To be in heaven is to steer: Homeschooling Mid-Year Planning, Organization.

“To be in hell is to drift; to be in heaven is to steer.”
George Bernard Shaw

If you know where you want to go, then you already have your hand on the tiller.

The tiller is the rod that is attached to the rudder, and that sucker is the one in the water doing to work.

But you…you are in the boat, directing where it needs to go.

Any homeschooling family will understand what it feels like to have periods of aimless drifting, when everyone is interested in a million things and it is a chaos of learning in the house. One side is learning how to solder and build Arduino circuits, while the other is happily sewing a quilt, and somehow you saw someone walk by the other day with a new acrylic paint set…

These endeavors are good and well, but if you don’t get your hand back on that tiller, you are going to find your house covered in quilt squares with LED lights blinking in Morse code and sending signals to the HAM radio repeater attached to the International Space Station.

It’s time to get organized.

First things first: The Books.
I got these baskets from Walmart, and I put all the workbooks and notebooks in these baskets. Every morning the kids can get their basket, and all their books and notebooks that they need are in their basket. Their basket also has a loading dock on the desk, so they know where their basket belongs at the end of the day.

It certainly isn’t perfect…but it is so much better than losing books every single morning. This system has worked fantastically for 6 months, which is fantastic.

This is the cabinet for reading books, binders, history books, science books and some extra supplies like construction paper.


We also have a basket for pencils, scissors, tape, glue, index cards, markers…

And the bookshelf underneath for reading books…mostly for the younger kids. The older kids have their reading books either in their baskets, or next to their beds.


Art supplies also have their own baskets. I put projects in there, like paint, brushes, felt, kits, etc.img_4250


Now, I am a creature who needs balance. I need a little bit of new world tech to pair with my old school binder system. Technology isn’t magic, it’s a tool, and I use it like a tool.

Right now, I am logging all the kids’ attendance and daily studies in a binder. I am writing out every day’s work by hand, for every subject. I started this last summer, and it has worked out great so far.

Here is what my Subject Breakdown sheet looks like:

screen-shot-2016-12-30-at-9-48-57-amdownload it here

So, I have one of these pages for every subject for every kid.

I also have Yearly Goals:screen-shot-2016-12-30-at-10-00-46-am

download it here

And I keep a monthly calendar in the binder, just to log field trips or extra stuff we’ve done during the month:


download it here

On the plus side, I have a detailed account of everything we are learning on every day for every student in every subject.

On the down side, this is 30 pages of writing every day…and that adds up like molasses. I like this system, but it isn’t practical for 5 kids.

So I’ve been looking for some sort of online organizational package that will take care of everything I have been doing already, but one that will save me time at the end of the day.

And I found this: Homeschool Planet


Every kid gets a page listing what they need to do every day, at what time…and since it’s online, I can put links on their lesson plans to direct them to their computer work!


Homeschool Planet takes care of attendance, logging daily work, I can create lesson plans for every subject for every kid, and I have a meal planning section incorporated into our calendar, as well as some other neat widgets like the weather app.

This is everything I have been doing already, and I don’t have to spend hours upon hours doing it!!

Plus, at the end of the month you can print out the logs. Because they understand that we ultimately need to put it in a binder and file it away in our records.

This is a great time to reorganize your homeschool room and start the year off on a good foot!



Homeschooling Mid-Year Planning: How You Doin?

The week in between Christmas and New Year is the time to refocus.

What have we been doing in school so far? How has it been working out? Are we getting things finished…do we like the things we’re finishing? How about organization, is that working out like a well-oiled machine, or can there be some refining done?

The beautiful thing about homeschooling is the opportunities for both flexibility and growth.

I have a slew of posts lined up already to review what we’re doing over here, as well as what we have planned for the year!

Stay tuned! Steal some ideas 😉




A Mother’s Christmas Blessing



My child, is the child laughing.

She is the girl in the middle of the Christmas pageant

who rejoices with the Spirit;

her smile is as wide as the river Jordan,

and her heart brims with the love from my soul.


