Day in the Life of Our Homeschool Family

I love reading “day in the life” posts from homeschooling families, and am excited to share my own!  One of the reasons we homeschool is for the flexibility in our days, and our lives.  So, I want to share what we do, what works, and what doesn’t.  Plus, I’ll note what we plan to change moving forward.  A glimpse into a typical day at our homeschool might give you inspiration, and quite possibly an idea of what not to do!

 

One of the reasons we homeschool is for the flexibility in our days, and our lives. So, I want to share what we do, what works and what doesn't. -- WordsbyErynn.com

Day in the Life of Our Homeschool Family

Lucas is my first grader, spunky and full of questions.  He is constantly creating machines and asking science related questions.  He is often thrilled to divulge that he is homeschooled, and follows up, “I’m in first grade,” with, “but I do second grade math.”  It was a delight to watch him soak up phonics and spelling rules early this year.  This soon blossomed into an ability to read my to-do lists and, unfortunately, the names of TV shows on our channel guide.

Elias is 2 (soon to be 3, sometimes I think 13), and hasn’t officially started “school.”  He’s been our little tag-along all school year.  He loves to draw circles, count objects (out of order), use rulers (see-through ones make sweet goggles), and build Lego men with two heads and five pairs of pants.  Elias might ask to “do school” one day, then scribble on my planner for ten minutes before disappearing into the playroom to wreak havoc.  He will also insist that I read The Princess in Black at least once a day, but fortunately after that, it will conveniently disappear under the couch or another inconspicuous place.

Typically, I work one-on-one with Lucas while Elias floats in and out of our work space.  Often I’ll read a book to him during the times that Lucas is working independently.  Other times we’ll bust out his clipboard and he’ll sit next to Lucas and doodle for a while.  We do incorporate many breaks throughout our “school” time, because Lucas isn’t a stationary learner.  Also, toddler messes need tending to in the playroom.

Our Homeschool Philosophy

Because we’re enrolled in a public charter, I’m bound by the Common Core standards for all subjects.  Frankly, I’m not sure what the fuss is about Common Core.  I have a complete printed list of the guidelines, and nothing screams “nope!” to me.  Mostly, Common Core seems to revolve around encouraging critical thinking, asking thoughtful questions, and offering multiple avenues toward problem solving.

However classical we seem on the surface, I do lean toward a child-led learning experience and theology.  Lucas’ love of science has inspired a lot of our learning materials- books on weather phenomenons, a microscope and biology specimens, Snap Circuits and magnet kits.  Because we started our homeschool program at first grade, this year was Lucas’ formal introduction to phonics and reading.  While I can’t exactly take credit for teaching him to read, I did facilitate it.  So there’s that.

I love reading, so I’ve always worked toward instilling that passion in my kids.  We’ve read daily with both boys since they were infants, and they each have a list of personal favorites.  So, our homeschool strategy is heavily reliant on literature and comprehension.  After all, so much of our learning is dependent upon reading to learn, after we’ve learned to read.

A Typical Day

The kids are usually up between 8 and 9 each morning.  We start our day with a leisurely breakfast while I stumble to the percolator and scramble for a cup of coffee.  Since I work from home, I’m usually up for hours after the kids go to bed, finishing client projects and writing blog posts (cough cough).  Our morning wake up call can vary, and has been known to stretch to 10 or 10:30.  I don’t wake the boys up, unless we have an appointment to keep or a special event planned.  Unless I have a tight deadline looming, I also don’t usually get up before they do either.

We don’t set specific time frames for each subject, and I usually fly by the seat of my pants as far as what we cover each day.  If I’m feeling particularly industrious, I might set out our intended materials the night before.  Generally, we’ll cover Language Arts, Math, and Art each day.  Then Social Studies and Science are formally explored once a week each.  Outside of school time, though, we’ll often do STEM activities and discuss them.

Language Arts

Typically we start our school time with reading.  Lucas just finished Frog and Toad Are Friends, and is looking forward to the next book from the set.  I will have him read a few pages or a chapter aloud, then switch to writing activities.  We started the year with Sing Spell Read Write, a packaged curriculum intended to start kids off with phonics.  It claims to establish independent reading ability by program completion.  It’s not specifically designed for homeschool use, and would be better suited to a group of kids rather than one on his own.  We made it to about step 20 before the exercises became redundant and boring to Lucas.  He would object to working in the workbook, and I can’t say I blame him.  Much of the book work is copying lists of 60 or more spelling words with related letter clusters.

