Scheduling AmblesideOnline Year 2, Pt. 1

Now that we are almost a month into our second “official” year of using AmblesideOnline, I feel like we are really getting into the groove. Not that I don’t still have a lot to learn about teaching and living in a more Charlotte Mason-esque way! We certainly have not arrived! I do feel, however, that I have a handle on the flow of the academic portion of our school day, and that is a welcome change from last year. Many days I felt scattered, and I often could not remember what I was supposed to be doing from one day to the next.

Now, it could be partly that we were in the midst of pretty major upheaval all of last year, as opposed to feeling fairly settled here at the start of 2018. Another difference this year is that I have a much more mature, less destructive two-and-a-half year old along for the ride, than the high need 20 month old I had at the beginning of last year! But I honestly think that one of the biggest factor in my ability to juggle all the various subjects and moving parts is that I have a much better schedule this year!

Why I Created Our AO Year 2 Schedule:

This year I wanted to be more intentional about short lessons and varying the subjects to stick to the idea of “a change is as good as a rest.” But with so many moving parts (i.e.-some subjects daily, some bi-weekly, some only weekly) I was unsure how to make sure I got everything in the right place. Last year we tried looping some subjects, but inevitably, there was always one or more that got left off or skipped somehow. And some lessons seemed to get drawn out much longer than need be because of frustration or dawdling (I’m looking at you, Math!)  I knew I needed a set schedule for Every. Single. Subject. And I knew I needed to use a timetable to keep us on track.

How I Created Our AO Year 2 Schedule:

Step 1: First I listed out all the subjects, noting which are weekly and which are daily. Some of the subjects on the weekly list could be done more frequently, such as Swedish Drill and Solfege and Poetry. For us at this time, however, dividing them up with the weekly subject is working better.

Daily—
Recitation
Spanish
Math
Copywork
Ambleside Readings and Narrations
Bible
History and Tales
Natural History
Literature

Weekly—
Artist Study
Composer Study
Solfege Practice
Swedish Drill Practice
Geography
Timeline
Nature Study
Drawing
Handicrafts
Poetry

Step 2: Figure out how many of each type of AO Reading there are typically in a week.

  • Bible: 1-2
  • History and Tales: 3 (We are skipping Trial and Triumph at this time, so there would be 4 here if you are including it.
  • Natural History: 2
  • Literature: 3 (although these are frequently long and need to be divided over 2 days)

Since this makes an average total of 10 readings in a week, it works out nicely for us to have 2 spots in our daily schedule for AO books and narration. I also plugged in 2 of the weekly subjects each day. With 4 additional daily subjects, I now know I need 8 total time slots in my timetable.

Because the rest of my planning process gets a bit more detailed, and this post is already long enough, I will continue with the rest of my steps in a new post tomorrow. Until then, I hope these beginning steps are helpful to anyone just starting out with scheduling with AmblesideOnline Year 2!

Lessons from Fasting: Letting Go

As I mentioned in my post on my personal goals for 2018, I am participating in a 40 Day Sugar Fast hosted by Wendy Speake. When I started this fast, I really did just want to get free of my sugar addiction. I know that sugar is not good for me, in more than just a physical sense. I can tell that it affects my mind and emotions as well. I have gone without sweeteners before when doing Whole30, but whenever the diet period is over, I always creep back into my old habits. This year I decided I had finally had enough of feeling enslaved to my cravings for cookies or candy, and this fast seemed to be the perfect opportunity to do just that.

What I did not realize was that through Wendy and the other fasting group leaders, the Lord was going to ask for more than just my sugar during these 40 days. Right from the start, I realized that I had two choices. I could go along day by day using will power to turn down sweet foods and hope that at the end of the 40 days I’d have replaced my sweet tooth with a taste for more healthy options. Or, I could actually treat this fast as a spiritual experience and seek the Lord at those times when I usually would have gone to the cupboard for a sugary snack, which was what Wendy suggested.

