My Brilliant Plan for How to Plan

**This post does contain affiliate links, which means that when you purchase through links on this page, April collects advertising fees from Amazon.**

 

My Brilliant Plan for How to Plan

Was I always a little flaky? I don’t know. For years, I could get away with being very loosy-goosy with my planning because I was a stay-at-home mom of preschoolers. We moved all the time too, so by the time people developed expectations of me, we were off and away to the next town.

Over the years, I have slipped into a routine of planning as little as I can get away with planning. I’ll procrastinate decisions until they are made for me. Yep. Guilty of that. Sometimes I get this fear of commitment. If I sign up for things, I’m going to have to figure out how to actually accomplish those things with toddlers in tow.

And I never knew when my husband would be here or not be here, so making plans felt like shooting darts– real darts–in a room full of people, blindfolded.

No thanks.

So friends, that is how I became the version of April you have today.

April, are you going to the yada yada yada meeting?

**Total deer in the headlights**

Ummmm. Uhhhhhh.  Umm, yeah, you know, I might…

(Inside my head I’m thinking……IF all 4 kids are well, IF Alan is in town, IF I have energy left that day…..IF I am not supposed to actually be at Dan’s tee-ball game or some Army function that I can’t remember the exact dates for…..If, If, If…..)

My Brilliant Plan for How to Plan

I love to rock me some babies. Go away, world, until I finish this.

 

Actually, for the past 11 years those were all perfectly good reasons to be flaky, indecisive, unprepared, uncommitted, and unsure. Did I shut the world out a little bit? Yes, yes, I definitely did.

In fact, I had to google the word “twerking” not too long ago. I’m so out of touch with pop culture, and I kept hearing that word. All I can say to that one is ew, girl! Ew. Somebody get that poor girl a sweater and some capri pants.

But things keep popping up on our calendars, and I’ve re-entered the world of work with my blog. I actually HAVE to FORCE myself to plan and be less free-spirited, more grown-up like.

You people who have a plan amaze me, and I mean that in a good way. You totally have my respect.

You know when you are going on vacation. You’ve actually committed to specific dates, and you probably even know how you are gong to pay for that.

You have a budget.

You know when people’s birthdays are, and you plan for that accordingly.

You keep some sort of planner or calendar.

 My Brilliant Plan for How to Plan
About that….Y’all! I have purchased TWO different “planners” this year. They are both mostly blank. I have a calendar hanging in my kitchen too, which makes 3 planners, really. All I’ve written on that one is what the kids are doing for lunch and when their dentist appointments are.

I even downloaded an editorial calendar plug-in to try and start planning my blog posts. (It’s actually extremely helpful, fellow bloggers, check it out. It’s called “editorial calendar.”)

Only I’m so anti-structured in my thinking, I can rarely bring myself to write about what I’m ‘scheduled’ to write about.

I also have 2 different e-books I’ve written half of, and now they are just sitting on my hard-drive taking up space. My hard drive is so full, my computer has actually stopped letting me download or upload new things.

And suddenly I find myself wanting to change.

See, I bought all those planners. That’s the first step. I WANT to do the right thing and be all responsible again. I always was one-half responsible and one-half not at all, even back in high school and college. I used to make myself plans and stick to them, sort of. Well, I used to make plans. Maybe I never did really stick to them. I almost always turn in everything on time, actually, but I live in fear of signing up for extra things.

So I decided to pray about this today.

And this was my answer:  If you can plan out each day by making a list and crossing things off, then you can apply that same strategy to weeks. Then apply it to months. Then do that for years. Do it at the start of each week, each month, and each year, just like you are doing now for days.

Huh. Brilliant. Maybe even doable?

My Brilliant Plan for How to Plan

My planning tends to never go past the day that I’m on. This is the typical extent of my planning.

 

What I do now for each day is this. After I have safely delivered all of my children to school, I come home and have a little time for Bible study and prayer. You have to pour inspiration in to yourself if you expect to pour any out, right?

I close with prayer, and I ask God to help me make my to-do list for that day. I write the list out on the wipe-off board in the kitchen. Then I mentally prioritize the things that HAVE to get done.

That’s why I usually cook supper in the morning, by 12:00, because I know everyone HAS to eat, and I don’t want that task hanging over my head. Also, I have no energy left at 5:00pm.

I see no reason why this method for planning each day could not be applied to my weeks, months, and years, with one of the 3 planners I’ve purchased laying open on my lap.

My Brilliant Plan for How to Plan

And don’t even say that I should use my phone as my planner. I can’t do it. This falls under scatter-brained people problems. The minute I open my phone to use the calendar or some other useful, productive app, I immediately forget what I was doing and end up reading Instagram or my email or something.

