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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.

Take Time for Art: History+Art Projects for Homeschool Families

See all of our current giveaways by clicking here.

Giveaway!
We are giving away one Take Time for Art course PLUS an art materials pack! (click here to see the options)
Value: $95 plus free shipping
Must have an address in the 48 contiguous United States to win.

Other goodies:
Sign up for their newsletter and get a coupon for 20% off! (sign up is at the bottom of the screen when on desktop) Coupon is good through May 7, 2021.

FREE SHIPPING at checkout anytime you buy 3 art materials packs!

FREE TRIAL: Wondering if your kids will love it? You can try out Take Time for Art video curriculum for free for a week. Just sign up for the All Access Subscription Plan and get a free week. If it’s not for you, you can cancel before the week is up and you won’t be charged! Click here for more information.

FREE CLASSES! Take Time for Art also offers some free classes. There’s one about the color wheel, another about Feudalism and the Lewis Chessmen, and Roman Roads with the story of the conversion of Paul. Click here to sign up.

My review is below, but if you’re looking for even more reviews, check them out here.

By entering this giveaway you are agreeing to have your email address shared with Take Time for Art and Enrichment Studies, and may be contacted in the future with relevant home education emails.

 

One of the very best ways to help our kids get excited about history and remember what they’ve learned is by making meaningful connections.  Take Time for Art does an awesome job of doing just that, by bringing together audio, video, visuals, and really cool art projects into one fabulous program that makes history study so exciting and accessible!
About a year ago I got to meet Take Time for Art founder Penny Mayes, and I was so excited to hear about the way she has combined art and history into a program that I know other homeschool families will love.

My teenage sons and I got to work through the Ancient Greece program at Take Time for Art.  (They also offer Ancient Egypt, Ancient Rome, Middle Ages, and Renaissance)  In this program we got to watch 15 different well-done streaming videos that taught us about various aspects of Ancient Greece, such as the ancient Minoans, the Mycenean civilization, the dark ages, Athens, the Hellenistic period, and several forms of art such as metal tooling, fresco paintings,  pottery, wartime clothing, and more.  Each section of history is followed by an art project that’s inspired by that era.  The video walks you through each step of the process of creating the art, and the convenient art supplies pack contained all the materials we needed in order to complete the projects.  (except for a few basic items that you would be sure to have on hand)

For the Ancient Greece program we got to make the following projects:


  • a color wheel (which is referred back to in later projects–a great starting point for understanding the relationships between colors!)

  • a watercolor fresco painting of an octopus 

  • a metal tooling landscape project  (the other option was to make a Mask of Agamemnon, which was also super cool.  But we fell in love with these textures and all selected the landscape project.  They are so pretty in person!)



  • a Greek warrior helmet (we had the option to make it with or without a crest and other adornments.  It is really cool, and yes, you can even wear your finished helmet!)

  • a terra cotta tile art project that I really enjoyed!  I have never worked with terra cotta tiles, and I liked the surface and the way the marker color sinks into the surface.  We could have chosen a horse image for the tile as well.  Bonus fun was that we were able to heat this in our oven for 30 minutes, which makes the artwork on it longer-lasting!

 

One of the things I really like about this program is the variety of projects available.  Within this one program we got to learn a lot of history while also trying out several completely different types of art that we would not have thought up on our own.  Even better, within each project there are choices, sometimes an either-or option, sometimes an easier/more difficult option.  I love it that this gives the kids options and allows them to choose the thing they are most excited about.  This is also great because the program will work for the typical homeschool family that has many different ages of children represented in their family.  Middle elementary kids could certainly do these projects with some assistance, but there is definitely enough challenge for high schoolers and parents to participate as well!  I personally enjoyed doing some of the projects myself, and got to learn about art materials that I had never worked with before.

The other thing I love about this is that the projects are guided.  Sure, total creativity is exciting and cool, but not everybody’s mind works like that.  Participating in a guided art activity gives us the opportunity to work with materials and techniques that we may not be familiar with, and offers a jumping off point for future creative endeavors.  I am solidly in the camp of believing that BOTH guided art experiences AND free time to create art are valuable.  (for parents and kids alike!)