At first, I admit, I was reluctant to try the second option. Honestly, I was afraid of what God might have to say to me in those quiet moments. I was afraid of being uncomfortable, of feeling hungry. I did not want to admit, even to myself, that I had been looking to food for comfort and happiness instead of going to God for those things. Yikes. Finally, however, I pushed past all those fears and decided to let God speak to my heart during this time.

The first few days after that decision, everything still seemed very much the same. But yesterday, I felt a heavy weight on my heart. I knew that the Lord was asking me to give Him than my sugar addiction, and I didn’t want to hear that. All day long I was irritable and moody. When my husband got home from work, I told him how I was feeling, and he told me to take some time to myself after dinner. I went to my room and sat there with my Bible and journal and started the hard work of asking God what it was He wanted me to let go of besides my comfort foods.

Immediately, an image came to my mind of a toddler holding onto a sharp and dangerous knife. She thought it was pretty and looked like a fun toy, so she grabbed it and held on with all her might. But then her father came and asked her to let it go. He knew it was going to hurt her if she didn’t. He gently but firmly took her wrist in his hand, and the toddler started kicking and screaming because she didn’t want him to take her shiny toy. Her father told her he had something much better for her if she would only give him the knife. But she didn’t want to. She didn’t see anything in his other hand. She wasn’t sure if she could trust him.

That toddler was me.

I think the Lord gave me that image as an answer to a prayer I prayed earlier on in the fast, a prayer for a vision of what He wanted to do in my heart and life. I know that there are some idols I have been holding onto, some things that I have been thinking were good for me, that my Heavenly Father wants me to let go of. He wants to give me something better. I just have to trust Him, even though I don’t see how He is going to do it.

I know this is just the beginning of the work that God has started in my heart. I hope to write more as the fast progresses. I am looking forward to seeing how my faith increases and how He breaks through some strongholds in my life. I have some big prayers. But I have an even bigger God!

How about you? Have you ever had a time when God asked you to let go of something so He could give you something better? I’d love to hear your story in the comments!

The Reading Report, Vol. 8: Reading in the New Year

Welcome to the first 2018 edition of The Reading Report! I hope that you are off to a positive start to this new year. I can hardly believe that it is already the middle of January! Here in Middle Tennessee we are enjoying a beautiful snowy day, which is a bit of a rarity around here, I think. We have already chuckled just a bit (sorry Southerners!) at the speed at which everything gets cancelled when a little snow is falling. But, homebody that I am, I guess I don’t mind the added excuse to stay home and enjoy the extra time playing in the snow, drinking hot tea, and (of course) reading good books. Which leads me to the main point of this post–what I’m reading in the New Year!

What I’ve finished reading…

If you read the last installment of The Reading Report for 2017, you know that I have taken on the “Back to the Classics Challenge.” That post outlined the 12 (or more) books that I plan to read to fulfill each category for the challenge. I do, however, plan to read other books as well, and I have set a goal to finish 30 titles this year. I have already made a small dent in that number in just 2 weeks, which is good because I actually have been so busy with other things that I feel like I haven’t spent as much time reading as I should.

First, I finally finished Triggers! This book was so packed with good spiritual insight and practical help for me in my parenting struggles. I really think I need to read it again, focussing on just one chapter every week and intentionally trying to improve in that area. If you have any anger issues at all as a parent, I highly recommend this book!

The kids and I listened to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland together on Audible. We enjoyed it so much! I had read this book years ago, but it was delightful to get re-aquainted with the story with my children. We listened to this one for free on Audible Channels, which is a feature for Amazon Prime members. They have several classic audio books, both for families and adults only, as well as newer releases. If you have Prime and haven’t used Audible Channels, you should give it a try! And if you don’t have Amazon Prime, you should! Ha! 😉

Another great book I finished (also via Audible Channels) was The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie. It was so good! I am finding that Christie’s mysteries make a really good “break” from heavier reading or non-fiction.

What I am reading now…

The first book I am diving into from my Back to the Classics list is Howards End by E. M. Forster. It is also the current selection being discussed on the Close Reads podcast. I knew nothing about Forster or Howards End before I started reading, but so far I am thoroughly enjoying it. Several thought provoking passages have jumped out at me, as well as many humorous lines. I still am not sure where the plot is going, but the characters I have met so far are delightful!

