The Messy Side of Creativity

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” – Albert Einstein

My kids are creative. I love that about them! I can’t say that I’m overly fond of the chaos that tends to go hand in hand with creativity though…

In a fit of frustration I asked, “How do you encourage creativity without the house getting trashed?” I do realize that I’ll have to put up with some amount of chaos. My husband and I homeschool four kids, have a very large dog, and both work from home. Life (and our home) are bound to get a bit crazy.

I’ve found a few strategies that help reduce the crazy factor though!


Art boxes for everyone!

Each kid has their own plastic art box. This is where they can keep their art projects that they are still working on, and finished ones that they would like to keep. We store their art boxes in a cabinet in the dining room so that they are easy to get to, but out of sight when put away. Art projects still have a tendency to pile up here and there, but now I can tell the kids that they need to put them in their art boxes. What happens when the boxes are full? That’s when the kids go through the contents and decide what they want to keep, and what they don’t.

What do I do with all of these LEGOs?

I found the cutest LEGO organizer. It held six plastic boxes that would snap closed, keeping the LEGO sets separate and organized. Turns out my kids are much less OCD than I am. They prefer the LEGO kits to be mixed together into a giant mish-mash of creative possibilities! What’s worked the best for us is a set of inexpensive plastic drawers and a couple of plastic bins with lids. Yes, I still have to remind the kids that picking up the LEGOs means that all of them are in the drawers or boxes, but keeping them stored in closed containers seems to cut down on the number of LEGOs that find my bare feet!

Markers, and crayons, and glue sticks! Oh my!

Art supplies will take over my dining room without a plan for corralling them. Magazine holders and plastic shoeboxes are the key for doing that. The magazine holders are perfect for containing all kinds of paper from construction paper to graph paper. They fit on my bookshelves neatly and keep the paper from getting wrinkled. The plastic shoeboxes from the dollar store stack well, and again, they fit on my bookshelves! Markers go in one box, crayons in another, and so on. (This is also a great organizing solution for your hands-on manipulatives.) I get the clear boxes so that the kids can easily see which box has the items that they’re looking for. The lidded boxes work so much better than open bins because they are stackable and things tend to stay better contained when there’s a lid involved.

That is not coming in my house…

Creativity doesn’t stop when the kids go outside! My kids would happily bring every interesting rock, leaf, stick, feather, piece of bark, and frog that they find in our backyard. I have to have limits on what is allowed in the house, and what isn’t. They each have a small tin that they are allowed to keep rocks and shells in. Like their art boxes, when their tin is full, it’s time to pare down their collection. When it comes to living creatures, the only one allowed to come inside is our German Shepherd. A mom has to draw the line somewhere, right?

Creativity will never be mess-free, but having a place for everything is a great starting point. Yes, I still have to remind the kids more often than I’d like that they have to pick up their projects when they are done working on them, but at least they know where to put things! That makes picking up so much easier and faster for everyone.

Burnout Tips from the Trenches

February has jokingly been called Homeschool Mom Burnout Month. After a few years of homeschooling, I could see why! Is every February destined to be the month that pushes your sanity to the limit? This year, maybe it’s possible for us to avoid the worst of the burnout with a few of these tips from some of my fellow home educators.

The power of a good night’s sleep.

Make sure everyone is getting enough rest, and that includes Mom and Dad! If you’re constantly tired out and feeling exhausted, then everything is harder to handle. Adequate sleep reduces stress and makes it so much easier to focus. (Not to mention helping your body fight off all of the germs that go around during winter months.)

Schedule regular breaks.

Certainly, homeschoolers are used to making the most of any learning opportunity that comes out way. While that’s one of the great advantages of homeschooling, taking a break from regular lessons is important too. Our minds need time to rest just as much as our bodies do!

Stay connected.

Bears may hibernate during the winter, but homeschooling parents should not. Never getting out and taking a break can stretch frayed nerves to the breaking point. Go meet friends for coffee. Join a book club or Bible study. Invite a friend over for muffins some morning. Time spent with friends gives you a break and a chance to recharge your batteries.

It’s not all academic.

