As I began reading responses to the survey from last week (haven’t taken it? You can take it here. It’s super quick), I realized I’m not the only one whose been struggling with the back to school homeschool anxiety.

It got me to thinking, wouldn’t it be nice to be in a community with other homeschooling moms (or dads! or teachers!) who are working through and trying to figure out what they’re doing for this next school year?

And wouldn’t it be nice to have a plan to plan? Something to guide our process, to help us remember all those things that sneak up on us in the second week of school or a month in. Maybe that’s too Type A for you, but hear me out.

What if we got together—virtually, of course, and worked through:

  • our goals for the next school year
  • prepping materials (Oh! All the cutting and laminating!)
  • supply lists
  • figuring out our scope and sequence

It’s more like a guide to planning your school year. It’s taking those big ideas and lists of details and putting them in order so we can see clearly the path we’re heading.

What do you think?

I’m calling it the Back to School Planning Guide.

Week 1, July 24 – 28 – Getting Focused & Getting Started

  • Practical Goal Setting
  • Mark Your Calendar
  • Rhythms & Routines
  • Scope & Sequence

Week 2, July 31 – August 4 – Print! Cut! Laminate!

  • All the Lists!
  • Get Cutting
  • Organize

Week 3, August 7 – 11 – Being Prepared Off the Shelves

  • The Prepared Environment
  • The Prepared Teacher
  • Embracing Freedom with Responsibility

You’ll get a free 5-10 page planning guide to help you work through practical goal setting for yourself, your children, and learning environment. There will be reflection questions to help you flourish as a homeschooling mama and family, a scope and sequence template, planning pages for study interests, as well as plenty of lists to help you get organized.

Each week, I’ll post in the Our Montessori Home Facebook Group with the week’s focus and daily a task to work on. Every once and awhile, I’ll jump on to do a Facebook Live to talk about the weekly challenge and answer questions.

We may even celebrate our progress with a few giveaways. 😉

What I’m really excited about is doing this in community with other homeschooling mama’s and educators. Seeing how others adapt Montessori to their homes and families, as well as what works for them can be a great catalyst in learning what is best for your family.

We’ll work alongside each other offering our own insight, encouragement, and not feel so alone or overwhelmed as we get ready to go back to school.

While this guide is geared toward Montessori homeschooling families, it may also be helpful to Montessori teachers and homeschooling families using other methods. Our goal is to be prepared and ready for the upcoming school year. To know our children, ourselves, and to lay for ourselves a solid foundation for future growth.

Whether you’re feeling

overwhelmed with planning,

ready to go,

or this is your first year and

you need some direction

…this is for you.

Are you in?

The way to get the Back to School Planning Guide is to subscribe to our newsletter, The Pep Talk.

The guide will go out in the newsletter on Monday, July 24th. Are you ready to start planning?

I hope so. I’m looking forward to it!

Don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter to get your guide!

Click here to join the FB group and stay tuned
for the planning guide coming next week!

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Montessori Rocks & Minerals ActivitiesIn the winter we studied Rocks & Minerals, (I know…I know…it’s July and I’m just now putting this up here. That’s real life.) it was a fun study to dig into and learn more about geology and rocks and minerals in our area. It’s amazing to think just how old the earth is and how many of our natural materials have been through multiple transformations in process of the rock cycle!Montessori Rocks & Minerals Activities

 

We discovered that South Carolina is known for its blue granite and has a good number of quarries (though many are now closed). The first vertebrate fossils recorded in North America were found in South Carolina. We also discovered that just an hour north of us, America’s first gold rush took place in 1799 at what is now known as the Reed Gold Mine. We took a field trip there with our Wild + Free group and were able to climb 50ft underground and explore the mine! It was pretty neat…and cool. There was about a 20 degree temperature difference!

Studying Rocks & Minerals: Reed Gold MineStudying Rocks & Minerals: Reed Gold Mine

We sorted rocks by type as we learned the difference between igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks.

We did lots of sorting and classifying with Montessori Print Shop’s Rocks printables.

Igneous Rocks are formed by the cooling and hardening of molten rock.

Sedimentary Rocks are formed from different sediment of other rocks and/or minerals that have eroded over time.

Metamorphic Rocks are formed from existing rocks by heat, pressure, or chemicals.

Rocks & Minerals Unit StudyMontessori Rocks & Minerals Activities

We also learned the most basic thing, what is a rock? Which led to the question, how is a rock different than a mineral?

A rock is a combination of one or more minerals and may have organic remains, while a mineral is a naturally occurring solid, is not (and has never been) a living organism, has a definite chemical composition, and an ordered atomic arrangement.

