5 Things I Learned in August

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Before moving forward, it’s always best to look back and evaluate. Yet when we evaluate, it’s almost always with an eye focusing on what we didn’t like and what we didn’t do.

Let’s look back over the previous month and think about what we’ve learned, so we can take those lessons and move forward into fall.

Share what you learned in the comments!

#1 – Blank half-sized notebooks are the perfect portable brain dump vehicle.

When my friend Sarah’s new book, The Read-Aloud Family, came out earlier this year, she sent me a copy with a book bag and a cute little spiral notebook with her book cover design as the cover and full of 50 blank pages.

I’ve been carrying that little notebook around and it’s been my favorite brain dump vehicle to date. The size is perfect, the blank pages are perfect, and the capacity is perfect. I can slip it into my purse; I can have it open on my small desk; I can flip through it quickly.

I have always been more of a lined-pages person, so I was surprised how much I was drawn to the blank pages of this notebook. But for brain dumping new projects, details to be taken care of, new schedules and contingencies thereof – the blank page freed up my mind to get down anything, even if it wasn’t linear reasoning.

brain dump notebook
So, it’s almost full. I have 5 pages left. I’m thinking I might need to make my own version of this baby here.

#2 – Lesson plan lists are worth the effort.

I have never been this late in getting my school planning done. I was wrapping up the last bits of the plan the week my classes began – where other people come to our house to join us in lessons. Eek!

But it’s so worth the time to get those plans listed out all at once for the year. I always underplan, planning for fewer weeks than we have scheduled on the calendar, knowing there will be sick days or other issues, but then when we’re in the middle of an average homeschool week, I do not need to get into the planning zone. I can stay in the doing zone, opening up Evernote and grabbing my file box and just starting, even if it’d been a crazy morning or even if I don’t feel 100%.

Taking the time to set things up so they are easy to open-and-go is so worth it. Planning and doing are completely different sorts of mindsets to be in, so chunking them, batching them, is an efficient way to conserve energy. Do the planning. Get it done. In the midst of the week and the term, just keep going in doing mode without worrying about what it is you should be doing next.

Pam’s procedure charts are a great hack that have been a bonus help this year, too.

#3 – Instagram issues

So I’ve been trying to be a bit more regular with Instagram Stories (which expire after 24 hours) and Instagram Live (which also expire after 24 hours but can be longer) and Instagram TV (which can be up to 10 minutes and don’t expire). Back in the day Periscope helped me get comfortable talking, and I was not necessarily sad to see it drop off in popularity. But Instagram is fun and sometimes a quick video chat is the best way to deliver a message.

I saved my IG Live from last week on YouTube. You can watch it here:

I was going to put it on IGTV, but it turned out to be too long. Oops.

Do you like stories, live, and/or tv on IG? I am trying to figure out what people like and would prefer watching.

Do you have topic ideas for me? I have a running idea bank going; you can help me add to it. Just leave a comment with your IG feedback and your ideas!

4 – A new school year needs old habits.

We often think of needing new habits and of breaking bad habits. When we think of “old” habits, it’s probably negative. And that’s probably because we all do have so many old bad habits.

But you know what makes the new school year actually smoother and simpler? Old habits. Good habits that are old.

When we’re already starting off so many new practices, trying to add in extra good habits is a sure way to hit the wall in overdrive.

So why are we doing Humble Habits starting the first week in September?

Because I’m guessing most of them will tap into some old habits that need shoring up, not complete renovation.

Because if prayer and smiling and a good attitude aren’t habits now, all those best laid school plans are doomed. Sorry.

But habits shouldn’t be things that take a lot out of us, even at the building point. Too often what we try to build when we want a habit is actually a whole routine – a whole combo set of multiple practices that is hard to master, and therefore impossible to actually make a habit.

You form a habit by starting small and securing that one small action by repeated practice.

So we won’t be trying to build a 30 minute devotional prayer life before the kids get up. We’ll be posting an index card with a Bible verse to pray in a highly visible spot and training our attention to stop, notice it, and pray it.

It’s clear. It’s small. It doesn’t take will power. It provides a quick win.

On the basis of quick wins, we move forward, better able to build more into our life because we’re building the identity (by taking the actual action, multiple times a day) of someone who prays.

Wanting to start the day with quiet prayer time is not as powerful as stopping and praying for 30 seconds an hour or two into your day. Action over perfection.

Humble Habits starts Friday with a kickoff chat!

I’d love for you to join us.

5 – Superzoom has superpowers.

So I had a child who was grumpy and in the slough of despond over his math errors he was having to correct. He didn’t want to. He thought corrections would take forever, ruin his day, and be a stupid waste of life.

I was “helping” him, which basically meant sitting next to him keeping his attention on target against his will. I was not giving him the answers, so I was told I was not actually helping him.

So I was going to snap a real day in the life shot and decided to try out the superzoom option in Instagram. It wasn’t focused on the fusser, who didn’t want his photo taken, but on the culprit, the math page. I didn’t even realize it would, by default, add music to it.

But then I played it for my troubled math student, and the choppy zoom in on the villainous math page with an ominous Du-Du-DUN soundtrack made him laugh, and that was enough to get him out of his funk, turn us into teammates again, and make him into the hero defeating his errors.

It was a total fluke, but it made me start to wonder how else I could surprise my kids with laughter over their situation. Laughter is good medicine. Superzoom to the rescue.

  1. Leisa
    | Reply

    Love the superzoom! I have found making my kids laugh gets them over whatever hump they are struggling with, I just need to remember to reach for the humor.

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