Our first week back to schoolwork included many very exciting and lively debates, such as:

  • Should “Jan” in this particular math problem be pronounced like the Brady bunch chick or like “Yan” instead?
  • Does watching “Prince Caspian” count as literature studies?
  • Can “Summer Hits of the 90s” be our new schoolwork music station, or is it too distracting when Mama starts rocking out in the middle of answering questions?
  • Why doesn’t Alexa understand why my 8th grader wants to listen to sea shanties during schoolwork?

Alas, we survived our first week with only the barest hint of a meltdown as we figured out our new schedule–without any official “computer work” this year, I quickly realized that having both kids at the table at the same time working on different things might not be our best bet, especially given the older child’s inability to ever. stop. talking. We also made it to day 2 before deciding to switch a math curriculum for one child, which is a significant success when you compare it to the 3 minutes it took last year on the first day of school before changing our minds. Huzzah.

The real highlight of the week was a trip to an outdoor archery range. Of course, the subsequent discussion over whether the children like this as an Olympic sport or a skill to use while working at a Renaissance faire might have lowered our expectations somewhat, but hey. I’ll take what we can get and in the meantime, we can look like super cool, super nerdy homeschoolers while we’re at it.




Making Plans

I’ve probably said it before, but I love, LOVE planning. I love color-coded spreadsheets and schedules and checklists and planners. And then . . . I like to let it all go. I ignore the pretty colors and fall back on my trusty planner, where I write in everything day by day so I can keep track of what we’ve done. After years of stressing about how much to complete each quarter, I plan no more than a week in advance, usually on Sunday night or Monday morning. By then, I generally know what we have on tap for the coming week and can work around any days we may need to take off for field trips, classes, or playdates.

There are any number of things a homeschool parent might want from a planner, but my priorities are:

  • Blank subject columns for each day of the week
  • Enough space to write in multiple activities for each subject
  • Room for tracking work for multiple children
  • Enough columns to break apart our “separate subjects” (math and English) and to list our “together subjects” after (social studies, science, art/music, “other” and “activities” are my usual headings)–OR to list core subjects separately, depending on the year
  • Monthly calendars to write in important dates
  • July of the current year to the end of June of the next

I can’t handle predetermined subject headings, cramped boxes, or wasted space! After a couple initial years of using whatever I could grab from the dollar aisle at Target, I found The One. The only planner I’ve been able to get my hands on that has all of my requirements and runs around $20. I only need one for my two kids and honestly, I think I could comfortably track at least a couple more if needed. Bigger families might need to get creative or use more than one of these, but it fits our needs perfectly.

Here’s the planner I use year after year: Blue Sky 2020-2021 Academic Year Teachers Weekly & Monthly Lesson Planner, CYO Cover, 8.5″ x 11″, Dots

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This is my current layout, where we separate out math and English but combine the other subjects (if they are working on different things in those subjects, I just put their names or initials on separate lines with what they worked on). The far right column used to be for evening dance classes, so I’m still debating what label to use there. I use the colored daily boxes on the left to write in anything that doesn’t fall into a subject heading–days off, playdates, appointments, etc.PlannerIMG_2507

This is from two years ago, to show some completed pages and an older format where I separated the core subjects for both of them. I don’t write a ton of detail–just lesson or page numbers, generally. If one child is working from different books or programs in the same subject, I add initials to distinguish between them. Here in NY, we have to submit quarterly reports listing material/topics covered in the required subjects, so I refer back to the lesson/page/chapter numbers at quarterly time and flip through each curriculum to pull the topics from. I’d rather keep it simple in my planner and do a tiny bit more work at quarterly time, but I know others include more detail about lesson topics and there’s a decent amount of space in each box for that, too!


Here’s the monthly calendar page, just for reference.


I’m not generally a big believer in any particular “must-haves” for homeschoolers because every family is different, but the one thing I definitely must have each year is this planner. I’ve even tried creating my own printable version and it’s just not the same. I do enjoy all my color-coded spreadsheets, but at the end of the day, my planner is where I keep track of everything we actually get done, which makes reporting a breeze.

What one homeschool item can you not live without??

Shine On, Weirdos!

Despite our rough start last week, our “not back to school” park trip on Friday afternoon seemed to set things right. Never underestimate the power of a couple hours spent chatting with fellow homeschool moms who know your pain! The kids spent the time with friends new and old, welcoming all of their fellow weirdos into the fold. It was glorious to behold.

