My Homeschool Planner

Today is one of my favorite posts because it combines some of my favorite things… planners, homeschool, and organization! I’ve been wanting to do this post for quite some time, but I had to get it just right before I did. To be honest, I LOVE when homeschoolers will post their plans and planners for me to see, but I also would get overwhelmed. How do they do so much in a day? How do they plan for all those little nuts and bolts of the big plan? I didn’t see their whole process, but I decided to just do what I could and take it one bite-size piece at a time. As I watched their YouTube video (nerd alert!), I would jot down a list of all of the components in their planners. Then, I would cross off the ones I didn’t need in mine, and add things that I did want to add and include. Little by little, I began working on a plan for each of those things whether it was a divider section or a pocket or a way to keep up with our attendance… and I found what works for me. I’m pretty happy with the results. Sometimes I add some stickers and a little washi here and there, but for the most part I really don’t. It’s more about function and use for me, so it’s mostly just pen and pencil and highlighters. I purchased a Teacher Planner that’s already pretty cute on it’s own so I don’t feel the need to spend time decorating it too.

I love keeping it all together in this cover. It gives me extra pockets and a place to keep my pen or highlighter handy. It’s the perfect place for this sticker pack. The planner is this one. Last year, I used a regular classic-sized vertical Happy Planner, and it worked just fine, but I really love ALL THE SECTIONS that the teacher planner gives me.
**It looks like the Teacher Planner I have is out of stock on the Mambi website. Be sure to check Michael’s if you’re looking to get it, or check out the other available options in teacher’s planners. If you purchase from Michael’s, be sure to use their coupon if they aren’t already on sale the week you go.

    

     

I like to start out the year with a “Back to School Survey”. I’ve done this for about three years, and it really is fun to look back and see their answers from previous years. I made my own, and we use the same one every year to keep it simple.

I also keep this “Plan your Year” calendar in the front where I planned out all of our terms for the year and planned breaks. You can learn more about our yearly planning and schedule in this post.

Finally, here you can see my tabbed dividers… I have a section for our Memory Work, Knight Training, Reading, Planning/Scheduling, and Bible Roadtrip. I’ll share some samples from each of those sections.

  

In our Reading section, I have printed a First Grade Reading List for Lawson so we can use this list as we choose books at the library each week and highlight them as we go. I also have a Read Aloud Revival Booklist. It’s 10 pages of different types of the best read alouds…. everything from Audio Books to Board Books, to Stories for Large Families. It’s got it all. I’ll also need to add a “Reading Log” to this section, but I’ll probably just do that with a simple notes page to keep it simple.

    

In our Memory Work section, we have Linkin’s Raising Rockstars Preschool Memory Verses. I realize the page says “Kindergarten” but that’s because the verses are the same for both years, so next year will be a review for him. I like this page because we can easily see all the verses at once to review when we need to.

We also have our Catechisms in here. I love these, and I’ve already seen how they can apply the things they’ve learned from just by memorizing them. They really like the question and answer flow when we do these.

I’ve also included some other Memory Work samples for you to see. I like to have it at a glance for me so I’ll know what to review and introduce to them. I put previously learned things in here as well to review periodically. We’ve got scriptures, poetry, manners, safety rules, mottos, and skills like skip counting in this section.

      

      

      
   

In our Knight Training section, we’ve got our Knight’s Code of Chivalry that we’re working through. We do one per week and discuss it from notes I took when I read the book. I’ve included some of my notes from the introduction of the book here to give you some ideas. I just love this for my boys!

   
   

In the Planning/Scheduling section, I’ve got our current “Term Plans”. I make a simple six-week plan for us based on how far we got in our previous term and how far I think we need to get in this term. It just helps us to stay on track and pace ourselves. If you were to compare this term with last term, you would see that I’ve slowed down some things we do like doing only one verse per week of our Psalms Memory Work and taking two weeks to cover our Bible Roadtrip lessons. This is much more doable for us, but we’re still making great progress.

   

Also, in this section I have “Just Because We Can” Days List… which gives us some ideas of some things we can do, really whenever we want to, and just because. I’ve also added some pages for ideas as they come to me in the form of Movie Mondays, Tasty Tuesdays, What’s New Wednesdays, Thoughtful Thursdays, and Fun Fridays. I like the idea of assigning various “extra” fun things to certain days, Otherwise, they may never happen. I also have some lists for Service Days, Playdates, and Fieldtrips in this section so that we can keep track.

         

In our Bible Roadtrip section, I keep our lesson plans for the current term. I’ve included a full week for you here so you can get a little idea of what the curriculum is like. If you have older children, you would just add in those sections that would build on the others, but of course, I had no need for them so I didn’t include them in my planner.

             

I just love the cute dashboards and dividers in the Happy Planners, especially the “teacher-themed” ones this one has. You can see how I use the monthly spread page to keep up with our attendance, and I add in any reminders such as our weekly Memory Work review and monthly things to go over as well.

   

I included my August lesson plans for you to see. I mostly write in our plans “after the fact” instead of making a plan before hand. Honestly, as much as I love to plan, I’m not really that great at carrying out really detailed plans so this works for me. I do kind of plan the week at a time for things like language, math, and Bible roadtrip. I write in the workbook or lesson plans a simple letter (M,T,W,R,or F) so I’ll know if I can fit it all in. Then, I’ll add it to my planner as we complete it to keep track.

   

Of course, one of our weeks this month was our “Break Week” so I included that and added in some fun field trips we wanted to take (or did take), as well as some tasks I wanted to complete during the week. The final week I included is the first week of our Fall Term because the format looks a little different. I changed up the titles of the boxes. I left off our Summer Reading Program and included our Langage Arts curriciculum. You’ll also notice that I added in a “coupon”. These were a printable that I laminated and gave to Lawson a few years ago in his stocking at Christmas as a little treat. There are lots of different ideas included, and we grabbed a few of them randomly last year. I decided this year that I would punch them and add them to my planner. It helps us to “plan ahead” and actually do them this way… We can’t bake cookies if we don’t have all the ingredients. So now we are prepared.

      

The teacher planner has a section for checklists, which I am currently not using. I’m not sure how I could use them in our homeschool, but maybe I’ll think of something. Instead, I’ve just used this section to keep our developmental evaluations and goal-sheets for each of my “students”. 😉

      

And that’s it for this school year’s Homeschool Teacher Planner! Let me know if you have any questions I can answer for you.

Our Homeschool Organization & Space

Since we do not have a dedicated Homeschool Room in our home, this is our Homeschooling Corner, I guess you could say. We do still need a place to store all the things we use daily, preferably mostly hidden and away from toddler’s hands… this is what is working for us right now. I’m pretty sure I will change this setup before the year is over because I change things all the time. But for now, this is it. Let’s take a look!

The dry erase / chalkboard easel is from IKEA. It was one of the kids’ combined Christmas gifts last year. We’ve been using the chalk side as “Our Chore Board” and the dry erase side to write our daily school assignments.

    

 

The 3 cubical rustic shelf is from Walmart. On top of it we have our “Communal Supplies” – the ones that are for anyone to use. It’s easy to grab the box of crayons or tin of colored pencils to take to the table to work on a project if we need to. In the top cube, we have this metal organizer with our “Extra Supplies”… extra glue, extra boxes of crayons, extra boxes of our favorite pencils. We stock up on these with the Back to School Sales. Those boxes of crayons are $0.50 right now, but if I need a box during the school year, that same box is going to cost me over $2. I’m super frugal and cheap so knowing that – it’s really hard for me to pay that price later on. Stocking up is necessary. So necessary. Little ones need several boxes per year… not just one.

