Homeschool | Planning Our New Year

I received both product and compensation in exchange for this review, however, all expressed opinions are my own.

We are preparing for January and all that the New Year brings- fresh beginnings and the chance to change things up a bit.  With homeschooling, there is a sweet balance between structure and being flexible.  I gravitate towards the structured side of things, but being flexible is one of the best parts of homeschooling.  With that being said, my schedule must be easy to execute and clear.  When I have several different kiddos at varying levels, I have to be organized.

I wanted to share a well-developed product that helps when planning out daily, weekly, and monthly schedules.  I have done research and found so many different options, but this option feeds into my structured personality while still allowing for the more flexible side of homeschooling.  

Homeschool Planet is an online classroom planner that is so customizable.  I have been asked many times about how to plan for different ages and Homeschool Planet really streamlines the process.  I wanted to share a few features that make this online planner so lovely, so let's get to it!

+ Homeschool Planet's online planner creates simplicity and helps me to declutter.  I have a "thing" about not having a lot of paper/clutter and I love that the online planner keeps all of that to a minimum.  With all of the other papers that I keep for the kids' Narration Journals it's nice to not have to keep a paper planner, as well.

+ This planner allows you to include multiple kiddos on your schedule easily.  You can view each student's schedule and get a feel for how the day will flow.  Right now, Liam has a pretty easy routine, so this will be more beneficial for me in the future when he is requiring more of my time.  

+I love that the daily schedule can be printed off so that the kids can see what the day holds.  This is something that Isabella loves because she is a list maker and loves checking things off of her lists.  She can see what she has accomplished and what tasks are ahead.  It also keeps us on task and moving forward throughout the day.  When I am helping Liam, she can hop over to the next assignment and get started while I finish up with him.  It helps us stay efficient. 

+ The planner has other features, like a shopping list and To Do list, so that everything is organized and in one spot.  Life can be chaotic and I like to keep things simple.  This feature allows me to streamline everything- including my personal tasks!

+ Homeschool Planet is great for keeping records.  This is my first year of keeping official records for Isabella and it is so nice to have a planner that makes it easy to record grades, hours, and even create transcripts!  Not to mention that I can print all of the reports out to have for documentation.

With all that said, everyone's desires are different.  I love the feel of a paper planner and that I can easily flip from month to month, but I also love the ease and functionality of Homeschool Planet's online planner.  If you are in the market for a comprehensive planner connect with Homeschool Planet and see if it will be a good fit for your family.  

Find Homeschool Planet here:

Family | Christmas Time is Here

This past week has been so full and exciting.  We had two Christmas celebrations last weekend, an impromptu trip to Silver Dollar City this week, and lots of time in the kitchen with Christmas music going.  I normally say "no" to (pretty much) everything except family time during the Christmas season, but this year when Mark asked me about taking the kids to Silver Dollar City in amongst an already busy schedule, I said, "Yes," and didn't even hesitate.  We had the best time ever.  The kids rode tons of rides, we saw the most beautiful lights, and I even got to snuggle babies all night long since hotel rooms don't accommodate families of six.  It was exhausting and totally worth it!  We both left talking about how we wanted to make it a tradition for our family.  

Today, I am preparing for Christmas day as little ones pitter patter about and play with toys.  I have a few last minute gifts to wrap, groceries to gather, and Christmas Eve service to get us all dressed for.  We will all go to bed after opening our new jammies (a tradition my Nene started) with a special anticipation for the morning.  I'm sure the kids will rise before the sun and jump in our bed begging us to go open their stockings.  The morning will end with cinnamon rolls, eggs, and sausage as we prepare to head to grandma's house for the day.  

With that said, I wanted to hop on here and wish you all a very Merry Christmas.  I hope you find your home filled with warmth as you think upon the Babe in the manger.  Christmas has so many things to look forward to, but the Babe is where the joy is found.     


