first thing in the morning, I’m free to sit and talk with my husband at night after the kids are in bed. If my morning routine of getting dressed and ready is quick and easy then I’m free to sit in the floor and play with my kids.

I’ve been writing blog posts in my mind for a few months now – you know thinking through them at times when my hands are too full to actually type them. And now I’m ready to get them out of my mind and written down. All of the upcoming posts are about doing less and being more. Simplifying tasks so we’re free to enjoy life. It’s a message that has been on my heart for a while, but I believe The Lord has been honing it and refining it so that it’s a clear message, and now is the right time.