Friday, June 27, 2014

A Place for Everything Part 4: Disc Bound Student Planners

I just completed my 10th year of homeschooling. Yes, I count Pre-K. Last school year I took a leap of faith and started using Tapestry of Grace. For several years I had considered using TOG. Someday. But last year I decided to just go for it. I'm so glad I did! One of the things my local TOG friends showed me was a TOG student spiral bound book. They took the time to print all the student pages off during the summer and the child had his own book for the year.

I loved the idea.

And hated it.

Spiral books are so... final! I can't add to them through the year or move things around. I was intimidated enough by the idea of learning a new curriculum, let alone putting a year's worth of pages into a notebook! So I opted to use binders last year. And if you've read my previous posts you might remember that I dislike big, klunky binders. I wanted the spiral bound book, but I wanted the freedom to move things and add things as I saw the need. So I took my first year in TOG to just get my feet wet, get used to the set up, print pages as I needed them, and let it all slowly sink in. Now that I have that year under my belt I can see better how I want our 2nd year of TOG to work.

If you've read my previous blog post (A Place for Everything Part 3) you have seen my discbound planner for this school year. While investigating the discbound system it hit me, why not make the TOG notebooks with this same system?? Genius! And, it was a great justification for buying the special hole punch! Win-Win!

It did take me several hours and cartridges of ink to get the notebooks printed. But I'm SO excited that I will not have to print a handful of pages each week, hole punch them each week, put them in a bulky binder each week, you get the idea. Instead, the pages are all prepared and ready for our 2014/2015 school year!

I didn't buy covers. Instead I just purchased the discs, blue for my youngest and black for my oldest. I did order the folder page that I showed you in my planner (part 3). I had assumed I'd use some sort of plastic or card stock to make a cover, but this is working!

You can see that I have colorful dividers, and one of them is the front cover. Red for my oldest, blue for my youngest. Since the dividers are transparent, you can see the cover page through it. We all liked the look of this! I purchased all the dividers from the Dollar Tree. I bought 10 packages that had 8 dividers each. Each boy needed 36 for the 36 weeks, plus one more for the front cover. I then used my label maker to put the numbers of each week on the dividers. The little cardstock that slides inside these tabs often falls out. So I decided to label with the label maker instead.

I printed each of the TOG unit cover pages, I thought it made a nice looking cover and also shows us where each new unit begins. Behind the cover page I printed a page with their name, grade, and school year on it. This way, when I store these notebooks, I know what year they were completed.

I made my own month-at-a-glance pages for the boys, these are identical to the pages in my planner. Only less colorful, of course. They can fill in the blanks with these and will be able to use it as a planner.

Each divider reveals one of the thirty-six weeks in our TOG year. I have the Student Activity Pages for their level (Dialectic for my oldest, and Upper Grammar for my youngest.) Behind the SAP's I have the appropriate map from TOG's Map Aids CD.

I wanted to have blank paper in each week so that my boys could write answers to the questions in the SAP. But the binder was already pretty full and I was afraid one or two pages per week in addition to what was already in there would be too much. So, I have a red spiral and a blue spiral notebook for the boys. They'll keep their spiral with their TOG binder and write their answers in the spiral.

Then I needed a place to store their binders. Isn't homeschool organizing always an issue? You need room to have school supplies and yet you need a home to live in. So I cut up boxes and covered them in contact paper. We made our own 'magazine holders'. I priced several in the stores and they were way out of my budget. These work perfectly! Then I labeled on for files. I put file folders in here and will use that to keep papers sorted through the year. One is for "Mom" where I hold my planner, bullet journal, and a handful of other items. One is for my oldest and one for my youngest (I covered their names in this photo with orange papers, just FYI). This holds their TOG planner, their spiral notebook, and a few miscellaneous small books. And one actually IS a magazine holder, I subscribe to The Homeschool Enrichment magazine and didn't want to see them stacking up on the table. So now our notebooks have a home for the entire year where they won't be misplaced or damaged. And my shelf (which is in my dining room) doesn't look chaotic. Win-Win!