One of my goals for this year’s reading is to work my way through at least one of Charlotte Mason’s volumes. Since I still have young children, it made sense for me to start at the beginning and read Home Education. I am taking it very slow, only reading a few pages at a time, because I want to absorb the ideas and make lots of connections as I go.

The third book in my basket right now is Full: Food, Jesus, and the Battle for Satisfaction by Asheritah Ciuciu. I started this one as a companion to the 40 Day Sugar Fast devotionals. Although I am only a chapter in, I can already tell it is going to be good! The focus of both the book and the fast is not food as much as it is on breaking free from bondage to food fixation and other sins so that we can find our satisfaction in Jesus. I am looking forward to talking more about these concepts as I go through this journey over the next month.

Oh, and I almost forgot! I also am listening to Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Since this was one of the books that I said I was “afraid” to read on the Back to the Classics list, I decided to get an early start on it. The first several chapters have been fine so far, just a little slow, perhaps. It is a lot of character set-up. But I think listening to it on Librivox has been a good way to get into it. I will probably start reading it in print, too, and go back and forth between the two.

That’s all for now…

I have been interrupted so many times while writing this post, I certainly hope it doesn’t sound as scattered as I feel! If it does, and you still made it this far, thanks for hanging in there with me! By the way, if you are a regular reader of my blog (or hope to be one in 2018), would you mind filling out this quick little survey for me? I am looking for some input on what you all would like to see more of in this space, as well as how I can best connect with you in the future! It is just 3 short questions, so if you can give me just a minute more of your time, I will be so grateful.

 

Simplify Your Focus: Five Minute Fridays

This time of year there seems to be a plethora of self-improvement choices around the internet (and elsewhere). We are bombarded with choices for courses to take, books to read, or programs to join in order to better ourselves in some way or another. Some of that is good. It is helpful for us to have training and accountability in pursuing our goals. At the same time, though, sometimes all this amounts to is more noise, more comparison, more ways to feel like we aren’t good enough or aren’t doing enough.

A few weeks ago, this was how I was feeling—as if all the noise from social media, books, blogs and podcasts was just cluttering my brain and heart to the point that I couldn’t focus on anything. It dawned on me that I needed to simplify my focus. After all, I can only do one thing really well at a time. I needed to quiet all the noise so I could focus on what was really necessary and important. And it helped, as it always does, to clear my head and pray and take a break from scrolling the internet.

As I was thinking back over my goals for 2018, I noticed a common theme, especially in terms of my “whys” for setting those particular goals.  I could boil it all down to two questions: what will help me better serve my family, and what will help me better glorify God? I may have many different goals and ideas for how to accomplish them, but if I really simplify my focus to those two things, God and my family, I will always be headed in the right direction.

This post is part of Five Minute Fridays. To read my other FMF posts, click here, or on the tag #fiveminutefriday at the bottom of the page. 

Professional Growth

Here it is! My last post in my Goals for Growth series: Professional Growth! If you missed Part 1 on Relationships, or Part 2 on Personal Growth, feel free to click back and read those posts! Also, if you want to know why I picked “Growth” as my word for 2018, you can find out more here. This last post in the series is all about the growth goals I have for various aspects of my blogging and business in 2018. Let’s get started!

Professional Goals for Growth:

I think I need to preface all these goals by saying that the whole reason I even have “professional goals” this year is because I want to contribute financially to our family income. Because our current situation with having a house (still) on the market in another state and having a cost of living that is at or above our current income, I need to do what I can to supplement my husband’s paycheck. Even if I only make enough to buy my son’s school books and the kids’ clothes, or just enough to pay for groceries each month, every bit counts. I want to help get us closer to financial freedom. So, in addition to the reasons I have noted below, gaining financial freedom is a big “why” behind having these goals in the first place.