Home | Salt Dough Christmas Ornaments

As a mama, I want to start traditions with my kids.  I want special things that they can look forward to, but I know that I like to keep things simple and quick.  When Ella was just a toddler I made a gingerbread house by hand- everything aside from the candy was made by me.  It was so much work and I knew I wouldn't be able to keep up with that year after year, but these salt dough creations are so easy and a perfect activity to get us Christmas ready.

The ingredients are all things you would have in your house already- flour, salt, and water.  That was a bonus since I didn't have to run to the store to grab items that I would only use once a year.  I made the dough, the kids sipped hot cocoa, and then we got down to business.

Guinnyth needed a little help rolling the dough since she didn't have enough pressure, but honestly, she wanted to just play with it like play-doh, and I was fine with that.  The other kids went to town on the ornaments and knocked them out quick.  They loved being able to make a small mess and press the dough around.

We hung them on the tree for a little while, but eventually tied them on gifts.  I always like to do a handmade tag for gifts (you can see those here and here) and this was a great little embellishment to the presents under the tree.  The kids felt so proud when they spotted their tag under the tree and that was the icing on the cake for me.  
If you want to make these yourself, I will post the recipe below.  I doubled the batch simply because I knew the kids would have a blast and want to do a lot and also because we were using them on gifts.  If you only have two kids, one batch would probably be enough.

Salt Dough Recipe
1 cup Flour
1/4 cup Salt
1/2 cup Water
2-3 drops essential oil
 (we used peppermint and Christmas Spirit)

Mix flour and salt in a bowl.  Mix it well and make sure the salt is distributed throughout the flour.  Add the water slowly until the soft dough forms.  Don't get it too wet or it will be a gooey mess.  I then folded in a few drops of essential oil to add a little festive touch.  Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.  

Roll the dough on a floured surface.  Cut the dough into shapes, poke a hole for twine to go through, and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Bake in a 200-250 degree oven for 60 minutes.  Be sure to check the dough regularly to ensure they don't burn.  

Tie the ornaments with twine or ribbon and hang from the tree. Enjoy!

Homeschool | Narration Journal

I wrote about our daily school schedule in my last post and mentioned that I would outline how we complete our Narration/Illustration projects (Narration Journal).  This has really been the icing on our homeschool cake and such a perfect direction for my kiddos.  They love art and have such creative minds, so I am so glad that we decided to take our school philosophy in this direction.  I know my kids learn so much about history, science, art, and life during these projects and it is a gentle way to pique their interest in new subjects. 

Ella is the only child that I am formally working on a Narration Journal with.  Liam and Guinnyth are always right beside us with their paints, but I don't assist or instruct them during this time.  They stay busy while we work together for 15 minutes.    

Usually, there are three books that Ella reads during the school day.  I read one book as a read aloud to the older kids while the little girls nap and it allows us to have a great dialog without being interrupted.  For our narration/illustration lesson, Ella picks one of the books to illustrate.  With that book, she decides the "scene" she wants to draw and we sit and talk about how she will caption the picture based upon what she learned during the reading time.  So far, she has read, verbally narrated what she has read to me (so I can assess comprehension), and decided what she is going to draw in her illustration.  

Next, we sit together and talk about her illustration: what she is going to draw, the details that will need to be included in the picture, and how to create interest in the picture.  She begins to draw.  If she needs a bit of assistance, I will help out, but we discuss that the picture needs to be "hers" and that I can't be a crutch.  Her main struggle at this point is drawing scale.  She has a habit of making the pictures take up a small amount of the page, so we are working on creating an illustration that fills the page. This is usually all we do for the first day: read, narrate, draw.

Once that is put to paper, she decides what she wants to add color with- crayons, pencils, watercolor, oil pastels, etc.  Lately, she has been loving her watercolors.  She paints her background and works her way to the front of the picture.  It's amazing how watercolor allows you to do that!  It gets more and more beautiful as you add layers.  During this time, I teach her a short art lesson (mixing colors + how to not get a muddy color when you mix paints, how to use your brush to get a sharp line and thick line, how to lighten + darken colors, blending with a pencil, etc.) and I get a chance to learn right along side of her.  This is the end of our second day.  Sometimes, this part might take two days if we need to let the paint dry before adding another layer of dimension to the picture.