This is another angle of the covered box. Super easy to make and much less money than buying new ones in office stores!

These binders are not difficult to make, they are customizable, they are cost effective, and they are very easy to use. Anyone can do this! The only downside is the day or two you spend printing. But it's that or print pages all year. To me, it was worth the time to prepare in advance this year. But who knows, maybe I'll have a whole new idea for year 3.

How do you organize your school year for your kids? Do you have student planners? Feel free to leave a comment below, I'd love to see!!


Don't forget to check out
A Place for Everything Part 1
A Place for Everything Part 2
A Place for Everything Part 3
A Place for Everything Part 5

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

I watched you as you carried the metal chair to the end if the pool. I saw you very carefully arrange a towel on the seat and place a stuffed fish on the towel, so it was looking over the pool. This was after you had already spent several precious minutes of the 40 minute swimming lesson speaking encouragement to your child. I wondered of the presence of so many other kids had overwhelmed her. I did not hear what you said to her but I imagine you were telling her that she was okay and everything was going to be okay that you would help her.

I watched you finally get her to the edge of the pool. You had laminated picture cards for the coach and your daughter,  presumably to help ensure her of what is going to happen and that she has done this before and she can do it again.

I held my breath as you stood next to her at the edge of the pool. She needed to jump in. The swim coach was waiting for her and half the lesson time was already gone.

You never once expressed frustration at her hesitation.  You just waited and encouraged, recognizing she needed to do this on her own time.

When she finally jumped in, I very nearly stood up and applauded her with you. What joy there was in that moment.  She made me feel successful and I did not do a thing but watch!

I saw you do this whole routine the last swimming lesson and the lesson before that. And I suspect n the lesson before that one.

This is the reality of your life.

I could not help but think of my own kids, about how I could tell them to get in the water and they would. I don't have to convince or comfort them. They don't need a set if specific circumstances to be okay. They handle change well.  A skill that I take for granted. But I bet you don't.

One in 68 children are diagnosed with autism in this country.

That means 1 in less than 100 families are affected by autism, some with multiple children on the spectrum.
These are moms, dads, sisters and brothers.

Today, and now twice every week, I am reminded to pray for these families. I am reminded to take nothing for granted.

Hug all your kids today - if they will let you. Not every parent has this luxury.

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Place for Everything Part 3: My Discbound Planner

In my ten years of homeschooling I have used all sorts of planners. I used home made planners in the early years. Then I moved on to the Well Planned Day and then the Ultimate Homeschool Planner and then back to WPD with the On the Go planner. I found good and bad in each of the systems I've used. As you probably know, if you've read the previous two posts, I love to plan. I love getting my thoughts down on a planning page, especially if colorful pens and papers are included in the process.

I recently saw a post online about the Discbound system. I'd never heard of this before and I started looking online at this system and how others used it, very curious if it would work for my homeschooling. I was pleased to find a mom on youtube that had used this system for her homeschool planner! It was like she'd spent a little time in my brain and developed a planner around my hopes for a homeschool planning system!

I have a love/hate thing with binders. They are big and bulky and the only advantage they have is that you can move pages around as you need. I like spiral bound books because you can fold it in half and write on the left and right sides of the notebook easily. But they are so... permanent! You can't add pages, you can't move them around. And my Type A, perfectionist side dislikes this! Very much! I want to be able to move things and add things as I need. This is the reason I've not yet made a Tapestry of Grace student notebook! But this year, I get to have my flexibility and the spiral feel to my planner and the student books by using this system! (More on my next blog post about the Student Notebook.)