The lockers are a favorite of mine! While walking through a flea market with family members one day, I went to look at some lockers (with a hefty price tag), and expressed how much I would love to have a set of lockers one day. The following Monday, my father in law, brought me this set from his school that were just being thrown away. Score! I love having things that are like “real school”, but also fit into my home as well. Rustic industrial would be my preferred style probably so these metal lockers work well. If anybody sees a deal on an old wooden filing cabinet or a wooden library card catalog, let me know. Those are on my wish list. 😉

Each of my children have their very own locker to keep their books and specific supplies in. I’m on the hunt for locker shelves, because we currently aren’t utilizing the vertical space of these as best we can. I don’t know what else we will store, but I’m sure I can find a way to use that space too. 😉

Here’s Layten’s locker. Her color is pink so she has her pink binder portfolio, her pink clipboard, and also a magazine file with a sketch book, a coloring book, stickers, and various busy bags from previous weekly themes. These are all things I can grab for her to do to “entertain her” while I work with the older boys if I need to.

This is Layten’s portfolio binder. I just use it to file her work after it’s completed to look back on if we ever need or want to. There are no dividers or anything fancy. It’s just for me.

We use a clipboard to keep up with her weekly themed work, and her daily work. I clip on the front what we are doing for any given day, and it gives us a hard surface to write and color on. We usually like to do Layten’s school time on the couch.

Inside Layten’s clipboard is where we keep all of her work that we will be doing for the week. I also keep this tin of crayons in here so we have what we need when we go to the couch for school. This tin came from Cracker Barrel years ago, but I love it because it’s flat, and it fits the colors she needs for school perfectly.

This is Linkin’s locker. It’s got his portfolio binder, his cards folder, his clipboard, the Bible he uses for Bible Roadtrip, and a magazine file to file his previously completed work. Periodically I empty these files by adding the pages to their portfolios. I would say “Break Weeks” would probably be a good time to do this, but to be honest, it’s pretty random.

This is Linkin’s portfolio binder. We just add the pages in order of completion… no dividers necessary.

This is Linkin’s Cards Folder for Raising Rockstars Preschool that he’s working through this year. I used these with Lawson previously, so I laminated these cards, and they are placed in baseball card sleeves in this plastic folder for Linkin to use as well. We can use these cards so many different ways, but we love having this book to keep them in. It allows us to review previous letters, memory verses, numbers, and sight words each week as we are putting in the new cards.

Here’s Linkin’s clipboard because he also likes to do school on the couch. On the front I clip his daily work. These front pages you see are also pages I used previously with Lawson, so they are laminated. We used to display them, but since we do school mostly in the living room, I don’t want to display them in there.

And here’s a peek of the inside of Linkin’s clip. I took this picture on a Friday at the end of our term so there’s not too much to see here.

This is Lawson’s locker. He is in first grade so his, of course, has the most in it. From left to right he has his portfolio & weekly assignments binder, his Apologetics textbook, his Apologetics notebooking journal, his Botany textbook, his Botany notebooking journal, his Good and the Beautiful Language Arts textbook, Window on the World (for Bible Roadtrip), and 66 Books One Story (also for Bible Roadtrip). In his magazine file he has his primary journal (for handwriting), his kids’ happy planner, and his ESV children’s BIble. (Links for these are in our Curriculum Choices post.)

Lawson’s binder actually does have dividers and sections, so I’ll show you what we’ve got in there. Here are the tabs we have for the different subjects we use. These dividers actually have pockets on each side so they are perfect for keeping math flashcards, Bible roadtrip crafts, etc.

I made one of these Student Weekly Checklists for each of my kids actually to keep up with all of the things we need to accomplish in a week. This would be nice if we wanted to use dry or wet erase markers with it and keep up with it all for the week. Maybe towards the end of the year, we can work towards this – but for now, I like adding the specific details of which pages to read, which lessons, etc. on our board each day. And Lawson doesn’t mind. I don’t think he’s ever taken the time to look at this page in his binder. He just does whatever I tell him to. Compliant first child. 😉

This is the Bible Road Trip Notebooking Journal. The first three weeks of it came with a sample pack I signed up for a while ago to see if the curriculum was a good fit for us. Obviously, I decided that it was, but I did not order the Notebooking journal for the rest of the course. I feel like it’s something we can just duplicate ourselves on simple paper in Lawson’s journal.

Here are some samples of the pages in the Notebooking Journal though. I do love that it uses Narration (a Charlotte Mason idea) where Lawson call dictate back to me what he’s learning. Sometimes I write that down for him on paper, and then have him copy the sentences. We’re working on handwriting and copy work a good bit right now.

Here’s Lawson’s First Grade Reading List. We’ve also got a Reading Log in here where he can keep up with the books he’s read. I may even have him do a few book reports and keep them in this section this year.

Here’s a peek inside Lawson’s journal where he’s done some scripture copy work.

And here is Lawson’s planner. He loves to work in it when he has free time, using his stickers and journaling. I’m not being strict with it or really giving him any guidelines.

Here’s another locker that doesn’t belong to anyone in particular. We use it to store extra paper supplies like construction paper and loose leaf paper packs. It’s also got larger sticker and activity books and our boxes of manipulatives. The boxes contain our Math U See blocks and puzzles. Linkin likes to play with these independently after he’s finished his school assignments some days. On the hook at the top, I have a container to hold our chalk that I use for the chalkboard. In another locker, I have one with dry erase markers. I have to keep these things put away up high because I have a toddler and a sensory-seeking child who cannot contain himself when he’s around markers. They will be all over my furniture, walls, and him if I leave them out (which has happened quite a few times).

This is our file for future weeks’ materials. Each child has their own set of folders – one for each week of the school year. Linkin and Layten only use 26 folders because there are 26 letters in the alphabet. I number them just for organizational purposes when we are initially setting up the file during the Summer. Then, for the most part I just grab the material from the very next file and move it to the back of their section. Easy peasy, and it saves me a ton of time by having it all done already. In the front we have mini books from Lawson and Linkin’s curricula and stickers, of course.

In Lawson’s “Next Week” folder, I have his math pages (which we will add to his blue binder as the week approaches) and the Bible Road Trip plans. I printed these scaled to 80% and will cut them down to add to my homeschool planner when it’s time. I usually grab a few of these out at a time to cut down and punch for my planner, actually.

Inside Linkin’s “Next Week” folder, we have his materials for Raising Rockstars Preschool, all printed and ready to go.

And finally, in Layten’s “Next Week” folder, we have her materials and vocabulary development cards for her Tot School Printables curriculum. Some weeks have additional, related activities added in that I’ve collected over the years, but this week looks pretty simple.

Our Homeschool Daily Schedule & Routines

Obviously every day is not going to look the same, and often I feel like there are a million distractions and little things we have to work through to get it all done (or at least enough done to call it a day). I would probably sum it all up by saying, what we do is to “Do the Next, Best Thing.” All day long, it’s a motto that I keep saying to myself. When something happens and the colored pencils get spilled all over the floor (or purposefully thrown is more like it), I have to remember to just “do the next, best thing”. Throwing in the towel and hiding is not an option for me. My kids need me – even in those difficult moments when they are frustrated or bored or sad or mad or don’t get their way. They need me to be the one that says… “Okay. Let’s calm down for a minute, figure out what’s going on, and then get back to what we were doing and just do the next thing… the next, best thing.”