These are not fluff projects.  Each one is meaty, involved, takes several hours to complete (some are done over the course of more than one day), and produces a very nice piece of finished work for you to enjoy.  Your kids will be proud of their art work!

 

Budget-conscious moms may be tempted to wonder if they really need a separate art supply pack for each child.  You will definitely want to get one per person.  Sure, there are a couple items included that could possibly be shared between kids, but for the most part each person will need all the supplies provided, and it will be less confusing and complicated when everybody has all the materials they need.  I really appreciated how organized the art supplies kit was, how carefully the bendable items were packaged and protected, and that having all of it together made it possible for us to actually do these projects.  If I had needed to track down all the materials from the store, or worry about dividing them up between several children, that would probably have been enough of a barrier to make me not get it done.  Take Time for Art has made it about a simple as possible to watch the streaming videos and complete the projects!  Perfect for busy homeschool families.

I can see Take Time for Art being a wonderful addition to your more formal studies about the coordinating time period.  I think it would work well as a once-a-week or twice a month supplement and reinforcement where you would watch one of the history videos, and then work on the next art project.  Your kids will love the change of pace, plus they’ll have some really cool finished projects to display in their bedrooms or in your home that will also help them recall the time period and historical information related to the piece.

 

Click here to visit Take Time for Art and check out their programs!

 

Letters from Afar

Imagine how excited your children would be to receive a beautiful, hand-illustrated letter from a far-away land each month!  This is what the wonderful program at Letters from Afar offers, and it is perfect for homeschool families.  My kids and I have been subscribers to this engaging program for about a year, and each time one of these cool envelopes shows up in our mailbox, we get excited to see what’s inside.  I’m so happy to have the opportunity today to tell you about it, thanks to our sponsor, Letters from Afar!

Each Letter from Afar arrives in an air mail envelope adorned with cool vintage stamps, so the excitement is immediate when you see it!  The letters are written on parchment-type paper, and are penned by Isabelle, a world traveler.  Each personally hand-written message tells about her recent explorations in exotic destinations like Morocco, Thailand, or Germany, and Isabelle shares about the sights, sounds, unique experiences, and history of the place.  Also included is some really terrific watercolor illustrations that typically include a map of the area or some scenes from the place.  It’s like getting a peek inside Isabelle’s travel/nature journal.  Really cool, and it’s inspiring for those of us that want to create journals of our own adventures, too.

Letters from Afar is one of those wonderful opportunities to infuse a spark of joy and excitement into your home while also offering a natural jumping off point for digging deeper and learning about something that you are now curious about.  Just imagine–the mail arrives and one of the kids brings it in.  There’s a Letter from Afar!  Your children gather round and you read the letter together, taking time to examine the illustrations and ooh and aah at the interesting things mentioned and shown.  The kids run to the globe to try to locate the place they just read about, and that naturally leads to a mention of what continent it’s on, what bodies of water are nearby, what else is near, and how far is it from where we are?  You never know which places will get the kids interested in learning more about the geography, culture, religions, politics, animals, or ways of life in other places.  The possibilities for learning are limitless!

Plus, I love it that these letters are keepsakes that can go right into a Letters from Afar notebook so your children can continue to revisit the places and people of lands far away, and draw connections between the places you’re learning about in history, geography, and literature and the letters you’ve received.

Priced at a modest $6 a month, this is a learning treat that is easy on the wallet and offers a lot of possibilities!  Click here to visit them and learn more.

UGears: Fun STEM models for your family!

I’m pretty sure that it’s a commonality among homeschool moms that when we’re shopping for Christmas, birthdays, and other gift giving times, we love to find items that are both fun AND educational! (Can I get a witness?!) Well, I hit the jackpot when I found out about UGears last Christmas, and boy-oh-boy, I’m so excited to tell you about this company and the cool stuff they’ve got.