I went to the Staples site to find this beautiful Martha Stewart planner cover! I did order the larger discs because I knew the small ones that came with the planner just wouldn't last once I added all the pages I had in mind! I also ordered extra pocket pages to use as dividers, and a zip lock page to carry pens and papers. I took the huge plunge to order the hole punch, as well. I figured, if I'm going to make my own planning pages, PLUS use this system to make planners for my son's Tapestry of Grace books (I will post about this in the future as well), I better have the hole punch. I have not regretted that purchase!!

So let me introduce you to my work in progress. I hope you can see from the photo how the discs work. They have a ridge that the page wraps around, which keeps the pages in place. However, they can be pulled out and put back in to another part of the notebook.

I put the zip page in front so that I could put all my colorful pens, Post-Its and other items handy. Normally, I keep my pens and markers in a carry-all (pictured in the previous blog post). But if I'm leaving home with the planner, I like to slide them in the zip page. The planner has an elastic band to keep it closed, it has little slots in the front to hold papers and other items, and it has a pen holder on the right side (back) of the planner. And I just love the color! However, if the color isn't 'you', no problem! Staples has other colors, just look in their search engine for the ARC system.

The pretty, colorful dividers were no longer available on So I made my own with scrapbook paper. You could use anything to divide your sections.

The first few pages came with my planner. They have personal reference information. One thing I like about this is the holidays at a glance pages. I also like the years at a glance that offer years from 2013 to 2016. And it has a Special Dates section where you can jot down anniversaries, birthdays, and appointments for each month. Of course, I had to add a little washi tape to the pages for a splash of fun.

I took my Homeschool Mission page out of my old binder, used the special hole punch, and put it in my new planner to help keep my focus. Right behind this page I have placed my family routine (in a perfect world...)

My first pocket page is the divider for the Month at a Glance pages. I put a sticker tab at the top that I found at a local scrapbook shop. I can use the folder to put any sort of papers in, but if I don't need to use it this way, it still makes a great divider. I placed a page behind this with a Bible verse to help keep me inspired.

I made my own monthly pages and tabbed the top with the first letter of each month. I like to see my month at a glance, jot down events, etc. I start with June since it's my homeschool planner.

At the end of the monthly pages you'll find my 2nd pocket page divider. This begins the week at a glance pages that I created on my computer. Inside this pocket I am currently planning to hold my week of pages from the main Tapestry of Grace binder. These pages are held together with a small brad.

The weekly pages I created have the subjects down the left side of the page, and days of the week across the top. I also have room to plan my meals and write my to do lists for the day. And for fun, I put little glasses of water on each day so I can mark them off as I drink water. Somehow I forget to drink enough water through my day. I have Saturday and Sunday on the far right as well as a small area to jot down my thoughts for the week. What worked? What didn't? What do I need to remember next week? One last thing that isn't in the photo is the small gray paper the size of a book mark. I bought these also from Staples and it sits high enough to act like a divider so I can open directly to the week we are in currently. But it also will be where I write the books and pages my boys need to read for their Tapestry assignments that week. Then I can pull it out and let them use it as a book mark, and they can also place it inside their TOG disc bound student notebook.

My next section is my scope and sequence for the year. I can glance at the page and see what exactly we are covering, and it becomes a part of my record when our year is over. We take every 7th week of from our school work, so by now you've probably come to expect washi tape... I've put washi tape down those weeks to help them stand out. I haven't filled in the chart completely just yet, but I've printed what I had done to show you. I'll pencil in the rest of the chapters we'll do each week when I have time to sit and plan.

This is our family routine. I only wish each day went so smoothly. Remember my post (Part One) that explained my split personality? I am so easily sidetracked that I have to at least have a routine set up, and then if we hit 50% of what I hoped, we're doing great! The older my kids get, the easier it is to be on a routine because they are more self directed. Just remember, no routine/schedule/planner is your task master, it is just a tool!

I have other planning pages like the schedule for Biology, the list of books I already own (comes in handy when shopping at used sales so I don't buy duplicates), and the teacher copies of the maps for Tapestry. I will probably be moving things around as my year goes by, but that's ok! I can easily pull out a page and place it in its new home! Binder meets spiral!

