Planning When Life is No Longer Normal

This is a guest post by Sue Hooley. Sue is a longtime homeschooling mother of six and the creator of the Homemaker’s Friend Daily Planner. You can read my review and watch my show and tell video about this planner here.

 

I remember the morning when I opened my planner, and nothing written applied to where I lived nor what I should do next. I was a displaced missionary and my days did not have the typical demands. For a while, the unexpected vacation was delightful, but before long I felt lost in nothingness.

Universally, we experienced rearranged schedules in 2020. In a way, women received the brunt of the chaos. Without warning, we became homeschooling moms who prepared huge amounts of food, day after week after month. As a bonus all the coffee shops were closed, and other rejuvenating pleasures disappeared.  

 

Homemakers are a flexible bunch that learn to roll with the surprises. We erase, reschedule and juggle duties on a regular basis. It is not unusual to start the day with “Plan A,” and shift to “Plan B” to deal with interruptions.

But what about limbo? That uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution? The time when you cannot plan for next week or next month? My brain tends to run in circles, and it is hard to focus. It seems impossible to plan anything when schedules are demolished. Meanwhile, my planner silently reminds me of predictable days gone by.

 

A planner primarily helps to organize days and duties. But a planner is equally helpful when days and duties cannot be organized. It may help you stay motivated and replace the emptiness with purpose. Your planner entries become a peculiar mix of “to do,” “maybe” and “did.” Small, attainable goals will help you be productive. There is not a quick fix to abnormal times, but here are a few tools to get you going.  

 

Schedule an out. Limbo can be mentally overwhelming and sometimes clouds of depression hover. Schedule something refreshing. Write “Thirty-minute break,” (or longer). I needed this when I was homeschooling, and other adult family members were in and out of the house. After thirty minutes of quietness, my brain was clearer. Maintaining sanity is important. Find time to do what refreshes you. 

 

Keep track of the days. Scribble daily notes on the now unscheduled planner slots. Record the weather, news tidbits, current events, with whom you talked, etc. Tracking your days will give you a historical record of what happened during unusual times. It is amusing to read old planner notes during limbo. Did I really need to write “wash my hair?”

 

Swap disappointment for creativity. It is hard to erase anticipated events, but you can use the tasks list to write creative replacements.   One friend wrote me, “It was sad our Canadian relatives couldn’t come to the family reunion, but we made the best of it. Every day we wrote an email and sent pictures to those missing, including some quotes and funny quips.”

 

Write down what must be done.  During disruptive times, laundry and food preparation can be a comforting routine or a bothersome obstacle. If I write those duties in my planner, it helps clear the brain fog in those areas. Plus, I am doing something that is routine. I fill my planner with little things that can so easily be forgotten. Buy stamps. Ask when meeting starts. Pay Mary $20.00. Do not forget to schedule fun. Go for family hikes or buy a new flavor of ice cream. 

 

Try something new. It is good to have something to aim for.  In the middle of shutdown, I learned how to make artisan bread. One of my friends learned how to design a photo book online. It is easy to let days slip by and all we do is wish for normal life. Limbo can bring unexpected gifts of time and pleasure. Text photos or inspiration to friends, get physical exercise, trade audio books with others, read the Little House Series to your children or have an indoor or outdoor picnic.

 

Remember you are not a superwoman. Abnormal living can affect our energy levels. Somedays you will be physically and mentally weary. Typically, we arrange duties in a way that makes sense for our household. Abnormality replaces sense with disorder. Give yourself time to work through new issues. Take note of what is causing the most brain drain and find ways to minimize the pressure. Sometimes a talk with a friend gives encouragement, a new perspective, and fresh ideas.

 

If we mindfully plan our day, we benefit ourselves and our family. We can productively use our time for what is most important regardless of our circumstances.



This is a great planner for busy moms! Homemaker’s Friend Daily Planner


I was first introduced to the Homemaker’s Friend Daily Planner in 2018, and I have been a big fan of it ever since. In fact, this is the planner I use to keep my homemaking, homeschooling, mothering, appointments, and business tasks straight. Yes, even for a very busy person, this planner covers everything I need, without giving me a bunch of stuff I don’t need.

This is a sponsored post that I am very excited to share with you, because I use this planner just about every single day.

I like the smart and thoughtful design that went into creating this planner. I can tell that it was made by a mom like me, for moms like you and me. Sue Hooley brought this project to life based on what she needed as a busy wife, mother of six, and missionary. You’ll notice right away how practical it is.

Each year Sue has a theme for the planner, and the theme for 2021 is so perfect during these uncertain times. It’s “Flowing with change” and you’ll find encouraging quotes and Bible verses throughout the planner to remind you of this goal.

