Category Archives: homeschooling

The Best Picture Books to Add to Your Easter Baskets

Picture books are such a great way to teach our kids about faith and the love of Jesus. I love including books in my children’s Easter baskets. Here are a few of our favorite engaging stories that are sure to spark wonderful conversations about our Lord.

I hope your family enjoys these books as much as we do! I really find that exposing my children to Jesus through picture books fuels their understanding, curiosity, and love for the Lord in an exciting way. If your kids aren’t that in to books right now, have no fear. Go check out this post to spark a love of books in your child.

Spring Sensory Play

Let’s embrace that spring fever with some sensory play for the kids! Sensory bins are a favorite for kids of almost all ages. From young toddlers to elementary age, sensory play is not only fun but educational. Making a sensory bin for your kids is simple and easy. Take a look at the one I created for my preschooler and elementary aged kids.

Start With a Base

First, you need to decide what you’re going to use to hold all your items. You want something that isn’t too deep but is wide. I have this table, but you could also use a baking tray or something you have around your house. For the base of your sensory play, you want something that is smallish, that can easily be scooped and poured. You also want something that can be easily cleaned up, because let’s face it, sensory play involves a lot of clean up (stay away from sand!). I really like to use rice or beans. They sweep up easily, and they aren’t dangerous if a child accidentally tries to eat them. For our spring bin, I chose a mixture of pinto and garbanzo beans. I like that these have varying shapes and textures. Little pom pom balls are also fun, especially if you’re looking for a quieter option.

Add Some Interest

It’s fairly easy to keep your sensory play base the same at all times. However, I highly encourage you to change up the items in the sensory bin every season, or every month if your kids play with it daily. I am going with a spring theme here. I’ve added some plastic Easter eggs, artificial flowers, and several small flower pots.

Add Some Tools

Adding tools to your sensory play is adding the fun. Kids love so much to scoop and pour. This provides a huge learning opportunity too. Young toddlers learn things like cause and effect, while older kids are visualizing and estimating volume. You want to add small containers or cups (remember those little flower pots?) as well as spoons and scoops of varying sizes. I have this set, and my kids absolutely love it. You can also add in things like tweezers or magnets.

Sensory play is so much fun for kids. Have you ever made a sensory play area for your kids? Let me know what you like to put in your sensory bin in the comments below. As always, please like and share this post if you found it helpful and encouraging.

Strategic Ways to Use YouTube in Your Homeschool

The best hack I’ve learned as a first year homeschool mom is to use Youtube. I know screens can get a bad rep a lot of the time. However, I find that when I am strategic with YouTube, I get so much bang for my buck (as well as the kids!). With the help of other homeschool mamas, here is a list of strategic ways you can use Youtube in your Homeschool (without any guilt!).

Travel the World

Our Social Studies curriculum has us traveling the world this year. We study maps, read books, and write about a specific country each week. We also log on to Nat Geo Kids’ YouTube channel to see if there are any related videos, which there typically are. National Geographic has a whole series where siblings explore and experience various countries and cultures. These videos are my kids’ favorite part of the week. They love learning about a new country through the eyes of other kids.

Read Alouds

Did you know that there are quite possibly thousands of read alouds on YouTube? Seriously. This one surprised me, but it’s true. If you are wanting to read a particular book, but your library doesn’t have it, check YouTube. It’s most likely there. There is everything from Charlotte’s Web to The Very Hungry Caterpillar to everything in between. I’ve even found some less popular books that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else. This is a great way to incorporate more books in your kids’ daily routine, especially if you have a reluctant reader. (You can read more tips on helping your child learn to love books here)

Get Moving

Between the pandemic and winter, it’s safe to say that we are all spending a lot of time inside our homes. When we have a lot of pent up wiggles, we turn on YouTube to move our bodies. If you need something active, GoNoodle and Koo Koo Kangaroo are great options, especially if you need a quick brain break. If you are looking for something more focused, you can’t go wrong with Cosmic Kids Yoga. My kids even like to lay out towels like yoga mats.

Entertaining the Toddler

I know. I know. But look, there is no (absolutely zero) shame in using the tools you have in ways your family needs. Youtube has WONDERFUL resources to teach and entertain toddlers, because sometimes you need to go teach a math lesson or make lunches or just go to the bathroom by yourself. Did you know that the super popular Cocomelon was a Youtube channel before it was on Netflix? It was even previously called ABC Kids TV. Super Simple Songs legit taught my youngest his letters and numbers (#noshame). We’ve also recently discovered Bounce Patrol, which my three year old really seems to enjoy.