Originally from the Ukraine, UGears specializes in creating mechanical model kits.  So, think of something like model airplanes or a ship in a bottle, except way cooler, because there are working parts and things that go!

UGears are made from quality wooden materials and go together without any glue.  Clear step-by-step instructions walk you through the assembly process.  One part puzzle, one part engineering marvel, each UGears model offers the fun and challenge of creating a moving item that is fun to play with and makes an interesting decorative piece as well.  These 3D models are really interesting to put together because you get to see the inner workings of the piece, often including gears, pendulums, and other machinery parts.

UGears offers a wide range of models, ranging from items simple enough for younger kids on up to items that would be challenging for adults, or perfect for dad to put together with the kids!

We have several UGears pieces in our home now, so I wanted to share with you our experience with them.


UGears U-Fidget Tribiks
This is one of the sets that I purchased for Christmas last year.  There are four different miniature models that are fun for holding in your hand and spinning around a bit.  They were pretty easy for my 14 year old son to put together in a short amount of time.  They are a good starter project for kids (recommended age is 14+ but my son and I both think younger kids could make these) and make a cool little display on a shelf.  They don’t do a whole lot, but it is fun to see the gears move and work together.

UGears Dynamometer

This is the other model that I got for my son for Christmas.  I selected this because it looked interesting but not too difficult for assembly.  (It is rated Easy and is recommended for ages 14+) The Dynamometer uses the same principle as a pneumatic engine, and includes a lot of gears and the mechanical junction known as a Geneva drive.  Pretty neat!


UGears U-9 Grand Prix Car
We were excited to get the Grand Prix Car from UGears recently, and my son (now 15 years old) had fun putting together this more complex model.  The inner assembly of this car is really interesting, with a 16 valve V8 engine and fan, a transmission that can switch between gears, and many more fascinating features!  The wheels are rubberized to give it extra grip as it rolls along, too.  It’s a beautiful and eye-catching piece to have on display, and after spending nearly 10 hours assembling it, it is something my son enjoys and feels a sense of pride and accomplishment about.

All of our models have been fairly sturdy, but of course they are not meant for rough play.  While they all do “go,” the ones we have are not self-propelled.  You can definitely enjoy and appreciate the movement of the working parts, and the nicely-designed finished product to have on display.

To us, the assembly process has been a really fun experience.  If your kids can follow Lego instructions, they can work with UGears, while gaining valuable perspective on the way gears and other mechanical pieces can work together to make things do what they do.  To end up with an attractive keepsake at the end makes it even better!  I think UGears would be wonderful for homeschool families because it’s one of those fun-while-learning items that you can provide for your children as a true delight-directed educational opportunity.  I also think the more complex models would make great gifts for dads that would enjoy working with the kids on a project like this in the evenings or weekends.

Overall, I highly recommend UGears as a wonderful option for educational fun and gift-giving!

Here’s a great video showing off some other great UGears products:

 

This review and giveaway have been sponsored by UGears.  Opinions expressed in the review are my own.

Learn Hebrew in your Homeschool!

Today I am really excited to tell you about a cool opportunity for you! My friend Ana Willis from They Call Me Blessed recently found out that many of her readers were interested in teaching their kids Hebrew, which Ana happens to know quite well! She has lived in Israel, two of her children were born in Jerusalem, she has studied Hebrew and has degrees in theology, Biblical studies, Jewish studies, and more.

Well, we have a golden opportunity, because Ana decided to offer a class series for homeschoolers that want to learn beginning Hebrew! The course will cover things like

  • the Hebrew alphabet
  • numbers
  • colors
  • shapes
  • basic vocabulary
  • Hebrew songs
  • Bible verses in Hebrew

This is a wonderful and unique opportunity for homeschool families, and it’ll work for all ages, anytime you want to watch, at one price for the whole family. Live classes via video will be offered, but you can always watch replays if you can’t be there at specific class times.