So here we go. Since this is our Break Week from homeschool, I’m just going to write out what our current, ideal day looks like (without those distractions). It’s more of a routine or general order in which we do things, rather than a rigid schedule of times. The times are really just a guide to give you an idea, but they’re definitely mostly a guess-timate. We don’t do well with rigid schedules… with little ones, they are nearly impossible. But routines and general plans work great!

Our Typical, “Ideal” Homeschool Day
5am – I wake up for my Bible study, blog work, and sometimes I go back to sleep for a few minutes if the kids are still sleeping.
6:30 – If I’m still working, this is the point where I stop and get up to fix everyone breakfast.
(usually something simple like cereal or oatmeal)
7 am – Morning Routine (I’m using the Flylady Plus app right now… I’ll get to that in a minute.)
8 am – I use this time to work on some household chores while the kids play usually. Sometimes we’re overly ambitious and get started on our school work at this time.
9 am – If we haven’t already started school, this is when we must definitely get started. I usually let the kids play for a while if they are getting along good, and the moment they start to argue – we switch to school work to separate them a bit.

For our school work – we have no specific order that we have to get things done exactly, but for the most part, I will get Lawson started on his independent work at the table (Handwriting, Math if it’s simple enough, and Reading).

While he works independently, I go ahead and do Linkin’s work with him on the couch (if he’s in a good mood and ready to work). When Linkin finishes his work, I give him something fun to play with in the playroom while I work with Layten.

The reason I do this is because my boys LOVE to help me teach Layten, which is nice, but also not-so-nice. They tell her the answers as we review things, try to take her crayons, and it ends up being more work for me than help. I also think she needs that one-on-one time with me too, just like they get. So I’ve tried to busy them with something else so I can work with her. When she’s finished, she gets down to play or she can join Linkin in the playroom if I need to work with Lawson. They are free to come and go at this point. Linkin usually plays great on his own, and he would literally play for hours and hours on end. Layten sometimes needs another activity like stickers or something else to color and work on.

I keep working with Lawson to get as much of our list done as possible. Sometimes we take a snack break around 9:30, but lately we’ve been pushing through and having an early lunch instead. That’s pretty intentional.

11 am – Lunch & Quick Clean up
12 pm – CrossFit class / Screen Time for the Kids
This has been great for us because it gives us a good break in our day, and it also helps me to get it out of the way.

1 pm – Layten’s nap / I shower / This is also our family time with Daddy while he has a break from work.
3:30 – We finish up any school work we still have left. / Kids play. / Mama has a little time to work or do some household chores.
5 pm – Dinner Prep / Eat / Clean- up (Kids help)
6 pm – Kids’ baths
7 pm – EHAP (Everything has a place.)  – We all work together to get the house back in order quickly. I use “Our Chore Board” to write down a few things so everyone knows what they can be doing.
7:30 – Lately the kids have been watching an episode of Veggie Tales before bed. If we haven’t finished our daily Bible story, we’ll read and discuss that instead.
7:45 – Kids brush teeth / We pray for them / Bedtime
8 pm – I finish picking up anything I see that needs to be done. I may give the kitchen and living room a final sweep or wipe down if it needs it and start the dishwasher so we can wake up to clean dishes. Sometimes I go ahead and write the next day’s school assignments on our board.
8:30 – We usually are in bed by this time since Daddy gets up so early.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m using the Fly Lady Plus App right now for my Morning Routine. I’m working through her other routines as well, but I just kind of use them as general reminders for what I could do next. I love the app because I can check off the things and just reset it each day. I don’t have to write any of these things in my planner and take up time and space with that now. It’s a pretty good app.

FlyLady’s Morning Routine
Make Bed
Get dressed to shoes
Swish & Swipe
Eat breakfast
Empty the dishwasher
Start a load of laundry
Check your calendar

FlyLady’s Afternoon Routine
What’s for dinner
Drink your water
Declutter for 15 minutes
Reboot your laundry
15 minutes of exercise
Work through emails

FlyLady’s Bedtime Routine
Check your calendar and forecast
Lay our tomorrow’s clothes
Spend 2 minutes clearing off a hot spot
Shine your sink
Wash face, Brush teeth, Bathe
Go to bed at a decent hour

And that’s our day!

Our Homeschool Yearly Schedule & Terms

Since we do school at home, we are not required to do “school” like the rest of them. We are only required to do 180 calendar days per school year, and that can look however we want it to look. I love the flexibility this gives us. We love to take pre-planned breaks in our homeschool, and it’s also good to have those random days where we just need a day off or want to do something fun with family or friends who are available on a particular day.

Some may call our Homeschool Yearly Schedule “Sabbath Schooling” or even “Year-Round Homeschooling”, though we still take a pretty good Summer break usually, so I’m not sure if this one is the most accurate. Sabbath Schooling refers to the homeschool schedule that is made up of “Six Week Terms” followed by a “Break Week”.

I love this schedule for a few reasons…

#1 It helps prevent Homeschool Burnout. Sometimes, it can feel daunting to have to do school day after day after day. My kids feel it, and I feel it too sometimes. Then of course, there’s the feeling of being stuck at home. We want to get out and do fun things sometimes because it’s not always easy to do them on Homeschool days, or else we just aren’t motivated to come back home and get our schoolwork done. For the most part, homeschooling and being home with my kids is very enjoyable for me, but then there are times when even this mama needs a break. I can try my best to plan for these during our break weeks.

#2 It allows me to do “Incremental Planning”. If you’ve been following me longer than a minute, you know that I love planning. Hence, the name of my blog. And as much as I love planning, you’d think I’d have the whole school year planned out before it begins, all written in my planner and such. You’d be wrong. I’ve tried that before, and it was an utter fail. It was a fail because plans are nice, but plans do not always happen as they are intended to. There are sick days, unplanned fun days, and “I just need a break” days. There are days where my children are frustrated and have emotional days and we end up skipping math altogether. These things just can’t always be “planned for”. So, instead I only plan out the intended yearly calendar, knowing that it will change some too, and I do Incremental Planning. During the Summer break, I select and finalize the curriculum we will be using and make a general idea of how often we will do each subject. Then, I only plan for one term at a time, and loosely at that. So I love when Break Week comes, because it allows me to plan our next term! It’s kind of like a New Year or a new day…. a fresh start for us. Even if we didn’t get as far as I’d hoped in the previous term, I can adjust our pace to make sure we are hitting various progress points throughout our year, and it’s really nice to have that flexibility.

#3 Having a pre-planned Break Week gives us time to plan special things and get household projects done. Break week is the perfect time to plan fun, field trips. In fact, we’re about to have a Break Week this next week, and I’ve got planned for us to go and do something fun each day of the week! All of the public schoolers have gone back to school now, so we’ll likely have the kids’ places to ourselves or with much smaller crowds at least. Can you say #Winning?! 😉 This will also be a week where I catch up on some of the household projects that I don’t necessarily have time for during the school week. I’m excited about that as well. We can all use a reboot from time to time.

Here’s How I Plan our Yearly “Sabbath Schooling” Homeschool Schedule: 

  • I think about when I’m ready to start school. Usually, we tend to start in July because we love the routine that homeschooling gives us. This was the case this year, especially, because we will be having a new baby in the month of December so we will definitely be taking a longer break for that – probably at least a month or so, but we’ll see.
  • I think about when we’d like to finish school (ideally, of course). We definitely don’t want to finish school after the public schoolers do. It’s no fun to be stuck inside doing school when everyone else is out playing (or so it seems). Unless, of course we were too excited to wait and start in July like we usually do. That’s an exception to that “stuck” feeling.
  • I look at the calendar and enter our “Break Weeks” first, based on holidays or big events.  Some of these would include the week of Thanksgiving, the weeks surrounding Christmas, and this year – our baby’s due date.
  • Set our terms. This is where it’s really helpful to have a dated, yearly calendar to glance at – one that has multiple years actually. My teacher planner is perfect for this! But I also like to view it all on one page like the one shown from Pam Barnhill’s Plan Your Year. I usually start out by counting backwards six weeks from Thanksgiving to give us a Fall Term. Then, I add in a Break Week and count backwards again to give us another term if we need it. It doesn’t always have to be exactly Six Weeks for our terms. Some weeks may be five weeks, or seven weeks, or possibly even three – depending on how the calendar lines up. The most important part is to make it work for you, and that’s exactly what we do.