1. Blogging Goals:

In 2018 I would like to see my regular views and readership stats double, as well as double the number of subscribers to my email list. Since I have only been blogging here for about 6 months, my audience is still pretty small. Up to this point, I have not been able to put a lot of money or time into promoting my blog or networking. But my vision for this site has always been that it would become more than just a place for me to write and send my random thoughts out into the ethernet. My ideal would be that this site would become a community for like-minded women to exchange ideas, to encourage one another, and to have conversation about things that really matter. And if I don’t have readers, especially ones who come back regularly and leave comments, then I am just talking to myself…and that is not much of a conversation! One of my action steps for working toward increasing my blog followers is networking with fellow bloggers in a couple of Facebook groups to which I already belong.

2. Virtual Assistant Goals:

In 2018 I want to add 1-2 new clients for whom I provide virtual assistant services. I started working as podcast manager for MacKenzie Monroe of Cultivating the Lovely this past fall, and I loved it so much, I decided to launch my own virtual assistant business. I am hoping to add one more podcast or project manager position to my repertoire. I would also love to do some editing/proofreading for other writers. I know some people really need technical help with maintaining their WordPress websites, and I have some knowledge I can share in that area as well. One action step I am taking to move forward with this goal is to compile a list of people I can approach to offer my services, sort of doing the online version of “cold calling.”

3. Young Living Distributor Goals:

I am hesitant to put this out there because of all my professional goals this is the one I have been most hesitant to pursue. However, I am seriously considering building a Young Living team under me in the coming year. I have been regularly using YL essential oils in our home for years, and I do believe in the power of these natural substances to promote health. I do not, however, desire to be a salesperson. (I’ve been there, done that! It’s not my gifting!) I also don’t want to be another one of those people you have to unfollow on social media because they are always marketing and nothing else. What I do want is to help educate people on safe, effective options to OTC medications. I also want to help people find natural alternatives to toxic skincare and household products. So, if you start seeing some more posts around here about DIY natural body lotion or household cleaners using essential oils, you’ll know why!

Ok, I did not expect this, but it feels a little scary putting my business goals here for all the world to see in black and white. Some of these goals feel really big and unattainable to me, quite honestly. I guess publishing this also makes it all seem more real, and now I am accountable to you all to follow through and attack this stuff! So, help me not feel so alone here. What is one scary big goal you have for this year that you are a bit afraid to put out there? Let’s cheer each other on!

My Goals for GROWTH in 2018, Part 2: Personal Growth

Welcome to the second post in my Goals for Growth series! Last week, I wrote about my goals for developing stronger relationships. Today, I want to share my 2018 goals for personal growth.

Physical Growth:

In the area of my physical health my overall goal is to get in better shape so that I can have more energy and strength so that I can better serve my family now and in the long term. Since my pregnancy with my daughter three years ago, I have had very little energy and strength. I have largely neglected my physical health, at least in terms of getting the exercise and intentional movement I need on a daily basis. I am not a highly athletic person naturally, anyway, and since it has been a long time since I have asked my body to move in many different ways, I am intentionally starting small and being very gentle with myself. My action steps to achieve this goal are as follows: complete the Foundational 5+ course from Fit2B, exercise at least 30 minutes 3-4 times a week (also using routines from Fit2B), and go outside for 30 minutes every day for fresh air and sunshine.

My second goal is the area of physical health is to break my addiction to sugar. I have struggled with craving sweets for a long time, even though I know that sugar depletes my immune system and causes blood sugar spikes and drops that contribute to bad mood swings. My first line of attack in this sugar addiction battle is going to be following the 40 Day Sugar Fast hosted by Wendy Speake, starting January 8th.

Spiritual Growth:

Tied closely to my physical health battles, my spiritual health is going to be of paramount importance to the rest of my growth. Recently I have realized that the scripts that run through my head are normally pretty negative. This negativity spills out into every other area of my life. My goal in 2018 is to exchange those negative thoughts with the truth of Scripture. This will increase my joy and gratitude and decrease my anxiety and discontent. My action steps to accomplish this goal include waking early each morning to spend time alone studying the Word and praying before the rest of my family gets up. I will also be writing down at least 3 things I am grateful for each day.

