Category: Everyday Life

How I Plan: Part 2

You’ve just sat down with all of your exciting curriculum, sticky notes, crisp new planner, pretty pens… when you have a terrifying realization.

You have a lot of things we want to cover in a year, but when you write it out every day… well, you might need to skip meals and sleep to get it all done!

That is where looping comes in to save the day!

What is looping?

Looping is where you take subjects that you don’t need to cover every day, and put it on a cycle. I actually have a few loops. For example, I have a “weekly” loop which includes things like composer study, art study and a few other parts of our curriculum that I don’t need to do every day, but want to hit ‘roughly’ every week. I make a list of those items. Here is how I would set that up:

1. Pull out the core material you need to cover daily. Things like foreign language, math, reading. And put those on your daily plan.

2. Now, set aside a time in your daily schedule for LOOP

3. When you get to “LOOP”, start at the top of your LOOP list and get through whatever you can on that list during the time you set aside for LOOP. When time it up, stop.

4. The next time LOOP comes up on your daily schedule? Simply pick up on your LOOP list where you left off! When you hit the bottom of the list “loop” back around to the top item on the list and keep going! Have more than one loop? Loop your loops – weekly loop, stem loop, arts loop, weekly loop, stem loop, arts loop… you get the picture!

Pam Barnhill does a fantastic job of explaining it all here:

Real Life Example

We use AmblesideOnline for our curriculum. They provide these amazing, editable, schedules for the year, like this one for Year 1. I use this as my starting point and my “Master Sheet”.

Then I begin the work of planning out my weeks into my planner.

First I need to decide what will happen daily:

  • Bible/Hymn/Folk Song
  • Literature, History and Tales
  • Poetry
  • Math
  • Handwriting/Copywork
  • Phonics/Reading
  • Foreign Language
  • Recitation

That leaves everything else up for looping! Last year I only had one loop – we were just introducing formal learning and it was very low key. This year continues to be low key, but we are beginning at add more topics into our schedule. If I put it all into one loop, it would make for an extremely large loop which means I might hit some of those topics only once a month. I want to make sure I’m hitting them more this year, so I’m creating multiple smaller loops.

WEEKLY: Nature study, timeline, recitation, geography, picture study, drawing, handicrafts, composer study

STEAM: BitsBox, Engineering Kit, Lego Challenge, Science Experiment, Cooking, Gameschool, Art Class

SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL: Big Life Journal Podcast, Big Life Journal Activities, Social Detective Curriculum, Calming Practice

We have co-ops on Monday and Wednesday, so we only do daily work on those days. But here is what my plan for Tuesday, Thursday and Friday would look like…

Bible/Hymn/Folk Song
Lit/History/ Tales
Foreign Language
Loop: Weekly
Bible/Hymn/Folk Song
Lit/History/ Tales
Loop: S/E
Foreign Language
Loop: Weekly
Bible/Hymn/Folk Song
Lit/History/ Tales
Loop: S/E
Foreign Language
Loop: Weekly

Keep in mind this will all take less than 3 hours to complete – we stick with short lessons while working on focused attention. And we alternate types of work so we don’t fatigue the kids’ focus and attention – so the order may change based on how we are feeling that day and what task may have been more difficult than expected. Don’t be afraid to change the schedule until you find what works!

Double Check Your Work

We can go to some big extremes with our schedules.

Are we trying to make it look just like Suzie’s from church?

Are we trying to cover too much in one day?

Are we stressing ourselves, and our kids, out?

Are we using our schedule and curriculum to bless our home and children?

Are we using our schedule to prove ourselves to others?

A great way to double check your work:

❤ Tara

How I Plan: Part 1

I am often asked how I schedule out our homeschool year. I truly think everyone’s schedule is their own and should reflect their own thinking preferences, the types of learners their children are and what philosophy they follow with homeschooling. That being said, I do think seeing how other’s schedule can help us find our own way of doing things.