Animal Studies

It is so common for elementary aged children to have a strong interest in animals. A great way to foster this love of animals, the earth, and the environment is to watch some videos. BBC Earth has a wonderful channel about all things animals. There are so many videos where you see animals up close in their natural habitat. I love that BBC Earth also always encourages taking care of our planet. And of course, it’s easy to do a search of a particular animal, but I do recommend previewing these first. Did you see my Instagram reel (@intentionally_well_blog) of my feelings when my kids wanted to learn more about the anaconda? Yeah….I don’t like snakes.

Art Class

I’ve shared before that art isn’t really my thing. I kind of forget to plan for it, and I am not crafty. Enter YouTube to save the day for my girls who really enjoy drawing. We love Art for Kids Hub for teaching us all how to draw cute little cartoon-y things. You can also do things like explore the Louvre! How cool is that?

I think that is my most favorite thing with using Youtube in our homeschool. We get to learn and explore places and interests that we wouldn’t really have access to otherwise. The concept that I want my kids to internalize most this school year is that we live in a vast world full of interesting people and places. YouTube has given us a window into this world in a wonderful way. Use it mama, unashamed and guilt free! If you are already using Youtube, what are your favorite videos and channels? Let me know in the comments below. And as always, like and share this post if you enjoyed it.

We’ve Made Some Homeschool Changes

That’s right. Our homeschool got a few changes and upgrades since we started our year last July. I think that’s my favorite thing about homeschooling. It’s okay and even encouraged to make adjustments to our schooling when we need to. I find it so freeing!

Language Arts

The first big homeschool change we made this semester was switching our Language Arts curriculum. Last semester, we used Abeka. You can read all about my initial review of this program here. Even though I quickly realized we wouldn’t stick with Abeka long-term, my plan was to finish the books I bought. However, we couldn’t even do that. The workbooks started moving too fast for my kids, and no one was having a good time. So, I made the decision to go ahead and toss it out earlier than expected.

What did we switch to you ask? Logic of English. We are LOVING it! Loving it, I tell you. My kids get so excited to do language arts every day. They love the multi sensory approach to each lesson. I made the decision to start with Foundations A, which honestly is way below their current reading level. But, LOE teaches things differently than Abeka. We needed to learn how LOE teaches. Plus, did you learn about broad sounds when you were in school?? I sure didn’t! Did you know the letter “i” makes FOUR different sounds, and there are rules for each one? Me either! I had to memorize so much when I learned how to read. It turns out, there are more logical (ha, see what I did there?) rules to reading than I thought. So, starting with Foundations A has filled in any gaps my kids (or I) had.

Hymn Study

The second big change we’ve made to our homeschool isn’t switching curriculums; it’s adding in a whole new subject. We started a hymn study. As you know, my husband is in vocational ministry. We are active in our non-denominational church. However, my husband and I grew up in more traditional churches. We grew up singing the hymns that have been around for hundreds and hundreds of years. I wanted my kids to learn these holy songs. There is something so inspiring about singing the words to a song that have united Christians of generations past and present. I wanted my kids hide these songs in their heart just as I have done.

As far as hymn studies, it turns out there are a lot of good options. All unique in their own way. I ended up choosing the curriculum by Not Consumed. This is a unit study program. And out of all the choices, I decided on this one because it had many songs that I personally love. The parent enjoying the material being taught is an important component of homeschooling. This study also teaches the child to play the hymn on a tin whistle (basically a recorder), which has been so fun. We are learning one hymn a month, and we just finished our first one – It Is Well.

Attitude and Pace

The last change we’ve implemented is my overall attitude on the pace of our homeschool. I’m realizing that it is okay if we don’t hit every single subject every single day. I’m continuing to learn that homeschooling does not need to look anything like traditional public school. That there are a million ways for kids to learn. That allowing time to play IS allowing time to learn in an organic fashion. I am dropping the weight of the pressure I put on myself a little each week. Yes, I make plans (I am loving this EC lesson planner), but it’s pretty rare that I check off every single little thing. And that’s just fine by me. I know my kids are learning and growing. Not just academically also emotionally and spiritually as well.

So tell me, whether you homeschool or not, how is the year going for you kids? Let me know in the comments below. As always, if you liked this post, please like and subscribe to be the first to see new posts!