Educational Growth:

My goals in this area are not really new but more of a continuation of what I am already doing. My goals for my personal education in 2018 are to continue bettering myself through wide reading and learning new skills. I want to always be learning and growing my understanding of the world, of God and of other people. I never want to stagnate and stop using my mind or lose my sense of wonder at the marvels of creation. As I mentioned in my last Reading Report of 2017, I am joining the 2018 Back to the Classics Challenge. Of course, I also have other books that I want to read that are not on that list, and I am hoping to complete at least 30 titles this year. As for learning new skills, I am planning to study some basic drawing and watercolor techniques. I want to practice at least once a week, as well as using what I learn in my nature journal entries each week.

I will be back in a few days with the last post in my goals series, all about my professional goals for 2018. In the meantime, tell me about your personal growth goals for this coming year. What are you going to be doing to improve your spiritual, physical and mental health? 

What Motivates Me? #fiveminutefriday

I will be the first to admit that I am not easily motivated to do things that are not easy, comfortable or enjoyable for me. And I am not naturally very self-disciplined. I need outside deadlines and accountability to really stay on task over the long haul. The new year has been a good time for me to renew my motivation and to set goals for action, but what will keep my motivated to follow through on these goals? I hope that having come up with my “why” for all my goals will be what keeps me coming back over and over to keep making progress. And I know that the more I let other people in on my goals, the more accountability I will feel to continue growing, bit by bit. Most of all, I want to become a better person, and that motivates me to keep moving forward, even when I don’t feel like working hard. Some people need reminders to slow down. Not me. I need motivation to keep going when the going gets tough. So, if you notice a few more posts this year about how I am making progress toward my goals, consider yourself part of my personal accountability group! And thanks for keeping me on task!

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

~Philippians 3:12-14

What motivates you to buckle down and do hard things? I would love to hear about it in the comments!

P.S.-It’s been a long time since I participated in Five Minute Fridays, but I am making it one of my goals to write one of these posts at least once a month! So, welcome back to my FMF blogger friends! I hope we’ll see each other around more often in 2018. 

This post is part of Five Minute Fridays. To read my other FMF posts, click here, or on the tag #fiveminutefriday at the bottom of the page. 

My Goals for GROWTH in 2018, Part 1: Relationships

As promised, I am back with a post about my goals for 2018! In my last post, I talked a little about the word I have chosen to be my theme for the year: GROWTH. All my goals this year center on that idea of slow, steady progress. I have divided my goals up into a few different general areas: Relational Growth, Personal Growth, and Professional Growth. This first post will focus on my goals in growing the relationships God has given me.

Goals for Relational Growth

  1. Be more intentional about showing love to my husband in ways that mean a lot to him. After a very stressful year with our move and all that happened leading up to that, my husband and I are closer than ever. We have learned to lean on each other through difficult times. In 13 years of marriage we have had our share of ups and downs, but I can honestly say that my husband is my very best friend. Still, I know that without constant tending, even a good marriage can start to grow weeds. The demands of work, child-rearing, ministry commitments, etc. can take their toll and cause husbands and wives to neglect their own relationship with each other. I do not want that happen, so I am committing to continue finding tangible, creative ways to be intentional about showing my husband the love and respect I have for him. One way I am planning to do this is to start having weekly at-home date nights because we are in one of those life stages when it is hard to get away for an evening out.
  2. Continue working on parenting with more consistent discipline and more grace. For a long time I have struggled with inconsistency and anger in my parenting. I hate to admit it, but there it is. I know I am not the only one. But over the past several months, I have come across a few excellent books and other resources that I am slowly reading and mulling over in hopes of learning and applying more grace-filled but consistent discipline with my children. My heart is that my relationship with my children will be one that will draw them to Christ, but, oh, I have such a long, long way to go. One action step I am taking to move in the right direction is to complete Lisa-Jo Baker’s Temper Toolkit e-course over the next month.
  3. Get together with friends (outside of church functions) at least every other week. This might sound odd to all the extroverts out there, but I am guessing my fellow introverted mommas will understand! As a natural homebody, it is already very hard for me to want to get out of the house more than a few times a week for church and running errands. Add to that the fact that we are still the “new folks” around here and have very few friends, and it is harder still for me to be brave and proactive about scheduling time to meet up with other moms and their kids. But my kids do keep my accountable in this area, because they miss having play dates when we go without for a long time! The winter has been hard because of holidays, illness, and cold weather putting a halt to some of our regular homeschool park days and such. I also have the new added dilemma/blessing of a childcare job at our church one morning every week, which will mean that day is out of the question for hanging out with friends since we will have to do school in the afternoon. But I know I am in better emotional health when I spend time with other women in community, so I am committed to make it work somehow!

