When your plans overwhelm

I am a planner.  I love “To Do ” lists, checklists, little boxes, and ticking things off a list.  I often place information in tables in documents.

When it comes to homeschool planning, I love creating the bird’s-eye view and then breaking it down into monthly plans.  (You can find all my free planner and organizer pages here.)

But here’s the snag … my kids don’t like my plans and they absolutely hate my checklists!

A few years ago my youngest child had a total meltdown when I showed her an overview of the work for her new school year. My high school kid freaked out when I showed her the year plan and the book lists at the beginning of her final year.

Okay – so they are not global or detailed thinkers. They are more free, creative, and spontaneous folk, and my detailed plans frustrate, frighten and freeze them.   I just need to show them the week, or even just the day ahead.

I have learnt to compromise. I need to plan for me first and then adjust the plans that I share with them. I often have to customize the day’s schedule so that they have a good idea of my expectations, and allow for their own choices and approach.  Even young children love to feel that they have some control by choosing what they prefer to do first, next or last.  Teenagers should be given this freedom of choice and learn to accept the consequences of their choices.

My children think and work at a different pace to me. When things are not essential, I have learnt to let them work at their own pace. Chores that I need to be done, should be done on time, but the rest they can do so long as it is done before I go to bed.
I am still learning not to drive my children crazy.

Right now, our daughter is getting married at the end of this month, and guess what? I started a 6-page checklist!  It even overwhelmed me and I became so stressed that I stopped. But, foolish mom that I was, I pressed on, continued, finished it and, what’s even worse, I presented it to my precious daughter-bride-to-be.  Her reaction was instant STRESS and anger.  My detailed plans did not help.  Frustration closed all communication channels and so I went into the shower to have a good cry.  You would think that I had learnt how to approach things with my children by now. I was filled with such sorrow and shame.

I came back and apologised.  I immediately resigned as the wedding planner.  We laughed at some of my ridiculous details on my checklist, and I put the file away.  Her best friend is an amazing wedding planner and is already helping her and us.  Her friend knows how to translate all the practical details into an approach that my creative, romantic, visionary daughter can visualize and process.  Weddings are stressful events to plan, people!  That’s why you have professionals who do this type of thing!

My daughter’s recent Kitchen Tea

We have celebrated her upcoming wedding hosting two kitchen teas.  The first kitchen tea (pictured above) was in the small town where she lives.  All her bridesmaids and close friends attended.  They prepared a beautiful venue and laid out a delicious spread, and we had fun with some kitchen tea activities as she unwrapped her gifts.  The other more recent kitchen tea was with family and friends in our nearest town.

Because I need to see things on paper, I will continue to work with the wedding plans to keep tab of things and I will act as my hubby’s PA and his admin help, keeping track of the budget and emails.  But I confess that I feel completely overwhelmed at times … especially sometimes when I lie awake at night …

We are in a slight lull right now, with most things booked, arranged and made, but in just 2 weeks, things will be revved up like crazy!  So, please excuse me from this little space while we are all busy, preparing, travelling and celebrating this incredible occasion!

Dear precious mom, learn from me and don’t overwhelm yourself or your kids with too many detailed plans.  Give yourself and your children the time and space to work in a way that allows them to use their best energy and focus.  Balance this grace with suitable, sensible training.   Teach them to prioritize,  set alarm clocks, be on time, and meet daily goals.  Allow for choices, alternatives, and options you may not have planned.  It will all work out fine in the end!

With every blessing, Nadene


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Practical Tip ~ Rolodex

Here’s this week’s practical tip ~  (Revisiting my organization archives)


Years ago I bought an amazing organization book called Confessions of an Organized Homemaker by Deniece Schofield  (ISBN 1-55870-361-6) where she recommends filing recipes on a Rolodex.  I started mine too, way back in 2000.