Once I realized SSRW wasn’t working for Lucas, I looked for other options within our charter’s recommended resources.  I then ordered Winning With Writing to try out their line of books (Growing With Grammar and Soaring With Spelling- all titles from JacKris Publishing).  For some reason, he loves this book.  It might be the simplicity, or the fact that he can color in the pictures on nearly every page, but this has become Lucas’ favorite book work.  To fulfill state standards, we have to incorporate each subject area, so we’re still using parts of SSRW.  But, I’ve been inventing my own activities along the way too.

 

Books

 

For next year, we plan to use a more traditional literature based program or programs, which likely means more books to pick and choose from as far as daily teaching goes.

Math

I have already been exploring other options for math, since McGraw-Hill’s MyMath isn’t cutting it for my easily bored first grader.  Based on an assessment test, we picked second grade level math, and much of it is dull to Lucas.  For the first half of the school year, he worked through the book grudgingly, but soon after I switched up the plan.  Now I reference each chapter and lesson, and create our own activities echoing the themes.  For example, this week the unit was about measurement.  We got out the sketchbook and colored pencils, and made a chart featuring inches, feet, meters, etc.  We talked about how the measurements are related, and Lucas drew a picture of an object that could be measured using each unit.

I recently decided to move a lot of our lessons into both an artist’s sketchbook and double-lined workbooks with space for drawing.  Lucas will spend more time with concepts when he’s able to illustrate them.  While I don’t commit to any particular homeschooling style, I love the idea of minimalism in education.  If all we did was create artwork based on all subjects all day, that would be fine with me!  Alas, with the state standards looming, we do have to move beyond the paints and pastels.

Changing up math for 2nd grade

While I’m aiming for even more art incorporation in next year’s curriculum, I plan to switch math to Teaching Textbooks.  With Lucas’ teacher’s recommendation, we’ll likely move on to third grade math.  These courses are completely digital, with the option to use a workbook (which I think we’ll use occasionally), and I’m hoping the novelty of working on my computer will enthrall Lucas enough to focus on each video/interactive lesson.  Also, this tech time will likely allow Elias a window of time for “school” activities, like puzzles, play dough, or a sensory bin activity.  Those require supervision and subsequent cleanup, possibly including a quick vacuum or crawl under the couch in search of errant pieces.

Art

As mentioned, I encourage art in all subjects that we already cover.  Lucas loved arts and crafts as a toddler, and I designed many hands-on projects and sensory experiences for him.  But as he got older, he wasn’t interested in coloring or painting as much.  Then, we got new art supplies.  It’s like he’s a whole new kid- with access to oil pastels, chalk pastels, a 48-color pencil set, “artists” drawing pencils, and watercolor crayons, he’s now stoked about getting messy and displaying his creations.

Along with Lucas’ enthusiasm for arts and science comes a reluctance for handwriting and composition.  Any time I can have him create a piece of art and label it, my teaching heart is happy!  We did this last week after he devoured a science reader about shells and various sea creatures.  Lucas measured out a quahog on his sketch paper, colored it in according to the pictures in the book, and labeled it.  Success!

PE

By noon, we tend to head outside to meet my nephew coming home from kindergarten.  He’s my bonus kid for a few hours, so the boys all run and play outside before we reconvene for lunch.  I don’t usually offer much in the way of structured PE, unless we’re stuck indoors due to inclement weather.  Occasionally I’ll draw a hopscotch grid out front, or suggest a game of soccer.  Usually, though, I stay out of the way and let them run wild.

Tuesdays we attend gymnastics, which Lucas started this month and adores.  It’s tough for our schedule, since Elias has dropped his afternoon nap but falls asleep on the drive home.  I don’t blame him, since the climbing and jumping he does looks strenuous.  But, it’s a short-term issue for the rest of this school year, after which we’ll explore other sports.

