Friday, September 19, 2014

7 Reasons I Almost Hesistate to Call Myself A Homeschooler

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Another week of  homeschooling is winding down here.  As it does, I wonder why I call myself a "home"schooler at all.  We remain rarely at home.


Trees beckon!

While we were away on western PA visiting family, one of our neighbors trimmed the trees in the cul de sac near our home.  Nina was delighted and has wanted to play in the trees often since discovering how much easier they are to climb now.  

The boys have been equally delighted, grabbing hockey sticks and wiffle ball bats to be weapons as they perch in the trees to defend themselves from the British.

Physical education and dramatic play tied to Revolutionary War studies are schooling; they just aren't homeschooling!

D.I.Y. takes us o-u-t!

The kids are working on an animator badge a la  Of course, we could work on it at home (and have done so a bit), but it's so much fun to create and share with others.  So, we joined the Outside the Box homeschoolers for a joint lesson!

The kids made storyboards, watched clips about animation, planned their stop-motion animation scenes in teams and created animation studio boards.  (Nina and her teammate made their board quickly, as time was ticking, but were so pleased with what they did!)

Art, teamwork, sequencing and so much more explored, but again, not at home!

Mom says "yes", even first thing in the morning!

Almost every morning this week, the kids have asked first thing in the morning (before even getting out of jammies sometimes!), if they can run over to the cul de sac to see how their fort is doing.  I'm all for fresh air and purposeful heavy work in the morning, so I say, "yes".  

Some mornings, "seeing" turns to "working on".  The kids have been building their interpretation of a Revolutionary War fortification - a completely child-led activity.  So far, their fortification has bricks layered with mud mortar, a trench and a short wooden wall.  

Engineering, physical activity, history, teamwork... but, again, not happening in our home, or even our yard.

Field trips make what we read in books and hear on CD's come alive!

I'd love to say my children were actually settled in for a nap/quiet time in the photo above.  But, nope!  Not my kids.  They only nap if they are sick and ususally only settle for quiet time if I play new audio books for them.

What my children are actually doing in that snapshot is experiencing what it was like to bunk in a WW2 Destroyer.  For, although the kids are currently enamored with the Revolutionary War, we have listened to CD's and read about other wars in the past.  So, when a field trip to Battleship Cove came up on a local homeschool board, we signed up!

On the tour, we enjoyed a guided tour of a battleship, a submarine and a destroyer, as well as our own self-guided walk through a missile ship and past some PT boats.  In the afternoon, Luke, Nina and Jack gave friends who had been in another tour group a tour of what the friends had not yet seen.  It was so awesome to hear my kids teaching their friends what they had just learned!

History, exercise, public speaking.  All there.  At home?  Nope.

The weather is too good for indoor co-ops!

The children asked Daddy to teach a Flag Football class for homeschoolers this fall.  Their wish was our pleasure!  We put word out to our Little Way Home Educators group and have just finished up week two of a five week mini co-op where we spend some time playing Flag Football and some time doing a Trees class.  Then, of course, it's lunch and playground time!

This week, the mom leading the Trees class portion of our mini co-op could not come, so I threw together and led a plan that included building tree models out of train tracks to review the parts of the tree and to introduce the idea that water goes up from the roots and sunlight gets captured by the leaves and becomes food that goes back into the tree.  The kids loved this activity, which, in the photo, is just beginning.

Some science, some physical education, some socialization.  But, all in a park, not at home.

We love audio books!

When we were on our way back from PA recently, we began listening to George Washington's Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved America.  Nina and Jack were non-plussed by it, but Luke got so into it, we had to finish it this week.

When it was done, we took Jack's request to listen to the "castle story" in the Brinkman Adventures and then tried out Jonathan Park: The Adventure Begins (Jonathan Park Radio Drama).  It captured the kids' attention right away with exciting adventures and has also brought up conversations about differing opinions on creation science vs. evolutionary science.

Although we listen to audios at home, I prefer to listen to new-to-us ones in the van where I can follow the stories, too (as opposed to hearing them as background "music" while I go about tasks at home.)  So, audio-learning and entertainment sometimes encourages us to be out and about!  Or, just makes the drives to and from places that much more purposeful and enjoyable.  History, science, faith, literature, even math all turn our minivan into a place for mini-lessons.