    Here’s Our “Flexible” Homeschool Schedule for the 2018-2019 School Year:
    Summer Term (Light-Schooling to Reintroduce Subjects one at a time) July 5 – August 10
    Break Week (Field Trip Week!) – August 13-17
    Fall Term (All Subjects) – August 20-September 28
    Break Week – October 1-5
    Second Fall Term – October 8- November 16
    Break Week (Thanksgiving) – November 29 – 23
    First Winter Term (Mini-Term) – November 26 – December 14*
    *This one could change depending on when our baby decides to come.
    Christmas Break – December 17 – January 4
    Second Winter Term – January 7 – February 15
    Break Week – February 18-22
    Spring Term – February 25 – April 5
    Spring Break – April 8-12
    Final Term – April 15- May 3, potentially
    (We may need to go a little longer than this if we haven’t quite hit our 180 days.)

    Here’s how I Track our Attendance:
    On the monthly spread of my teacher planner, I just write a large number to count up the days. I also note the pre-planned break weeks.

    And that’s it. That’s how we plan our Homeschool Year into terms!
    For more in this “Not” Back to school Homeschooling Series, you can visit my Homeschooling Page!

    Whatever you do, Let’s make a Plan to Be more Purposeful!  

Our Homeschool Curriculum Choices

Here are our Curriculum Choices for the 2018-2019 Homeschool Year…

Layten Bradleigh – (currently 21 months old; Tot School)
She wants to do everything her big brothers do, including “school” so I decided to start working with her early, and she absolutely LOVES it! Basically it’s just a little planned out, intentional time that I spend with her each day to color and talk about things like letters, sounds, vocabulary development, counting, shapes, colors, etc. I’m not expecting her to master any of this right now, but she does do pretty well with it, even at such a young age.

Our curriculum choice is Tot School Printables, and it was a free, printable download curriculum which I have used with both Lawson and Linkin. I laminated and saved what I knew I could use again with my next kids, and I’m really glad I thought to do that. It seriously takes us about five minutes a day, and it’s very simple, but this curriculum is awesome and covers all the bases. I recommend it for toddlers Layten’s age, and it would even be great for toddlers that are a little older.

Linkin – (age 4; Pre-K 4)
Linkin does NOT really enjoy “school”, and his learning style is very different from his siblings. However, I’m learning to work with him to teach him both in ways that are more his style, and he works with me on learning things that are more my style as his teacher. If I were to classify his preferred style of schooling, it would be “unschooling”. Basically it’s following your child’s lead in whatever they are interested in. This can work really well if they have a particular interest that you can follow their lead in, and I think it may work well for us as he gets older and finds more things that he’s interested in and passionate about. However, right now his interests include Rescue Bots, Transformers, and Paw Patrol. I can make that educational in some ways, but then I begin to draw a blank on what else we can do with it. Actually, the most educational thing I’ve found that falls into one of these categories would be the “transforming letters and numbers sets” we played with at Excel by 5. He REALLY loved those!

The main curriculum I use with Linkin is called Raising Rockstars Preschool. It’s also available as a free, printable download. I love this curriculum because we are still reviewing the alphabet with it, but it takes it to the next level. Each letter has a corresponding Memory Verse and a page of how we can apply that verse to our lives. It’s basically a list of affirmations where he can see who God made him to be and all the things he can do because of that. We are working to write letters a little more this year, but it’s still very basic tracing lines. We do some cutting practice and gluing each week with our Memory verse strips, and each week has a song that goes along with it, which of course he loves. I think his favorite part is the little mini book that is included in each week though. It corresponds with the letter of the week and introduces a new sight word. He can memorize it based on the pictures and “read” it to me all by himself. I think this excites little ones to learn to read and gives them the confidence they need to have in order to learn the skills to do so when it’s time.

Linkin really loves numbers, singing, small objects, and he loves to play. Most of his learning takes place doing these activities, and these are all “unplanned” things actually. After he does his “planned” curriculum with me each day, I let him have time to play freely (when Layten naps usually) with our Math U See blocks or puzzles or something else with small parts. He really enjoys having time to work with these things when he’s not bothered by his little sister, so during her nap time works best.

Bible: Bible Roadtrip Level Preschool/Kindergarten
We just started this curriculum, and I LOVE it! It was exactly what I was looking for in a Bible Curriculum. Giving my children a biblical foundation is one of the main reasons that we homeschool so having a good Bible curriculum is a must for us. I wanted something a little more in depth than a devotional Bible study, but not too much so that they couldn’t understand it. This one is perfect. For Linkin’s level we use the book 365 Great Bible Stories. We read the short stories and discuss them a little bit, and there are weekly crafts and usually an episode of “What’s in the Bible with Buck Denver” that we watch on our Jelly Telly app.

Memory Work:
With memory work, I don’t really “test” them in it because I can kind of tell what they know and are still working on. I’m really not too concerned that they memorize EVERYTHING that we work on, but that they get a general knowledge of it. I do test Linkin on his weekly Memory Verse with Raising Rockstars, and I want him to learn all of those verses and have them in his heart. For the other things, I just want him to be present with us (in the same room) and hopefully take in what he can from it. Ideally, he would repeat it with Lawson and answer the catechism questions, but like I’ve already said school is not his favorite thing so he doesn’t always participate. HOWEVER, there was one day that I had him alone and I was shocked to find that he actually has learned a good bit of our memory work and knew them very well (especially for a kid who rarely ever says them aloud with us). So this is why I’m not too concerned with it. Also, I’ve asked him questions in our Bible lessons recently that corresponded with Catechisms we’ve learned, and he correctly answered the questions and knew things I really didn’t even expect him to know at this point. He was able to apply the catechism questions and answers that we’ve memorized in a practical way. That’s how I know it’s working, and I’m a full Memory Work believer for sure!

As I’ve mentioned we are working to learn “A Catechism for Girls and Boys“. We are working through Part One right now which are Questions about God, Man, and Sin. I don’t know how many we’ll get to this year. I’m just kind of taking it as we go and trying to make some progress towards completion… a little more each week.

We are also working to learn Psalm 139 right now, and we just work a little at a time. I add in a few verses each week that we practice, but we always review the entire scripture portion. I’ll slow down adding verses if I see that we aren’t really learning it as fast or becoming more familiar with it. My memory schedule is very relaxed.

We also review things we’ve already learned periodically such as The Lord’s Prayer, The Pledge of Allegiance, Simple Mottos to Recite and Live By, our Home Address and Phone Numbers, Manners for Kids, Safety Rules, and previously learned verses and poems.

Knight Training: This is based on the book Knights in Training by Heather Haupt. I heard her speak about this concept on a podcast, and I fell in love with it. We are losing the art of chivalry in our society, and I love that this book helps me to teach it to my boys… things such as obeying those in authority over you, defending the weak, respecting the honor of women, and pursuing excellence in everything they do… just to name a few. I’ll have to do a post solely on this topic, as it’s something that’s become a big part of how we are raising our boys now.