The Best 2020 Holiday Gift Guide for Kids 8 and Under

Here are my top picks for gifts that are not only budget friendly, but will also grow with your kids. This post contains some affiliate links, which helps support this space with no added cost to you. Happy shopping and happy holiday!

These blocks are so great and can be used by any age to make simple or complicated structures.

This customizable stuffed animal was such a favorite with each of my kids when they were young toddlers.

The perfect gift for your emerging authors and illustrators. Have your kids write and illustrate their own book, then send it off to be professionally made into a real hardcover book!

Have your little mermaid snuggle up in this cozy blanket all winter long.

Put on a show with this fun set of puppets.

Bilibos are an open-ended toy that can be used in so many fun ways. We also use our as “wiggle seats” during homeschooling.

These On the Go Craft Kits are perfect stocking stuffers! They are perfect for screen free entertainment in the car, if you’re traveling this holiday season.

My 6 year old received this face painting kit for her birthday, and it has been a favorite for all 3 of my kids. I love it because it washes off SO easily and doesn’t stain.

I cannot tell you enough how much my kids love these books. They are cute and sweet stories that actually teach our kids about the scientific method in a fun and engaging way.

This fun toddler scooter will be under the tree for my 3 year old this year! I love how it has two wheels in the front to help with balance. 

Slime, slime, and more slime. Need I say more? Seriously, though, I like how this kit contains ready made magnetic slime, which was showcased on Emily’s Wonder Lab.

Did you know triangle crayons help teach proper grip? These Jumbo Triangle Crayons are great for little hands.

Do you have a fashionista like I do? My 6 year old received this jewelry making kit last year, and she still plays with it at least once a week. 

My 8 year old has become very interested in origami over the last several months. I plan on getting her this set. I really like how the paper is double-sided. 

This fairy garden is growing in my kitchen this very moment. The kids had such a fun time creating it, and now we are watching the grass grow. They can hardly wait to string the included lights for a special and unique night light. 

There’s a reason Tinker Toys are such a classic.

I’m not the crafty mom, and that is why I love all in one craft kits. Look at how stinkin’ cute this robot craft kit is!

Get your kids outside and moving without the clean up of Nerf guns with this Laser X laser tagging game.

Who doesn’t want to cuddle up with Baby Yoda from Mandalorian on Disney +. This 8″ plush Yoda is perfect for your little Star Wars fan.

Harry Potter is as popular now as it was ever. This Room of Requirement LEGO Set is so fun but not overly complicated to assemble.

There you go! I hope you found some fun things your kids will love. A special thanks to my dear friend, Meredith, for her contribution to this gift guide.

Hate Teaching Math? I got you.

Being an enneagram one, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that I like math. I always have. It’s completely black and white. There’s no gray area with math. You’re either right or you’re wrong. My mother was even a math teacher, so it runs in the family. But I can appreciate that lots of people find math difficult. Just like poetry makes zero sense to me (seriously, I cannot interpret symbolism for the life of me!), I understand how math can be difficult for others.

Now, this isn’t really something that effects a typical person in every day life. We have our calculators on our phone, and that works just fine. But what if your a homeschooling parent, and you’re now the one that has to teach all the math to your kids? What then? Well, my best advise? Fake it ’til you make it. I’m serious! Fake that enthusiasm for your least favorite subject, so it’s not your kids’ least favorite subject. My second piece of advise is delegate the hard parts to someone else. From such an early age, kids are duped into believing that they are bad a math, especially girls (which is a whole other can of worms that I’m not going to get into here and now). But in reality, kids just haven’t been taught in a way that they understand.

In our family, we use a few different approaches. You can read about our main curriculum here: https://intentionallywell.org/2020/08/19/math-love-it-or-hate-it/ . We do take a pretty traditional approach to math, and that seems to be working for now. However, I was recently approached by a company who has put together a really great online math curriculum. A+ Interactive Math by A+ Tutorsoft Inc. has been a really great addition to what we were already doing. And my kids look at doing math on the computer as a fun treat.