Much as it seems like it at times, you’re not only a homeschooler. There will always be more planning to do and one more assignment to grade. Sometimes, you just need to step back and do something that is not related to school. Take an hour to work on your favorite hobby. Read a book about something other than homeschooling. Don’t ignore your own interests and projects!

Switching it up.

Now is when you want to grab a unit study, add in a few educational videos, pick up a new read-aloud, or anything else that will break up the routine a bit. Maybe there’s a great field trip opportunity that you’ve been wanting to try, and this is the perfect time to do that! I’ll bet the kids got a science experiment kit or educational game for Christmas. Things like that are great to pull out this time of year.

Eat well and exercise.

I know, this isn’t the most fun thing to do. Personally, I have a tendency to skip meals, eat too much sugar, and let exercising land at the bottom of the to-do list. On the other hand, when I do pay attention to my own eating habits and take time out to get some exercise, I feel so much better! It’s not new advice, but it turns out that it really is good advice!

When all else fails, take some time off.

Despite our efforts, sometimes burnout overwhelms us anyway. When that happens, the best advice is to just take some time off. There will be time to “catch up” later if necessary. It’s better to take a few days or weeks off and come back refreshed than to keep pushing and end up even more worn out. Everyone needs time off now and again, so don’t feel guilty when it’s your turn!

The one piece of advice that I have found to help the most of all is in Matthew 11:28:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Sick Day Strategies

Three and a half weeks into January and someone in our house has been sick every day of it. Currently, all six of us coughing due to a particularly tenacious cold virus… Where’s my substitute teacher when I need her?

Since substitute teachers don’t come standard in our “New Homeschooler” orientation kit, we need a few coping strategies to pull out when winter germs invade!

  • Back to Basics

Scale it back to the three R’s for a few days. There’s something about getting through math and language arts that gives you a sense of accomplishment, even if it’s the only thing you did that day. If you regular curriculum is too intensive for a sick day, then pull out some math review worksheets and do some copywork. Grab a picture book and find all of the nouns, verbs, etc. for some easy grammar practice. Review is an important part of the learning process, and it’s easier on a child who’s not feeling great to review what they have learned, rather than trying to pick up something new.

  • Take Advantage of Technology

Netflix is full of some great documentaries. Find one that goes along with whatever history or science you’ve been studying and let the kids curl up with some tea to “watch TV”. Listening to audiobooks lets you fit in literature when everyone loses their voice. (Check out LibriVox for a ton of free classic audiobooks.) Don’t forget those educational apps you have downloaded on your mobile device. Practicing geography or math facts is fun and easy when you get to use Mom’s iPod! Technology can be your friend when everyone has the sniffles.

  • Shortcut Meals

Juggling everything is challenging enough on a normal day. When you throw sick kids (or moms) into the mix it’s that much crazier. Frozen pizzas, toaster waffles, and canned soup are pantry must-haves for those days! Don’t worry if it’s not made from scratch. Don’t worry if it’s not the healthiest option. You’re in survival mode. Trust me, just getting everyone fed is good enough at this point!

  • Nap Breaks

If someone is clearly tired out, then tuck them in with a warm blanket and let them nap. Sleep is sometimes the best medicine. If you’re the one needing the nap, don’t feel guilty if you curl up on the couch and turn on a movie for the kids to watch while you snooze!

  • Everyone Needs a Sick Day Now and Then

When the kids have been up all night throwing up, just take a sick day! If they were going to “regular school”, then they’d be staying home anyway. You can always catch up later.

Colds and stomach bugs are an unavoidable part of raising kids, whether or not you homeschool. Having a game plan for dealing with those days won’t make a substitute teacher magically appear, but it will help you get through the day!

What are your best tips for dealing with homeschool “sick days”?

4 Secret Weapons for Smoother Homeschool Days

Our first week of homeschooling is nearly finished! How have the first days/weeks of school gone for all of you?

Today, I shared my 4 Secret Weapons for smoother homeschool days on the HEDUA blog. Take a peek!

“We don’t have a detailed schedule that fits neatly into assigned time slots. However, if I tried homeschooling without any kind of planning, I’d quickly lose my mind! I do require some semblance of structure in order to function. I have four secret weapons that keep me sane, and help keep all of us on track for smoother homeschool days… ”

And if you want to know what those are, just click here to keep reading!