I'm often out, but still a homeschooler.

Lest you think we never stay at home or concentrate on learning when we are home, let me assure you that this is not the truth.  We just tend to tuck short, pointed lessons at home in between experiential learning outside of our home.

For example, when Nina was doing some Math the other day I noticed many of the numerals that she wrote were backwards.  So, I mixed mixed Montessori-inspiration with Nina's love for sensory experiences with a loose interpretation of an idea I gleaned from The Gift of Dyslexia, Revised and Expanded: Why Some of the Smartest People Can't Read...and How They Can Learn.  Then, Nina set to work with sandpaper letters and Thinking Putty.  

I loved her smile as she succeeded in building each number!

What do you think?  Should I really call myself a homeschooler?

Sharing at Conversion Diary, Managing Your Blessings, Pebble Pond,  Weird Socialized Homeschoolers and Home to 4 Kiddos.

Weekly Wrap-Up

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How I Found Calm Among the Chaos

A week ago Sunday, I learned that a teenage girl I know had left this world.

It hit me hard.  Another young girl gone.  Just like my niece six months ago.  Why?

It makes so little sense to me.  Yet, I trust in Him.  I know He offers mercy, grace and healing.

So, after crying for a short period and praying, too, I carried on with Mom duties -- duties which precluded further obvious mourning since my young children did not need to learn about the suicide.

Inward mourning is hard, though.  So, the next day, despite the fact that we were visiting my husband's family in another state, I asked him if I could go to a church for a short while to be alone.

Love that my husband is, he agreed.  He knew that as much as he wanted to be with his earthly father, I needed some time alone with our heavenly Father and His Son.

So, off I walked to a church that we had been to on past visits.

While I walked, I passed a football player who was running to catch up with his team, a band and color guard group that was being berated by their leader and a man who was peering through a fence at a girls soccer game.  

I wondered if the football player would be teased, if the band leader's bark would be the last straw for one of the teens he was yelling at and what the relationship might be between the man who was surreptitiously watching the game and whichever girl he was there to see.

As thoughts crossed my mind, I prayed.  May light, love and hope reign in all these people's lives, not despair and negativity.

Then, I arrived at the church, where I was chagrined to find chaos, not peace.

Extension cords propped the doors of the church open, powering loud machines which battered and buffed the stone exterior of the church.  Inside the church, obvious work was in progress, too.  

I wondered if I would even be allowed to enter.

A workman told me I could go in.

I did.

Pews were askew.  A large portion of rug was ripped up.  Things were sticking out of the bare floor.  It was such a mess.

I had time finding the tabernacle. 

I thought it might have been moved to a small side chapel that I had once been to daily mass in, so I went to find the door to that chapel.  

There was no lit sanctuary lamp there and the noise and chaos of the church construction seemed to be increasing.  So, I went to leave church by a different door than I came in -- one that had no extension cord trailing through it.

As I made my way to the door, a prayer card caught my eye.  I stopped to look at it more closely and saw that the solitary card held a prayer for mourning. 

I smiled in thanksgiving as I picked the card up, walked back to the main part of the church and prayed the text written on it, finding some solace in the prayerful solitude, even if no quiet was to be had with the hammering machines outside.

Shortly thereafter, I spotted a candle burning behind the main altar of the church.  Moving towards it, I noted a beautiful mosaic above a small tabernacle.

True calm among chaos.   

I knelt.  I cried.  I prayed.  I felt comforted. 

Then, later, when I went to exit the church, I noticed that the sanctuary lamp was burning directly across from the door that I had initially entered the church from.  If I had just looked along a straight path instead of being distracted by the chaos of the pews and rug ripped up, I would have been able to see direct to Jesus waiting to calm me.  Hmmm...

Might I focus on seeing (and walking!) the straighter path?  Might we all?

Can You Really Find Balance and Calm in 7 Minutes a Day?

Order, balance and calm play peek-a-boo in my life.  So, when I was given a chance to try out the The 7 Minute Life™ Daily Planner by the The 7 Minute Life in exchange for an honest review, I said, "Sign me up!" 