I come at my scheduling from a unique perspective and a strong sense of who I am as a person and mother:

  • I am a Speech-Language Pathologist who specializes in Executive Functioning. So I utilize many of the tips and tricks I teach my clients.
  • I am an energizer bunny much of the time – so I need a system that won’t eat time I’d rather be spending elsewhere. Because I know myself and I won’t see it through until the end if it does.
  • I am spontaneous – friends are going to the zoo today? We can learn a lot at the zoo, so let’s go! My schedule needs to be as flexible as I am to sudden changes in our plans and routine

Knowing all of this about myself, I’m going to do a few posts on how I schedule our school year, our days, our curriculum and more.

My Planner

I use this book every year. I fell in love with it when I worked in a clinic and was excited to use it again when I began homeschooling my kids. It’s *extremely costly* [insert sarcasm here] at $8. But, you can actually get it for free, every year. Yep, free! Sign up as an educator with Lakeshore Learning and, at the beginning of every school year, they send an ad with a coupon for this planner. It is free with a minimum purchase amount, which I never have a problem hitting. Stickers, posters, paint and glue get stocked up for the year and I nab my free planner! Click here to order the planner online.

Now let’s take a peek at why I like it and some of the other tools I use in planning my year…

The front of the planner is full of reproducible awards, student information, etc. I don’t really use any of that, so I just paper clip them together. That means I flip open to this page when I open my planner.

This page is one of my favorites, because it is my Year At A Glance. Here I lay out everything that switches each month and term. I make note of our our hymns, folk songs, composer and art studies, read alouds and audiobooks for those months. I like seeing the overall plan for the year. I also love this so I can peek ahead and make sure to request the books I need from the library in advance!

Next I collect my sticky notes. Now, I have a huge addiction to the sticky note. As in, drawers full all over my house. I have loved them since college. But these sticky notes are specifically for my planner because of their size (2″x2″) and the variety of colors. These are the ones I have purchased:

Why a variety of colors? Because I color coordinate them to the 7 categories I break our work down into… “Lemon” for literature, “Lime” for loops, “Magenta” for math. It’s how my brain works!

Now for the actually planning pages! I love the “freedom with structure” that each page provides. On the left side I write any co-ops, field trips or special activities we did within the day of the week box.

Across the top I break up the material and topics we cover into 7 categories – remember those 7 colors of sticky notes? The boxes are 2″ x 2″ – so my sticky notes fit PERFECT!

I write out what we need to cover each day on color coordinated sticky notes and place them in the appropriate boxes in the corresponding column. This helps me make sure certain days aren’t too overloaded and that I can fit it all in around co-ops and other outside trips and commitments. I can see it all at a glance!

Tip: I follow (loosely) Sonya Schafer’s Homeschooling Hack for laying out our days.

Side note: I have also seen families who give each member of the family a column, then all the colors of notes go in that person’s column. Again, “freedom with structure”!

Why Sticky Notes?

Plain and simple? Plans change. Opportunities arise. Bad days happen. And homeschooling gives us the freedom to seize opportunities. To respect each other’s needs. To take breaks.

Did Wednesday not happen? Pick up those sticky notes and move them to another day. Rearrange, stack a day a little heavier, or even do school on Saturday instead. With sticky notes, nothing is written in stone.. or pen. When I write something in a spot and it doesn’t happen? I feel ‘behind’. But behind who? This is our journey. Our story. Our life. We aren’t behind anyone. We are right where we need to be today.

So pick up that sticky note and move it to tomorrow. And know that baking with a sad little girl, or hiking with your disregulated young man, is exactly what school needed to look like today. The curriculum book will be waiting for you tomorrow.

And when we do accomplish that sticky note? I keep a tape runner [affiliate link] in my case and I glue the bottom part of the sticky note down. Then it won’t fall off and I don’t have to rewrite anything! Remember what I said about it not taking up my time?

Keep It Together

One last recommendation for you all. Keep your planner, and any tools you use, together. I love this Yoobi Document Organizer I picked up at Walmart .