Now that I have shared a few of my goals for growth in 2018, I want to hear about yours! What are some of the areas of growth you want to work on in the coming year?

Growth: Slow and Steady Progress

Here we are at the bright, shiny (and very cold!) beginning of the new year–2018. I cannot begin to describe the ups and downs that our family experienced in 2017, but I can say with certainty that we are happy we came through it all. We are stronger, closer, and I pray, more faithful now than we were when the year began. It was a year of hardship and testing, of waiting, of uncertainty, and of more waiting. We received many blessings and many of our prayers were answered in amazing ways. Other prayers still wait for answers, but that gives us something to look forward to in the year to come, does it not?!

I have been away from the blog for a couple of weeks, not intentionally, but because I have been spending a lot of my free time thinking and planning and writing in my journal. My thoughts have needed time to sit and soak before I could put them into words. Even now as I sit down to write this post, I am hesitant to put my thoughts into print because I am still in the process of sorting things out in my mind. Still, I wanted to begin writing some things here, partly for accountability, partly just so you all would know I am still alive over here!

If you happen to have come to Tuning Hearts from my old blog, then you may remember that a couple of years ago I jumped on the “Word of the Year” bandwagon. I don’t actually remember if I chose a word for 2017, though. And if I did, it probably should have just been “Survive” because that pretty well sums up what I felt like I did all year! But this year is going to be different. This year we are going to thrive!

Recently, through various social media channels, I found out about Lara Casey’s Goal Setting blog series. Even though I had already started planning and sketching out some goals for 2018, I decided to try her steps as outlined in the series. Can I just tell you how glad I am that I did this? Lara’s posts have inspired and challenged me to think even more deeply about the changes I hope to see in my life and in the life of our family in the future. And the best part of all her steps (for me, at least) has been the forward-thinking nature of goal setting. She challenges her readers not just to think about what they want to accomplish in 2018, but who they want to be when they are 80 years old. When you frame your plans and goals in light of who you want to be when you come to the end of your life, it really changes your perspective! Now instead of thinking just about how my goals and desires can help me “do better” in certain areas of my life,  I am thinking about what I should pursue to become the person that God wants me to be and how that will affect my family, friends, church and community as well!

The hopes that I have for 2018, the changes I want to make, all point to this one theme: growing what I have already been given. The Lord has been good to me. He has set me on a path, and I am moving forward. He has given me a strong foundation. Now I need to keep on track and grow in the things that He has set before me to do. I need personal growth, relational growth, growth in my work and in my habits and in my recreation. I never want to stop learning and growing and becoming more of who God wants me to be. I do not want to stagnate.

I know there is hard work ahead.  A lot of my goals are going to require a good deal of self-control and discipline to accomplish. But I also know that it will be well worth it if I keep moving steadily forward. I am not expecting or chasing after perfection here. I am just looking for progress. I am aiming for small improvements over the course of each day, each week and each month, until at the end of year I can look back and see a track record of steady growth.

In another post, I will talk more in depth about some or all of my goals. At this point, I am still fleshing some of them out, so I am not ready to write about them yet. So be looking for that post later this week! Until then, I would love to hear if you have a word or phrase that you are going to focus on in 2018. What do you want to see God do in your life this year? Tell me about it in the comments below! Let’s cheer each other on and keep each other accountable to keep moving forward and doing the next right thing!