A+ Interactive Math operates in the traditional lane of homeschooling. They actually line up their lessons with public school, so it is a great resource for keeping your kids on track if you are only planning on homeschooling for a short time (hello 2020 pandemic). We have the Family Math Package, and it allows my kids to work mostly independently at their own pace. They can work from anywhere as long as we have internet connection. I can view their progress from the parent account as well. This helps me to see where they might be struggling, and what we need to spend our time on. The Family Math Package includes up to 10 students accounts, which is perfect for Pandemic Pods or an entire family. It includes 7 different grade levels (1st-6th, Pre-Algebra) which gives you an option to place each child in a desired grade level and even change the grade level when ready. This curriculum includes video lessons, interactive review, practice worksheets, chapter tests, step-by-step solution to each problem, easy to read progress reports, automatic grading & tracking, eBooks (lessons, worksheets, chapter tests, solution guides) and much more.

I hope enjoy this program as much as my kids and I do! It has been a great addition (ha! get it?) to our weekly math routine. It fits in seamlessly to what were already doing, and my kids as to do this program literally every day. You can check it out for yourself and try one month free at https://www.aplustutorsoft.com/freestuff/family-math-package . USE MY CODE: EMILY20 AT CHECK OUT FOR 20% OFF THE FAMILY MATH PACKAGE

Help! My Kids Don’t Like Books

Sometimes you have a child who just loves and loves to look at books. But what if your child doesn’t want to be read to or read a story before bed time? How can we as parents cultivate a love for books? The stress on parents to get their kids reading and reading early is strong. So often we here about little Susie who is reading beginning chapter books by age 4, but we never really hear about little Janie who can build an elaborate block city, or little Stevie who is unbelievably kind and empathic with his friends. All of these things are equally important for child development, but somewhere along the way reading got put on this pedestal. What I’m getting at is this, it is okay if your child doesn’t naturally love books. The best part is that there are things you can do to actually encourage a love of reading.

Spoiler alert, I’m writing this post as a parent who has a reluctant reader. Learning to read is just harder for her than other subjects. It’s not a bad thing; it just is what it is. But I want her to LOVE reading. I grew up seeing my parents devour books, so reading as a hobby was never a foreign concept for me. So that is step one. If we want our kids to enjoy reading, then they need to see us enjoying reading. Mama, when was the last time you read a book for pleasure? Probably quite some time, especially if you’re in the early baby and toddler years. But, this is an important thing we can model for our children.

The second step for encouraging a love for reading in our kids is audiobooks. Seriously, listening to audiobooks in the car is what sparked my child’s interest is even listening to stories. I can’t thank Junie B. Jones enough! (These are good books for the car because there is a lot of funny dialogue) Another wonderful resource for audiobooks is Epic! (Read the best books for early readers on Epic!). Epic! is an app used in homes and schools all over. You’ve probably heard of it. I like that I can tailor each of my kid’s profiles to their interest and reading level. For example, my pre-readers have all read-a-loud books to choose from, and my early reader has a mix of read-a-louds and age level books. We have independent reading time as part of our homeschool, and Epic! is always a popular choice. I feel like audiobooks has been such a great jump start to their love of stories, and it’s not something I see talked about very much.

Lastly, it is so important to set appropriate expectations. I’ve seen conversations in the homeschool community especially, saying that we need to be reading these long classic books to our young elementary school aged kids. And yes, I totally get it. I want to read Little House and Charlotte’s Web too. But, also, it’s fine if your kid isn’t ready for that just yet. Meet them where they are at first, then slowly build. For us, that meant reading some Shimmer and Shine books that basically retold a TV episode they’d seen. So, what? It was a book they were excited about, and excitement was my goal. They’ve since built up their reading stamina, and now ask for more complex storylines.

Developing a love of reading a books takes time. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We did audiobooks for probably a year before my kids started showing an interest in hard copy books at home. And that is a-okay by me, because now I’m seeing them consistently excited when we sit down and read together. They shout “more! more!” when I tell them that’s all for today. So, turn off the noise and pressure you might be feeling from seeing what other kids are doing. Turn your attention to your sweet little ones and meet them right where they’re at.

Below, you will find a list of books my kids have loved:

Owl Diaries https://amzn.to/3iPPtnC

Zoey and Sassafras: Dragons and Marshmallows https://amzn.to/3jUDwOF

Greetings from Somewhere https://amzn.to/373Nlq9

Tum Tum and Nutmeg: Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall https://amzn.to/36WyxJN

Junie B. Jones Books 1-4 https://amzn.to/3nK03Ac

Living in Zones

I decided to create zones for my kids and myself in our home. This all cam about because I felt like there was zero order to my home. Do you ever feel like that? Like there are people and things all over your house all the time? I think this is so common, especially when you have kids. I think it is especially so when you are homeschooling, because you are using your house each and every day. Toys migrate from the play room to the living room to the bedroom to even the bath tub. By the end of summer, I’d had enough of this mess, literally and figuratively.