Advantages of the Rolodex Recipe System ~

  • Easy to file and organize
  • Rolodex file is compact and doesn’t take up valuable counter top space
  • Recipe is visible; just press open at the card you need
  • When several people bake or cook at the same time, we each take our recipe card out and place it at our work station
  • Add new recipe cards  – quick and simple
  • New recipes are put up on the fridge.  If you haven’t cooked or baked it in 10 days – toss it out!  A great motivator!  If it works – simply file it.
  • The Rolodex holds stacks and stacks of recipes
  • Keep blank cards in your handbag to jot new recipes when waiting or visiting friends
  • In recent years I have added my Trim Healthy Mama and Low Carb recipes on yellow cards so that they stand out from my older, conventional recipes.

Some negatives ~

  • It seems a schlep to rewrite recipes, but I sat for a few hours each evening many years ago and wrote out my favorite recipes.  Now I sit with my blank cards when I read a new cookbook, and quickly jot down the new recipe and give it a try!
  • Because the cards are small, I abbreviate the recipe, especially the method.  This was fine until my younger kids started to cook and bake.  I simply rewrote some cards, and with experience and one-on-one training they master the abbreviated recipes.
  • Some cards have become smudged – use a waterproof pen!

How did I file my recipes?  I added colored stickers and labels to cards to separate the different groups.

  • A = conversions & substitutes
  • B = Biscuits, Breads, Baking ~ Crumpets, Dumplings, Muffins, Rusks, Scones
  • C = Cakes
  • D = Desserts, Dairy
  • E = Egg dishes
  • F = Fish
  • H = Herbs
  • J = Juicing, Jams, Jewish cooking
  • L = Lunches
  • M = Meat ~ Chicken, Lamb, Mince, Meat casseroles,
  • O = Other ~ play dough, salt dough, bath salts, bubbles, homemade soaps, dog food etc.
  • P = Pasta, Pastry, Pancakes, Pies
  • Q = Quiche & tarts
  • R = Rice
  • S = Salads, Sauces, Soups, Sweets
  • T = Tuna
  • V = Vegetables
  • W = Washing soap, laundry soaps

Nowadays everything is online, electronic, super-technical, Internet-based.  Many moms swear by their Kindles and iPad for their recipes. There are also amazing websites for menu planning and online recipe storage, but my Rolodex Recipe system serves me well and I don’t need to recharge it!

This system could work for other subjects too.  What about using a Rolodex instead of an index box for Scripture Memorization?

Happy organizing!  Blessings, Nadene



Practical Tip – Storage Box

Here’s this week’s practical tip ~

Storage BoxWhen my kids were young,  I found that a chair bag hanging on each child’s chair was such a practical help, but as my kids have become teens and work more independently,  fabric storage boxes has helped improve our school organization tremendously.

  • Each child has their own box to coral their notebooks, current books, Maths sets and stationary bags and personal art sets.  The box is on their bookshelf next to current curriculum books, reference books and notebook files.
  • My personal storage box holds my sketch books, art sets, nature journal and current book or project I am working on.
  • Store nature study equipment and nature finds 20151210_180918
  • Pack out current theme’s books or reference materials
  • Keep each person’s ongoing projects corralled and on hand
  • Fabric color matches my study decor and looks attractive on the bookshelves
  • When not needed, they fold up flat for easy packing.
  • Once a quarter, each child goes through their own box to purge, file or reorganize.  Mom’s might have to help younger children clear their boxes if they become a dump zone.

Hope this practical tip helps you keep your work space organized!

In Grace, Nadene


Room for schoolroom?

A reader asked,
“My rental home is tiny and we don’t know if we can homeschool as we are supposed to. What suggestions do you have?”

2-20150123_065051Many new homeschool parents have a “school-at-home” mindset.  I was your typical first-time homeschool mom who took great pride in setting up a whiteboard and neat, organized schoolroom, only to find that we spent most our time together on the couch in the livingroom!  When your children are very young, there is no need to set up any formal schooling room or space.   Life is the lesson,  and your approach should be to provide  your children ample opportunity to explore and discover.  Add some good children’s story books to read aloud, and you have a wonderful, diverse, informal education.

Learning takes place everywhere, all the time.  I would recommend a low table and chairs for toddlers to play, paint, build on and do pre-writing activities.  You can place this in any suitable spot in your home.  Keep all your children’s supplies, books and equipment in a basket or on a shelf, low enough for the littlest child to reach.