For next school year, I’ve been looking into online resources, simply because I want to ensure we’re all getting active, whether it’s indoors or out.  Lucas is keen on starting karate in the fall, but I’ve had trouble finding an opportunity for both him and Elias to attend together.  I’d hate to spend another school year entertaining my preschooler in the hallway while Lucas is participating in classes.  This is one of the very few complaints I have about planning our boys four years apart!

Free play

After lunch, the boys play until it’s time for Zane to go home.  For a few weeks, we would complete a guided art project together each Friday.  The kids loved this, and it’s a habit I want to restart!  But, the perfectionist (let’s be honest, control freak) in me resists the occasional mess that is a result of oil pastels rubbed across every surface.

Around 3pm, when the crowd thins, we’ll finish up any work that was left incomplete earlier in the day.  We read more books, complete a few Snap Circuits projects, check out a miscellaneous object under the microscope, and prepare dinner.  On Fridays, I guide Lucas through a writing prompt, or let him create on his own, to complete a page in his journal.  This usually gets pushed off until later in the evening.  It’s not something he really enjoys unless he has a new experience or event to report on.  I encourage journaling not only to track his writing progress, but to have a reminder of his childhood once he’s grown.

After dinner tech time

I’m ashamed to admit this, but my kids often park in front of the TV while I prep dinner and/or do dishes in the evenings.  I hate it, but it seems a necessary evil when they’re getting cranky, hungry, and need a distraction.  Occasionally I’ll issue a tablet to each child, but that can result in bickering over which device has better games.  Once Papa gets home, the TV will usually be changed to soccer or news, after which bedtime rituals begin.

As the day winds down…

I try to have the boys in bed by 9 at the latest, because I’ve noticed any later than that invites meltdowns.  But, because our schedules and circumstances change so often, there’s always room to shake things up. The ultimate beauty of homeschool is the ability to change what isn't working Click To Tweet The ultimate beauty of homeschool is the ability to change what isn’t working- which, as you can see, might be a lot when you’re first starting out.

However, I am super excited to finish out this first year of homeschool and move on to different strategies and resources next year.

One of the reasons we homeschool is for the flexibility in our days, and our lives. So, I want to share what we do, what works and what doesn't. -WordsbyErynn.com

What does a day in your homeschool look like?

I’d love to hear about it!

 

 

 

2017 Northern California Walk for Apraxia

Are you ready for this year’s Northern California Walk for Apraxia?  This event is orchestrated in support of children who are diagnosed with childhood apraxia of speech and their families.  Funds raised go toward awareness, aid programs, and education in our community!

 

Support kids affected by childhood apraxia of speech, and attend the 2017 Northern California Walk for Apraxia in Sutter Creek, CA!

 

 

Childhood apraxia is a neurological disorder that affects speech.  It is considered rare, and very difficult to overcome.  Thanks to organizations like CASANA, more children are getting the services and therapies needed to find their voices.

Apraxia keeps kids from effectively articulating their thoughts into understandable speech.  This makes communication hard, if not impossible.  Kids like my six-year-old nephew Zane are often overlooked due to an assumption that being quiet means they’re shy, or that not being able to speak clearly means they’re unintelligent.  Although Zane has made huge strides in his journey, the struggle doesn’t end with his success.  Zane (and my amazing sister, his perpetual advocate) is my reason for participating in this cause.  I’ve been privileged to witness his accomplishments these past few years.  I can’t wait to see where he’ll go next!  For more about Zane’s journey, check out last year’s post on the 2016 walk.

 

2016 Northern California Walk for Apraxia
Zane at the 2016 Walk for Children with Apraxia of Speech

CASANA, and its appointed coordinators, have created this unique opportunity to spotlight the kids who fight to speak. It gives them a chance to be acknowledged for overcoming the challenges of apraxia of speech, and mark their progress!

Thanks to generous contributions from our local community, and the commitment of walkers and organizers alike, the 2016 Walk was a rousing success!  Over 130 walkers registered, including over a dozen children who were individually recognized and awarded medals.

This year’s event is on track to be the largest Amador County has seen.  Sponsors thus far include Elk Grove’s Jane Johnson Speech Therapy and local Angels Camp speech therapy center, Communication Rising.  You can help by joining the Walk here, or consider donating a raffle prize!  CASANA also offers social media images you can download to show your support.