I am eager to give this system a try this school year! I think it just may be the answer I've been looking for all these years. Feel free to ask questions or even add comments below on great ideas you've had with planners! Happy 2014-15 school year!


See also
A Place for Everything Part One
Part Two
Part Four
Part Five

Friday, June 13, 2014

A Place for Everything Part 2: The Bullet Journal

I love lists.

I make lists all the time.

Throughout the day I will even add things that I've already done to lists JUST so I can mark it off!

My problem? Remember in Part One I mentioned that I have a little of a split personality? Well, my unorganized side takes over and I lose lists. I jot them on slips of paper that get misplaced or in spiral books that I've lost somewhere in a pile. (Perhaps I'll discuss piles in another post...) So what's a list maker to do? I also tend to allow thoughts to roll around 24/7 in my brain. A friend told me to "dump the bucket" so I can actually rest once in a while. It's true, it is hard to rest with all these things running through my mind day and night! I needed a Brain Dump!

Enter the Bullet Journal. I was told to Google the idea and not only did I Google, I searched Pinterest as well!! I immediately fell in love with the bullet list idea, so much that I had to get started right away! It has given me a great way to track so many things in my world, that it trumps any planner I've used in the past. I had several people ask me to send them photos or bring it to show them 'face to face.' So I've decided to continue my "A Place for Everything" blog series with my Bullet Journal!

Here it is! I purchased the 3 pack of Moleskine soft back graph paper notebooks and dusted off my scrap booking skills and supplies! I decorated the front very simply. And I love an elastic band to keep the book closed, but these do not come with such a band. So, I stopped at a local grocery store and they had hair bands that were EXACTLY the size I needed. I hot glued the band to the back of the book and used washi tape to cover the band. I put another one on the spine to be a book marker.

Opening the book, I glued an envelope inside the cover to hold small goodies, like stickers or other small items. I also wanted some inspiring quotes. So I just covered the first page with a great verse on scrap book paper. We all need a little 'rah rah' some days. This isn't necessary by any means, but I liked the idea of something pretty to greet me and I loved this red scrapbook paper as a background!

Turn the page and you'll see a calendar that I printed from Donna Young's site. I like looking ahead at dates, so this was necessary for me. The opposite page is the Index. You'll add page numbers as you fill in your journal, so you'll add this to your index as you go.

On the following page I found some cute Post-Its. I love owls. So these were perfect for my "Year at a Glance" page. I glued them down, wrote the months on them, and jotted down important dates for each months. This could be important appointments, birthdays, anniversaries, etc.

On the next page we jump in to the nitty gritty of this type of planner. You'll see on the left page I have the month with the dates and days of the week down the left column. Then I have important events written down, I can look at my month at a glance and see what's coming and what days I have open. On the right side of the planner I have my "Get To Do" list for the month. Every time I think of something I need to do, I can jot it down here. Then as my month goes on, I can place them in my daily planner lists and then mark them off the main list for the month. I also decided to put a Post-It with a calendar for the month in the bottom corner. I am very visual and I liked having an actual calendar page to see. Each month will begin with these two pages.

Turning the page we get to start our daily check lists. Unlike most planners, you aren't writing out your daily to do lists in advance. Instead, you write your lists as you go. So on Monday night, I use this for my brain dump to make my bullet list of to-do's for Tuesday. I never have to worry about finding my list, it's right here in my Bullet Journal! And since I'm visual, you'll see that I use all sorts of colors. You can make this as plain or complex as you like. I love adding stickers and washi tape to give it more color and joy when I look at the page. Some days are very short, others are several lines long. You'll also see that each item has a check box in front to mark off. Did I mention that I love marking off boxes?
You may notice that in front of several of the boxes I have drawn other symbols. My memory isn't always spot on, so in the back of the book I've pasted a pretty piece of scrapbook paper that folds out with the 'key' written on it. This way I can see that '0' is an event, '!' is priority, '.' is for notes, '$' is something to purchase, a heart is something inspirational or something I LOVE, an arrow is something I migrated from the previous day, a line through the task means it is irrelevant, and '/' means I've started the task, but 'X' means I completed it. This is how the back cover looks when my 'Key' is folded in. (You can also see all my Post-It's with each month of the year pasted on them, all prepared for when I need them!)