My child, is the child waiting.

He is my son who holds his brother’s hand

during bedtime prayer, and keeps monsters and the darkness

at bay, when small pieces of fear creep under their door;

his eyes swim with the wisdom of his father.


My children, are the children who yearn;

for Christmas morning on their mother’s lap,

in their father’s arms,

in a home that was built for them.


After the last presents are wrapped,

the dinner for tomorrow is arranged,

the last line of the pageant has been spoken,

and there is nothing left in the evening to finish…

A mother’s Christmas blessing rests on the home.

Here We Come A-Wassailing

Wassail Spice

Here we come a-wassailing
[ … ] Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you a Happy New

Traditions are so precious for our homes during the Christmas season.

They remind us of how our grandparents served green bean casserole, and guide us in how we light candles for those who came before us.

When families bring the traditions of their parents into their homes, they are not concerned about worshiping the past, but rather see the preservation of the future.

I love listening to the endless varieties of traditions which make up American culture.

From the celebration of Advent, to bringing in mistletoe and the endless array of feasting each family brings from their heritage.

I have many friends from many different countries, and I have noticed that we all do one thing similarly:

No, not the tree!
There is one drink we all have, and yet it is called by different names.
For some it is Russian Tea, but for most of us it is called Wassail.

Yet, Wassail is made differently in every house, despite the common name!
So, what is it?? Where did it come from?? Why do we all know the smell of Wassail in the kitchen, but we don’t know who came up with this idea? Is it a new idea, or has this been around for ages??

Anglo-Saxon tradition dictated that at the beginning of each year, the lord of the manor would greet the assembled multitude with the toast waes hael, meaning “be well” or “be in good health”, to which his followers would reply drink hael, or “drink well”, and so the New Year celebrations would start with a glass or two, or perhaps even a drop more! […]

Depending upon the area of the country where you lived, the wassail drink itself would generally consist of a warmed ale, wine or cider, blended with spices, honey and perhaps an egg or two, all served in one huge bowl and passed from one person to the next with the traditional “wassail” greeting.

This is very different from the spiced apple cider tea I would ladle out of my mother’s crock pot!

The tradition I know is sitting in someone’s front room with a mug of Wassail and waiting until it wasn’t lava-hot so you could finally drink it. This is a far cry from the original tradition of wandering the streets with a bucket of Wassail and singing on doorsteps!

With this in mind, how else can we incorporate the different Wassail tradition into our homes this holiday season?

Christmas Cookies

Jelly Cookies

Empty?! You took all the cookies!”
“They were crying to get out of the jar… Cookies get claustrophobia too, you know!
― Charles M. Schulz

There aren’t many things that make my heart sing more than creating.

But Christmas cookies might be up there.

There is something delightfully innocent and wonderful about Christmas cookies. Something that harkens back to a time in childhood when you made cookies with your Aunt before bedtime, or opened a fresh box of lightly dusted jelly cookies your neighbor would bring every year.

Cookies are definitely the food without borders, and every country has its own word for “cookie.” Instead of cookies, they are called biscuits in England and Australia. Spain calls their cookies galletas, and Germans named their daily cookies “keks” and “Plzchen” are their Christmas cookies. Italy has a few variations, such as amaretti or biscotti.

However, the American name cookie is from the Dutch word “koekje”, which actually means “little cake.” This is because bakers used to take a little bit of cake batter and test the temperature of their ovens, thus creating little cakes, or cookies!

But of all the cookies during this season, Thumbprint Jelly Cookies are absolutely my favorite.

Creation of the thumbprint cookie is around 19th century. […] It is [variously] credited to either the people of Poland, Sweden or the Jewish people of Eastern Europe.
SweetTooth Design Company

During the long, dark hours of winter we need bright colors to cheer us up.

Whether these colors come from stringed lights, or evergreen trees, or ornaments or a plate of arrayed jellied cookies…


Christmas Cookies are definitely part of the season!