What Do I Mean?

What do I mean by zones? I forget where I first heard of turning your space into zones, but I was reminded of them by Erin from Cotton Stem. The idea of creating zones means using your space intentionally to provide a change of scenery, spark creativity, or just a place to go that has a purpose. For example, that random corner in your kitchen that’s kind of dead space – let’s turn it into something useful!

Book Nook

made a little book corner in her kids’ bedroom. I thought, “Wow, I can do that!”. And I did. I went around my house and grabbed my son’s Anywhere Chair, a cozy blanket my kids love, an extra end table we randomly had, the basket of books which was not getting read in our playroom, and voila! We had our own reading corner in the upstairs loft. We named it the Book Nook, and it is now where my big kids do their independent reading each day. They LOVE it, and they are actually reading the forgotten books that were formerly in the playroom.

Bonus School Space

With the success of the Book Nook, I looked for other ways to implement zone . We have a large loft area upstairs that wasn’t really being utilized well. I took this space that now had the Book Nook and divided it into more zones. I moved a desk that was in my daughter’s room (it was only storing doll clothes) to the loft. I found a lamp and a globe. BOOM! A bonus zone for school work other than our homeschool room. We use this when someone needs to move to a quiet space. I moved our keyboard to the same wall as the desk to be included in the “school zone,” since the kids take online piano lessons.

TV and Video Games

I positioned the TV and Nugget couch to the next area in the loft to create a “lounging zone”. The TV cabinet also stores our LEGOs, so these are out of the kid’s bedrooms. This little TV zone get a lot of use on the weekends when my kids watch more shows and enjoy playing the Wii. It’s a small area. It’s literally just the Nugget and the TV, but the special thing about creating zones is you don’t have to have a lot of space to make something special.

Gross Motor Zone

The last zone I created in our loft is the “gross motor” zone. This is the biggest zone. I have a toddler trampoline in a corner and a sensory swing to hang from the ceiling. The Nugget couch is right there, and can be pulled over to make an obstacle course or slide or whatever. I also added the little toddler slide from the backyard. It was important to me to have a gross motor zone. I wanted an area where kids could play rough and get their wiggles out. We live in the Midwest, and the days are coming when it will be too cold to play outside. Our typical indoor playgrounds are closed because of the pandemic. Having this play space is essential, and it’s already getting used.

Now It’s Your Turn

I know not everyone has a large unused loft in their home. But the idea behind creating zones is using the little corners and nooks you do have. Turn them into a special place for your kids to go. Maybe it’s setting aside the end of your kitchen table and leaving out crafting supplies, or trays and tubs of playdough that the kids can access on their own. Maybe it’s taking that kids table that isn’t really getting used anymore and turning it into a board game table. Maybe you need a “mom zone” to keep your calendar, file mail, and meal plan. I created my “mom zone” in our kitchen. It is so nice to have all my things in one place. Assess what’s not working or take a space that isn’t being used efficiently, then let your imagination flourish. Take a look around and share what you come up with!

Below are a few links to some things that we have in our zones, but don’t feel like you have to buy a bunch of stuff. Shop your house first, then see where you need to fill in the blanks.

Indoor Sensory Swing:

Toddler Trampoline:

Cozy chair for your own Book Nook:

Toddler Slide:

Intentional Days

Hey there mama, how are you? The seasons are changing. Can you feel it? Fall and pumpkin spice are in the air. Crunching leaves are beneath your feet. I love fall so much, but any change of seasons is a special time. It’s a time to reflect on the months previous and be grateful for lessons learned. Now, I realize those lessons might have been taught through hard and stressful days, but lessons they were none the less. For example, I learned that I need to include things that I want for lunches during the week into my grocery shopping. I mean, I can only eat a PB&J so many times, unlike my children who are content to relish it daily.

Fall not only brings about a change in the weather, it almost always brings a change to schedules and routines. Kids are returning to school (however new and odd that looks this year #2020). Even if you homeschool, days are able to be filled with more time outside and seasonal experiences. Last week, I shared about how to plan and live intentionally with the big things in life, whatever that is for you. You can read about that here: https://intentionallywell.org/2020/09/07/living-intentionally-well/ But today, I want to talk about how to plan for and have intentional days with the little mundane things.

