Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Homeschool Schedule or Family Routine?

It seems interesting to me that I have had this blog topic on my mind for quite some time, only to recently start seeing that it is a topic that others are posting about. Maybe a new trending subject? Anyways, I have struggled each year to sort out a schedule for our homeschooling and for my own day. Let's face it, even the old Supernanny shows touted the benefits and necessity of having the family on a schedule. Years ago, I did follow a daily schedule for myself. My husband worked a job that had him home every day and I could count on the time he would leave/arrive as being nearly set in stone. Our daughter was young, just a baby at the time. A schedule worked beautifully back then. It has been the bane of my existence to try and find that peaceful schedule that seemed so easy back then. Things are different now. On one hand, a schedule is needed, but on the other, the schedule actually becomes a source of stress for me. I was becoming obsessed with watching the clock so I could stay on schedule to get everything done. If life threw a curve (yeah, I know that rarely happens, right?) the schedule would get thrown off. At those times, I was left feeling like I accomplished nothing. I literally became a slave to the schedule and would feel depressed if I failed to keep it exactly as it had been written.

Many homeschool families find that following a strict schedule is too stressful and confining. Yet, they force their way through it because it is what they think is expected. Let's face it. Schools follow a time schedule. They need it to get everything done. All too often, homeschool families feel that they have to mimic the schedule at home. For some, it works great. Not all families choose to follow a time schedule. For those families, the flexibility of a routine works out much easier for everyone involved.

I finally had to “lighten up” and get over the idea that I had to keep a strict schedule. This worried me as well. While the schedule didn't work out for our daughter or myself, the “professionals” in the area of autism would ramble on about the importance of a routine for those with autism. Where in the world did people get the idea that the strict schedule involved a daily, timed, itinerary? It amazes me how many homeschooling parents actually confuse the idea between a routine and a schedule. The idea of trying to keep everything on course with the schedule was as stressful to me as winging it can be to a child with autism. Add in the fact that life doesn't follow strict schedules. Things come up unexpectedly that require us to adapt. If I didn't allow for these shifts in our schedule, how can I say that I am preparing our son to cope when the unexpected happens?

I decided to completely throw out the schedule. Scary right? Well, let me tell you that it was the best thing that I could have done. Now, we have a routine, but it isn't based upon a clock. In many ways, it feels more like unschooling than what many people think of. Yes, the kids are getting their lessons each day, but it is far more relaxed.

We start the mornings getting everyone fed, then I go and take my adult son to his job. He doesn't have a car yet, so I am helping him out for the time being. Once we get home, the kids and I do some hands-on activities together. Many mornings, Little Man will be doing his own Montessori style activities while Little Miss is working on her projects at the same table. Mornings are the time when Little Man is most likely to want to do his homeschooling. I have found that he doesn't focus as well in the afternoons. After lunch, they have some free time and often will go outdoors to play on the trampoline or play with toys in the house. I have found that giving them free time after lunch helps to keep them focused on their studies later. Typically, Little Man will want to continue playing on his own in his bedroom for the rest of the afternoon. Sometimes, he watches videos on his tablet, other times he plays with his toys or puzzles.

While her brother is playing independently, Little Miss works on her math and writing lessons. Because her brother is occupied in another room, she is better able to focus on her work. It also gives me the one on one time with her if she needs help. She uses the time also for reading books on her Kindle or any reading assignments that she has for the week. By the time everything is done, the kids usually have a bit of free time again to play until it is time to go pick up their big brother from work.

Since starting this three weeks ago, I have seen a marked improvement in the lowering of stress. I also see kids who are happier and more productive. We are getting more done each day. If something comes up and we don't get everything done, then it is no big deal. We just catch up the next day. I look at their work in terms of what needs to be completed by week's end, not by what must be done each day. If Little Miss is enjoying a lesson and wants to keep going, I don't stop her. I love her enthusiasm. If she starts dragging on something, then that becomes a priority lesson that I have her work on with me right there to make sure she understands the material.