We once travelled around South Africa for a year and a half with our kids who were then Pre-school, Grade 2 and Grade 7 ( Pre-school, Junior and Middle schoolers).  We packed our homeschool basics in a small suitcase and followed a very relaxed schedule.  Some weeks were filled with long car journeys and visits, while other weeks we were more settled at the places that we stopped at for a while.  Despite my fears that we would “fall behind”,  we didn’t!  We had no school room or special space to “do school”.  My kids journalled or did school work at the diningroom table or on the patio table.  I learnt how little one really needs to have a rich, rewarding education.

High school children need their own independent learning space to do their work.  They may need a laptop and desk in their rooms, and then they can join the family for read alouds, fine arts and crafts and hobbies.  We have one desktop computer in the study for all online schooling, research and printing needs.  This makes the study our schoolroom, but we still remain flexible and fluid in our working space and habits. Essentially, our study is a storage depot with space to be creative!

In my experience, any table with chairs become the schooling area.  You may need to come up with creative storage plans so that everyone can quickly pack away their stuff if the table is needed for meals.  Baskets, storage boxes, a bookshelf, a suitcase, chair bags, a trolley or cupboard can help keep things organized and on hand.

All good homeschooling families need maximum space for books!  Build and buy good, big bookshelves because your home library will grow over the next few years!

But, if you ever move to a larger home, I’m sure you will be relieved to have a study/ school/ hobby area dedicated to your homeschool needs.  And there are plenty of inspirational pictures and ideas of wonderful homeschool rooms on Pinterest and Google.  It will all depend on the seasons in your homeschool journey.

Hope this post encourages you to start anywhere, anytime, with no devoted school room.   What suggestions do you have for this new homeschool mom?  Please share your ideas in the comments.

Wishing you every blessing in your homeschool journey! Nadene


Shared Art Sets

Here’s this weeks’ practical tip ~

art setsWe are a creative family and do a lot of art!  Our art supplies are available on our bookshelf for anyone to use at any time.

I believe in quality over quantity, yet I often bought the large art sets so that we could enjoy the full range of colors.  There’s nothing more thrilling than having several shades of each color to chose from!  So, rather than supply each child with their own basics, I spend the same value of money for 3 children and splurged it on the biggest set we could afford.

If you train your children how to correctly use, clean and store art supplies from the start, they will enjoy years of creative pleasure!  In over 19+ years of homeschool, I have had to periodically replace paint brushes, felt-tipped markers and acrylic paints, but our colored pencils, chalk and oil pastels and our watercolors are still going strong!   A very worthwhile investment!

Once a year, for birthdays, we purchase specific creative supplies for each daughter.  These they use and enjoy for their own pleasure.  We have watched them develop their creativity to produce beautiful gifts, or make and sell their products or develop their hobbies.

Read my posts about buying big art sets and organizing art supplies.

Hope this practical tip helps you in your homeschooling!

Blessings, Nadene

One-Page Calendar Chart

Here’s this weeks’ practical tip ~

calendar & weather chartKindergarteners and junior primary children enjoy the daily ritual of learning the days of the week, names of the months, weather symbols, seasonstemperature, etc. during calendar time.


chart with all the discs

Instead of fiddling  with several bags or envelopes of the little names and symbols to attach to the chart, I created a one-page chart with rotating discs and slide viewer to quickly change the daily calendar.

It saves time that everything is all on the chart, ready for each day’s calendar time.

chart from behind

No need for searching through boxes, sorting through little symbols, numbers or pictures.  No need for sticky stuff.  Nothing gets lost.

You can download my free Junior Calendar Mini Office with Days, Months, Season & Weather Chart under my Free Pages tab ~ scroll down for  Mini Office free pages.

Read how to make and assemble the calendar chart here.

Hope this practical tip helps you in your homeschooling!

Blessings, Nadene

Laminated Charts

Here’s this weeks’ practical tip ~

laminated chartBuy yourself a laminater! 