It’s a zipper case that fits my planner perfect. It also has zipper pockets for my color coded sticky notes, slip in pockets for my pencils/pens/tape runners, and a handle for carrying it! It’s quite frustrating to not have everything you need when you have time to work on it – so keep it together in one spot!

I hope this helped give you an idea of just one way to plan out your year! Here are some links to other ways people plan out their year:

Coming up soon I will post about daily schedules and our loops!

❤ Tara

Birds: Week Three

I’m writing out ahead of time what our plan is for the week and then I will be posting photos, here and on my Instagram, as we progress! This week we will be learning about the birds we could see in our backyard – so feel free to swap these out with the birds for your area. I found our list simply by searching “Colorado Most Common Birds” and found this page.

** Reminder: We will still be doing our core subjects (math, writing, reading) and then filling the rest of our time exploring this topic.

All Week

Hawk, Eagle & Owl

❤ Tara

Birds: Week Two

Unit Study: Birds - Week Two |

I’m writing out ahead of time what our plan is for the week and then I will be posting photos, here and on my Instagram, as we progress! Week one was so much fun and we can’t wait to get into learning all about the parts of a bird!

Supply list here.

** Reminder: We will still be doing our core subjects (math, writing, reading) and then filling the rest of our time exploring this topic.

All Week

❤ Tara

Birds: Week One Day Two & Three


Tuesday started with Storytime with the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. It was a nice slow start to the morning at the kitchen table!

That was followed up with an Outschool class Pip signed up for with one of his co-op friends. We are really liking this teacher and her classes. She’s great with classroom management, engaging the kids, and always ends with a fun experiment. Last week they took one on Elements, Components and Mixtures then finished up with making slime. Today it was on Liquids, Solids and Gasses and they ended with making ooblek! It’s now become tradition that once the class finished, Pip and his friend call each other back on Zoom, invite the younger siblings in and they all play with the experiments together. Today was not different and ooblek was everywhere! Messes always mean a great time happened.


We spent almost our whole day out at a local lake that has a variety of birds. We hiked, watched, researched names of birds we saw, drew in our nature journals, pulled out the binoculars a LOT… we were out there for three hours!

Pip’s favorite bird at the lake is still a mystery to him – he hasn’t figured out it’s name yet. Stay tuned!

Liv loved the Red Winged Blackbirds

I personally was a fan of the pelicans and blue herons all over the west side of the lake! And the cute goslings – of course.


We hopped on the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies webinar this morning all on backyard birding. Liv lost interest fast, but Pip was all in! We learned that we may have more luck with our bird bath if we move it, two new types of food and feeders to try , and even ordered the two new feeders for the backyard!

After listening to the guest speaker, Pip really wants to try putting out shelled peanuts and fruit. So we purchased a Peanut Wreath Feeder and a Suet Basket. In the spring and summer we can put fresh fruit in the Suet Basket, and in the winter we can put suet cakes!

We spent some time doing the Robin Egg Math after little sis went down for rest time. It’s so fun to see Pip getting quicker and confident with his math facts! We also plated some Zeus on the Loose for more math practice today and let the math books on the cart.

We had some time remaining before a Zoom class, so we pulled up a few bird feeder cams and watched birds all over. The most active was this one in New York. But we also had fun seeing the bright birds at this one in Panama. We left the Panama Bird Feeder Cam up while we hopped onto a free Zoom class all about Owl Pellets. It was really wonderfully done (in both English and Spanish!) and we are excited to try out our own here during Week Three. Our pellets just came in the mail yesterday!

Even more rearranging of our Bird Shelf happened after this photo, the kids are utilizing it a ton. Before I was downstairs the other day, Pip had already been figuring out the Life Cycle of a Robin. I love having key materials so readily available for them. It gives them a lot of independence in exploring the Unit Study!