Montessori Rocks & Minerals StudyThis might be a good place to jump into matter, atoms, and molecules if the child is interested. It would help to understand the importance and uniqueness of chemical composition the atomic arrangement in minerals.

(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you.)

So then, how do you tell the difference between a rock and a mineral?

That’s where the Mohs Hardness Scale comes in, which we then had to test ourselves. It was helpful to have our rocks and minerals kit to understand the test. It had all the samples need, except for the diamond (go figure). The kids asked if we could test my engagement ring, to which I said, “Yeah, why not? Follow the child!”

Just kidding. Ring is still in tact.

But really, this kit was so useful in being able to hold and examine the different types of rocks and minerals. The kids could see for themselves the difference between the three types of rocks, as well as the softness of minerals. You could also see identifying markers, for example, how some rocks are in layers or squared. They thought it was neat that you really could write with the graphite!

It also comes with a list of all the rocks and minerals broken down by type and numbered, which is really helpful when the younger siblings decide to dump everything on the floor.

We also did a crystal growing experiment and excavated for rocks.

This kit was given to us as a Christmas gift and the rocks were so small they were hard to find. If I did it again, I’d probably go with National Geographic’s Mega Gemstone Mine.

The crystal growing lab was pretty cool and it took about a week to grow a decent size crystal. We also tried an at home crystal growing experiment with salt water, coarse string, and a paper clip. Barely any crystals grew. After doing a little searching, it looks like we didn’t need the paper clip to weight down our string. We could’ve just left the string longer, because the salt crystals need something coarse to grab onto (hence the string) and the paper clip was too smooth.

 

 

Favorite books from our Rocks & Minerals study:

The Practical Encyclopedia of Rocks & Minerals, John Farndon

Rocks, Gems, & Minerals (A Golden Guide), Paul R. Shaffer

A Rock is Lively, Dianna Hutts Aston

Everybody Needs a Rock, Byrd Baylor

The Big Rock, Bruce Hiscock

If You Find a Rock, Peggy Christian

How to Dig a Hole to the Other Side of the World, Faith McNulty

A Rock Can Be…, Laura Purdie Salas

Nature Anatomy, Julia Rotham

I thought it might be helpful to have a quick, Rocks & Minerals planning guide to print out and store until you’re ready for your own study. It’s a simple list of the lessons and resources listed in this post. You can download the Rocks & Minerals Planning Guide here:

Rocks & Minerals Planning Guide

Montessori Rocks & Minerals Activities

 

 

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We’ve been enjoying summer here. June was quite full, but in all the best ways. But as the month started to wind down and I began to think of July and how July would mean we’re in the middle of summer. The middle of summer means that August would be here before I know it and August means…back to school.

Cue the anxiety.
Tightness in my chest at the thought of school.
Overwhelm at materials to prep.
Rotating mental lists.

 

Suddenly, summer had lost its allure and rest and I dove head first (sunk really) into the worry and the overwhelm of all that is before me. My mental calendar piled high with everything I left unfinished last year and all I have to prepare for the coming school year. I was a wreck. In my mind, summer was over and I was headed straight for a marathon of prep work.

It’s amazing how fast something can steal our joy, isn’t it?

Then one night this weekend, I had a moment of clarity. I only had to do one thing to start.

Just one thing. So I started with first things first.

First, when are we going to start our school year?
I pulled out my 2017-2018 School Year at a Glance (free download below), my personal planner, and our local school district’s calendar and started brainstorming dates. Should we start in early August, mid-August, or late August…September? I also consider our state’s homeschooling requirements (180 instructional days) and average how many days per month that breaks down to.

Then I take out my highlighters and mark a color each for school, holidays, vacation, CO-OP (for us, it’s our Wild + Free group), field trips, and planning days in my planning key.

Second, how do I want to divide up our school year? (aka…when’s break?)
Should we school year round? Plow through from August to November–break for Thanksgiving and then wade back in briefly before the holidays? Maybe 6 weeks on, 1 week off? After Christmas last year, I realized that I needed more of a break than a 3-day weekend here and there or waiting until Christmas break for two weeks. I’d get behind on regular household chores, find projects piling up in the corners, and just long for some alone time that was more than 30 minutes. And it seemed the kids might benefit from some lazy days and a break from routine.

We switched to a 5 week on and 1 week off schedule built around holidays so we end up having 3 weeks off for Christmas, a week for Thanksgiving, in February (around President’s Day), and Spring Break. It does mean we end up finishing school in the beginning of June, but it feels worth it knowing we’re taking our time to not only learn, but rest and rejuvenate.