You can see here how I've pasted the scrapbook paper so that when it is unfolded it is visible while I am writing in the journal.
I decided I needed space for other lists, like helping my friend plan her daughter's birthday party. Or yard sale prep. Or things needing to be done around the house, spring cleaning and other spruce ups. So I jumped to the last third of the book and made a "My Lists" section. Again, no more lists getting lost, they are all in this one section of my journal.

I also started a section near the end of the book for accountability. So I wrote the days of the month across the top of the page, and the daily tasks down the left side. For example, exercise, water, Bible study, etc. I can fill in the squares if I've done the task. This is a new thing and I am still teaching myself to remember to get the slots filled in... but I like the idea of this.
Finally on the last couple pages I decided to track 100 days of Joy/Gratefulness. So I wrote the days of the month down the page and then write one small thing that brings me joy, small things I am grateful for each day.

One final important player in this process is my tote!! I love this product. It is designed to hold make up and make up brushes. But I love it for washi tape, rubber stamps, and more. In the back I have my large roll of tape, some glue, clips in pretty colors, and a pretty jar that holds my pens and markers. In the front I have the washi tapes, rubber stampers, scissors, and Post-Its. This keeps everything handy and easy to carry from one area to another.

This Bullet Journal can look any way you like, get as creative or as simple as you prefer. But for me, it allows me a place to empty my brain. I don't worry about forgetting important dates or things I need to do. It's small enough to go with me and large enough to see what I am writing WITHOUT my reading glasses! I hope it gets your creative juices flowing for planning your days!!


Watch for A Place for Everything Part One
Part 3
Part 4 and
Part 5

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Place for Everything Part 1: Embracing My Inner Type A

I have a bit of a split personality. I find great value in being lazy, and at the same time I love order and neatness. I live most of my life walking in one of two extremes it seems. But in this case, if I have chaos around me in the form of clutter, it is like noise in my head. That said, there are moments when the couch is too lovely to bother myself with the messies. Perhaps you should also know that I have hypothyroid and adrenal fatigue and even when I want to deal with the messies, sometimes my body just won't let me. But that's another blog post for another day. Today, I'm sharing with you how I locked up and threw the key away on my Type A side and how I've since come to embrace my inner "A"...

I was living in the "color coded" side of my personality quite contentedly for some time. I had a house keeping routine (which I usually kept up, but not always), my kids had 'chore packs' (which they only kept up when I reminded them), I had a 28 day rotating menu plan (quite handy for my grocery shopping budget, not a luxury but a necessity), and I had my homeschool lesson planner all set up (which kept my brain from exploding in my head). I was in my element for a season.

But then it happened.

The comments started coming in from people who lived on the outside. They would say I was 'so organized.' Well, they didn't see the daily grind and that it is because I am so unorganized that I have to uber-plan! Or that my best laid plans often didn't go according to schedule (which is ok, by the way.) I also heard, "Oh I could never do what YOU do. I'm just not that organized." One day over tea a fellow homeschooling mama said to a mutual friend, "DON'T feel like you have to do school like HER, MOST people are not even close to this organized! She's over the top!" That fear of man was creeping in... you know, more worried about what others think than what I need to do in my own life for my own family under the guidance of my own God. I was beginning to feel very self-conscious. I felt very judged by people. I don't believe for a minute that they intended to come across this way. But nevertheless, it is how it was received. So, I would try to reassure people that I'm not always good at follow through, but I love to plan. I found myself trying to convince people that I was really a mess, and that if they only knew me better they'd see that very clearly. I love color coding and sticky notes and colorful markers. I'm an office supply store addict. But just because I like to plan and organize doesn't mean my days always follow said plans. However, my Type A was becoming an issue. I grew tired of hearing how people just could never do what I do. As if they were required to by someone. We moms are so good at comparing ourselves to others! But I was worn out from the comments people made.

