31 Days of Homeschool Lists: Confession of a Compulsive List-Maker



I make lists. I make a crazy number of lists.

Making a list is my go-to strategy whenever I start to feel a little overwhelmed (or a lot), scattered, or just plain crazy. David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done gave me a name and an excuse for this process: Brain Dump.

It’s a great practice, and I even have a video where I answer some questions about it:

This month I’ll share my best and most useful homeschool lists with you. Check back here for each one as they show up. Eventually they’ll all be listed and linked here.

Organize your homeschool lists

Organized Homeschool Lists

Lists for sanity around the house
Book lists
Supply lists
Lists kept digitally and even some kept on paper

…All the homeschool lists you can eat, coming every day (except Sundays) through October 2014!

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Rejoicing in Repetition: Towards Joy in Housework will help you find the beauty in the mundane

Are you often frustrated with the repetitive nature of housework? Do you wonder if it’s even worth your time at all? Do you get angry when your work is immediately undone by your little ones?

If so, Rejoicing in Repetition: Toward Joy in Housework, a meditation on the beauty found in the mundane and repetitious, will lift you up and help you regain a clear perspective.

For the month of October, this $2.99 ebook can be yours for free.


31 Days of Practical Help



October is almost here, and that means it’s almost time for another 31 Days series! I’m really excited about the series that’ll be happening next month. A number of the posts that will come next month are ones I’ve been wanting to add so I have a single link to answer specific, practical questions I often get. Here at Simply Convivial, I’ll be doing 31 Days of Homeschool Lists.

Organize your homeschool lists

Broad, fun, and right up my alley. I am, after all, a compulsive list-maker. There will be book lists, job lists, task lists, checklists, idea lists, digital lists, and paper-based lists. It’ll be a very practical, down-to-earth month here.

And once again I’m doing two 31 Days series! This year the other one is not at Simple Pantry Cooking, but at Simplified Organization, where I’ll be sharing Simple Home Systems that will give you some creative ideas for reducing decision fatigue and being purposeful and creative in your productivity.

Those posts will be short and super practical, applicable whether you homeschool or not.

Here are some of the other series I know are coming:

Busted: 31 Days of CM Myths

Brandy says blog-reading counts as a self-education track, so it’ll be a rich month!


Make sure to sign up to the email list so you don’t miss any:

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Also, if you haven’t yet signed up for the free email series Declutter Your Head, you’ll want to check that out, too.

I’ve been asked a few times whether to work through Declutter before any of the course modules in the Simplified Organization course. If you’re taking the self-paced course, don’t worry about Declutter Your Head. The course includes the same information in baby-steps with more detail, so don’t overwhelm yourself with two sources of task direction. I’ve also been receiving lots of emails asking about the GTD for Homemakers ebook. The essential parts of that book are in the new email series, condensed and more actionable. All the content, fleshed out better, and more content besides, is within the Simplified Organization course. The course really makes the information much more manageable and doable to wade through than it was in the ebook form, and it also focuses more on our mindset and attitude as we do what we do.

So stay tuned in October for practical ideas that are grounded in keeping a good attitude as we implement them!

Convivial Contentment: Normal School Days



~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~

round button chicken

We’re nearing the end of the fourth week of our Harvest Term, and I think we’ve mostly accommodated ourselves to the fact that summer is over and the long winter approaches, that these are school days, and we’re not going to make it untrue by wishing or whining.

Not that the children (and sometimes myself) are not still trying.

Complaining and bad attitudes can just suck the energy right out of the day, yet soldier on we must. And we will, God helping us.

Probably one of these weeks we’ll wake up and realize that this was a phase of growth working itself out awkwardly, and it was the stretching and soreness that was making us complain, but then we’ll be over the hump.

Then it will be Christmas season and our routines will get all out of whack again.

Such is life. We’ll pull on through again.

homeschooling and complaining kids

Pretty, Happy, Funny, but Mostly Real

Well, we’re definitely back into the swing of it now. And that means people are trying to make grumbling a habitual part of the routine, trying to sneak off to Legos during school hours, and distracting themselves by distracting others. Normal life.

homeschooling and complaining kids

Big, deep breath. It’s normal. It’s ok. We aren’t failing, even though someone ends up in tears every day. If it was only one person in tears each day, then at our house that still averages out to only once a week per person, and that’s not so bad. Right? Except, of course, Matt never comes up crying from his office. I wish I could say I have been tearless, but even I am not immune.

homeschooling and complaining kids

Let’s stick out the rough patches, shall we? Press on, remembering that the complaining is only a whinier, noisier version of the way we often feel about our responsibilities, too. Maybe as we work with our children, they will learn not only how to make their complaining more socially acceptable, but maybe even how to get rid of that grumbling spirit. Maybe, just maybe, as we go about this work, we’ll learn that lesson ourselves.

homeschooling and complaining kids

Real Good

Have you seen the Amazon Smile program? If you buy through the Amazon Smile link, Amazon donates .5% to a charity of your choice. It’s difficult to remember to always click through a link to make sure your amount counts toward your cause, but now there’s a Chrome plugin to make sure you always visit Amazon via their Smile program: Smile Always

And, of course, I double-checked and clicking through an Amazon Smile link does not erase any affiliate click you might also make, so you can support both your favorite charity and your favorite blogger whenever you buy from Amazon. My dad adds a bookmark icon in his browser bar with his favorite bloggers’ affiliate links to make it easier to click through to Amazon from them.