In the welcome message at the beginning of the planner Sue shares this quote that really resonated with me. “Patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you have in mind.” Yes, indeed, we have all been learning that lesson in 2020!

I know that a lot of people like to bedazzle their planners with stickers, markers, washi tape, and so forth. I’m sure if that’s something that you enjoy, you can use this planner in that way. But for me, I am not a bedazzler and enjoy the clean, thoughtful layout and peaceful quotes and colors throughout.

This planner has everything I need, both as a homemaker, a homeschool parent, and a business owner. Here are some of the highlights:

  • It looks pretty without being overwhelming
  • The spiral binding allows it to lay flat
  • The size can easily fit in my purse, tote bag, or back pack

There are just enough sections to be useful, without getting carried away. You can check out my video below for a full show and tell tour.

The Weekly Planning area is what I use the most. Each week has a two-page spread. I like that there’s a space for general tasks that don’t necessarily need to be specified by day. I also appreciate that there is space for about ten items in the daily To Do area. This helps stop me from creating a completely unrealistic (and disappointing) list of far too many things to accomplish in a day and keeps me focused on a realistic amount of most important things.

There’s also space to notate what’s on the menu for the day. Save yourself the brain space and have that planned out in advance. Each day you’ll know what your plan is, if anything need to be thawing or in the crock pot, or moved from freezer to fridge in preparation for later in the week.

Each purchase of the Homemaker’s Friend Daily Planner includes a FREE Bonus downloadable menu planner for the year, so you can literally map out your meal plan for the coming year and be free from the 4 o’clock “Oh no! What’s for dinner?”

Other categories include:

Monthly Calendar

Great for reminding yourself of tasks for later in the year when you aren’t exactly sure what week or day you’ll be doing them on. This works for seasonal jobs, homeschool planning, things like tax season, birthday or Christmas shopping, or plans for a business

 

Yearly Calendar provides a good spot for keeping track of all the birthdays, anniversaries, and other noteworthy events.

Tasks List
This area provides plenty of pages for you to use however you see fit, and the spiral binding allows you to neatly remove pages once you’re done with them.

Projects and Events

These pages are great for when you want to make a plan for a holiday meal, birthday party, garden planning, or other upcoming events. I like to keep track of menus we used for big meals like Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I can easily refer back to it to know what portions worked for what size groups. Huge time saver for me!

Information

This section is great for phone numbers, keeping track of all the clothing and shoe sizes in the family, and other bits and pieces of info you’ll sometimes need in a hurry.

Shopping Lists
I love this section! Each page has three vertical columns that are  perforated. You can easily keep a running list of what you need to get at the store, and neatly rip off that column when it’s time to go on your errands. This is especially helpful to me for times when I’m accumulating a list for an unusual errand, such as Lowe’s or Home Depot, since it gives me  a spot to accumulate the list of items I’ll need to get when I finally go there.

Handy pocket in the back for bills, letters to be sent, birthday cards that you’re having the family sign, etc.

They have an annual subscription!  When you enroll in their subscription program you’ll get a discount on the regular price, and know that you’ll have your new planner in hand in the fall of each year so you won’t miss a beat on staying organized. To set this up you can email planner@christianlight.org

You can order your planner from Homemaker’s Depot and you’ll get a FREE coordinating menu planner as well!



Being a Yes! Mom

I was walking out of Kroger yesterday, and suddenly I was gripped by nostalgia. Years ago when my children were young, there was a little mechanical horse outside of our Kroger, and it only cost a penny to ride it! Well, needless to say, this was an absolute highlight for my kids each time we would go to the grocery store, because I would let each and every one of them ride that little red horse. Sometimes one by one, sometimes with a bigger kid hugging a younger sibling in front of them on the saddle, or two little buddies that wanted to ride together.

A simple thing, but I hadn’t thought of it in ages, and as the memory of that swept upon me through the cold winter air, tears came to my eyes as I thought of it. I texted each of my six kids and asked, “Remember when you kids were little and we’d stop on our way out of Kroger to ride the mechanical horse?” and each one from oldest to the youngest texted back, commenting on how fun that was and how much they loved it.

I tried to imagine myself as I must’ve been back in those days. Grocery shopping with a young brood of children, certainly 2, 3, 4, or more in tow each and every time. And certainly pregnant for many of those years as well. We often had two carts of groceries that we were bringing out, because I only shopped every two weeks, and it felt like a major event in both planning and energy and logistics!

