How We Organize Our Homeschool Life

I am not by nature an organized person.  Over the years I have searched the internet for help on how to organize my homeschool life and what I have found is this:  what works for many others just simply does not work for me.

We have a small home and we don't have lots of space for shelves or for those handy little craft storage towers things that seem to be so popular.  We don't have space for a designated "school" spot and often have to use our kitchen table.  So my first tip is for the kitchen table homeschoolers.

1)  Simply put a basket or cute dollar store box on top of your table.  All pens, crayons, scissor, glue and paper bits can be quickly tossed into the basket when it is time to eat and is then near and handy after dinner is over and your little crafters want to get back to work.

2)  My next organizing life saver is for the library books.  As homeschoolers and avid book lovers we need to be sure the library books don't get lost in the sea of our own books.  We avoid library fees and lost books by keeping all library books in a tote bag.  I have the librarian print a list of all our books we are checking out and I tuck that into an inner pocket within the tote, along with a highlighter.  When it is time to return the books I go down my list, highlighting as each book is confirmed in the bag. 

3)  We homeschoolers tend to do a lot of printing.  In our home that means all these fun printable packs you can find, story props, and math games we get from scholastic books.  I keep all the pieces together with baggies (craft bags and/or ziplock), and I then paper clip it to the instruction sheet or game board and file it into my hanging folder drawer of my desk.

4)  I have tried many ways of organizing my thoughts/plans and our activities.  I've tried printing out ready made plans and adding or scratching things to adjust.  I've tried paper planners custom made for homeschool.  I've tried no plans.  I've tried online planning and tracking.  Online planning is nice in a way, as it is fast and accessible wherever my phone is (which is wherever I am).  However, my phone is also a distraction and I also find I just retain information better if I write it and then have it in front of me. 

I am a visual person.  I need to see it and I need to see it often.  I want it to be clean and pretty and vibrant.  So what works for me the best?  Over my 6 years of homeschooling what I personally like best is the Erin Condren Planner.

I have been using it every day this school year - which reminds me of one of my favorite features.  The Erin Condren School Planner can be started and ended any month you want, which is just brilliant compared to struggling with a standard yearly planner.  I have mine set to the traditional school year, starting in August 2015 and ending June 2016.

It is pricey, but for me it is what I love and what works.  Colorful, sturdy, customizable, versatile.  I can easily flip from my month calendar to the weekly lesson plan, where I write things as we complete them. 

 What are some ways you organize your own homeschool life?

Be sure to visit The Canadian Homeschooler to read more on organizing!

Our Favorite Educational iOS apps

In our home the kids do not get a lot of electronic time, and of course this includes the iPads.  When they are given a few minutes I like to have them play good quality learning type apps.

Over the course of about 4 years we have collected many great apps, and many nonsense ones that get deleted quick after I see how saturated it is with ads, or how poor of a game it is.  These ones listed below (in no particular order) have stood the test of time and have yet to disappoint me.

Park Math HD - by Duck Duck Moose.

Park Math has three levels of difficultly, for early math.

It teaches counting, patterning, addition, subtraction, sorting, and more with 7 different games.

My 3 year old particularly loves feeding hippo.

Currently $2.99 CAN

ABC Go - Peapod Labs LLC;(food, transportation, music)

This is currently my 3 year olds most favorite app.  ABC Go is all things transportation, so he learns some common things like F is for Firetruck.  But there's also some less known (to us) like G is for Gondola.  (It also has Garbage Truck). 

There's pictures, videos and interactive screens.  Peapod Labs also has so many other awesome ABC apps, such as music, and food.

Currently $3.49 CAN

I Hear Ewe - Animal Sounds for Toddlers - Claireware Software

This app was a clear fave when each of my kids were 2.  With this app the child touches a picture and the picture enlarges and makes the sound.

It has many sections such as animals, insects and transportation.

Currently free in the app store.

Endless Reader - Originator Inc.

This is a free app with in app purchases.  Usually I avoid the "in app cost" type games, but for this one I made an exception.  This is a hilarious little game with mischievous funny little (non-scary) monsters that mix up words.  Your preschooler then grabs the monster letter and puts it back in it's spot while the little monster chants his letter sound.  So fun!!  Always many giggles with this one.

We also love Endless Numbers - Originator Inc..

The Human Body by Tinybop - Tinybop Inc.

This. app. is. amazing

Your child explores an interactive model of the human body.  I really just don't know where to begin to explain this gem of an app.

You can explore some things up close, like eyes, heart, lungs, etc.  Or you can explore systems such as skeletal, respiratory, etc.