 

Join us at the Walk for Children With Apraxia!

 

Support kids affected by childhood apraxia of speech, and attend the 2017 Northern California Walk for Apraxia in Sutter Creek, CA!

 

Can’t make it to our local Walk?  Check out CASANA’s calendar for Walk events across the country!

How to Homeschool in California: 3 Questions to Ask

Nearly 3.5% of students nationwide are homeschooled.  Now, I’m as much of a lover of statistics as any educator.  But seriously, what does that figure tell us about how these parents are teaching their students?  There are a ton of options available, but no clear-cut guide to figuring out what will work best for your family.  Luckily for you, I’ve designed this guide to figuring out the how behind that 3.5%.  The answers to these three questions will help you to decide how to implement your passion for home education in a way that works for your student.

 

How to Homeschool: 3 Questions to Ask to Help You Decide

 

How to Homeschool: 3 Questions to Ask to Help You Decide. The answers to these three questions will help you to decide how to implement your passion for home education in a way that works for your student.

First Question: What Options Do I Have For Homeschooling?

What’s great about California is the state is super flexible when it comes to our options.  There are three general categories of enrollment: private homeschooling, charter participation, and online programs.

 

Private Homeschooling

You can establish your own private school.  This is done through filing a private school affidavit each October.  A form on the California Department of Education website walks you through the process.  Establishing your own private school gives you ultimate educational freedom.  The curriculum, school calendar, grades, and field trips are all up to you.  The only oversight is a recommended portfolio.  This way, you have documentation of each child’s progress should it be asked for by the state.  Technically, the state can request to see your school records (including attendance).  However, I’ve never heard of anyone being asked to show the goods.

Private homeschooling is required to fulfill state standards.  What’s great is that as the administrator of the school, you can choose how it’s done. It’s also your responsibility to produce grades and transcripts.  This includes creating a high school diploma for graduating students.  But, in some cases, colleges might not accept homeschool diplomas as proof of graduation.  For example, the UC system has a more involved application process for homeschooled students that received a non-public school district diploma.  The simplest way around this technicality is to take the admissions test.  This can be simpler since it avoids in depth questioning and the burden of proof.

For the CSU system, admission requirements aren’t as clear cut, according to the Admission Handbook for 2016-2017.  The guide states that privately homeschooled students’ individual applications may be reviewed to ensure that they meet admission requirements.  This sounds a little scary!  But with consistent record keeping through the high school years, all subjects should be covered well enough to meet course requirements.

Homeschooling Through a Charter

The second option for homeschool in California is through enrollment in a charter program.  There are both private and public charter schools.  Each has its own requirements for admission.  Charters are unique in that they offer guidance and curriculum planning, but the parent educator is primarily responsible for record keeping and daily teaching.  We enrolled in a charter program that serves families throughout California.  There are endless options depending on your location and campus accessibility.

Many charters offer funding for curriculum and supplementary activities.  The availability of funds, as well as the specific amount, will vary with each program.  Charters also tend to offer on campus classes, for students who are interested.  A social aspect is built in, which is not guaranteed with private homeschooling.  That’s not to say that guided extracurricular activities are required for socialization, though.  Still, charters often provide a sense of community in addition to support in teaching core subjects.  In our area, Visions in Education is convenient, since they have a campus local to us.  Other local charters include the association of Pacific Charters, which has campuses throughout the Sacramento and Stockton areas.

Charters will supply guidelines for state standards and curriculum suggestions or requirements.  They mostly function on their own school calendar with attendance and grading required.  However, I know a number of families that homeschool with charters and practically unschool their kids, with their teacher’s approval.  I have yet to encounter this opportunity, although our certified teacher is fairly hands off as well.  Veteran homeschool parents will tell you, your satisfaction with any one program will depend heavily on the teacher that you’re assigned to.  For us, that hasn’t been an issue thus far.

Online Schooling

The final option in California is online schooling.  Both free and paid programs exist, though I haven’t encountered an option that offers any funding or extracurricular support.  Connections Academy is one prominently featured option in a basic search.  Be warned that if you request their free program guide, they will continue to proffer services until you unsubscribe or enroll.  K12 is another program I frequently see advertised on local cable.  It also claims to be fee-free, and offers community based events and field trips as well.  Time 4 Learning is yet another option commonly discussed in homeschooling forums.  It apparently runs at a standard monthly cost of $25, though discounts seem to be offered frequently.