I imagined the patience it must’ve taken to get us through the store, to field the many requests for items, to constantly keep in mind my very modest grocery budget, enduring my hurting back while largely pregnant, and anticipating the awaiting process of unloading and putting away at home.

It would’ve been easy to say no and keep on walking to the van, but that mom said yes. Yes to the penny horse. Yes to the smiles and laughter. Yes to the simple joy of a little ride for small children that were out on errands with their mommy.

I want to encourage you today to be a mom that says YES.

Yes to the penny horse.
Yes to bundling up the whole bunch of kids into winter gear to go sledding for 20 minutes, and then have them all turn around and come back in. (filling the back door with soggy mittens and boots and coats!)
Yes to hot cocoa.
Yes to one more chapter of the book they love.
Yes to making tents and eating popcorn and family movie nights.
Yes to playing board games and working puzzles at the kitchen table.

In fact, my wish would be for you to say YES to as many happy things as you can. Make it your default answer. Save your No’s for the times when it has to be that way. But be a Yes mom, as much as you can. Because when you look back at the years you spent with your kids during their childhood, you are going to love what you see, and so are they.

They get one childhood, and thanks to homeschooling, we get to be a huge part of that. Make it a good one.

Lots of love to you and yours,
Erica



Speak

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about speaking our truth. Setting current events aside, I want to dive into this more general topic, but as it relates to homeschool moms like us. There seems to be an incredible amount of pressure and forces at work that want to keep people silent. I imagine all people experience this from time to time, but in my experience women seem to feel it the most, and I think homeschool moms have particular truths we hesitate to speak.

I recall a time about 16 years ago when I was absolutely drowning with the realities of my life, and I was so depleted I had almost no internal resources to try to help myself. When sharing about my situation in an online group I was in at the time, I was cautioned by a woman in the group that whatever I did, I must not tell my husband how I was struggling. If he knew, she told me, he might want us to not have any more babies. He might say that we should put the children in school. In short, knowing the reality of my suffering and despair might upset the ideological apple cart, and for some reason it was more important to uphold those ideals than to make sure I was healthy, whole, and happy.

(Thankfully, that poisonous advice was enough to wake me up. And I told my husband. And we did make some changes in our life. And know what? It was the right thing.)

Why do we do this? Why do we send messages that if others speak up about their truth that steps on someone else’s toes, they must be silenced? Why do we allow others to try to shame us into a box and stay there alone, unsupported, and afraid?

How often have you had thoughts like these?

I feel like I’m failing.

I’m lonely.

The pressure of homeschooling feels like too much.

There isn’t enough of me to go around.

My husband is not supportive.

My children are so far behind, I don’t think we will ever catch up.

I’m not happy with my life.

And how often have you felt you had nowhere to go, nowhere to turn, no right to voice these things, because there might be people that say things like, “HEY! If you didn’t want to deal with all this, why’d ya have so many kids in the first place? Why did you decide to be a stay at home mom? Why did you think you could homeschool in the first place? Weren’t YOU a dope to not pursue a career?”

Just like every other type of cold blame, we are often told we did this to ourselves. “So now sit there and suffer the fate that you picked.” No room for our truth. No room to voice our experience. No room to spare for empathy, or to honor the paths we’ve chosen, though every path comes with its own set of challenges and difficulties.

Sister, I want to tell you something. You have one beautiful, precious life to live. And believe it or not, you matter. Your well-being matters. Your happiness matters. Your health matters. It’s true.

You and I are not born to be upholders of ideologies. We are more than ambassadors for our beliefs and practices or educational philosophies. We are meant to travel through this life in the best ways we know how, and to love and be loved for who we truly are.

When we stay hidden, and when our truth stays hidden, we are not fully known, and we prevent people from fully loving us. If we are hidden, how can we be known or found?

If we push others into hiding and silence with our rejection and blame, we let them know that the biggest thing that matters about them is their compliance. We don’t want their humanity.

Instead of being agents of silence and shame, let’s work to each be a conduit for truth. Let’s be a safe place for friends to tell us what’s really going on. And let’s be willing to be vulnerable and take a chance on telling someone else what truths are going on within us. This is the path forward for ourselves, and for our children, and our children’s children.

I don’t know how to change the world, except to start with myself. You can, too. Even as a busy homeschool mom at home with her children.

What do you think?



Beating Winter Blues: Online Activities for Kids

This is a guest post by Jenny Wise from Special Home Educator

Oh the weather outside is frightful… and kids don’t find it so delightful!
Having to stay indoors when the winter weather is bad can leave a child feeling restless.  Without the freedom to go outside, run, and play, they may turn to binge watching television or playing video games until their hands cramp. However, doing so can be detrimental to their health.