Currently $4.59 CAN (and worth every penny)

To see what apps other homeschoolers are using in the school, click the banner below:

Our favourite Apps for Homeschooling iOS and Android

Spiritually Strong {a book review}

Title:  Spiritually Strong:  The Ultimate 6-Week Guide to Building Your Body and Soul
Author:  Kristen Feola

ISBN:  978-0310339090
Price:  15.99 (USD)
Publisher:  Zondervan
Publication Date:  January 6, 2015
Pages:  208

In this book author, Kristen Feola, guides her readers on a 6 week journey on how to exercise your mind to become more spiritually strong, as well as a few key exercises to tone your body.

Feola worked as a fitness instructor and personal trainer for a number of years and as such writes her book, Spiritually Strong, with fitness metaphors to guide you to being more spiritual.  The book is divided into 3 parts, Core, Exercises, and Program.

Part 1 talks of the core and that just as your body's physical core holds you up and carries your weight, your spiritual core "muscles" do the same.

Part 2 talks of specific exercises that strengthen the spirit such as study, prayer, fasting, etc.

In the 3rd section Feola writes a program modeled after the way an athlete would train for an event such as a marathon, with a warm up, exercise, and cool down, with bonus challenges.  For "warm up", you are given a passage to read from the bible.  "Exercises" are given in the form of questions and things to do like copy a verse or highlight a section of your bible.  For your "cool down" you are guided in a short prayer, which is followed by "challenges" which focus on your body with a short exercise and/or food focus.

This would be a nice guide for
  • beginners in faith
  • ones that need help to find their footing in their spiritual walk
  • people who want to combine fitness with spiritual growth
  • believers who want help with both their body and their mind
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

Lately, in our life

I haven't been posting weekly school recaps like I had been last year, with FIAR (Five in a Row).  This year we have been struggling to find our groove with the youngest addition officially joining us in homeschool. 

Now that half of our school year is complete I think we are finally in a comfortable routine and have been soaring through some things. 

We still visit FIAR every so often, but mostly are doing our own unit studies with Canadian themed books until the kids have a good grasp of their country.

Emma has been doing so very well with her work that I decided it was time to bump her up a grade.  She's taught herself to read - which is just amazing.  I didn't want to rush her through her kinder year, but I started to feel like I was holding her back as well. 

Sammy, who is just barely 3, is favoring the kitchen as his most favorite place to learn.  We often are cooking and baking together and he is quickly learning to count and measure.   It is just such a blessing to be able to cater to each child's way of learning. 

Connor is still a very hands on learner.  He has a need to build and draw and act things out.  He also love to read non-fiction books which makes science such a breeze to "teach" with him.  (as really I don't need to teach, he's taken the reins on that area).

Anyways, that's just a quick update on a small part of our life lately.


Mom's Top 4 Favorite Book

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive 4% if you make a purchase using these links.

I often talk of kid books here.  Children's books have long been my passion and is a collection I started to build long before I had any child of my own. 

What I don't talk of often are my own favorites.

In no particular order, I'd like to share a few of my most recent favorites:

Cooking Light Snacktastic! was an impulse buy one night as I grocery shopped and found myself lured into the little book section.  It was on sale and I love sales almost as much as I love my snacks.  Win win! 

This book is categorized into handy little "munchy" type sections such as creamy, crunchy, sweet, and savory - so no matter what kind of snack you're craving, you can easily find something to suit your needs.

I found this easy to use, easy to make, and delish!  As a bonus there's color codes for pre/post workouts, dairy free, gluten free and more!

Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms, by Gloria Furman was another impulse buy one night after I was complaining that I felt I never had time for me, to grow and read and pray. 

I've read many a "Christian" book that left me less than satisfied before and this was not such a book.  It was a very good read then ended up with many highlights and many quotes sent off to my friends in excitement.  This is a true gem of a book for moms. 

Crossway books, such as this one, are usually good sound books that are true to Scripture.

Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay Clarkson is my single most favorite education book.  I bought this book not really knowing much about it or what to expect and it changed our whole school dynamic dramatically, for the better.

Will Medicine Stop the Pain and Overcoming Fear, Worry, And Anxiety: Becoming a Woman of Faith and Confidence, both by Elyse Fitzpatrick helped me overcome my own anxiety and panic attacks I was suffering early last year.  These books explain things in such a wonderful way and walk you through how to overcome and cope with your troubles.

I am so looking forward to everyone else's favorite books!  Check them all out here:

Our Must Read Books for 2016 {Dad & Mum's Book Stand}
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