If you’d like to check it out, you can see the simple registration form and instructions here.  As a special bonus to those that register for this class through my referral link, I’m offering a fun Bonus Gift!  Register by April 15, 2018 by clicking here, and I’ll be giving you our Books of Moses Fine Art Pages collection for FREE.  This whopping 44-piece collection of art coordinates with stories in Genesis, Exodus, and Numbers, and offers a valuable and intriguing look into how artists throughout history depicted creation, the flood, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, the Tower of Babel, the life of Abraham, and much more!  This collection normally sells for $14.95, but will be my gift to you.  Simply shoot me an email after you register for the Hebrew class, and I’ll hook you up.  🙂  Erica@EnrichmentStudies.com

Make Your Homeschool Graduation Really Special

One of the things I’ve loved about being a part of a homeschool support group is that my kids have had opportunities to take part in regular school experiences like competitive sports teams, proms, groups classes, yearbooks, clubs, and graduations.  Last year our third child, Jacob, graduated, and it was our first experience with a homeschool graduation ceremony.  I was so impressed at how lovely and meaningful it was!  All of the graduating seniors were decked out in cap, gown, and tassels, and received diplomas, and I loved that it was in no way a second-rate experience for them!

With three remaining high schoolers to graduate from our homeschool, I was delighted when Homeschool Diploma wanted to send me some of their products to review!  I noticed during our senior year, many parents in our group did not know where or how to find graduation supplies for their homeschooled senior, and I ended up kind of cobbling together items helter-skelter, so I know this is a common need.  Being able to see the large assortment of options, and experience the quality of the products available at Homeschool Diploma has been impressive, and I am so excited to share about this with you!

Homeschool Diploma offers all the supplies and products you need for your seniors, from the actual diplomas and diploma covers, to caps and gowns, announcements and Thank You cards, gifts, and even class rings!  If you’ll have a graduate within the next four years, you will definitely want to get in on this.

The first item I got to check out was a beautiful customized diploma.  Since I don’t have a graduating senior this year, I made one up for a friend of ours, and it really turned out lovely.  You can choose from really nice standard, simple diplomas for as little as $29.99, or choose from many different options to create a more personalized keepsake that reflects your homeschool and student.

The one we got has the graduate’s name and school name on the front cover, a beautiful engraved seal, a Bible verse, and a diploma cover tassel.

It’s wonderful quality and I love how it offers parents the opportunity to convey their joy and accomplishment in graduating their child in ways that reflect their own style and personality.

In addition to the diploma, we also opted to get an extra, archive copy of the diploma.  This is great so that your graduate can take their actual diploma with them, but mom and dad can keep a spare copy for their records in case it’s ever needed.  It’s high-quality and enclosed in a clear, archive envelope to protect it.

We were also able to get a cap, gown, and tassel set, which is a must-have for any graduation ceremony.  Homeschool Diploma offers two fabric types (matte or shiny) and a wide variety of colors.  Gowns are sized by height, so it’s quick and easy to choose one that’s right for you.  Plus sizes are also available.  I was really pleased to see that the quality of the gown is quite nice.  The fabric has a soft, comfortable feel and a nice weight and drape, and the zipper works smoothly and feels like it is good quality.  The cap is also well-made and sturdy.

I especially liked the charm on the tassel, which is a good weight and definitely feels like a quality keepsake, and not some cheaply made trinket.  Certainly you could save and reuse these caps and gowns for future graduates in your family.

The final item I was able to check out was the personalized notecards.  We opted for a navy blue card with Matthew’s name in gold on the front.  The paper used for these notecards is a nice weight and quality.  These cards are perfect for post-graduation thank you notes, as well as an ongoing stash of personalized stationery as your student goes on to further education,  job interviews, and so on.  Since the cards are completely navy blue, you will want to get a white gel roll pen to use with them, and thoughtfully, Homeschool Diploma offers one for a nominal fee.

All-in-all, my impression of everything that I got to experience from Homeschool Diploma was care and quality.  Each item is something I would be so pleased to use with my own graduates, knowing that every item is well-made and high-quality and reflective of our excitement at having reached this milestone with our child!

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