If you are looking for a charity to support with your Amazon Smile purchases, consider The Rafiki Foundation, an organization that provides homes, families, work, and a classical Christian education for African orphans and widows. We have friends who are missionaries with Rafiki, and it is an amazing work that they do in Africa.

A typical school week’s reading (Wednesday with Words)



This week in reading…

Current favorites at our house

In Elementary Lessons, twice per week, we’re reading Mystery of the Periodic Table, Covenantal Catechism, book 4, and Reformation & Renaissance by Christine Miller. I have really loved Christine Miller’s history books; they are well written and interesting, telling a cohesive story of European history with a lot of particulars about individuals rather than generalities about trends. As a bonus, this week our word of the week (which I chose months ago) was petulant and it was in that day’s reading, describing the king who signed the order for the Huguenot massacre.

I caught Knox – 4 – reading out loud to himself On the Banks of Plum Creek the other day. I don’t really feel it’s necessary to keep a “First 100″ books list for him. Yikes!

Ilse is reading and reading More Days Go By, which I encourage not only to help her gain confidence, but also because the stories are pleasant and sweet.

The boys have been on a big Lego kick lately, so most of their reading has been at bedtime. However, generally Jaeger voluntarily heads to bed 10-15 minutes early, so he must be reading something he’s enjoying. Last week he reread The 10 Things All Future Mathematicians and Scientists Must Know: But Are Rarely Taught. In addition to a lot of Calvin & Hobbes, Hans read 2 Signature Book biographies last week: The Story of Winston Churchill and The Story of Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Part of me is looking forward to the less active and more reading-time winter months.

My Book Bag

You can read about my book categories here.

I’ll give it another month or so, but this might be too many categories to manage at once.

Week’s Words

I feel like I could just quote or underline or copy out into my commonplace book the entire contents of Rachel’s first book and be much the wiser and richer for doing so. This statement summarizes her point throughout the book and has been such a helpful perspective shift for me – when I remember it. Hence, the rereading.

The opportunities for growth and refinement abound here – but you have to be willing. You have to open your heart to the tumble. As you deal with your children, deal with yourself always and first. This is what it looks like and feels like to walk with God as a mother.

Sin is just a fact of life. It is the way we deal with it that changes ours.


My philosophical education bookshelf

Follow my shelfie board on Pinterest for more.

Get more great quotes & recommendations at ladydusk!

Habits: The Secret for Smooth and Easy Days?



Years ago, when I had only quite small children and I had immersed myself in books on educational theory, I latched onto an oft-quoted bit of wisdom from Charlotte Mason:

The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days.

She’s right, of course, but also wrong.

I copied this quote out I don’t know how many times. I returned to it again and again, always hopeful – maybe this time I could do this thing, achieve this promised and elusive success. After awhile, I pretty much gave up and figured she was probably right, but I wasn’t up to “endowing my children with good habits”; our family must be a lost cause. For awhile, all habit talk sounded not only frustrating, but also condemning. Clearly, I must be doing something wrong.


I was.

First, I had latched onto this quote as a promise for an easy, hassle-free existence, where all my children would always obey promptly and never cry over math or argue over their piano practice or sneak off to their room to play Legos during school hours.

Second, I had latched onto this quote as a “secret” for making other people change so that I could secure for myself smooth and easy days, without hassle or bother. My motivation was entirely self-centered.

Good habits make life smoother & easier.

We all run on habit, actually. The question is not whether we will have habits or not, but whether we will cultivate them consciously or let inertia and indulgence set the tracks our default reactions will run on.

A habit is an unconscious action, repeatedly carried out. It includes not only such things as brushing your teeth or buckling your seatbelt or clearing your place after dinner, but also such fundamental things as how you respond to people and what tone or phrases you use with certain people.

So, good habits make life eminently more smooth and more easy than bad habits. We can avoid a lot of unnecessary conflicts if chores follow breakfast every day, if we automatically say please and thank you, if we habitually smile when we make eye contact. Cultivating good habits is a way of preventing conflict before it happens. It reduces the amount of willpower and decision-making is required to make it through the day.

We can consciously and intentionally build habits into ourselves and our children and our daily routines that will help us serve one another, love one another, and be gracious to one another – not to mention, get more work done with less fussing and bickering.

Sounds great, right? Sounds like just the ticket, because boy howdy am I sick of fussing and bickering all school day long.

The only problem is, I’ve known this “secret” to smooth and easy days since my oldest was a toddler, and it sure doesn’t feel like I’ve ever succeeded with it.

(My boys have the habit of putting their shirts on backward.)

Good habits do not make life smooth & easy.