Lawson – (age 6; First Grade)
Lawson and I have been doing “school” together for quite some time. I have always loved homeschooling because of the intentional time that it gives me with each of my children. Lawson has his days like all children, but for the most part he does not mind doing school. He wants to get it all done so he can be free and do his own thing, and he does really well with whatever I give him at this point. He doesn’t seem to have much of a preferred style that he’s voiced other than I noticed him getting bored with Math U See worksheets. so we did make a math curriculum switch this year.

Language Arts & Literature: The Good and the Beautiful Curriculum by Jenny Phillips
This curriculum includes Phonics, Reading, Spelling, Writing, Literature, Grammar and Punctuation, and Art Appreciation. I LOVE that it combines all of these in a very simple and easy way! It includes Easy Reader Books, Phonics Cards, and more. It was actually a free, download curriculum that I had printed and bound at our local print shop.

Math: Master Books – Lessons for a Living Education
This curriculum is simple in the fact that it is just one book and doesn’t include manipulatives. Instead, Lawson actually makes all of the manipulatives that he needs himself, and that’s what makes this “living math”. He has made his own flashcards with silly story pictures on them, his own clock, and his own calendar. This really helps him to apply what he’s learning in a hands-on way, and he really enjoys it. It requires a little more planning and reading ahead on my part than our Math U See curriculum did, but it’s okay because it works so well for us. I flipped through the textbooks at our homeschool convention this Summer and decided to start Lawson in Level 2, because we’d already covered most of the things in Level 1.

Handwriting/Penmanship:
Actually for this one now, I actually just make up my own assignments for him. Based on what we are learning in other subjects, right now I give him a portion of scripture from his Memory Work to copy in cursive. Sometimes I have him answer a question for me or give a narration of something else he’s learning. I will write down what he says and then have him write it in cursive for his daily writing assignment.

Bible: Bible Roadtrip Level Lower Elementary
This is the same curriculum I’m using with Linkin as mentioned above, but it’s the 1st-3rd grade Lower Elementary level for Lawson. We are learning the same scriptures and Bible stories at the same time so it really does build on each level. For Lawson’s level, he reads from the ESV Children’s Bible. It’s really cool that he is able to read from the actual Bible all by himself now. This bible does have some pictures, but for the most part it’s columns and words just like any adult bible would be. We also use the books 66 Books, One Story and Window on the World that were highly suggested in the curriculum guide. For Lawson’s level, we do a bit more discussion with the questions listed for each reading assignment. Then we do some notebooking work to apply what we’re reading and studying. We work on memorization a little bit, we pray through the word, and also do bible crafts.

Apologetics: Who is God? by Apologia
Helping our children to establish a Christian worldview is important to us. This curriculum has been amazing to help us to explain why we believe the things we believe and why we do the things we do as a family and as Christians. We began this curriculum last year, and we’ve been slowly working our way through it. It’s a lot of read aloud and activities so we just work at our own pace through it.

Science: Botany by Apologia
I love that this is a Christian science curriculum, and we especially love the hands-on projects that go along with it. We started this curriculum last year as well, and we’re still slowly working through it. Science is considered an “extra” at this age so we don’t do it every day. Like the Apologetics curriculum, this one is also heavy reading and assignments so we can’t always fit it in after we’ve done our main subjects. It will be easier to go through these courses when Lawson is a little older and reading more independently.

Read Aloud:
Since learning the benefits of reading aloud (even to older students who are already reading on their own), it’s something I’m really wanting to work into our homeschool day. To be honest, I’m not the best at finding time to read aloud. Sure, I read to Layten pretty often, and whenever someone brings me a book, but my children are active and busy, so this doesn’t always happen. It’s one of my homeschooling goals though so I’ll continue to work to get better at it. One area where we’ve seen some success though is on our weekly car rides to the coast to grocery shop… I will turn on Audible and play one of our books that way so we do make some progress there during that longer drive each week. We are currently working through the Read Aloud Revival Reading List. Lawson will also be working through a First Grade Reading List this year.

Our Homeschool Curriculum Wishlist: 
Ask any school teacher or homeschool mom, and I’m sure they have a list of some things they would LOVE to have and do for their students, but just can’t right now for whatever reason. Usually it’s budget. Here are a few of ours, and we might possibly add these in this year as well if we find some extra room in the budget to make them happen at some point. 😉

Skill Trek – This is a supplemental curriculum that fills in the gaps of any education. It teaches “Life Skills” such as tying your shoes, using a blender, balancing a checkbook, and changing the oil in a vehicle. It introduces skills based on ages and levels, of course, and it would be such a fun addition to our homeschool that I think my kids would really enjoy and appreciate it.

Kids Cook Real Food – I think this would also be one of those fun, supplemental things my kids would enjoy. They always want to help me in the kitchen, especially when I’m baking or making loaves of bread! I think this would be a fun way for me to intentionally include them in the kitchen, where I normally am a pretty resistant to do so, if I’m being honest.

Our Story of How We Decided to Homeschool

One of the areas that our family has chosen to be intentional and purposeful is our decision to homeschool our children. It’s amazing how God puts these desires in our hearts… it’s not something I had ever really considered before, but here’s a little back story for you on how we got to where we are now with our homeschooling decision.

I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was a little girl, and “playing school” was my favorite thing. I even had my own podium, large dry erase board, and I LOVED school supplies (still do!). I bought grade books, teaching resources, and taught my Beanie Babies. Teaching was always what I wanted to do, but as I majored in Music Education, then Elementary Education, I quickly realized that working in a school setting with all of the mandated tests and requirements was not what I wanted to do. I was working through college as a Preschool Teacher, which I loved! It’s really where all the fun is – where children are allowed (and encouraged) to learn through play, the way it really should be. Don’t get me wrong – there was still plenty of time for planned, teacher-directed learning as well – in the form of stories, art activities, and related science and sensory experiences. Writing lesson plans and planning experiences was a fun process for me, and implementing them with my students was amazing too! At this point, I decided to switch gears and become a full-time preschool teacher while pursuing Early Childhood Education online.

As I mentioned earlier, homeschooling was not really something I’d ever considered before, but as I transitioned out of the preschool classroom setting and into the home and caregiver setting as a full-time nanny, I couldn’t lose those things that I loved so much about teaching. I began to teach the twins that I cared for, and really in a sense, we were homeschooling. As I planned lessons for them, researched ideas, discovered Pinterest, and found homeschooling blogs, I fell in love the idea of homeschooling. I knew that one day I would homeschool our own children.

I got pregnant with Lawson and had an in-home daycare for a while. Then, when I got pregnant with Linkin, we decided to close the home daycare and begin my journey as a full-time stay at home mama. It was a big leap of faith because it meant that I was walking away from bringing in any income at all on my part, but we’ve been blessed in ways that money could never compare by the decision of being home with my children. Yes, some days are hard. Yes, some times I lose my mama cool and need a little time-out. But for the most part, it has really been the best decision, and I can’t imagine doing anything else – at least not anything that will take me away from being home with my children.

Homeschooling has just been one of those things that has allowed me to both be home with my children and teach them too. It also allows me to do many of the things that I really love and enjoy – planning, organizing, researching, teaching, and administrating all in one! God has just stirred up a desire in us to teach them and give them a great, biblical foundation here at home – with as few outside influences as possible. I’m not saying that we will homeschool forever because we really don’t know what God has in store for us, but for now, it’s the best decision we could’ve ever made. Our children are close, and they play well together. I love that I don’t ever have to ask my children how their day went because I already know the answer. I love that we are free to do this as we choose to. I don’t have to have a degree to teach my children. I know them better than anyone else on the planet. I’ve studied their little personalities and learning styles to create what I think is the best education for each of them, individually. Of course, this will ebb and flow as they grow and we all change, but it’s a really beautiful thing that we get to do here. We absolutely love homeschooling!  

