Devotions basket

For the past couple of years, I have been trying to create a habit for our kids of beginning their day with Jesus.  In the mornings I'll set the timer for 20 minutes and call out, "devotion time!" and the older kids will pray or read their Bibles or sing, and the little girls will usually draw pictures or look through a Bible story book.

One of the things I'm going to introduce to the kids *this* school year is a "Devotions basket":


What's in the basket:
-missionary biographies
-one of the Truth &  Grace Memory books
-Operation World
-some favorite Bible story books (The Child's Story Bible and The Big Picture Story Bible and The Jesus Storybook Bible)
-My ABC Bible Verses and others by Susan Hunt (Big Truths for Little Kids & Discovering Jesus in Genesis & Exodus)
-The Brother-Offended checklist, Go-to-the-Ant chart, and the "If-Then" charts from Doorposts.
-a gratitude journal (orange Moleskine), to list things we're thankful for
-memory verses on index cards  (ones we've memorized before; for review)
-a bucket with blank index cards & markers- for drawing stories from the Bible
-(2) CD players with headphones & kids worship CDs
-our jar of prayer sticks (popsicle sticks with family/friends' names written on them, for the kids to pick out a stick and pray for that person/family)
I have a list of everything that's in the basket with spaces next to it for the kids to initial as they "check out" an item.  They're going to love this. 

School planning: 102

For the previous post, School planning: 101, click HERE.


Now that you've prayed, evaluated your previous school year, and figured out with a calendar when you're starting (and ending school), you're ready to get down to the nitty-gritty of what you'll be actually DOING during those school hours!

Some of these steps obviously overlap.  (I keep praying throughout the whole planning process school year.)

This next step is something I start at the end of our current school year and keep on going until all the pieces are in place for the new school year.

4.  Make a TO-DO list.

My current "Homeschool Planning TO DO list"

I keep a clipboard with blank pieces of paper handy, and as I evaluate our previous year, or read a book (several of my first notations came from my reading of this book at the end of May), or if I remember an idea or think of a book or see something that still needs to be done--- it all goes on this list.  I'll list some items* you don't see in the above photo, just to give you an idea of the variety:
  • choose read-alouds
  • schedule- make
  • new chore assignments
  • make chore charts
  • choose memory work
  • math lesson plan
  • what are we doing for science this year?
  • what can be independent work?
  • purchase blank index cards
*to name just a few

This list is simply a running list of all my school-related thoughts.  There are obviously things on the list that must be accomplished: history lesson plans and math lesson plans, for instance.  And there are other items that never get checked off- because they were ideas that were meant to be just that, an idea.  And that's okay.

When I'm making my to-do list, I keep our general schedule in mind at all times.  I know we start the day with Bible time, narrations and memory work at the breakfast table.  So then, on my list are things like:

  • Bible time (ie: I need to figure out what we'll be reading from or what my goal is for that time) 
  • choose memory work

and so on.  I know the things we need to update or refresh for the school year, so I operate from that general knowledge.

The stage I'm at right now is that I'm consulting that list every day and researching items or working on them to get ready for our school year.  I have determined the new chore assignments (with Mark's  help), but have yet to make a new chore chart [if you click on each of those 3 links you'll see our three previous chore charts], so that's still something "to do".  I know that the kids are doing copywork, but I don't know yet what they'll be copying.  That sort of thing.

It's all coming together, and I'm excited about some of the things we already have planned, so I'll share them as I go.


The thing about starting a series (like the recent school-planning one) is that life happens.  In our lives, this week and last week we've been on vacation.  So while I haven't been thinking about (or writing about) school-planning, I've been doing a lot of prep for vacation!

Here's a very short recap of our vacation time, with just one photo from each "event":

We went to the waterslides.  First time as a family.  I LOVE the waterslides.  I had just as much fun (if not more fun) than the kids did.  :)


We went to the zoo.


We picked blackberries, canned blackberry jam, went on walks, celebrated Mark's mom's 70th birthday, and then headed to the mountains for three days, where I admired the window boxes of the lodge we stay in,


we swam at the pool several times, ate out (*love* doing this!) and caught an outdoor performance of Fiddler on the Roof amidst heavy rain and a lightning storm!  Such an adventure.

We'd barely gotten home and then it was time to go to the fair, where we ate fair food and the kids got to go on rides.


Now our vacation is wrapping up and I can get back to school-planning mode.  More of those kinds of posts due up soon.  (Thanks for your patience!)

School Planning 101

I should remind you that I'm a paper and pen kind of a girl.  I know there are whole planning worksheets/guides/printables/programs available for school planning.  I can't link you to them, though, because I don't plan like that.  I need to write it all down and see it.  I need to physically cross things out and add to my lists, whittle them down and then make a fresh (cleaner, shorter) list, add more to that list and then start a whole other list on another page.

I can tell you how I plan.  I've been doing this for seven years now and I definitely have a system.  Here are the first three things I do each year as I plan for the following school year:

1.  Pray.

I can't emphasize this enough.  These are God's kids; this school year belongs to Him, as does every single other one.  He knows what our children need.  Ask Him for wisdom, for clarity about your schedule and curriculum choices, for inspiration, motivation and discipline.  Ask Him to help you with whatever conundrum you're facing as you look ahead to this next school year.

2.  Evaluate your previous school year.

This sounds like a lot of work, I know.  But it doesn't have to be.  Simply think through what worked and what did not work (and why it didn't).  This can be anything from a quickly jotted down list (or a conversation with your husband) to a more complete analysis of each subject.

I like to do this at the end of the year while my thoughts are still fresh.  The way I do this is that I look at our schedule from the previous year and just break it down: what worked (strengths) and what did not work (weaknesses).  When I evaluated our year my list looked like this:
WHAT WORKED? Bible time, narrations, science, dictation, Shakespeare, piano practice, (most) chore assignments, math, school with the little girls, copywork.

WHAT DID NOT WORK? Picture study, geography, poetry, consistently waking up on time.  And sadly: read-aloud (I chose boring titles this year.  It was painful.)

I have some undecided subjects, too.  For devotions we started strong but sort of faltered.   Same for our story time (picture books).  Written narrations were great when we were faithful but we were not consistent.
Even if this is your very first year of homeschooling, you can still do this!  You may not have school subjects to evaluate but you can still examine what is working in your routine.

Note:  I find that the easiest way to add something into our schedule is to tag it on to a routine that is solid in our home.  For us it was as simple as breakfast.  We always ate breakfast together at the start of our day, and we were all in one place.  So I added Bible time after breakfast, then memory work, then we tucked in narrations after the Bible story.  Then after breakfast we decided to do "after-breakfast-chores", etc.  We just built our schedule brick by brick, so to speak.

3.  Print out a calendar.  


You've got to look at your year as a whole.  (You can go here ( to view a variety of free, printable calendars.) 

We school for 36 weeks, so I need to look at the calendar to see where we can come up with 36 weeks, first crossing off birthdays and Mark's days off and the entire month of December.  I simply pick a start date and then tally up weeks on the right-hand side of the calendar months until we get to 36 - and, voila!- we have a finish date!

And now I know we only have a couple more weeks to plan for our Sept. 1st start date.  Yikes