● Kids who watch too much television are more likely to be overweight.
● Television and video games can encourage risky behaviors like drinking or drug use.
● Television and video games can also make children more aggressive.
● Seeing troubling images on television can cause anxiety in kids.
● Spending too much time in front of screens encourages isolationism.

This season, encourage your kids to step away from TV and video games and instead put some time into learning new skills or pursuing their interests online. The internet has various fun and educational online activities perfect for children who are stuck indoors. Here are some of our favorite ideas for you to try.

Exercise Videos

If your child is a bundle of energy that needs to be released, point them to fun, interactive exercise videos specifically made for kids to help! There are tons of options out there, all you need to do is figure out what kind of exercise you child may enjoy.

● Yoga
● Dancing
● Pilates
● Aerobics
● Strength Training
● Rhythmic gymnastics
Animal crawl exercises

Becoming interested in fitness throughout childhood is extremely important. It helps them create healthy habits that they take with them as they grow. It builds their self-esteem, prevents health issues, and even helps them do better in school.

Online Music Lessons
If your child loves music, now is the perfect time to get them interested in learning to play an instrument. The internet has a vast array of digital music lessons they can reference. At home they are able to pick and choose which songs they learn — if they get to try out their favorite tunes, they are more likely to stick to this new habit! Plus, saving money by taking online lessons makes it easier for you to invest in their instrument. Just be sure to pick one out that is appropriate for beginners. For instance, if they want to learn the saxophone, start out with a beginner’s alto model that they can use to learn the fundamentals. Once they have those down,
they will be better able to pick out which kind of saxophone they want from there (soprano, baritone, tenor, bass).

Drawing Tutorials
If your kid likes to doodle, online drawing tutorials can help them hone their craft. There are plenty of free online art classes for beginners up to the advanced. Arts are extremely important for child development. Some of the benefits include:

● Increased creativity
● More neural connections
● Builds fine motor skills
● Improved problem solving abilities
● Socializing is easier
● Teaches sharing and collaboration
● Taking lessons improves listening and retention skills
● Fosters a better understanding of the world
● Helps young kids learn to write

Staying indoors because of harsh winter weather can make kids feel restless. While their first instinct may be to turn on the television or video games, spending too much time in front of these screens can be detrimental to their well-being. Instead, encourage your children to pick up new skills this season online. Exercise videos release their pent up energy. Learning to play a new instrument is great for kids who love music. And if you child loves to draw, online tutorials can help him refine his talent. Whatever it is your kid loves to do, there is an online class that can help foster that interest.

Jenny Wise created Special Home Educator as a forum for sharing her adventures in homeschooling and connecting with other homeschooling families.



Can young children really appreciate art? YES!

My sweet little granddaughter is only 2, and already she enjoys the Fine Art Pages on display in our bathroom.  Several months ago when she saw this Rubens work: Boy with Bird, she pointed to the curly haired child and said, “Look!  It’s me!”  She knew her hair was curly and free just like that little child in the portrait.

The other day she was looking at the same piece of art (yes, it’s still up!) and I wondered what she might say about it now, since she has been seeing it for months while visiting us.  I asked her if she liked the picture, and she pointed to it, looked at it again, smiled, and said, “Yes.  It’s beautiful!”  She pointed to the bird and smiled.  I wonder what she thinks about a child she identifies with holding a green bird on their finger!

Immediately after she talked about this painting, she turned to the other Rubens work that is near our bathroom sink, and pointed it out, asking, “What’s that?”  She was curious.  Art is interesting to her.  Her curiosity is already sparked, as a two year old.

I feel that she will know this work of art for the rest of her life.  She has a relationship with this painting.  She identified with it, connected with it, appreciated it.

None of the Rubens works on display are “for young children” or especially aimed for her age group. They simply offer the timeless joy and beauty that all fine art does. I believe that the human soul appreciates and even longs for truth, beauty, and goodness. When we see an inspiring work of art, when our hearts are thrilled by the sound of well-crafted music, when we hear a poem that reaches a part of us that we didn’t know existed, that’s IT. And young children have this in them as well.

Art is a language that can be understood by everyone, without regard for age, education, intelligence, or social status. Let your children feast on a lavish buffet of great art, beautiful music, rich language, and creativity! These things bring an intangible, innate value to each and every person that comes into contact with them, and can be brought into your home life so easily with the resources I’ve created for you at Enrichment Studies! Knowing the difference these things have made in my life and for my family inspires me to keep sharing these things with you.

To get a set of our Fine Art Pages for FREE so you can start using them in your home, click here!

Til next time,
Erica 



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