It seems a bit sappy now but it really was just what we needed. This week kicked off on a much better note than last week, with willing children and better attitudes all around. We’re slowly but surely settling into a new routine and our new (slightly insane) evening schedule, making adjustments to our lesson planning, and tweaking a few curriculum choices (yes, already). We’re still getting into the groove but if this week is an indication of how the next few months are going to go, I will rejoice! Or I will at least not despair quite as much last week. It helps to know so many of us are in the same boat, trudging along separately but together, letting our weirdo light shine brightly to attract the other weirdos into our little circle of friends.

I hope everyone else’s week is going more smoothly–there was a whole lot of commiseration between all of those who were ready to lose our minds last week! And since the playground is what set our path right, here is my favorite homeschooling meme ever, because watching a group of un-self-conscious weirdo homeschoolers come up with games on a playground is *always* an adventure.




Right about now, you can go back and read my posts about how lovely September is, then feel free to come back and roll your eyes at me. Sure, I recall years when we haven’t had the best first day back after vacation (and obviously this week was no different). . . but holy moly. I cannot recall ever having such a crabtastic first week back! Everyone is overtired and whiny and acting like we’ve never done this before. It’s not even like I can blame suddenly having to get up early to catch a bus for their exhaustion–they’ve been sleeping until like 9 am every day! GET IT TOGETHER, CHILDREN!

I’m trying very hard to be patient and understanding as they adapt to their new and much busier dance schedule, but for realz . . . I am ready for a (solo) vacation to recover from this week of unprecedented snark and whining. I knew it was really not going to improve as the week went on when my 11 year old actually shrieked, “I AM NOT TIRED!” at us the other night. We’re back at toddler level around here, it seems.

So to everyone else having a rough week, whether it’s the first week back or not . . . solidarity, folks. May we all have a nice, relaxing weekend followed by a beautifully peaceful and cooperative week next week! Goodness knows we all need it.

And we’re back!


After a lovely and relaxing vacation week followed by a birthday, we are back in business! Of course, I always think it’s best to get right back on the horse after vacation. Next time I think that, punch me right in the face. Both children moaned about even being expected to do schoolwork today, one of the dogs had to be at the vet at 9 am, and my brain is anywhere but focused on getting anything productive done. Next year, maybe we’ll plan some “educational movie days” for the week following vacation/birthday and not be dumb enough to expect to throw ourselves back into our normal routine so quickly. I think I just assume that since dance classes and activities are starting back up today, it makes sense to get our school year routine going at the same time? Whatever I was thinking, I was wrong and it was dumb. Remind me next year, please.

So today hasn’t kicked off on the best foot, but hey, there’s always tomorrow, right? Let’s just accept that there will be no cute “back to school” photos of smiling children holding signs today and move on. I’ll be over here re-learning how to crochet while watching Netflix instead of unpacking and doing laundry, because if everyone else has a case of the Ultimate Mondays, I do, too.

Got any good cures for that post-vacation adjustment period? Tips and tricks for slipping easily back into routine? Motivation for everyone to get back to work??

Every. Time.


It happened (again)–that moment of panic when someone asks the kids what grade they’re in. Usually, we start drilling in September: “You are in 6th grade. Say it: ‘6th grade.’ Good, now you. Say it: ‘3rd grade.’ Yes, excellent.” Best to head it off before the inevitable confusion of cashiers and curious strangers kicks in as we wander around Target. My oldest is pretty good with it these days but her sister still looks at me like someone just asked if she wants to jump out of an airplane. I’m tempted to encourage them to try something different in response: “Grade level is an institutionalized construct designed to reduce children to a number instead of an individual with unique and varied learning abilities.” Take THAT, nosy neighborhood busybody!

How do your kids respond when asked what grade they’re in?

Return to Routine


September is my favorite time of year, and not just because of our wedding anniversary and oldest child’s birthday. September is that beautiful time of year when the weather is still nice but the flocks of schoolchildren are suddenly gone from our favorite playgrounds and field trip locations. Almost every year, we take a vacation (or stay-cation) during Labor Day week and fill it with everything from parks and zoos to beaches and indoor water parks. It’s a magical time of year, going from the crowds of people trying to eke out every last drop of summer fun at the end of August to gloriously empty destinations. We try to cram in as many outings and field trips as we can before winter sets in and school field trips begin taking over. And my poor children who have usually done schoolwork all summer finally get a real “vacation” to make me look like Mom of the Year again! Especially with it’s usually capped off by a birthday celebration for the firstborn.