I started letting my Type A side go a bit at a time. And then my adrenals started really giving me fits. I couldn't keep up with things no matter how I tried, and I was already letting so many things slide. The 'noise' was getting to me. Some time went by, I got some help with my adrenals and was up on my feet again. But it still took a while to feel like digging out my washi tape and colorful markers.

The Lord had been tugging at my heart for quite a while, I was sure I needed to 'get my house in order.' I learned something about how my brain works. I have to have order around me, and a place to jot ideas so that they stop swirling in my head. My husband pointed out to me once that I never really "rest." I didn't understand. He pointed out that my brain never rests, I'm always thinking and reading and doing something. He was right.
So how do I find rest? (Second only to the rest I get in the Lord...)
I create order.
I make things look pretty.
I plan.
I use colorful markers.

And so I slowly started reading organizing books and books on living simply. I started to do a small purge in my home in 2013. But recently we had our hopes up to move to a slightly larger home. And that didn't happen. Twice. In the process, I realized just how annoying the clutter is to me. And part of my problem was that I had too much stuff in too small a home. If we were going to stay in our small home on our small lot, there needed to be a change. I wanted our home to look like those staged homes, ready to sell, all clean, open, airy, and peaceful!

It occurred to me that in addition to too much stuff, there wasn't a place for everything. I actually enjoy putting things where they belong, but when I don't have a place for things, they just pile up. And then I have clutter. And then... noise. And this was really beginning to bother me emotionally and make me feel physically drained. It was past time to get things in order. Less stuff equals less maintenance, which equals more time! More time to be with my family and enjoy hobbies! More time for spontaneity! More rest! Less "stuff" equals more joy! So, time to get to work!!

I will talk in more detail on the "how" and "what" of my 2014 purge and organizing in another post in this blog series. But I will say that we've been working on a large 2014 purge in our home. And I've discovered Bullet Journals and Disc Bound planners, and more! These will also be covered in depth in this series. I'm happy to say, we've made great progress in these areas. And I have dusted off and embraced my Type A side again. Because guess what... I like her! I like washi tape and office supplies and colorful markers and labels and bins and poly envelopes! I really enjoy these things and I like a neat, organized, smoothly running home. It doesn't mean it's always smooth or that it always goes according to plan. But I'm ok with that. I'm not ok with not having the plan. It turns out, God gives us unique gifts. And I've decided to embrace my gift for planning and organizing. I also have realized that with my health issues, I have to have things running as smoothly as possible because, for me, it takes too much energy to live without a plan. And when this mama is not feeling well, my kids know what is expected, and they can pick up where I leave off.

Oh and please don't think for a second that I live in a spotless paradise. As I type this I am looking at the piles of homeschool books to be sorted, the dishes on my counter, and the various projects just waiting for me to finish! People do live in this home, after all... This is all a process and we are nothing if not flexible. And with my thyroid and adrenal issues, there are just seasons where all good plans go out the window and a nap takes precedence. And that's ok!

I know this isn't everyone's gift or talent. And that's ok. I never expected it to be. It it isn't your thing, HOORAY! You save a lot of money on colorful markers and fancy planner systems! But now I am going to stop worrying about making everyone else feel comfortable. It is not my responsibility. And I no longer need to apologize for my quirkiness. Instead, let's try to enjoy the talents each person has rather than feeling less-than if we don't share that talent. And maybe we can even glean something from people who have different strengths than us. So, here's to the Type A's and the Messies... and everyone in between!


Watch for Part 2: The Bullet Journal
Part 3: My Discbound Planner
Part 4: Discbound Student Planners
Part 5: Home Sweet Home