My New Favorite Planner

I’ve mentioned before how much I love the planners from Home Educating Family. Well, they’ve done it again! Today we’re launching My Well Planned Day (MWPD). It’s an online planner that will help you keep track of homeschooling, appointments, events, shopping lists, meal planning, and more! Now, I’m not exactly a digital planner gal. I’ve been using MWPD for a few weeks though, and it’s changing my mind about digital planners! The big selling point for me was that it’s mobile device compatible. I love that feature! I can access our schedule and lesson plans from my tablet or iPod touch. You can also print off the assignments for the day if you want a paper copy. Another awesome feature is how easy it is to move around assignments. Sick day? I can bump the lesson to the next day, and it will bump all subsequent lessons as well! There is so much to love about the new MWPD. And, you can try it out free for 30 days. Just follow this link and see for yourself why I’m so excited:

Homeschool Must-Haves

July is here! Do you know what that means? Time to start thinking about school in the fall! I’ll be talking now and then about some of my favorite books, resources, and ideas for home educators over the next couple of months. First up are two things that are on my must-have list! The Well Planned Day Homeschool Planner from Home Educating Family, and The Homeschool Experiment by Charity Hawkins.


You may not be surprised that I mentioned The Well Planned Day. Before I ever started writing for Home Educating Family, I fell in love with this planner! I cannot imagine trying to homeschool my kids without it. It includes pages for keeping track of the curriculum and books that I use for each of my kids, and you can also keep track of their schedule and grades. There’s a two-page monthly calendar, followed by weekly calendars. The monthly calendar is great for keeping track of appointments, trips, and such. The weekly calendars have plenty of room for planning out each day’s assignments for up to 4 students. Have I mentioned the holiday planning pages? They are a huge help when I’m trying to keep my Christmas lists organized! I also love the page of tear-out shopping lists for each month. The Well-Planned Day is also one of the most attractive homeschool planners that I’ve come across. I’ve just started my fifth year using these planners, and I have no intention of switching anytime soon!

Why did I put a novel on my must-have list? Well, the first time I read The Homeschool Experiment, I felt like it was a book written to moms like me! Homeschooling can be tough, and some days it seems overwhelming. Julianne is the homeschooling mom in the story, and I feel like I could sit down over coffee or tea and get along wonderfully with her! This book shows the good, the bad, and the messy when it comes to parenting and home educating. I read this book every summer because I always feel encouraged and come away with a few good ideas to try out myself. Julianne is a mom to younger kids, so parents of high-schoolers may not get as much out of it as I do, but I’ll bet they would still get a laugh out of remembering what it was like back when they had little ones in the house!

Now it’s your turn… What books or resources are at the top of your list for home educators?

Note: This post contains affiliate links.

Handling High School: How My Parents Made it Work

It’s not uncommon for kids to be homeschooled during the elementary years, and then transition to the local public school for high school. I did the reverse. I spent six years in the school system, and then my parents decided to home educate me during the middle school and high school years.

Homeschooling for high school can seem pretty intimidating, but there are a few things that my parents did to ensure that I had a great education:

And if you want to read the rest, you’ll have to visit the HEDUA blog post here:

There are some great articles on the HEDUA blog about homeschooling during the high school years. Definitely check them out while you are there!


Backyard Archeology

Sometimes homeschoolers have a bit of a reputation for being weird. Anyone that saw me digging a hole in my lawn and burying household items back in August probably thought I was a bit odd. But how else would we have our own little archeology dig?

Today was the day that we dug everything up. (Fortunately, I took a photo of everything that I’d buried, so we knew that we had indeed found everything.) Armed with sandbox shovels, a trowel, and old paintbrush, the three older kiddos got to pretend that they were archeologists digging up long-forgotten artifacts. The kids had great fun digging everything up, but were slightly less impressed when they found out that we had to fill the hole back in!

IMG_1098[1]We’re using the Greenleaf Guide to Ancient Egypt for our history this year, and that’s where I got the idea for today’s project. So much of what we know about Ancient Egypt has come from archeological study. Our little backyard dig gave us a taste of what that’s like. The kids learned that they had to be very careful so as not to break anything while digging. Munchkin noted that being an archeologist was hard work too!