 

Second Question: How Much Guidance Do I Want/Need?

 

New to Homeschooling versus Self Sufficient Student

Different programs over varying levels of oversight (and regulation).  Families new to homeschooling might consider a program with an abundance of support and oversight.  This can aid in the transition from public to home education.  You might be testing the waters with a kindergarten student, and are unsure what path to take.  Charter and online programs often have guidelines for how and what to study.  They can offer curriculum suggestions or require adherence to specific programs.  If you’re unsure what your student’s strengths are, it can be worth exploring various curriculum to figure out what speaks to him or her.  In our charter, curriculum samples are available at the school’s main campus.  I’m able to peruse resources before ordering any materials, which can be quite helpful in finding the right fit.

Considerations for Students With Special Needs

For students with special educational needs, it can be a hassle to find private services (and pay out of pocket) for diagnostics or therapy.  Charter programs that function within public school districts have those resources readily available.  Most charters will work closely with you to establish, or integrate, an IEP.  Homeschooling already caters to individual learning needs, so students with special needs have extensive opportunities for progress and adaptation.

Scheduling and Costs

If you like to keep a flexible schedule and teach outside typical school days and hours, you’d do well to avoid charters and online programs.  Privately schooling lets you dictate when, where, and how subjects are covered.  Charters and even online programs require specific attendance.  This can be pesky if you’d rather be on the road when everyone else is not!  Just note, registration is still required if you decide to privately homeschool (or unschool), since California maintains that education is a state matter.

Then there’s the issue of finances.  Curriculum, should you choose to go all in, can be horribly expensive.  Our charter program offers funding for specific educational purposes (textbooks, art supplies, designated field trips), for a total of $1800 per school year.  This allows us to take advantage of programs and services I didn’t even know about before!  Pacific Charters offers $2500 per school year with their Rio Valley campus, though other campuses don’t appear to list specific amounts.

That said, homeschooling doesn’t have to be expensive.   I am, however, of the mindset that if public schools receive funds for my child’s enrollment, he should he receive a cut of the money too.  Obviously, the funds are only dispersed for specified educational supplies and events.

A Sense of Community (and Supervision)

If you’re like me, and are painfully antisocial when it comes to meeting other parents, a built-in social option could be beneficial.  Charters, as well as some online schooling options, frequently offer get-togethers and on-campus classes for students.  My son’s program, for example, offers classes in our area so kids can learn alongside one another.  They also host a kickoff park day each school year so families can socialize.  Plus, I have access to my son’s certified teacher throughout the school year.  Our program has monthly teacher meetings, where we do a progress check and she answers any questions I have.  I enjoy having a sense of connection to the school through our teacher.  Plus she gives great advice on learning strategies for my hands-on kiddo.

 

Third Question: How Do My Kids Learn Best?

 

I’ve always been a bookworm (thanks Mom & Dad!).  I much preferred solo desk work to joining groups and engaging physically.  As a homeschooling parent and lover of life learning, I recognize that not every student learns best by cracking open a textbook.  Particularly wiggly six year olds like mine.

My favorite thing about homeschooling is the level of customization for each student’s learning style.  For the bookworm (or tech oriented) kids, online programs can be a simple way to complete coursework quickly and move on to other interests.  There isn’t excess classroom time spent going over details that might be boring to these students. Working pace is set by each student, and he or she can take as much time, or as little, as necessary.

Kids that enjoy a hands-on experience will love manipulative tools, outdoor exploration, and messy science experiments.  Both private homeschooling and charter programs can be beneficial for these students. Sitting still isn’t a requirement unless attending a specific on campus class.  Throughout our homeschool day, we have the luxury of taking breaks and reworking subjects to suit our visual learner’s needs.  He definitely doesn’t have to sit at a desk all day, and my ability to teach isn’t affected by the location of our learning.

For kids like first grade me, working in groups could be a source of stress.  For other kids, working alone might by abysmally boring.  With private homeschool and charters, it’s up to the parent’s discretion how often kids work in groups (or not).

 

Now What?