So watch out, world! I now have a plan for how to plan!!!! Who knows? Maybe next week I will make a budget, a meal plan, or catch up on my 2,809 emails…….nahhhhh…

Please share your best planning tips in the comment section! We would love to hear more ideas! Thanks, y’all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stories of Our Boys’ Top 10 Posts of 2015

2015 was a happy year here, full of it’s own challenges, triumphs, and best of all, adventures. I put together this look back at my 10 most popular posts from the year. By popular, I mean that these are the posts that were read by the largest number of people.

First, a few stats from our past year at Stories of Our Boys:

You might have read all 156 blog posts.

You are reading this from 120 different countries.

JenerallyInformed.com was the #1 commenter, followed by McMom. I LOVE my commenters! You add so much to the discussion.

Nonna was my #1 topmommyblogs.com voter and promoter.

Most of you came to my blog via Google or Facebook.

This cute little blog started to make money. Then the home school year took over, and I have been turning away work ever since.

But the greatest thing in the world you give me is when one of you dear friends says, “I like what you said about….” or “I enjoy reading your blog,” or “Your post inspired me to….”

Thank you so much!!!

Biggest observation: The most popular posts are the informational ones. My stories…which are my personal favorite….are much less widely read. Ah, well.

As a blogger, you are who I aim to please. If I were only writing for myself, I’d have a journal, not a blog, so I value your feedback. I’d love to hear what types of posts are your faves.

Now onto this year’s….

Top 10 of 2015

 

#10 Four Things to Learn From the Duggars That They Didn’t Mean to Teach 

 

#9. What’s a Jamberry Anyway?

 

#8. One Simple Lesson That Brought Joy Back to My Life (One of my faves as well!)

#7. Breastfeeding Babies, Strangers, and Airplanes. My, Oh My, Oh My

(So random. I wrote that one in 2013, but it was still my 7th most popular article for 2015.)

 

how to build a family schedule that works

#6. How to Build a Family Schedule That Works

This is the only thing I’ve ever written that was a Pinterest hit.

 

Classical Conversations Cycle 1 and Brain Pop Jr.

#5. Classical Conversations Cycle 1: Week By Week with Brain Pop Jr.

…because who doesn’t love BrainPop??

Home School Vs. Christian School Vs Public School Pros and Cons

#4. Home School Vs. Public School Vs. Private School: Pros and Cons List

I so need to update this post. I wrote this one in 2014, before I ever tried the home school thing.

Montessori at Home

 #3. Montessori at Home: Brainy Kit Review

 

How to Build a School Supply Cake

#2. How to Make a School Supply Cake

This was published in 2014. According to Google, storiesofourboys.com is the #1 authority in school supply cake building on the internet. Pretty funny when you realize that I almost never “craft”!

Making Over My Morning Like a Night Owl

#1. Making Over My Morning, Like a Night Owl

…because anything that appears on MoneySavingMom.com is going to get a thousand times more traffic than my norm.

 

aprilbeach-1000x562

Here’s to the New Year! We’re excited to see what 2016 will bring. I hope it’s a great one for all of you!

 

 

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How to Build a Family Schedule That Works

schedule

 

I have never been a highly scheduled person. I dabbled with the baby feeding schedules, but for some reason I could never get the babies to understand my plan.

“No, no, no, little one. You see, right here on the 9:00 hour, the schedule clearly states that you are to be asleep.   WHY YOU NO SLEEP?????”

I get it. All schedules must have wiggle room. Life doesn’t go as planned. Ever. Well, sometimes, maybe?

I married into a family of the most scheduled people I’ve ever met. I’m going to tell you a story before I get to my point here because this story is relevant and unbelievable. Seriously.

Nonna and Aunt Janet came to visit us in 2010. Joshua was turning 5, Caleb was 4, and Daniel was in utero.  We lived in Washington, D.C., not in the suburbs, but actually in the city.

Of course, Nonna came with an itinerary for all that she and Janet intended to do during their visit. Upon their arrival, they discovered that our little boys were super sick with strep throat.

Nonna was undeterred. “Okay. So on Thursday, we’ll do the Space Museum. Then on Friday, I figure we’ll be sick with strep throat. We’ll take a day or two off to rest. On Sunday, we’ll hit the Holocaust Museum and Mount Vernon. Monday we’ll see Arlington, and Tuesday we’ll get ready for our trip back.”

I kid you not, folks, they developed strep throat as scheduled. Poor Aunt Janet, who came down with her sickness in the middle of the Space Museum. Let’s just say that for some people, strep throat is also a puke bug. It was a trip to remember.

Were our travelers caught unawares with this sickness? Heck no. That’s the power of the plan!