Whatever you do, Let’s make a Plan to be more Purposeful! 

New Series… “Not” Back to School

This is the time in our area where most of the kids are going “Back to School”. We are a homeschooling family so we’re not going Back to School, per se, but we do like to celebrate the beginning of a new school year for us at home as well.

I thought it would be fun to share some glimpses into our homeschool this month in a series I’m calling “Not Back to School”
.

Some of the Posts you’ll see in this Series…

  • Our Story of How We Decided to Homeschool
  • Our Homeschool Curriculum Choices
  • Our Homeschool Organization & Space
  • Our Homeschool Yearly Schedule & Terms
  • Our Homeschool Daily Schedule & Routines
  • My Homeschool Planner (This one might be my favorite to share!)
  • Our Favorite Homeschool Tools and Resources
  • Our Homeschool Record-Keeping and Portfolios

    What else would you like to see? I think this will be a really fun series because homeschooling has become one of my favorite things!

    Whatever you do, Let’s make a Plan to be more Purposeful!

My Winn Dixie Shopping Trip 8/3/18

Do you always wonder what things other people buy for groceries and how much they spend?? I know I do. I love to see breakdowns like this, but I also feel like sometimes it’s been unattainable for me because either we don’t have the same stores available to us here or we eat and use totally different products than the things they do. I think I just need to see the whole process from start to finish in order for me to grasp the entire concept.

So that’s exactly what I’ve done with this series of posts. (If you missed my planning and preparing process in part one, you can find it here.) I’m taking you from the very beginning to the end. Who knows? We might even have a continuation where I show you what meals I cook from the things we buy and how we use the purchases we make! Maybe that would be really helpful? We’ll see what I can get done for you.

For now, I hope you enjoy the breakdown of my trip to Winn Dixie this week. Here goes! 

Here’s my Winn Dixie grocery list for this week. I like to mark it up and make notes all over it as you can see. I add in quantities I want to buy. I add in coupons I have. I highlight the ibotta rebate offers so that I remember to submit them. I add up about how much I will be spending to make sure I’ll be within my budget. Of course the starred items are the ones that are priced based on pound so I don’t take those into account when I add it all up, and I just know that these will add to my total a little bit.

Here are some of the coupons I printed and clipped for this week’s shopping trip. I haven’t started buying the Sunday paper again yet, but I really need to.

Here’s my car full of groceries! I was kid-free when I shopped so I was able to use my entire backseat to hold everything. (You can also see the freezer bags and the broccoli from my Sam’s trip I made right before this trip.)

Here’s what all I bought today. I thought you might enjoy seeing it all spread out. It was definitely fun for me to set it all up this way to show you.

And here’s the breakdown of today’s shopping trip!

I bought…

4 boxes of Kellogg’s Raisin Bran Crunch Cereal – B1G1 $4.29 ($2.14) x 2
*I had a digital coupon loaded to my Rewards Card for $2/4.
*These will definitely last us at least a couple weeks or more.

2 boxes of Krusteaz Pancake Mix – B1G1 $2.89 ($1.44)
*This should last us at least until they go on sale again in a month or so.

2 boxes of Quaker Instant Grits – B1G1 $4.49 ($2.24)
*I haven’t had grits in a really long time so I’m really excited about these. 🙂

2 boxes of Lance sandwich crackers – B1G1 $3.29 ($1.64)
*I got these to fill our snack box since it’s getting low. It wasn’t on my original grocery list, but it’s okay because they were on sale. These will be good to grab for on the go snacks like when we go grocery shopping next week!

2 containers of Planter’s Peanuts – B1G1 $4.49 ($2.24)
*This isn’t something we buy on a regular basis, but I got them to use for our favorite “Snickers Oatmeal” recipe. We can also eat them for snacks, and these should last us a good while!

2 jars of Hormel bacon bits – $2 each x 2
*I used a $1/2 coupon for these.

2 containers of soft Philadelphia Cream Cheese – $2.50
*I earned 100 SE rewards points for buying 2 of these, and I needed them for an upcoming recipe in a few weeks so I grabbed them now since they were on sale.

4 cans of SE Grocers fruits – $1/each

3 packages of Seasoning Blend – B2G1 = $3.18
*I didn’t originally plan to buy these, but I saw the deal and decided to grab them. I love to always have these on hand for various recipes.

2 packages of Dole Salad Mix – B1G1 = $4 ($2)

Fresh Snap Beans – $1.49/lb = $4.10

Fresh Strawberries – B1G1 $4.99 ($2.49)

Fresh Plums – $1.99/lb = $2.47

Fresh Zucchini – $1.49/lb = $2.19

2 packages of Gorton’s fish fillets – B1G1 $6.99 ($3.49)

3 lbs. of Butterball Ground Turkey – $3.50
*I planned to buy 2 of these, but when I was in store I saw that one package had been marked down by $2 additional for a quick sale so I grabbed three instead. We’ll use the quick sale one first, and I can freeze the others to use later unless I’m planning a meal with them this week.
*I used a $0.75/1 paper coupon of this and also a $0.75/1 digital coupon for this.

1 lb. Butterball Turkey Sausage – $4.99
*This was also marked down for a quick sale and savings of an additional $2 so I grabbed it too. My kids love sausage so I knew it would be a good buy for us.

Pork Chop Ribeyes – B1G1 $9.44 ($4.72)

Hillshire Farm Smoked Sausage – B1G1 $4.99 ($2.49)

Ball Park Franks – B1G1 $3.99 ($1.99)
*We’re planning to build a campfire soon with the kids as it’s on our Summer Bucket list, and I thought it would be fun to roast these over the fire.

1 half gallon of Tru Moo Chocolate Milk – $2.50
*I planned to get this anyway because one of my kids LOVES chocolate milk. It was marked down for a quick sale so I found the one with the latest date, and I knew it would be fine because my family will definitely have it gone by then anyway.

2 pints of Halo Top – $4.50 x 2
*My husband loves these so I got them as a treat for him. They weren’t necessarily “cheaper” but I earned 120 SE Rewards points by purchasing two of them. And this is one of those things we would run out and get if we have a craving anyway… so now we won’t have to. Totally worth it.
*Let’s see if my husband actually reads my posts…. I hid these in the back of the freezer for him and haven’t told him yet. I’m waiting for a good time to let him in on my secret little purchase for him. 😉

Tropicana Essentials Probiotic Orange Mango Drink – 10/$10
*Did you know that if something says 10/$10 in a sale ad, you don’t actually have to buy 10?! It’s true. I’ve been craving orange juice lately, and so I grabbed this since it was also on sale to drink on the way home from my shopping trip. Fruits from all my labor and efforts! (And still better than the jumbo bakery cookies they’ll try to tempt me with at the register.)

2 containers of Purex Laundry Detergent – B1G1 $4.99 ($2.49)

2 boxes of SE grocers plastic spoons – $1.50 x 2
*I earned 40 SE Rewards points for purchasing these. I like for the kids to grab and use these to eat their disposable yogurts or fruit cups with so that we don’t dirty up any extra dishes for those snack times. So, sadly we aren’t a “green” as we could be in this area…. but it’s one of my “mama conveniences”.