Now that we’ve clearly covered how to homeschool, are you proud to be part of that 3.5% that do?

I know there’s a lot to consider about homeschool.  It can sometimes feel like a part time (or full time!) job.  What’s so awesome about homeschool in general, is the ability to switch it up.  If schooling through a charter doesn’t work out for us, there’s always the private option.  If my kids want to get all their work done online when they’re in high school, we’ll go that route.

I know a dad who has three homeschooled kids, and uses a different program and teaching format for each. The beauty of schooling at home is we get to make those choices based on our children's best interests. Click To Tweet

That might change next week, next year, or ten years from now.  What I love about the process is it involves learning alongside my kids.  We’re on this journey together, so I’m more than just their tour guide!

 

How to Homeschool in California: 3 Questions to Ask to Help You Decide

 

Just to be clear, I’m not affiliated with any of the above recommended resources or programs 🙂

7 Simple Strategies for Breaking Through a Creative Block

As creatives, we’ve all run into a seemingly impossible space where the ideas just. won’t. flow. Writers seem particularly susceptible to this dilemma, but we’re not the only ones! Fortunately, since I’ve consciously employed the following strategies, I’ve been circumventing that pesky creative block. Next time you’re up against a blank screen or blank paper, try one of these seven ideas to get the bright ideas glowing again!

 

7 Simple Strategies for Breaking Through a Creative Block

 

Next time you're up against a blank screen or blank paper, try one of these seven ideas to get the bright ideas glowing again and banishing creative block. Inspiration from WordsbyErynn.com.

Do something you’re terrible at to switch gears.

No, really.

It’s not to make you suffer:

Not only will you encourage your mind to switch gears, you’ll also appreciate your own craft more when you return to the task at hand. I wouldn’t advise delving so deep that you get frustrated, but sketching instead of sewing or cooking instead of computing can help to reroute your creativity and knock down creative block.

 

Bust out a coloring book and get to stress-relieving.

How it helps:

It may be “mindless,” but this lets your thoughts wander and morph, potentially leading to a breakthrough. Plus, there’s something super satisfying about coloring inside the lines and sharpening fresh pencils (or is this just me?).

There’s a reason grown-up coloring books are everywhere, and it’s because kids aren’t the only ones who benefit from getting their scribbles out.

 

Get out of your comfort zone to discover fresh perspective.

Rather than holing up in your office, or gluing yourself to the work table until the project finishes itself, take your work space out of the equation.

For me, this means chasing my kids and/or engaging in adult conversation. Both serve as brain-distracting tasks that take me out of my creative prison! When I return to my work, it’s a welcome change to jump back within my own mind and creative process.

 

People watch for inspiration.

Bonus points for venturing out into a public place, since this can be done via your favorite sitcom. Yes, this is explicit permission to load Netflix and begin binge watching!

But don’t just mindlessly indulge:

Make sure to keep an eye out for visuals, topics, or character developments of interest.

 

Check out others’ work for innovative ideas.

I always get a jolt of inspiration after reading others’ blogs, or analyzing the copy on their business websites. Look to a peer (or idol) in your genre to see what they’re up to.

Definitely don’t plagiarize, but consider expanding on idea they’ve shared. Or, try a project in the same medium they use. As long as the end result is uniquely yours, no one needs to know which artist or entrepreneur you secretly stalk.

 

Plan an event or outing to check off to-do’s for a refreshing change of pace.

Upcoming birthday? Far off vacation? Need to make a grocery list?

Now is the perfect time to start on another task- either necessary, or frivolously enjoyable. Diving into a personal project can refresh your desire to work on, well, “work.”

Plus, thinking ahead to your to-do list ensures that you’re making progress in your personal life too, not just the business arena.

 

Give yourself an assignment to encourage meaningful work and end ongoing creative block.

I always work most efficiently with a client’s guidelines (and timeline) in my toolkit. For my own projects, I have to develop each from scratch, and decide on the parameters.

I’ve found that following a template and answering key questions always get me on track for writing my own blog posts and developing content. Revive the meaning behind what you do, by following ‘rules’ for completion, and guarantee that you’ll consistently turn out work you’re proud of.

 

Think you’ll try one of these strategies to get rid of a looming creative block? Or do you have your own secrets to get the brainstorm brewing?