My friend Kim convinced me to buy this book:

This came in handy for several reasons:

  1. Schedule suggestions
  2. THE KIT!!! It includes this sticky tack stuff, which is a must have for the final color-coded-schedule building step.
  3. But the amount of priority questioning that has ensued from working on my family schedule still has my head spinning! Talk about staring your choices in the face!

 

How to Build Your Schedule:

 

#1. Make an exhaustive list of every single thing that you need to accomplish during the average weekday. If your family has sports 3 nights a week, include that. Don’t forget to include the fact that it takes 30 minutes to get ready for said activities, 15 minutes to drive there, and 15 minutes to get home. All together, one soccer team may actually add up to 5 hours of your week, like Caleb’s team!

Then break that into 30 minute or hour increments. Here’s an example of my worksheet:

IMG_0182

my daily activity worksheet

You may find it awfully hard to get everything into 24 hours. Lightbulb moment that you’re trying to do too much….Just sayin’. I certainly have that problem.

That was not my final draft.

#2. Do that worksheet for each family member.

Consult the kids to ask them what is important to them. Make sure they are having time to practice whatever their craft or skill is. I tried to build in time for bicycles, drawing, and baseball in the yard.

#3. The fun part: Get your kit out. Choose 1 color for each family member. Write all the activities on the appropriate size squares. They come in 30 minute squares and hour-long squares.

#4. Cut out the squares, and arrange them on your master schedule: 3 legal size papers with time slots. Use the sticky tac on the back of each square to hold it temporarily in place. 

I did John David’s first. Younger children have the most needs to consider. Older children have harder set times, though. If soccer is at 5, you can’t really move that square around.

Here’s ours:

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The morning schedule. This works for 3/5 of our weekdays.

 

 

IMG_0728

Midday Schedule: Also works for only 3/5 of our days.

IMG_0729

Technically, each evening is different for us, so I tried to allow for that with “Soccer/AWANA/Family time”

 

Now that I’ve gotten all of this done, soccer season is wrapping up, and we switch to the basketball schedule. I don’t think it will change too much, though.

I will warn you. This activity may lead you to question EVERYTHING in your life.

I kept thinking, “Wait a minute. This is crazy. Something more must be delegated!”

Or “Why do I blog at all? Should I drop the blog?”

“How clean does the house really need to be?” *chuckle*  Alan does his share of the cleaning, believe me!

How the schedule has helped so far:

I love that I have a plan in place. Also, I don’t have to be the bad guy with the kids.

“Mom, is this the last thing we have to do??”

“No. Go look at the schedule.”

“Awww man!!”

“Sorry. It’s on the schedule.”

Also, I have gotten more done at school. When the schedule wasn’t written down, by 1:30 I start to run out of energy and say things like, “Eh, you’ve done enough, go ahead.” The schedule holds my feet to the ground with, “Oh, yeah, you really should do handwriting.”

They should. So should I, but that’s why adults get to use computers.

The schedule also helped me find a way to alternate seat work with fun. I don’t know why I’m such a hands-on teacher, but I’ve just accepted that as my teaching style. I’d love to be the mom that has the kids working quietly while I tend to the house, but that’s just not me. I walk them through division, I read to them because I love it, and I hover nearby as much as I can. That’s my teaching style. We talk all day long.

Meanwhile, the schedule says that right now I’m sitting on my porch, when in fact, we are all inside. I’m procrastinating letting JD up from nap while I blog. 

I mean, schedules are a wonderful TOOL, but let’s not marry our schedules.

Hope you all have a good time this weekend, passing out candy to adorable little trick-or-treaters! We will have a Darth Vader, a Boba Fett, a Snoopy, and a Yoda. I promise to take photos, if you promise to do the same!

 

 

 

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Where I’ve Been

For my first year of home schooling, I worked out a schedule and adjusted it repeatedly until it WORKED. That was last year. I had a one-year-old.

Year 2: Three weeks in. I now have a 2-year-old, which means less nap time. I also added in teaching time for the 3rd kid. That’s right. Daniel was 3 last year, so I wasn’t actually spending much time teaching him.

Plus, we decided to return to kids’ sports. Oh, and I now go to 3 doctor appointments a week. The physical therapy ones last over an hour.

So there’s been this glaring problem.

Chaos.

I have no schedule. Not really. I can’t figure one out.

I haven’t actually told anyone this, but God knew. He must have told my friend Kim because  yesterday she brought me a book to borrow. Kim has been home schooling for like 15 years. I also ordered a copy, and it will arrive soon.

It looks like this:

 

 

I’m in the process of going through this book to build a schedule that will work for this busy time of life. I needed all the help I could get!

This is not a sponsored post. I tried to make it one. I emailed the Maxwells to beg for a sample. They sent me a fiction novel instead. But you see, I need the schedule first so I can find the time to read the novel…..Oh, well! At least I tried! 😉

So this is where I’ve been. I will return to blogging regularly once I have gotten further along in this transition.

