How I’m Planning

One of my consistent struggles with each year is getting (and staying) organized. I’m embarrassed to admit that many times I could have had a smoother day by having just a hair more organization! At the end of the school year, I sat down and asked myself, what would I need to do in order to make the upcoming school year more organized. I came up with this list, although I started at the second bullet point. The first bullet point is for the random Googlers or anyone new to AO. 😉

  • Determine which year you’re working on. AO years don’t necessarily line up with grades, so a child leaving third grade public school will not always go into AO year 3. My flock will move into Year 4 and Year 2, with the three little kids in a “Year 0” type of place.  (I use Year 0 as a placeholder for anything that happens before formal schooling – the baby learns to walk, the 2 year old learns how to be apart of the family, the 4 year old does do some academics based on her asking, but it’s always fun and never required. That kind of stuff.)
  • Look at the booklist, obtain books. I look at the booklist for each grade and make selections off of that. I also look at substitutions, such as what Celeste does as well as looking at Mater Amabilis for inspiration.
  • Print or download the weekly schedule. The weekly schedule simply gives you a framework about what should be done – but it doesn’t have to be followed exactly. You can use the weekly schedule to generate daily schedules, or just use it as a guide.
  • Optional: Generate a daily schedule. I generate a daily schedule because I need something spelled out to the absolute basic. I won’t show the kids the daily schedule, but rather post a version of it for them – one that has the subjects listed and how long we are to spend on each subject.
  • Download and print the art study prints. Costco does dirt-cheap printing. $1.49 for an 8×10? Yes please! If you follow the AO links you can go to the images (which are in the public domain).
  • Purchase, download, or curate your music lists. Honestly, most of the composer, hymn, and folk songs are streamable via Spotify, Youtube, Amazon Prime Music – but you can definitely get the CDs as well. Many AO users will curate Spotify playlists and share them freely. I also like to browse Traditional Catholic Living to include more Catholic hymns in our homeschool.
  • Visit the forum and download the maps, etc for each year. In the forum, the grades are groups by forms. Each form as a subforum, which contains a thread of helps for each year. Visit the thread for the years you’re going to use and you can find all the maps and other helps that AO users have accumulated through the years that you can use. You can also use the forum to ask questions, find local AO users, and just hang out with people who use AO (or at least inspired by it). Joining and using the forum is free, even! It’s a goldmine of information and in my opinion, one of the most underutilized aspects of AO.
  • Get your e-books ready. Some books I don’t have a hard copy of, so I like to load up the digital copies on to the Kindle (or Kindle web app, as it may be). I also make bookmarks such as the term’s poetry studies so I can just open a tab in the browser and go from there.

Anything that has been printed goes into the Mom Binder, which keeps everything straight. I have a Year 4 section, with all the copywork ideas from the Yahoo groups, maps from the forums, the daily schedule, the booklist, etc; a Year 2 section that’s similar; a spot for extra materials such as notes I’ve made for implementing Living Math, scaffolding ideas, exam ideas, and so on.

The kids will each get a binder that will have the map they’re currently studying, copywork that is currently taking place, a generic schedule that I talked about above, and whatever else we decide needs to go in there as the year progresses on.

And that’s pretty much what I’ve done since we finished our previous school year. My goal for the summer time was to get everything in order so that when we begin the next grade; it’s all there and waiting. I’ve decided on a rolling start to the school year, so that I’m not instantly overwhelmed by starting two kids in two years at the same time while trying to kid-wrangle and ensure the younger three aren’t turning into a Lord of the Flies type scenario.

Hopefully this helps me stay more organized this year, as I’m just getting too old for “seat of the pants” type lifestyle (all you who can though, you stay awesome!).

Thriving At Mass

We finally are at a point after a lot of behavioral therapy and maturation that we can go to Mass together and actually thrive there, versus “just surviving”. For most people, going to Mass requires no special planning or anything like that. For us, it involved only being able to attend certain parishes, at certain times of the liturgical year, making sure we had an escape in case of meltdowns, and more. Add in dirty looks and the like and I don’t find myself surprised when many families that have special kids just simply stop coming.

The biggest issue for our ASD kiddo was the fact that this child felt extremely overwhelmed by being in any church with high ceilings (spoiler alert, that’s pretty much all of them). This child would have panic attacks and feel like they were going to float up to the ceiling. And then fall back down and die.

After much trial and error, consulting with therapists, working on skills like expeccted vs unexpected behavior, Zones of Regulation and so on; we have a Mass bag put together for our ASD kiddo. The bag contains everything needed for a prayerful Mass attendance:

  • A Mass visual schedule that Summer at Writing Like a Mother created. It’s been such a blessing because my ASD kiddo can finally follow along with the Mass and make checkmarks as we go along. She has other great special needs resources, so be sure to check them all out. I laminated our chart and put it on a keyring to keep the pages together. I also bring along a dual color dry erase marker for checking off boxes.
  • I couldn’t find the exact weighted vest at Fun and Function, but that’s where we purchased the vest in the picture. It snaps (although one of the snaps ripped out of the fabric, so I’ll need to get it repaired) and has small sandbags inside of it to help provide some grounding and sensory input.  In the wintertime we’ll use this compression shirt (also from Fun and Function) and see how that works out.
  • The sunglasses help block out bright lights (or sunlight), and the gun muffs make the organ not as loud.
  • Not pictured is a ballcap. That is also used (with the bill low) to block out visual stimulus and help our kiddo feel grounded and be able to focus on the Mass.

As you can imagine, we’re kind of … obvious when we’re at Mass, but we finally can worship together as a family vs one of us having to sit out with our ASD kiddo, we don’t have to avoid parishes (especially while travelling) because of architecture, and we can finally get into a regular routine which will go a long way in alleviating anxiety. I finally feel a little more relaxed, as opposed to constantly on edge about what could go wrong.

Sweet summertime

Summer is officially upon is, and I have to say it’s rather enjoyable.

Everyone is taking a nice break from school while I plan out the upcoming year. I’m done with the hard stuff (laying out a 180 day schedule for me – the kids won’t see it – so I know how to move through the year). Now I just need to put maps in binders, print off art prints, print off biographers for composers, etc.

The kids are enjoying a simpler routine – all the outside classes are finished so we are mostly at home. Each day we have breakfast together and I read something to them. There’s chores and lots of time outside. On the freakishly hot days we hunker down and watch something worthwhile. At the end of the day, I read to Peanut and Moose individually. Then there’s a little playtime and then tuck-ins for bed.

Habit training is in full-swing, and there’s a lot of sadness breaking old habits and developing new ones. My goal for the summer is to uproot some of the more nasty ones so that this fall is easier on everyone. I have been using this resource with much success, and a review is forthcoming.

I’m also working on my habits – when the weather is hot and I feel like I could melt into the floor; it’s hard to stay on top of the kids and stay on top of the housework. Somewhere I heard the phrase, The lazy man works twice, and so I try to keep that in the back of my mind when it comes to getting stuff done when I just want to be a slug.

Obviously, I’ve been puttering around here, bringing over my posts from my old blog, and working on getting everything moved over. It’s slow-going but at least it’s going. 🙂

Eventually the pace will pick up and we will get back into our school routine; but for now I’m enjoying the daily life equivalent of floating down a river in an inner tube.