2 packages of Quilted Northern Toilet Paper – B1G1 $4.99 ($2.49)

Fresh Grapes – $2.49/lb = $5.90

I’ll let you in on one of my secret little pleasures. It’s so fun, yall! When you start shopping sale cycles at a regular grocery store, you’re going to have to try this one too. They always try to ask me for my reward card first thing, but I never pull it out too quickly. Instead, I leave it in my purse and wallet tucked away until the end. I let them ring up ALL of my items, and I watch that number get really big. Today it was over $200! Seeing that number go up and up and up used to scare me, but now it totally THRILLS me!  (When that number goes up and up at Walmart, it’s a different story. Am I right?) But anyway. Let the cashier finish, and look at the big number. THEN they scan your loyalty rewards card, and all of your sale items register and the price drops way low. It’s super fun to see! And finally, you can hand over your additional coupons, and you can choose to use your rewards points balance for even more savings. It’s just really fun to see how much you are actually saving by shopping grocery sale cycles.

Total – $126.54
Coupons – $16.00
Points Used – $5.26
Final Total – $121.28
Today I earned – 322 points + $3.75 in ibotta Rebates
Today I saved – $102.68

Ibotta App
If you don’t already have or know about the Ibotta app, I’d like to share that with you. This app will give you rebates from purchases from TONS of stores. It doesn’t matter if you buy the item on sale or full price – whether you used a coupon or not. Chances are – you could (and should!) be getting rebates on many of the things you are already purchasing. Shopping online? Shopping in stores? Always check the ibotta app before you shop, and watch those rebates add up – which is money in your pocket later on. You can choose to put it on a giftcard or transfer it to your Paypal account.

If you’d like to sign up for ibotta and earn your savings, here’s my referral link!

This is my Rebate earnings from this particular Winn Dixie shopping trip!

And this is my lifetime earnings. Do you SEE that amount?! This is money that I have been able to transfer to my Paypal account over time! It’s REAL money, and it’s been nice to have a little bonus cash, or what I like to call “Free Money” just from buying things I was already buying anyway.

If you’d like to sign up for ibotta and earn your savings, here’s my referral link! 

In my next posts I’ll be sharing with you the breakdown of my shopping trips to CVS and Sam’s Club!

Whatever you do, Let’s make a Plan to be More Purposeful! 

My Meal Planning and Grocery Sale Preparation Process

When we first got married, I used to love couponing and shopping for good deals. Of course, we also lived in a bigger city and had a multitude of stores to choose from. AND I didn’t have children so it was easy for me to just run in a store pretty much any time I wanted to. When we moved to where we live now, we were at least a 30 minute drive away from the good stores. I tried to make it work for a while, but after a while it just got to be too much. Maybe it was when I had my home daycare and just couldn’t find the time to get there to shop, but at some point I just gave up trying to coupon and embraced Walmart’s “every day low prices”.

Fast forward to now. I am a stay at home mom. We live on one income, and we are expecting our fourth child. A few months ago we had our little family budget meeting, and my husband told me that I had to cut our grocery spending somehow. I wasn’t really sure where to even begin because I was already struggling to make what I thought was a low budget work for us. Even just getting to the store was a challenge for me. But I decided to work on it. I made the decision to say goodbye to Walmart, and begin shopping at actual grocery stores with sale cycles again. I also bought us a Sam’s Club membership and decided I would also tackle drugstores again, but I would only focus on one right now… CVS. So while it’s still not perfect, and it’s taken me a month or two to get back in my groove… I think I’m figuring it out again. I’ve already cut our grocery budget category down by more than half! Before we were budgeting $450/pay period for groceries. Now I budget $200 per pay period for my grocery trips. (Sam’s Club and Drugstores have a separate budget line now, and I’m in the process of deciding exactly how much these amounts should be. I’m in the gathering stages right now, and I’ll track my patterns over the past months to get a good idea.)

And we also now always have food. We don’t run out of things as easily, and I seem to always have a back-up of whatever the item might be… I have a small stash now of extras and things like Ranch Dressing, Ketchup, Dishwasher Tablets, Laundry Detergent, Pancake Mix, Shaving Cream, My favorite Lotion, etc. It’s also been really nice because there are some weeks that I don’t even have to grocery shop! I’m not even kidding! We have plenty of food, and there might not be anything on the sales list that we really need so we just skip it. This was the case one week when we went out of town in June and another week in July when we just wanted to wait and make a larger trip the following week instead.

I’m definitely not an extreme couponer. I only buy what we use and love. I only buy what’s on sale… at least for the most part. And it’s been working really well.

Today, I’ll share my planning and preparing strategies with you.

(My strategies and things I take into account might be a little different because I almost always have my kids in tow. So you can just take those kinds of tips into consideration when you are making YOUR plans.) Then, I’ll come back and share with you my actual shopping trips with you… what I buy, what I spend, and how I make it all work. I hope you enjoy, and I hope you get some inspiration.

Wunderlist App 
We use this app for some of our church lists, and I thought it would be great to have as a “shared grocery list” for Justin and I. It works out so well because both of us can add things to it and see it at any time on our phones. I also especially love those times where he runs to “get a few things” from the store, and I can see where’s he’s checked things off that I added to the list. It really makes my heart go pitter patter inside. 😀

Being real though, this is kind of my “catch-all” list for needed items instead of writing it down in random places or not writing it down at all and forgetting we need something. If I notice we are running low on laundry detergent or I see that we need poster board for a school project, I add it to our Wunderlist. I also made a Household Staples Sub-list and a Grocery Staples Sub-list which I can glance at to make sure we have our basics covered each week. Obviously this Grocery Staples list needs to be updates since our shopping style has changed dramatically in the past few months. (You can imagine how expensive my Walmart grocery bills were from purchasing all that.)

My Planning Process
1. I go to SouthernSavers.com, and make a grocery list based on the weekly sale ads. I’ve been using this website since my couponing days nearly ten years ago, and I love that Jenny pairs all of the applicable coupons with the actual items that are on sale. It makes things really easy! I also make a list for drugstore shopping. Winn Dixie and CVS are my preferred choices right now.

2. Print and clip any applicable coupons.

3. Write out a meal plan based on the sale items and what’s already in our fridge and pantry. I jotted down a quick plan (in messy handwriting) to give you some ideas, but most of what I planned to buy I knew that we would put up in the freezer for later actually. I like to plan the main parts like the shopping and the deals, and then I’m more laid back and “go with the flow” during the week based on how busy our days are and my moods and how I feel, which aren’t always predictable. Can anyone else relate? 😉

4. Check Wunderlist, and add any items we need that aren’t already on the sale lists. Usually, we we run out of things, they go on sale pretty soon after so it works out, but it’s not always the case.

5. Add any other meal components we need for the weekly meal plan to my shopping list.

6. Go back through the lists, and add up the total costs. It won’t be exact, but this way I can know about how much I will be spending before I even put anything in my shopping cart. You can see how I’ve kind of done this on the lists below. Of course, it’s not exact. Sometimes things are unavailable in stores, and sometimes there are extra deals that I stumble upon and decided to get. Also, I starred the items that are priced by pound because there’s no way to determine an exact cost for those ahead of time so I knew these would be added to my totals that I have shown written in pencil.

7. Go back through the lists and eliminate things we “don’t really need” from it if we are over-budget.

8. Print my lists, and organize my coupons. (Obviously, sometimes I change up the order of these steps. I really like to just add things or cross things off and make notes with pen or pencil once I’ve already printed my list.)

    

Getting Ready for Shopping Day
1. Gather my shopping lists, coupons, store loyalty cards, Extra Care Bucks for CVS if I have any from previous weeks, freezer bags for cold items, etc.