What Is The 7 Minute Life™ Daily Planner?

Part agenda, part life coach in spiral bound book, the The 7 Minute Life™ Daily Planner is a 90-day time management tool that aims to help users unlock their purpose, potential and passion through clarifying priorities and goals, establishing and committing to realistic written action steps and implementing techniques to reclaim productivity aligned to priorities on a daily basis.  True to its name, the planner aims to do all this in just seven minutes a day once a habit of use is set.

What Is Included?

7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review

In the 7.3″ x 8.5″ spiral bound, plastic covered book that is The 7 Minute Life™ Daily Planner  you will find:

  • 15 pages of preface and introductory materials that are not to be missed
  • a worksheet for helping you define life priorities
  • a worksheet to guide you in delineating your purpose
  • a worksheet to help you discern the best use of your time right now, at this 90-day period in your life
  • a page declutter your brain by listing home and work tasks  
  • 2 pages to note 90-day personal and work goals on
  • a page for financial goals
  • a page for life goals
  • 6 pages to list unfinished home and work teaks
  • a page to list home repair contact information
  • a grocery list
  • 2 pages to list contact information and comments
  • an annual calendar at a glance
  • a page to list annual projects and tasks
  • 4 90-day-at-a-glance pages
  • 12 monthly-calendar-at-a-glance pages
  • 5 pages for meeting planning
  • 90 days worth of daily progress reports
  • 3 monthly progress reports
  • 6 pages or notes
  • a year-at-a-glance exercise progress report
  • 2 heavy cardstock folder pieces at the front and back in order to tuck loose notes into       

These all add up to a system that can help you prioritize, organize and simplify your life if you use them with care and consistency.

7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review

How I Succeeded (and Failed)

When I received the planner in the mail, I got right to reading the introductory pages in it, which not only tell you how to use the planner, but why you might want to. 

In doing so, I found myself highlighting passages right away:

"Life is about choices.  If you want to be different tomorrow than you are today, you must choose to be different."

"Part of what draws people to the 7-minute system is celebrating tiny 'wins' of actually reaching their daily goals.  Daily, small achievements are good for you."

"If (all your goals, tasks, accomplishments are written down in different places), you run the risk of feeling scattered and becoming disorganized -- chief ingredients to chaos."

" may want to schedule your 'Focus Time' to be held in a different location from your daily environment." 

"You may be surprised to learn that you are squeezing out those things most important to you, while lavishing huge amounts of attention on unimportant things in your life."

"There are four primary causes of mental clutter.  They are avoidance, procrastination, distraction and indecision."

These passages and others struck chords with me because some convicted me while others affirmed directions my thoughts had already been heading in.  Together with instructions on how to use the following pages and segments of the planner, the passages I highlighted set me in motion to start prioritizing, organizing and simplifying my days by completing the priorities and purpose worksheets and beginning to delineate goals and tasks.

Then, it came time for me to use the daily progress reports, which, for me, did not end up being daily.

I truly struggled to get into the habit of pulling out the planner each morning and night and found myself occasionally marking more than one day, using the blank line section on the second page of each 2-page daily progress report spread to make notes on the "missed days", but then forgiving myself for "failing" and moving forward with planning and assessing the day at hand.

Regardless of whether I used the daily progress reports for a single day or multiple ones at a time, I wrote a lot of personal information on them, thus, I am not going to share snapshots of my "used" pages Rather, I will share generic blank photos and explain a bit how I used each section of the daily pages.

7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review

I did not need 25 lines for "Daily Contacts", so I sometimes used the first few lines of this section to list the blogs I commented on (which is something I am trying to remember to do - comment on posts I read instead of just hitting and running with them!).  At other times, I listed people I wanted to call, email or get together with for personal, professional and homeshooling purposes and then checked of when I did.  And, at still other times, I simply left a lot of lines blank.

In the "What I will do... 5 before 11 section", I listed tasks and chores I needed to get done before 11, or before leaving the house on any given day.  I kept these small and manageable and found that listing them, and checking them off really did help start my day off well!