Washington D.C. – Are You Ready For Some Smithsonian?


There was so much stuff to see in the Smithsonian museums, I don’t even know where to begin.

I’ll begin with Miss Piggy:“You have to be going to a pretty awful place if getting there is half the fun.”

I really couldn’t put it better. Because we arrived at a billion fun places.

Like Smithsonian American History Museum!

Okay, in all this jumble of pictures we have:

A statue of Washington that was commissioned in the 1800s, but once it was unveiled people were so offended that he didn’t have a shirt on that they refused to display it one second longer.

Statue of Columbia, who used to symbolize America until the Statue of Liberty took over.

Lots of 1st Ladies’ Dresses.

Abraham Lincoln’s top hat he wore when he was assasinated.

Tons of original lightbulbs, transformers, generators, engines and other stuff that Ben absolutely lost his mind over, and I got to hear the history of electricity and electrical endeavors until he was done.

The floor…apparently. Didn’t delete that one, and now it’s already in there.

The file cabinet from Watergate.

John Quincy Adam’s chess set.

Washington D.C., Day 2 – The Library. My Library. We OWNDZ This Library.

“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”

-Virginia Woolf


Who has a library card from the Library of Congress???


You know what you can do with a library card from the Library of Congress???


And go in, we did.


This place is enormous.

I mean, all the buildings in D.C. are enormous, but you just don’t know enormity. You experience enormity.

And then, we went in.

Ben and I have a foundation of reading together which have spanned over two decades. We have reading chairs in our home specifically dedicated to reading in front of the fire. Every room in our house has bookshelves, and the shelves near our desks are double stacked with books.

And we ain’t stopping. We just gettin’ started.

Needless to say, we were in heaven in this quiet hamlet, and we had no inclination to leave.

Wait, how ’bout we zoom in a little…

See that figure, leaning on her arm and sitting in the great, quiet Reading Room of the Library of Congress?

That is me.

Screen Shot 2016-12-10 at 8.06.09 PM.pngI am reading.

In the Reading Room.

I cannot tell you the joy I felt sitting there. It may be something small to others, but to me it was something very special.

Women have had a…complicated…relationship with Libraries.

The relationship has not always been cold or closed to women, but it has also not been as open and easy as it was for me this week.

Particularly in University libraries: “In 1967, Lamont Library (in Harvard) allowed women access.”

This happened when my parents were growing up, after Harvard first opened its doors in 1636. Well over 300 years had passed before the regal university could stomach the idea of women in their libraries.

Progress has been made even this year, as Dr. Carla Hayden (link!) was just sworn in as not only the first African American Librarian of Congress, but the first woman in this seat in the history of our nation!

Screen Shot 2016-12-12 at 1.15.24 PM.png

Link to video!

I mean, how can you not be swathed with exhilaration at this news?!

Besides this heavy moment, we also got to wander in the Jefferson wing, which was equally as amazing. They had all my favorite books on display, to boot!

…how did they know??

Plus they have the Gutenberg Bible, and I got to take a peek into the original office of the Head Librarian…so jealous of this office. 

Most of all, though, was when we got to go through Jefferson’s Personal Library. Like, the actual books Jefferson brought into his home to study. 

Are you kidding me.

Which was humbling…and delightful. I loved seeing the patterns in the books. He has the same patterns that Ben has with studies, from my eyes. Ben has seasons of study, where he will spend months (sometimes years) going through one subject until he knows it backwards and forwards. From philosophies, to theologies, to literature, to business, to poetry…he is a diverse man with incredible tastes.

But all in all, the majority of the books he has are on systems and systems’ management.

Jefferson had the exact same pattern: Lots of books from one trunk of study, but interspersed with seasons of branches, building a solid tree of knowledge.

(See what I did there)

I was surprised how much Opera was in his library…that was interesting to see.


We definitely went to the Library a few times.

I told Ben he could just leave me there and go home to fetch the kids…so we could all just live there forever.

He said no 😦