IMG_1100[1]We certainly don’t do big projects like this every day, or even every week. But it’s nice to do something special and exciting from time to time. 20 years from now, the kids might not remember who first translated the Rosetta Stone, but I’m pretty sure they’ll remember that time that they were backyard archeologists!

What fun and/or different projects have you been doing lately?

My Well-Planned Day – A Review and Giveaway!

Congratulations to Lisa W. who won a copy of the Well Planned Day!

The first lesson planner I bought was OK. It was basic and inexpensive. It was also an undated planner with terribly boring pages. I’ve never liked planners with undated pages, and there is something to be said for pretty planners. The next year I did a bit of looking and spent a bit more money for my very first Well-Planned Day planner from Home Educating Family. Four years later and not once have I considered using a different planner!


Why do I love my Well-Planned Day planners?

  • They are dated planners. Every time I try to fill in the dates on an undated planner, I wind up getting my numbers off and then I have to go back and fix all those dates.
  • They are designed specifically for home educators. I can easily track attendance, grades, books read, field trips taken, and semester goals and accomplishments. There are even four blank report cards in the back of the planner.
  • There is a page of tear-out shopping lists included for each month. I can’t always find my grocery list notepads, but I can find my planner!
  • The holiday planner section is fantastic! I’ve tried those print-out holiday planners, and it’s just too much for me to keep up with honestly. Now my homeschool planner has a page for my Christmas card list, activities planned, and pages for tracking gift ideas and shopping. It’s just enough to help me keep things organized, but not so much that I feel overwhelmed trying to fill it all in.
  • NEW features! I am thrilled that they decided to add monthly tabs to the planner this year! It will be so much easier for me to find a specific month now. I also like the new two-page spread for each monthly calendar.


The only potential negative to the planner is that it’s really not designed for more than four children. Each day contains four lines per subject, and there are only four copies of the student planning and tracking pages. If you have a large family, you may wind up needing to buy more than one planner.

(By the way, my table only looks neat because all of the books, papers, pens, fruit bowl, art supplies, and half-knit mittens are piled up on the half of the table that you can’t see!)


I really do enjoy my planner, and it does make my lesson planning and tracking so much easier. I highly recommend the Well-Planned Day planner to all of my homeschooling friends! (And while you’re ordering your planner, be sure to subscribe to Home Educating Family Magazine. It’s always been my favorite homeschooling magazine!)

Now, who’s interested in a giveaway? Home Educating Family is graciously giving a Well-Planned Day planner to one of my readers! (For legal reasons, this giveaway is open to US residents only.) Just enter using the form below, and I’ll be announcing the winners next Friday!

Did you know that HEDUA has an affiliate program? I’m a HEDUA affiliate too! If you are a blogger and would be interested in earning money just for sharing what you love click here for details:



Note: I received my planner for free, but the opinions stated in this review are my own. I received no monetary compensation for my honest review.

What I’ve Been Reading (and Reviewing)

Time for another update on the reviews that I’ve been writing!

“The American Girl book series has been popular since I was a child. I kept my books and was happy to be able to pass them on to my daughter. I was very excited to try out the Girls of American History curriculum that utilizes the American Girl books! Girls of American History is a downloadable PDF file. The complete set contains eight units, each covering one American Girl book series…”

Read the rest of my review and enter to win your own copy of the curriculum here.

“When I first saw the cover of Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions, I knew that I had to read it. I’m pretty sure that most of us have had days when we just wanted to stick out head in a bag and scream! I’m not exactly known for handling stress well, so a book about “coming unglued” reactions and how to better avoid them was on my must-read list…”

Unglued is another winner, and you can read why here.

“With a title like Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe, this was one book I had to read. I don’t think there’s a mom out there who hasn’t thought at one time or another, “I just need to breathe!” Reading this book is just the encouragement I need…”

If you’re a mom of young kids, then you need to read this book! Check out the rest of my review here.

While you’re reading some of my recent reviews, be sure to check out all of the other fantastic reviews by my fellow review team members! Every product and book reviewed is thoroughly field-tested. No, “I looked this over and it seemed good,” reviews are to be found! Definitely take advantage of the Home Educating Family Review site while you’re doing your planning for next year too.