To track the week's lessons, I have a planner. I write out what should be done that week and tick off each assignment as it is completed. If Little Miss chooses to focus on history or science and let her math slide, then she ends up doing more math on Friday to get it all completed for the week. After doing this once, she left all math until Friday, she quickly learned to manage her choices better. In this way, the routine is also helping to teach her self-discipline. She does have a timer that she uses on her own. She finds that having the timer helps her to stay focused.

I chose to use a BuJo (bullet journal) as my planner this year. I am so happy with this method. Little Miss has a student planner which I use to list the specifics of her daily lessons for the week. In my BuJo, I have a weekly layout to list her assignments. I leave enough room to also post her grades for the assignments.

Little Man's homeschool records are in a separate BuJo notebook. For him, I use a habit tracker style layout. I have a list of developmental areas I am wanting to address, with a selection of activity ideas for each area. By using a habit tracker, I am able to see at a quick glance which areas need more focus. I also can avoid to the same type of activity too often. I use this especially when it comes to tracking his Montessori style activities.

All in all, the routine method is turning out to be the best method for our family. If you find yourself or your kids getting stressed from following a time schedule, give the routine method a try. With the upcoming holiday season, a routine will help to lessen the anxiety that comes from trying to get all the schooling done as you are also preparing for the holidays. You may be pleasantly surprised at just how effective it can be.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Fall Preparations - Pantry

One of the greatest assets in the winter (or any time of year) is a well stocked pantry.  With summer coming to a close, I am stepping up the effort to get the pantry fully stocked by November.  Today, I am canning up some chicken breasts and lean beef that I found on sale.  Canning the meat is super easy to do and will give you a fast meal prep later on.

When canning the chicken, I most often will have it cut up into chunks and fill the jar, adding chicken broth as well.  This becomes a base for many future meals.  I use it in soups or stews throughout the winter season.  Sometimes, I will shred the chicken and can it along with BBQ sauce.  This is a great filling for sandwiches!  You can also make up some jars of chicken, diced up to bite size pieces, and can them up with some vegetables to make a base for chicken pies.  When canning chicken, I never throw out extra broth.  I fill jars with any extra broth and process them as well to be used later.

The beef that I am doing today is chunked up like stew meat.   Placed in jars with beef broth, this will be used later on for soups and stews.  You can add veggies to the beef to make a beef stew or beef pies.  Just as with the chicken, I often will take shredded beef and can it with BBQ sauce.  My husband likes to take those on the truck with him to use in his meals on the road.

I have been following a clean eating meal plan over the past few months.  This hasn't changed my canning plans very much.  Much of what I home can is easily worked into the clean eating meals.  I just use a different recipe for the soups and such.  It is all about adaptability.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Homeschool and Simplifying Our Lives

A lot has been happening here on the homestead.  Winter preps have begun.  Firewood is being delivered and stacked for our woodstove.  I am also canning jars of soups and stews to full the pantry.  We bought buckets from a bakery (the type they get their frosting in) to store flour and other dry goods.  Soon, our pantry will be well supplies for the winter.

Homeschooling has begun.  The kids are slowly getting back into that routine.  It is a fun and busy time.

This week, I am beginning to work on the crochet blankets.  The weather is finally cool enough that I won't be too hot while working on them.  I am making 16" blocks that will be crocheted together to form the finished blankets.

After having made a crochet baby blessing dress, I was asked about making them to sell.  I am seriously considering it.  Baby items are fun to do and seem to sell pretty well.  It would make a nice little income for me.

This year, the kids will be working on earning activity awards through the Keepers of the Faith program again.  It is a fun program where the kids earn the awards through learning new skills and academics.  We've used the program before and the kids learn a lot.  The awards are pins (badges) that they display on banners hanging on their bedroom walls.  Each time they earn these pins, the kids have so much pride in what they have accomplished.

My simplifying of our home and lives is a continuing process.  We are finding that through simplifying and scaling back our possessions, we are becoming more at peace and free. 

I look forward to the day that our home contains only the essentials.  It will be faster and easier to maintain, leaving us with even more time to enjoy each other as a family.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Autism Service Dog

Over the past month, our family has been making a change that has had a profound impact on our 8yr old son.  We now have a service dog, Kiki. 