7 Simple Strategies for Banishing Creative Block from WordsbyErynn.com

How to Stay Organized On Outings With Your Kids

Gone are the days when all I needed was a wallet and my car keys to get out and get things done. But according to my sister, I’ve got impressive prowess that helps me stay organized on outings/trips with my kids. I’m not sure why she thinks this…  She’s the one who works full time, juggles kids’ appointments, and well, quite frankly, still looks human. At my house, however, we don’t “do” fashion, and school is done in our pajamas. Wake up call rarely comes before 8am, and flexibility is the only constant. When we go out, though, my ducks get in their rows! Here are my [evidently] pro tips for how to stay organized when the shit you simply *must* do requires leaving the house.

Here are my [evidently] pro tips for how to stay organized when the shit you simply *must* do requires leaving the house. Staying Organized with WordsbyErynn

Lists, charts, itineraries, schedules… On paper.

My first secret is about 500 lists. I write lists for everything; groceries, meal planning, homeschool studies, work projects. I actually enjoy writing stuff down, although my memory functions fairly well. Plus, I like to think it empties out my brain temporarily so I can focus on important things. Like not burning the pancakes. Or calling the correct name of the kid I’m attempting to summon.

I’ve tried using my Kindle or my phone to keep lists, but it’s super satisfying to check tasks off as they’re accomplished. While it might not be the greenest method of note taking, it’s the most effective for me. I earn back eco points by reusing my kids’ rejected artwork and scribbling on junk mail.

I’ve been known to create elaborate itineraries for our trips, including what to see and when. At home I write down our daily schedule so that the kids and I both know what to expect. Even my freelance projects are categorized neatly, appropriate time frames allotted. Occasionally I step outside these paper boundaries, but even then, having the outline in print helps me refocus.

Plan in advance.

Preferably, embarrassingly in advance. When we take trips to the coast, it’s not unheard of for me to plan six months ahead of time. Also, I’ll prep my lists for big trips like that a few days before, and go over them again before we leave. I lay out my lists while packing so I stay organized and divvy up goods accordingly. I consider my destination, the weather, the possibility of extending the trip, and factor in extras for everything and everyone. It doesn’t hurt to have spare sets of clothing for each passenger in your vehicle. At the very least, I try to carry sweatshirts or blankets/towels in case of accidents or unexpected chilly weather.

Same goes with smaller trips; if I know I’m running low on groceries, I’ll pick a specific day to shop and make a mental note ahead of time. Way better than realizing you’re out of soy milk right after you’ve mixed the rest of the ingredients for pancakes. Even if the kids have a meltdown en route, I’ve got the list to stick to so I don’t forget anything vital in the scramble. Plus, since I planned ahead, I’m not shopping during nap time or right before dinner.

Prioritize.

Pants might be most important to you, but my number one priority is making sure my kids are fed and watered adequately. Secondary to that is clean and dry clothing. Unless you have special medical considerations, my advice is to keep food and clothing on the top of your list, too.

Much of my trip prepping is spent getting snacks together, like homemade pumpkin spice balls or no-sugar-added date bars. I’m vegan, so the kids enjoy those special types of healthy treats, but also standards like raisins, dried apricots or mangoes, bananas, carrot sticks, crackers, cheeses, and applesauce in reusable pouches.

Accept the fact that to stay organized, you’ll need more time.

Let’s be real, it’s easier to get packed and prepared when the kids are asleep and not underfoot. Because heaven forbid Teddy gets in the suitcase the night before we leave for our trip, and obviously the diaper bag must be packed with a certain someone’s favorite color cloth diapers and absolutely nothing else. Therefore, I’m forever cutting into my snooze time with planning duties.

I typically stay up later than the rest of my family, so I’ve got time to wrangle the diaper bag the day before an outing, or get the laundry finished so the suitcase can be packed. Besides, even if I went to sleep reasonably early, I’d still be obsessing over the details of whatever event is looming!

If you see me out somewhere…

And I look like a hot mess… Don’t pity me. Or stare. Just remember- my kids are clothed and fed, my lists are neatly organized, and I’ve got a spare sweater and extra snacks if you’re in need! Plus, despite the chaos, I’m probably having a pretty good time!