After the calendar basics were on paper, I began brainstorming what we would study. 
We follow the Montessori Scope and Sequence from my NAMC albums, which takes a lot of guesswork out of planning. Language, math, and penmanship are all taught one-on-one wherever the child is on the sequence. Language, math, and penmanship are all taught one-on-one wherever the child is on the sequence, so those I’ll plan a little later when I have time to look more specifically at each child’s needs. But History, Geography, and Science we do all together. I know what topics we haven’t covered in the lower elementary material, so I spaced those out over our six terms.

(I’ll explain how I plan our terms  in more detail in a later post.)

It’s a simple first step. But it’s so helpful to knock down that first block and see that things aren’t as overwhelming as they seem. Yes, there will be work. I still have half a set of grammar cards to cut, zoology materials to find, and the Great Lessons to review…not to

But know that I know when we’re starting, where our breaks will be, and what our overall plan is…the rest is not as anxiety producing as it once was.

What homeschool prep is causing you anxiety this summer?
How can you knock down your first obstacle?

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It’s that time of the year. Parents either love or hate summer. Maybe it’s the extra pressure to perform and create a Pinterest-worthy summer or the constant presence of your kids or the lack of your usual routine. Maybe you love summer and bloom with the free-flow of it all. Or maybe you have your summer bucket list and your pool bag packed and sitting by the door.

Whichever way you lean, summer brings its own joys and struggles, but with a little planning you can craft a summer that meets your family.

1. Take a break.

Before you jump in to your regularly scheduled summer routine and programs, take a week or two after you’re done with school to just decompress. Rather than go from one scheduled season to another, take a break to allow yourself and your kids the freedom to just do what you want, what comes naturally.

Have a few anchors in your day (meals, outside time, quiet time, etc), but give yourself (and your kids) permission to just play or read a book for a couple of hours, cook simple meals, sleep in late, and skip a few chores. Parents and kids alike need that break. Then also, we can see what rhythm our family is naturally leaning toward and what are needs really are, rather than have a set schedule we’re trying to fit in that may or may not work.

2. Build rhythms and routines.

As you’re decompressing, take a few mental notes to jot down what you’d like to do for the summer. What are you goals for your family as the parent? What areas you want to grow in or things you want to experience or create? How do your weeks naturally flow? Is there a big difference between your school year schedule and your summer schedule? Build a rhythm for your household by anchoring an activity to a day of the week. For example, in our family Monday is Catch-up Day where I tackle household things that need tending, Tuesday is Library, Wednesday is Nature Day, etc. 

When planning your daily rhythms and routines, remember rhythms change with the time of year, our season in life, our current responsibilities and needs. Every season may look different. What’s worked before may not work this season and that’s okay. Give yourself permission to adapt and change things as needed. Rhythms and routines are to be for our benefit, not chain us to a schedule.

Things to consider:

  • What’s the natural flow of our day right now?
  • What’s working? What’s not working?
  • What areas could use more structure? Less structure?
  • What do I want my day to look like? What’s realistic?
  • What might benefit my family and household?
  • What are you saying yes to? What are you saying no to?

3. Nourish.

You could call this self-care or mother culture. How are you going to cultivate and nourish yourself this summer? Maybe it’s as simple as creating your own morning routine or finally committing to that yoga practice. It could be taking short adventures with your kids to appease your own adventurous spirit. Perhaps it’s tackling your book list or getting back to your own creative practices (writing, painting, etc). Build in some time this summer to do what makes you feel alive and in doing so, you’ll be more ready and full to be present and bring life to your children.

Free Summer Printables!

Want to decorate your space with a little summer love + inspiration?  

Download, pick a color, and print one (or all!) of our summer printables:

Have fun this summer!
We’d love to see how you use these printables and what you’re doing this summer. Share your summer space on Instagram with #OMHSummer. You can see our journey at #ourmontessorihome and #OMHSummer!
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Mapping Skills 3 Part Cards with Definitions

In the spring, after we finished our basic land and water forms study we moved on to learning different mapping skills. To help learn about the different types of maps, what a surveyor and cartographer do, how to read a compass, and the difference between longitude and latitude I made our own 3-part cards to go along with our study.

Mapping Skills Cards with Definitions

These cards are a little different in that they’re actually 4-part cards. Once a child moves on into lower elementary, the definition is added to each picture and label to help deepen the child’s understanding of the term and its concept. So here we have the the main card with picture and name, the picture, the word card label, and then the definition.

Mapping Skills Cards with Definitions

I’ve found as we’ve moved into Montessori elementary there are much fewer resources for students, so I made my own printable and it’s free for you to download and use too! Just click the link below:

Mapping Skills 3-Part Cards

w/ Definitions Printable

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