We found Kiki at a local animal shelter.  She is a German Shepherd/Pyrenees mix with a sweet personality.  She was 5 months old when we found her.  Our son has loved her from the beginning.

The day that we brought her home, we stopped at a PetsMart store to buy a few supplies for her.  She walked in on a leash with our son helping to hold her leash.  Typically, Little Man gets easily overwhelmed by stimuli at stores.  On this day, he was so focused on Kiki that he had no meltdowns or overstimulation issues.  What a huge improvement!

I began obedience training Kiki right away.  Her primary tasks are to 1) comfort Little Man to prevent meltdowns and 2) prevent him from running off.  Kiki had already learned to lay down when we stop walking in a store or other setting away from home.  By doing so, Little Man is unable to wander off.  I hold on to her leash while Little Man does as well.  We have a short leash that connects Little Man to Kiki's harness.  Once laying down, Kiki is too heavy for Little Man to move.  This is how she prevents him from wandering.

We took a trial run with Kiki at a grocery store yesterday.  She performed great.  She was very obedient and her presence made it possible for Little Man to walk through the store without any issues.  He stayed by her side and had no upset from the stimuli.

At home, we have already witnessed a difference in Little Man as well.  He is much calmer, having fewer meltdowns, and has become more vocal.  He is still nonverbal, but he is vocalising in his own way with greater frequency.  He has even begun to echo a word now and then. 

The training of Kiki is continuing daily. We know that it takes time to fully train a service dog.  I've trained dogs in the past, so am well versed in what needs to be taught.  I also know trainers that I can call upon if needed to help, should there be a need.

In the short time that Kiki has been in our home, she has made a profound difference in our son's life.  I am so excited for him and cannot wait to see what the future holds for him and Kiki.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Homeschool Preps

It's that time of year again.  Where did the summer vacation go? Seems it went by so fast this time.

I've been looking at the upcoming school term and planning out the curriculum for this year.  I also have been designing a bullet journal layout to use as a lesson planner.  I haven't decided on a layout yet, but am going with a weekly format.  To keep things simple, the kids' lessons will be color coded.  One color for Little Miss and a second color will be used for Little Man.

I am also starting a journal for our puppy's training.  This will help me track what the dog has learned as we go along. Later on, when we are working with a dog trainer, the trainer will be able to see the progress and better understand what is still needed.  The puppy is a 5 month old German Shepherd/Pyrenees mix.  She is going to be trained to be our son's service animal.  Kiki is already displaying a natural instinct to do the exact tasks that is needed for Little Man.  This is going to make the training all the easier as we go along.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Bullet Journaling

Well, thanks to author, Stacey Shannon, I have been bitten by the Bullet Journaling bug.  I have been playing around with various layouts that I found on Pinterest.  I love that I can finally custom design the layouts to fit my needs.  Store bought planners rarely meet the demands that I require.  They either have features that I don't use or lack ones that would be beneficial to me.

Bullet journals are basically an analog system for organizing your life.  You set the parameters and design the layouts in a way that makes sense to you.

Some people keep very basic pages while others get very artistic in decorating their pages.  It is totally up to what you find works for you.

Once I get my pages worked out, I plan to start posting them to share with others.

Have you tried bullet journaling? How did it work out for you?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Homestead Simplicity Has an Etsy Store

I am so excited to announce that I now have an Etsy store called Homestead Simplicity.  Currently, I have a few beaded items and will be adding more very soon.  This new venture is really important to me.  I am looking at ways to earn the money needed to get a dog to train to be our autistic son's service animal.  This will enable me to make and sell handmade items from home.

Here are a couple of the items listed so far.

Autism Awareness charm that can be used on a Vape Pen, cell phone, zipper pull, backpack, hang from a day planner, or placed onto a keyring.

Silver tone metal bookmark about 5 inches long.  The 4-leaf clover design was chosen after thinking about a friend who's children are in 4-H.

Another approximately 5 inches long metal, silver toned bookmark.  This one has a dainty angel charm on it with the word "faith" inscribed on the front.

I will be adding items as I get them made to add to the Etsy shop.  I am currently awaiting the supplies to make cancer survivor/awareness charms,