Hit me up with your fun “back to school” traditions at this time of year! Special breakfast? Field trips? First day of school pictures?

The Best Laid Plans


As I’ve mentioned before, I looooove planning. I love spreadsheets and checklists and charts and color-coded schedules . . . and I love ignoring them after they’re made. I was once called “the least type A type A person ever” and thought that was a pretty accurate description. What can I say–I like to convince myself I have my life in order, especially when it comes to homeschooling! Except, of course, that I really prefer to wing it most of the time. My firstborn and I spent a great deal of time butting heads during our early homeschooling years, largely because I made the mistake of creating detailed lesson plans and setting goals of what we needed to have done during each week (or month, or quarter). Learning to let go of my own unrealistic expectations and embrace what actually works for us was probably the most vital lesson in our homeschool journey. Even if I love planning, we are all better off if those plans stay loosey-goosey so that when something comes up, I can shift things around without stressing.

This is particularly apt right now, when I’m mapping out lesson numbers for the coming weeks. They look so pretty in a table on Google Docs, all evenly spaced and labeled and nicely organized. We go on vacation the first week of September most years so I wanted to jot down lesson numbers for the week after the trip, to keep myself from having to figure it all out at the last minute after a week away. Then yesterday my children asked if they could each pick one subject to skip during schoolwork. I agreed because look, I need as many un-ironic “Mom of the Year” moments as I can get, okay? They’ve finally realized other kids get ACTUAL summer break and if letting them each skip one tiny chunk of schoolwork makes them feel like I’m a benevolent ruler instead of an evil hag, I’m going with it.

What it led to, however, was a discussion about whether they should have weekly goals with the freedom to choose which subjects they wanted each day, as long as it all got done by the end of the week. I’m not positive this will work for us–I can definitely see my 6th grader deciding to save all of her math lessons for Friday, because those take her the longest, and then we’d be all burnt out at the end of the week while she has 75 hours’ worth of math problems to do. So it will need SOME guidelines (especially as far as math goes), like maybe certain subjects will require a certain number of days per week instead of just getting through the specific lessons whenever they want . . . but hey, it gave me the opportunity to create YET ANOTHER weekly checklist to fill in!

I’m starting to wonder if my children know me so well that they actually orchestrated this because they thought I’d be in a good mood if I had new checklists to work on. Am I being played? Hmm. It’s entirely possible, but since I have such a pretty new table to work on, I don’t really care!

Tools of the Trade

It’s that glorious time of year when school supplies are everywhere and people start posting beautiful photos of their homeschool set-ups. I freely admit that I am a sucker for school supplies, whether we need them or not. So what if I have a dozen empty 3-ring binders on my bookshelf? Can you ever really have too many sharpened pencils and spiral notebooks?

Well. Yes, you probably can, but sometimes the sales are too good to pass up. We just rearranged our family room to incorporate our schoolwork area so my shelves are currently nice and organized. I suspect it won’t last long though! At what age should humans be able to put things back where they found them, the WAY they found them? We have apparently not reached that milestone yet. Here is our current arrangement.


If you can’t tell, I completed the shelf in the top picture first–that’s our “curriculum/resource” shelf (plus some Outlander and fantasy books that didn’t fit on the “reading books” shelf. Fortunately, those cabinet doors hide stacks upon stacks of construction paper, lined paper, chalkboard, and half-filled notebooks. The two smaller shelves house the random stuff and baskets of junk–I mean, leftover supplies–that have nowhere else to live. And, of course, you also can’t see the twirly bin of pencils, markers, notebooks, rolls of tape, empty glue bottles, and sticky scissors that lives in the living room. Or the giant box of picture books that still need to be sorted through and then shelved or donated. Or the stacks of mostly-used workbooks that should be recycled but I just can’t bring myself to get rid of yet because what if I decide to use some of the unused pages this year? Let’s just focus on the good stuff today and forget all of those things exist.

And there, at the top of one shelf, sits my very favorite homeschooling tool EVER: The Laminator. “Why do I need one?” you ask. Why DON’T you need one is the real question. You can make posters, reusable worksheets, checklists, bookmarks, signs, reminders, labels. You can preserve artwork or awards certificates or other Really Important Things.

Besides, if Ryan Gosling loves it, it’s clearly worthwhile. What’s your favorite homeschooling supply item?

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