It is an investment in your homeschooling, especially if your children are young.  It is one of my most valued homeschool items even though I use it only periodically.

  • Laminate any page (with or without cardstock) for long-lasting handling.
  • Laminate handwriting charts, flash cards, phonics cards, chore charts, mental maths drills that are used daily.
  • You and your child can use a whiteboard marker for quick, easy lessons, drills and reminders.
  • Very large posters  can be professionally laminated at a print/ office shop.  I did this with our Footprints Map.
  • These charts are essential ~

Of course, if you are frugal, you can use packaging tape and cover charts and pages carefully, but this doesn’t give the page the added sturdiness laminating provides.  I also often simply insert pages that we will use for a short time into a plastic page protector.

Hope this practical tip helps you in your homeschooling!

Blessings, Nadene


Chair Bags

Here’s this week’s practical tip ~

chair bagsChair bags are common in junior primary school rooms, but make perfect, practical sense in the homeschool environment.

  • They hold a variety of things right at hand.
  • Children do not have to get up and look for something, preventing delays, distractions and dawdling and wasting time.
  • It easy for kids to pack away their things and clear the table at the end of their school time.    This helps where schooling is done at a kitchen or dining table where the space is needed for more than one activity.
  • Sew broad elastic tabs to tie chair bags that don’t fit over our curved dining chairs.  I found that the elastic tabs lasted longer than fabric tabs and fitted a variety of chair styles.
  • When we travelled for 18 months while homeschooling, we packed each child’s basic essentials in their chair bags, and simply took them out our school suitcase and hung them on whichever chairs we used in our new “home”, making transitions quick and effortless.
  • Each child had their own colored chair bag, making it easy to keep track of their own things.
  • Keeping things  in chair bags keeps things off the table and floor, creating more work space.

Some cons ~

  • Small items can get “lost” in the big pocket.  Make sure your chair bag has a smaller pocket.
  • Heavy chair bags can cause the chair to fall over backwards.  Keep the most essential items in the bag and hold larger, heavier items in a basket nearby.

Hope that this practical tip helps in your homeschooling.

Blessings, Nadene

Book Labels

book labelsHere’s a practical tip ~ Use colored book labels

When I was an English, History and Geography middle school teacher, I taught 4 classes of the same grade for each subject.   I placed colored electric tape to the base of the spine of each child’s book – a color for each grade and a 2nd color  for each subject.  This helped me keep track of each class and subject when I took their books in for marking.

When I started homeschooling, Sonlight sent me neon-bright book label stickers with my first purchases.   It was so handy to have the 3 cores’ books labeled in different colors.  I also added numbers to the readers’ labels according to the different levels so that we could work through them in sequence.

Colored labels make storing, finding and replacing books on the shelves a breeze!  Even my youngest easily searched the pink readers to find a book that she could manage to read.

Color coding works very well for young children.  We assigned a color for each child and they could easily find “their” things in the basket.

I love practical ideas — whatever works to keep homeschooling organized and flowing smoothly!  Trust that this practical tip helps you!

In Grace, Nadene


Painted School Room

Earlier this year I shared our fresh-look schoolroom.  I had pinned study decor ideas and hoped to paint my desk and all the bookshelves before the end of the year, and I did!

Here’s the before:Study1 Lara helped me move all the books and craft suitcases to the guest room.

During:StudyMy friend Mindy, an amazing artist and expert chalk-painter, helped me paint my desk.   She’s even making me customized glass drawer knobs to match my color-scheme!

I ran out of store-bought chalk paint and so I followed the DIY chalk paint recipes I found on the Internet and made my own using white grout.  It was rougher than the bought chalk paint, but worked just as well.  I painted the bookshelf backs in a lovely dusty blue.  Waxed and buffed, it was all done in 2 days.

And here’s the after:Study2While my kids were away, I sorted and repacked the books.  Despite my hubby’s initial comments that everything looked too white while I was still painting, the completed schoolroom looks delightfully fresh and light!

Painting with chalk paint is as easy as all the online tutorials say it is.  Quick and delightfully textured, the results were lovely!  I love it!