❤ Tara

Birds: Week One, Day One

Today was our official kick off of the Birds Unit Study, and also just happens to be our Zoom Co-Op day. It was a fun kick off with everyone on camera and making nests!

We read Nest by Jorey Hurley, The Nest by Constantine Georgiou and Mama Built a Little Nest, Jennifer Ward together while making nests from materials we had at home. Pip really listened to HOW birds build nests and included things like “cushion” and even “spider webs”. I love watching how his brain works! We also listened to a bit of this month’s Classical Music Playlist while creating together.

A few friends stayed after the goodbye song and we did some excellent sensory play – with cooked spaghetti! We tried to make Spaghetti Birds Nests from it, weave with it and overall just ran our fingers through it. Liv spent most of her time smelling it, she’s seriously my olfactory kid. After a bit the homeschool mamas got curious what else we could do and went hunting on Pinterest for some more ideas…

Do a few drops of oil (olive or vegetable) and a few drops of food coloring on cooked pasta then squish around in a ziplock baggie. Let it sit open and dry out for 15 minutes (ours dried out for about 5 hours!) then rinse it off. It makes some really vibrant colors! It is all in our fridge now for more play tomorrow. We may add some scissors in for cutting practice before we throw it away.

Outside we had some fun too. The kids and I have been reading about how to attract birds to our feeders and heard a bird bath is a selling point! I had to make due with what I could find at WalMart yesterday, but I’m pretty happy with our end result! Now let’s see if it works.

After dinner, Pip and I started the Woven Bowls activity and talked about what we learned about today. Did you know many birds weave their nests using spider webs? I had to make Pip stop and get ready for bed, but he can’t wait to continue tomorrow (his is the green).

I’ve been busy prepping our Bird Shelf for the upcoming days. We’ve already reference The Big Book of Birds quite a few times today, I’m so happy with our purchase. And the Sibley Backyard Birding Flashcards are such an excellent resource! The kids reference them every day, learning to identify the visitors to our yard. Liv looked out on the deck today and announced “Oh look! Another House Finch!” I’ve also been busy laminating resources for the upcoming days including the Life Cycle of a Robin.

If you haven’t discovered magnetic tape yet, well today is your lucky day! The red strip behind/above the Bird Shelf is a magnetic strip. We also use our fridge for a lot of resource too. So magnetic tape is a quick and easy way for me to put up our resources and for the kids to explore them, put them in order, play with them and then quickly ‘”put them away” when done. Today I used it on the Life Cycle of a Robin so they kids can put them in order on the magnetic strip when exploring our resources on the shelf.

We’ve continued to journal birds and keep a count (practicing tally marks) of the birds we see each day. House Finches are in the lead, but a trip to our local lake in a few days may skew those results some!

We didn’t get to everything today, which is fine. I didn’t expect to – I made the Week One list as more of a “menu”. For example, we didn’t get to Robin’s Nest Addition today because I’m still cutting out ALL THOSE DANG EGGS. But it should be out on the shelf tomorrow. Maybe. We’ll see. We hope to watch some of the Nest Cams and start learning our folk song tomorrow.

Who knows what the day will bring. But that is what is great about homeschooling – we get to go at our own pace, spend a longer time on things that interest, and skip things that are bombing.

Thanks for following along with us!

❤ Tara

Habit Forming

Something we focus on in our home are habits. We intentionally address a single habit and work together to form them in ourselves, each other and within our family as a whole. It is an important part of our family culture. I wanted to take a moment explaining how we do this, then discuss what we are working on as a family.

One at a Time

We don’t try to tackle everything at once. It is distracting and impossible. We pick one we will all work together one. We discuss the why, how, when, where and why with the kids and get everyone focused together.

Joyful & Encouraging

We try hard to be positive and excited about developing these habits. We are giving our kids (and ourselves) a priceless treasure by helping each other develop good habits that will serve us well the rest of our lives. This is NOT through punishment. We are developing discipline, but there are no punishments. Just consistent direction and diligence in dealing with it every single time.