The last thing she does for her project is to write her narration on the picture.  She works on this all week long for her "writing practice" and by the end of the week she has a paragraph written perfectly.  By doing this, I get to have mini lessons on grammar, spelling, and colorful writing in an organic way.  It is so much better than sitting at a workbook page and trudging over it.  Once she copies it onto her picture the project is complete!

We typically do one of these projects per week and it has been such an enriching time for us.  We turn on music while she works on her writing and artwork.  The diffuser is usually diffusing an uplifting or seasonal scent and I have even been known to bake some cookies for this special time of our day.  

Brief Daily Project Schedule:
Day One: Read, Narrate verbally, Discuss + Draw picture
Day Two: Add color to picture + Work on written narration
Day Three: Finish color + Edit written narration
Day Four: Add written narration to finished picture

I hope that helped to clarify our process.  It really is easy to incorporate into a school day.  Once we figured out the best way for us to do this, it became such a natural addition to our work load.  Let me know if you have any specific questions.  You can email me at thequickjourney at yahoo dot com. :)

Homeschool | Finding our Rhythm



Here we are almost to Christmas and I'm way behind on our homeschool update.  I have received so many emails asking about our schedule and curriculum and, to be quite frank, I have been pretty lazy about blogging about it.  At the end of our last school year I knew I wanted to make some changes in the way we approach our schooling, but with our move and my nervousness to stray from the well-beaten path, I stuck with the same ol' routine when we started our year this past August.

Since then, I have felt more equipped to switch things up and so we have.  Prior to this year, we did quite a bit of workbook activity and not a lot of creative activity.  I have kids who love art and they love creative play/work, so I was wanting to ease our way into a more creative school atmosphere.

We are still keeping up with our workbooks, but I have incorporated art lessons into our reading time and it has completely changed the "feeling" of our homeschool environment.  I know it looks different for every homeschooling family, but this seems to be the rhythm that works for us in regards to our school time.  I will be sure to outline our narration/illustration rhythm in a later post, if you want. 

Lately, this seems to be the flow of our school day.  It is fairly rigid, but doesn't seem stiff and forced (is that even possible???).  I like to stay on task and keep our school moving along, so there isn't a lot of time-wasting that happens.  But, there is time for conversation and organic learning.

7 am: Breakfast + getting dressed + making beds
8 am: Kids go outside to burn energy + fresh air
8:30 am: School begins with morning workbooks
   8:45 am: Ella begins Spelling + Cursive + her first 30 min. reading time
Liam and I do his phonics + math work
9:45 am: Ella starts her Language pages + Copywork
Liam reads to me + math flashcards
10:15 am: We have snack and Liam & Guinnyth go play.
Julia plays in her crib for a bit.
Ella and I do her Math lesson and then she works 
on her workbook page independently.
10:45 am:  The kids take a quick break outside.
11:00 am: Ella starts her second 30 min. reading time
I play with the other 3 kids while Ella reads.
11:30 am: Ella narrates to me and decides on her project piece
 (This is usually on Monday.  I will outline this process later.)
11:45 am: Ella works on her Art/Illustration/Narration project while I get lunch prepared.
Noon: The kids eat lunch while I read our Bible passage of the day.  We have 
a rich discussion about the passage and then we watch a short video about science and Creation.
12:30 pm:  The little girls lay down for naps.
Liam plays quietly in his room and Ella reads a book for leisure.
2:00 pm: Liam and Ella listen as I read a living book for history.
We discuss what we read and I check for comprehension.
3:00 pm: The kids get 30 minutes of TV while I get supper going
 and then they go play outside.

That is a pretty good representation of our daily rhythm.  It doesn't seem forced, but rather very natural and there is room for flexibility.  If you are looking for more knowledge of homeschooling, you can check out my eBook!