There’s a big difference – an enormous gulf, really – between ‘smooth’ and ‘smoother’ or ‘easy’ and ‘easier.’ When troubleshooting a difficulty, habit is a great perspective to look to: What bad habits are shuffling us back every day to this pain point? What good habits would most effectively address that situation?

But attempting to root out the bad habits and cultivate the good ones is hard work, and it is never-ending work.

Without even realizing it, when I was copying out that Charlotte Mason quote time and time again, what I was looking forward to was the time when I would have learned the secret habits, taught them to my offspring, and thus mastered life so that nothing required any effort on my part anymore. We would simply be a well-oiled machine, my work would be accomplished once and for all, and there would be no limit to what we could accomplish.

Of course, this idealistic grand vision was very subconscious; once I became aware of it, I knew it was foolish. But wanting the solution that will provide not only the quick fix but also the permanent fix – the one that will make life just not be so hard all the time – is a tempting desire, always ready to pounce and ensnare us with false expectations.

Under expectations like these, we will always feel like utter failures.

Life isn’t going to be easy. If you smooth out one area of conflict, there will be another to replace it. If you replace one bad habit, you will suddenly unearth another one that you have to address. This can be frustrating and make it seem like it’s all no use because it is never-ending effort.

But the Bible has another word for it: sanctification.

If we gain one small victory, we are not done with the battle. We are called to continue to fight this battle all our lives. And the battle is not about bad habits, but about sin: disobeying God’s law, being unkind, being selfish. Habits can be a tool to help conquer sin – because sin can become habitual, and must be replaced with habitual obedience – but that is hard work. It is also good work.

And just because it is hard and never-ending does not mean we are doing something wrong or are failing in our efforts.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:9

The most important habit to cultivate is the habit of repenting and of restoring fellowship – of owning up to our shortcomings and staying right with people. That can be a habit, because it can be repeated over and over again daily for the rest of our lives. We will never have a shortage of practice material or opportunity.

Habits that are worth the effort to cultivate will take more than 21 days. They take years of repetition. Maybe even something like 16 or 18 years of repetition! This is what it is to raise a child. Let us not grow weary.

Habits are something we do work on for ourselves – but primarily in ourselves and not something forced on other people to make our own life easier. As we cultivate habits in our children, we cultivate them in ourselves first and foremost, and grow in maturity ourselves more and more – are sanctified more and more – through the process.

It’s not a shortcut to a carefree and easy life where everything is peaches and cream all day.

Building good habits is lifelong work. We’re starting the process in our children, and we are continuing the process in ourselves.

Let us not grow weary.


Convivial Contentment: Paying Attention



~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~

I wrote this week at Scholé Sisters about paying attention during Circle Timemy own paying attention even.

round button chicken

It’s a good principle to remember: to take the time to really see what’s going on around me, to watch them with pleasure and simple enjoyment, to breathe a prayer for them – these are the things we as mothers can do to cultivate a spirit of love, contentment, and joy in our little plot.

And that’s what these weekly pretty, happy, funny, real posts help me to do.

Capturing glimpses of conviviality & contentment in this everyday homeschooling life


~Pretty Sister ~

Capturing glimpses of conviviality & contentment in everyday life 

How good and pleasant it is for brothers (and sisters!) to dwell together in unity.

Capturing glimpses of conviviality & contentment in this everyday homeschooling life


Capturing glimpses of conviviality & contentment in this everyday homeschooling life

~ Happy Sister ~

At some point in the morning, a brother or two has been taking Geneva for a little walk down the road and back. They get some fresh air and exercise between subjects and I get a [more] peaceful moment to teach other or just take a breather.

I do so wish winter won’t come, because this arrangement is working out swimmingly.


~ Funny Math ~

Capturing glimpses of conviviality & contentment in this everyday homeschooling life

The Proverbs 31 woman laughs at the days to come. Start today. Laugh at antics like this, in a “Ha, ha, you’re so cute, and yes, you are going to finish your math,” sort of way. Because the only other option is yelling and stamping. We must smile & carry on and push through, just as we’re asking them to.

Oh, and I’ve even been known to mark capitalization and spelling corrections on papers like this in addition to arithmetic errors. If they want to get verbose on their math page, they can pause and remember that their mother is an English major who will think that making them rewrite their snark correctly is hilarious.

Someday they’ll think it’s hilarious too, don’t you think? Someday?


fitbit mom

~ Real Trying ~

My goal right now is 12,000 steps per day. As you can see, even when I make it, my dad taunts me at the top of my leaderboard with an insanely high weekly score.

I’m even tracking what I’m eating, too. I did, then I didn’t, then I did, then I didn’t, and now I am again. Homemade foods made of “a bit of this” and “tad of that” don’t translate well into calorie-counting systems, but if I downplay the calorie aspect of it and simply use it to track what I eat, the truth is that I pay more attention to what goes into my mouth and have a better awareness of whether I’m actually way out of line or if I have actually exercised enough and eaten well enough to have a treat.

I feel like all this effort should pay me back a bit more quickly and dramatically with greater scale-number results, but I do feel better with the increased daily walking that my Fitbit has encouraged.