The First Time

Through the development of habits we are consistently working on “the first time every time”. Which means through all this habit development we are simultaneously working on listening the first time someone asks us. We are far from perfect on this, but holding this expectation is developing wonderful things in the kids. I often will offer them the reminder “I am only going to say this once, so are you ready?” There are times where they miss my direction and I won’t repeat it, and the feeling of missing out often reminds them to listen more closely next time.

Excited Inspiration

We are excited to inspire and encourage these good habits and we delight in them as they make everyone’s life easier in the end. The process is bringing us to a wonderful reward and that should be inspiring and exciting in and of itself. So we are excited for the wins. We hope to inspire our children by modeling the very habits we want them to develop with intentional actions and words.

Mama Habits

All of this is developing me as a person and mother. I can’t be distracted or too busy, or I am missing the moments for habit development. It takes a lot of work in the beginning of a new habit. But when they become strong, it makes life for all of us so much easier. Now I simple have to say “Good habits…” for the kids to double check themselves and immediately correct course. The fruits of this labor will set them up for life – it isn’t a sprint. It is a marathon.


There is no beautifier of complexion, or form, or behavior, like the wish to scatter joy and not pain around us ‘Tis good to give a stranger a meal, or a night’s lodging. ‘Tis better to be hospitable to his good meaning and thought, and give courage to a companion. We must be as courteous to a man as we are to a picture, which we are willing to give the advantage of a good light.

Ralph Waldo

This month we will be focusing on kindness. Think of a time when someone showed you kindness and the feeling is wonderful. Being homeschoolers, our children are used to spending all day every day together. Which means when we all show each other kindness, our days go well.

Kindness is multifaceted, there are so many moving pieces. Referencing one of my favorite habit development books, there are some key parts of kindness we will all be working on together:

  • Think the best of other people
  • Not assume others will mock our kindness
  • Defend others’ character, even in their absence
  • Respond kindly to your brother/sister, always
  • We hold others’ happiness in our hands
  • Kindness always trumps selfishness

Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.

Mother Teresa

Some More Information

What habit will you be working on this month?

❤ Tara

Birds: Week One

Unit Study: Birds Week One |

I’m writing out ahead of time what our plan is for the week and then I will be posting photos, here and on my Instagram, as we progress! We are excited and prepped for our week and can’t wait to dive in.

** Reminder: We will still be doing our core subjects (math, writing, reading) and then filling the rest of our time exploring this topic.

A printable supply list for all the crafts can be found here.

All Week


Bird Food

❤ Tara

Birds: Verse

Unit Study: Birds | Memory Verse
Unit Study: Birds - Memory Verse |

A part of our monthly plan is learning a bible verse. We often use the Simply Charlotte Mason system for memorization. But we do deviate where appropriate. A Unit Study will sometimes deviate us. This Unit Study has provided so many verses to choose from, but our hymn actually helps. I love connecting as many pieces of our unit as possible, so why not use the very verse our hymn was based on?

Memory Verse

30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Matthew 10:30-31

Download 3×5 printable verse cards here.

❤ Tara

Birds: Hymn

Each month we learn a new hymn. We listen to it for the whole month, talk about the verses regularly and hopefully have it memorized by the end of the month! We often play it in the car as we drive places during the day, or over our Google Home when we are around the house. I typically follow AmblesideOnline for our music selections. But with this month being a unit study for us, I went in search of a hymn that was fitting.

There are a plethora of hymns related to birds. Some very well known, and others more obscure. I wanted on the kids would recognize throughout their life, so I went with common.

His Eye Is On The Sparrow

The Story

Written by Civilla Martin in 1904 when visiting an ill bed-ridden friend. That friend held onto Matthew 10:29-31 during her illness. It inspired Civilla, a poet and wife of an evangelist, and by the end of the day the poem was completed. It was then sent off to the well known composer of the day, Charles Gabriel. And the rest is history!


Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,
And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

❤ Tara