In the "7 Minute Life" Connections section, I sometimes listed people I wanted to see face-to-face, sometimes listed people I needed to connect with by phone or email and sometimes listed a reminder to myself to spend 1:1 time with my children.

I used the "Unfinished Tasks" section both to list truly unfinished tasks as well as ones I had already accomplished during the day beyond my 5 before 11.

I rarely logged "What I Spent" because, well, some habits are harder than others for me to get into.  I am working on this one.

Another thing I am working on is building better personal time habits and, related, building the habit of evaluating how I am doing on these habits.  It became obvious to me that I need to do this when I found myself rarely remembering to check off each time I drank water; found marking how many hours I slept discouraging, so stopped; did not even begin to mark exercise, because my life at this point does not allow much consistent personal exercise time; only sometimes checked "reflection" upon completion of my morning prayer time  and only sometimes logged my reading.  

Further, though I did begin to use the meals and snack boxes first for planning meals and later for marking down what I actually ate, I found the boxes for doing so frustratingly small, so stopped.

Thus, it was hard for me to check many "yes" boxes with the question "Did I do what I said I would today?"  Not a good thing!

On the second page of each 2-page daily progress report, I used the "Appointments" section as intended, listing my appointments.  I also went back and filled in other tid bits of what I actually did during the day at the end of the day on some days, and often found myself wishing the times started at 5 or 6, not 7.

Since I don't get a ton of Voice Mails each day, I sometimes left that portion blank and sometimes used it to write blog or homeschool notes.

Under "Thank You Notes" I wrote the names of people I remembered to reach out to with gratitude via phone, email, Facebook or pen and paper.  At other times, I listed personal gratitude notes for myself.  At all times, I was happy for the reminder to be thankful!

Finally, on the blank lines I listed homeschool notes, personal thoughts and sundry other details and truly appreciated having such an amount of blank space to write daily thoughts, ideas and notes on bound to my planner and goals instead of doing it on scraps of paper that get lost!

Likewise, I found myself filling the blank note pages at the end of the planner quite quickly with notes from books I am reading.  (I am a blank note page sort of girl, I guess!) 

Final Thoughts

"Did I do what I said I would do today?"


I did not do it for the entire period I was reviewing The 7 Minute Life™ Daily Planner, for, although I wanted to use the planner with full consistency to its utmost potential, I failed to build the habits I needed to do so. 

But, was it a complete failure? 

Not at all.

I made inroads with habits, clarified some areas I need to work on, affirmed some things I am doing well and, thus, appreciated the opportunity to test the The 7 Minute Life™ Daily Planner as a tool for proactively deciding where my focus will be and how I will live the days of my life.

Although the pages of the planner were not a perfect fit for me, they proved a worthwhile tool to help me determine where my strengths lay, where I need additional work and how I turn ideas into action and plans into purposeful reality.  If you're looking for a resource to help you kick start a more prioritized, organized and simplified approach to time management, The 7 Minute Life could help.

Find Out More 

7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review

Click to read Crew Reviews

What tools and tips help you find calm and balance in your days?  Might The 7 Minute Life™ Daily Planner help you, too? 

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

3 Last-Minute Ideas for the Exaltation of the Cross

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We just got back from a trip to see my in-laws, so I was ill-prepared for today's feast day.

Credit: Holy Heroes

Thankfully, the children at Holy Heroes were more prepared than me!   Over breakfast, we enjoyed the free video clip and coloring pages they have available today.


We also read the Saint Helen page in Picture Book of Saints and, later in the day, will be reading the St. Helen story from Story Library of the Saints.

After Mass, we may also revisit a fun sensory craft that we enjoyed last year: packing peanut crosses and sculptures.  Or, we may enjoy some of the other activity ideas and prayers shared at Catholic Culture.

There are other simple ideas over at Catholic Culture.

What are some of your favorite activities, prayers and traditions for celebrating the Exaltation of the Cross?

  Please feel free to share about them in comment here or on our Training Happy Hearts Facebook page.  If you leave a link to an idea, I will pin it on the Training Happy Hearts: A Call to Faith Formation in Young Children Pinterest board


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