Christmas | Tree Farm



It seems so nostalgic and festive- going out with a saw in hand to cut down your own tree. We tried it this year.  There was so much excitement and I had no idea how much went into putting up a real tree.  Ours is perfect for our little livingroom.  It looks like it's going to fall into the window and Mark checks it every day to see if it's leaning more than the day before, but it's perfect.

We came home from the tree farm and got it all set up, which seemed like a chapter from the Griswold's Christmas, and let the kids put on their ornaments.  I have mentioned making a popcorn garland to the kids, but I'm thinking I might have two little girls who will be too tempted by it to leave it alone.  Jury is still out on that one.  Perhaps a paper chain is a better option.

While at the tree farm I set up my camera on the tripod in hopes of capturing the perfect picture for our Christmas card.  I took around 20 pictures and they all looked lovely when I checked them (out at the farm in the sunlight), but when we got in the car and I could see them more clearly I noticed that NOT ONE was in focus.  Oiy!  We ended up standing in our back yard when we got home and snapping a few in-focus pictures, which will have to suffice for this year.  :)

Our December is calm and slow for us.  We have a few very special and anticipated gatherings schedule, but nothing too fancy or overwhelming.  There is always temptation to say, "Yes," to everything and fill the calendar to the brim, but then I'm left frazzled, tired, and not able to enjoy the bits and pieces of the season.  So, I choose to prioritize those things which enrich our lives and let go of those things which weigh us down.  It is such a blessed time of year!  

Style | Halloween

Here we are.  Another Halloween in the books.  This is, most likely, the last Halloween where I get to coordinate my girls, so it was super special.  Liam wanted to be a hunter, so whimsical, pink fawns were perfect for the girls.

I got my fawn inspiration from this blog and showed my mom, who made the costumes.  She is always amazing and makes the exact costume to match my vision.  I used non-toxic makeup for the fawn faces from Root and they turned out amazing.

I thought the Three Little Kittens and Combine from last year would be my favorite, but I think the Pink Fawns and Hunter have topped it.  I'm not sure if I will ever love a set of costumes as much as these.

Memories | Guinnyth's 3 Year Pictures

I have mentioned before that one way we cut costs is for me to take my kiddos' pictures.  There are certain things I have to be okay with when I do take my own pictures:

1. The pictures will not look like a professional photographer's pictures.  They just won't.  I have to be okay with them just looking "good" and not looking "wow!"
2. My equipment will show how outdated it is when I try to take pictures that I intend to be 'tack' sharp.  My pictures will have some flaw to them and the camera and lens won't be able to be as crisp as I'd like them to be, but that's okay on occasions like these.
3. My inexperience with editing will also show.  I have Lightroom and know how to use it... minimally.  There's only so much you can do with Lightroom, and with how little I utilize it, my knowledge is just "so-so".

Even with all of these factors in play, I continue to enjoy taking my kids' pictures.  This weekend, I took Guinnyth out to take pictures.  I only have certain times in the day to snap some shots and usually it is exactly when I should NOT be taking pictures- full sun!!!  I had a few places in mind that were shaded and I went with those.

Now, for the best part... my sweet Guinnyth.  She is such a bright light in our home and has so much spunk.  She has such an adorable smile and I can't believe she's 3!  Gee.... time can slow down anytime!

Home | Power of Paint

Ahhh... waking up to a clean slate is always so nice.  The sunlight pours in through our kitchen windows in the morning and it is glorious!  I mentioned in this post that I don't mind yellow in homes, I am just on a white kick and the walls needed to be painted anyway.  They were pretty dirty and my scrubbing wasn't cutting it, so paint not only created a calm, serene aesthetic, but it also helped make things a bit cleaner.  

This is our little breakfast area and we also do school here at the kitchen table.  The actual kitchen space got painted, as well, but we still need to do some updates, so I'll show you that later.  You can check out my pinterest board and see where I am going with the kitchen.  It shouldn't be too hard to figure it out. ;)