2. Grab my cash envelope wallet and system. Make sure I’ve gone to the bank and filled it based on what our budget allows so I’ll have some money to spend. This is really helping me stay on track with our budget.

3. Clean out my car and make room for the groceries. Right now, they mostly have to fit in my front seat because I have car seats on the two back rows, and that takes away all my trunk space. It’s especially difficult on Sam’s trip days, but we just make do with what we have right now. (When December comes, I don’t know what we’ll do with adding another car seat, but I’m praying about that for sure. Maybe I can find someone to keep the kids once a week, hire someone to shop for me, or maybe somehow God will bless us with a bigger vehicle. I’m not too worried. It will all work out.)

4. Prepare for the day with my littles. They are always with me, and I’m learning to embrace this and make it work for us. There was a time when one of my kids could NOT come with me because he had severe anxiety and meltdowns in stores. Now that he’s a little older, we are learning how to manage this a little better and be prepared for it. To prepare for the day, I fix water bottles, prepare sandwiches or grab snacks to have in the car. I make sure I have my Tula carrier for my squirmy toddler. I grab a bag of candy to use for good-behavior rewards. They each get to choose one piece to have after each store if they listened and behaved well. while we were shopping. If I had to stop shopping to discipline them or something, they lose their candy reward. I have only had to do this one time in the past month of shopping so it works like a charm! I’m not above bribery here, but I make it work for me.

5. Plan the order of stops to make based on location and practicality. Sometimes we plan to do something fun like go to Lynn Meadows or the park while we’re out, but we definitely need to do that before we make our big grocery store haul with all of our cold items. Planning ahead is definitely necessary.

Once these steps are completed, it’s time to hit the actual stores! You can see the breakdown of my actual shopping trips in those posts that will be coming soon.

Whatever you do, Let’s make a Plan to be more Purposeful! 

My Sam’s Club Shopping Trip 8/3/18

So, I’ll admit to you that I’m a nerd about some things, and I’m unashamed to say so. One thing about me you should know is that I’m a problem solver, and I want to do things the best way that I possibly can. I’m like an ultra-planner sometimes because I want to simplify a “system or process” as much as I possibly can for myself to make it easier for me down the road. Who knows if this is actually the case or not, but I do enjoy the process so I guess it’s alright. 😉

This post is a part of a series. If you missed any of the earlier posts in this series, you can find them here…
My Meal Planning & Shopping Preparation Process
My Winn Dixie Shopping Trip 8/3/18

My goal with shopping at Sam’s Club is to SAVE MONEY, not to spend more money. I know Sam’s is full of things that look so fun to buy… I saw a sectional on this trip that caught my attention. 😉 But that was an easy one for me to say no to. That’s not always the case. So I want to be really intentional with my planning process and my purchases here.

One thing I think that would make this easier for me is to only shop here once a month. The more often I go, the more often I will see things that will catch my eye and beg for me to buy them. Another thing that I think would make this easier for me is to know WHAT to buy and HOW MUCH of it… so that it will actually last us a full month. This part takes a little trial and error. I’ve been shopping more often than I’d like, but I think *maybe* I’ve finally got it down now! The things I bought in this trip are things that I think will last me at least a month. So you are here as my accountability. I’m not allowed to go back to Sam’s Club until September 5th. ;-D I think I’ll be just fine.

So you can see here that I tried to write down everything we purchased in various transactions and note how long those products lasted us at our house to get a better picture of how often I should buy those items. I have a bit more to do to get this down to a science, but I planned at least this trip out for now, and it works. I was totally guessing on much of this in June and July, and basically starting from scratch with a lot of these items too. Obviously, I won’t have to buy the same condiments every month, and some of these were just the “fun things” like the Chicken Enchilladas or the Pulled Pork.

For the most part, we are using Sam’s Club to buy things in bulk that we use for meal planning and prepping. We like to have simple, healthy meals prepped and divided into containers in the fridge so that we can easily grab them whenever we need to. This saves me from cooking on those busy nights too! We keep the meals really simple, and it’s the same basic components in each one. I try also to meal-plan and cook some other recipes and dinners throughout the week to give us the variety we crave, but these are always available to us, and are pretty much always the same.

Here are my Sam’s Club purchases all loaded into my car in my freezer bags. I have three bags here, and I actually really probably need even more than this – or a big cooler or something. I try to shop Sam’s Club, drugstores, and Winn Dixie all the same trip usually so the freezer bags are a must to keep things from getting too hot in my car.

And here’s what all I bought at this trip displayed for you to see on my kitchen table!

Here’s the breakdown…

I purchased…

3 bags of Frozen Broccoli Florets – $20.04 for all 3

1 bag of Frozen Edamame – $7.98
*My kids love this so I added it to my cart, and it should last us a while, probably longer than a month.

1 bag of Garlic Chicken & Veggie Pasta $8.98
*A gal I follow on Instagram said this was really good, so I decided to try it.

1 box of Mandarin Oranges cups 24 pk. – $7.98
*I love to have these in the fridge available for kids’ snacks or to put with meals. I really like to add in fruit with all of their meals to give them something on their plates that I know they will eat.

1 box of Angus frozen burgers 12 pk. – $14.98
*We love these, and this has been our go-to cheat meal lately. I actually cook them in the microwave too, and they taste JUST AS good as if we had grilled them. Not even kidding! They’re great!

1 box of Digiorno pizzas 3 pk – $12.98
*I got these for nights where I just need a break from cooking or we’re ready for another cheat meal. Having this kind of thing available keeps us from eating out and craving foods that aren’t necessarily in our budget or our diets. 🙂

1 box of Chewy bars 60 ct. – $8.98
*I got these to add to my kids’ snack box for on-to-go snacks, and I’m hoping that since there are 60 in this box that it will last us a really long time! I’ll let you know how that goes.

Powdered Sugar – $4.48
*I needed more powdered sugar for an upcoming recipe, and it’s not one of those things I see go on sale often. I decided it was worth it to buy the big pack of it, and it should last me QUITE some time since I don’t bake that often.

1 large can of Green Beans – $3.37
*They didn’t have the box of 12 canned green beans in store today, so I got this instead. Sometimes we just like a change up of veggies in our meal-prep boxes.

1 package of Butter 5 pk. – $11.98
*We are running low on butter, and since I didn’t place an Azure order this month I figured I better stock up. Butter usually freezes pretty good too.

Mustard 2 pk – $4.99
*Mustard seems to last a really long time in our house, but it was on our list of things needed so I went ahead and grabbed it. These should last us even longer.

3 packs of Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs – $14. 93, $15.50, and $15.39
*This is our protein of choice for our meal preps so I needed to get enough to last us the full month. I hope I did my calculations correctly.

1 pack of Hormel fully cooked, microwavable bacon – $11.98
*Who doesn’t love bacon…. and bacon without the mess is even better!

Total Spent $175.04

Sam’s Club Scan & Go App 
I wanted to share with you about this app in case you haven’t heard about it. It allows you to personally scan your own items when you are in the store and bypass the lines. Yes, it does take away the opportunity to speak to a cashier and have that personal interaction, but I’m an introvert and I like to get going so it’s good for me. I also REALLY love that I can see how much I’m spending before I actually spend it, which allows me to put things back if I’m going over budget. Win win for me!

If you missed any of the earlier posts in this series, you can find them here.
My Meal Planning & Shopping Preparation Process
My Winn Dixie Shopping Trip 8/3/18

Next up, I’ll share my latest shopping trip to CVS.

Whatever you do, Let’s make a Plan to be more Purposeful!