I miss reading more than 1 minute of Facebook at a time, reading my favorite blogs, and sharing in your joys and crying over your sadness!!

I do not miss being up on the latest news. Alan told me about the reporter being shot. I happened upon the Josh the Pervert Duggar story, and that’s the extent of my knowledge. All ‘news’ is bad news, and I don’t miss it at all.

Thanks for the support!! I have always said that I have the BEST friends, family, and blog readers.

One funny story for the road:

Daniel was at Cubbies last night, and they had his name written on a chart. He was supposed to put a sticker by his name. He looked at the chart. He said, “My name not on here.”

“Yes, it is,” his teacher said.

“No, it not.”

She showed him his name; it was the first one listed, first and last name, at the top of the chart.

He pointed to the “Daniel” part and said, “That my name.” Then he pointed to the last name and said, “But that NOT my name.”

They explained the last name concept to Dan.

He replied, “Oh. My mom does call me that sometimes.”

Okay 2 stories:

How Daniel said his memory verse last night: “God loves us, and him did send his son!” said with a healthy dose of Ghetto attitude.

Dan the Lovable

Dan the Lovable

I’ll be back to blogging and reading regularly as soon as I get the schedule worked out!!

 

 

 

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Little Girls: Not So Different

thelittles

Today Alan and I helped out with 1st and 2nd grade children’s church.  The usual teachers were out of town, but they left their young adult children to teach the class.  They just asked Alan and me to come and help with crowd control.  Easy job for us. I felt like such a tough guy–being in charge of behavior.  I had to put forth extra effort not to let this role get to my head because I was on a bit of a power trip.  HAAAAAA!

People very often carry on about the fact that I have four BOYS, but I’m not so sure that boys are the harder job.  In this particular class, the girls were actually the squirmy, spirited ones.  Alan and I have very LIMITED experience with little girls.  This class reminded me that they are not so very different from little boys.

There was, of course, this one girl in particular that was a bit….free spirited.  After her third attempt to escape to the bathroom and take her chosen friend with her, I decided to escort her to the bathroom myself.  I did not allow her to drag any friends with us, though.

I wasn’t about to be out smarted.  I stood in the door.  As she washed her hands, she kept stepping on each of the three stools (not that she even needed a stool).  I patiently waited without saying anything.

She finally turned around and said, “I have to step on the stools because in between them it’s all hot lava, and I don’t want to fall in.”

“Right,” I replied.

She whipped her head around, in surprise, “Did you say right!??”

I nodded.  “Lava.  Got it.”  This little girl is not overburdened by reality yet.  Why spoil a good imagination?

We managed to get back to the classroom, free of incident.  The little girls in the class just kept teaming up to try to sneak here or there, usually to the bathroom or underneath the piano.  Somehow, between the four of us, we did manage to keep them all quiet and in their seats.

Alan even ended the class with a very good presentation of the gospel.  Alan is so good with kids.

When it was all over, I asked the boys, “Ya’ll were so well behaved today.  Great job.  I really liked that.  Are you always that well behaved, or were you being better behaved because we were there?”

They both answered, “better because you were there.”  Ah.  Right. So who knows, maybe they’re normally as sneaky as the girls…

********

I’m not quite the same since having the 4th baby.  I’m really not.  I can’t keep up with everything this job entails.  The fact is, I can’t keep up with ANYTHING since JD arrived. I really can’t.  I was at a party this Friday, and I mentioned that I needed to make myself a note on my hand about something so I wouldn’t forget.  The young mom I said this to was just horrified by my methods of remembering things:  hand notes and a wall calendar.

Do you still use a wall calendar?  I am told that it’s an outdated method for organization.  My new friend recommended that Alan and I use Google Calendar, and sync the calendars, so that we’re both tracking.  That makes a lot of sense.  She said I should have it on my phone.

That’s when I had to admit that I still use an old-school cell phone.  No data plan here.

I felt like a little old lady, out of touch with the latest in technology, so yesterday I made several attempts to get Google calendar downloaded onto my tablet. Only I was so tired from my lack of sleep that I just couldn’t focus on it.  I never did figure it out.  I might work on that today.  It can’t be hard. I’m sure Alan could help me.

Do any of you use Google calendars?  Do you find it helpful?

She also mentioned setting reminders for myself on my phone, as sometimes I forget to do things that I’m supposed to do.  I know my sister-in-law does that a lot.  My phone doesn’t have that capability either.

Have you found your smartphone to be advantageous in ways other than email?  I have a tablet, isn’t that just as good?

This has definitely been a year that has forced me to try to become more organized.  I can use all the good ideas I can get!!

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