Now, I’m not saying I am perfect by any means, but when I intentionally make a plan for my week, my day to day life is much less stressful. I’m not talking about big abstract things, I am talking about things like menu planning, lesson planning, and schedule planning. Yep, it seems simple, right? It is. But this is something I have found takes a real discipline to stay committed to. It’s easy to fall into the cycle of waking up Monday morning and thinking, “Oh, shoot! What do I have going on this week?”. Then having to quickly spend rushed mental energy trying to remember all.the.things. It is much easier to take some time on Friday afternoon and peacefully make a game plan (plan of attack) for the following week. Warm up that left over cup of coffee you never finished and stick the kids in front of the tv (no shame!) and let’s make a plan!

Here’s a random fact about me. I love office supplies. Put me in an Office Depot, and I will be content for hours. However, as much as I love paper planners and stickers and pretty pens, don’t fall into the trap of feeling like you have to have the perfect tools to plan your week well. You don’t. Also, don’t think the way you plan for your family has to look like the way I plan for my family. We all have different needs and focuses. This year, I have been using a daily planner. It has been okay, but I really miss having a weekly set up. So, I’ll be switching back to that next year. You might prefer to use a monthly calendar. Or just recycle the back of that mile long CVS receipt. What ever works for you!

So, what does the process look like for me? Well, when I am really on top of my game, hubby and I have a “calendar meeting,” where we take fifteen minutes to discuss any appointments we having coming up and who is taking who to various sports activities. Then, I write out any other commitments I have with the kids. Do we have a play date this week? Are we going to have a movie night? Write it down. All of it. Next comes menu planning. This is best done at home, before you are actually at the the grocery store, ha. Typically, I will look over our nights and decide which nights I need to prepare dinner early (sports’ practice night), which nights need to be a quick and easy dinner (nights when I’m working), and which nights I can cook a full meal. Next, I will go to the pantry and freezer and see what we already have on hand, and I will try to form my weekly dinner menu around that. This helps our grocery budget as well. I do all of this on Fridays. That is what is working for us now in this season.

So, at this point, I have schedules, activities, and meals planned. The only thing left for me to do is make our homeschool lesson plans. If I am being transparent, this is something I am still trying to hone in on. Because this is our first full semester homeschooling, I still feel like our lessons are a lot of trial and error. And that is ok! It took time for me to develop a weekly planning method that worked well for schedules, activities, and meals. It takes practice, and it’s okay if it takes you time as well. But the reward is so great. Six days a week, I don’t have to spend mental energy deciding what we are going to have for dinner. It’s not a surprise when I get a reminder text about an upcoming appointment, and my kids feel valued because I didn’t forget that I told them they could stay up late one night and watch a movie. Totally worth it.

What about you? Do you have a method for planning your days? Tell me about it in the comments below.

Living Intentionally Well

I’ve spent the last two weeks thinking some deep thoughts. Thoughts about expectations I’ve placed on myself and making adjustments. You see, about three week ago, I found myself stretched to the max. We were still trying to find our rhythm with homeschooling, my husband’s work schedule shifted (again), my two oldest children started [separate] sports, and apparently there is a lot to growing a blog from the ground up. My brain was fried. I felt like I was juggling 15,000 balls in the air. It was all too much. I had to take a beat and remind myself on what was important. Now granted, when looking at that list, these things are ALL important. But, I needed to take some time to plan, focus, and reevaluate where I was spending my mental energy. You see, my little corner of the internet here is called Intentionally Well because I believe it is of the upmost importance that we live our days on purpose with a purpose. Our days are numbered. They are limited. I want to spend mine well.

On this quest of intentionality, I’ve learned something. You have to be intentional about being intentional. It seems redundant, doesn’t it? I know, I know, but go with me here. Our lives are not static. Things change (hello 2020!). Schedules, routines, seasons, etc., it’s always shifting. I find that my brain can handle some minor shifting and take it in stride. But after a while, I feel like I’m swimming in a deep sea while just trying to stay afloat. And that, sweet friend, is not a place that I like to be. Do you? Therefore, it makes sense that we need to be consistently evaluating our circumstances to know where we need to put our time and energy. Notice I said constantly, not continually. When you do this well, it won’t need need to be something that you have to dwell on daily. You’ll already know what’s important and where you need to spend your time. You’ll be able to focus on what really matters, and let everything else fade to the background.

So, how exactly do we do this? I like to take myself on a little date with my planner and calendar at the end of each month. I go to lunch or a coffee shop alone and spend time taking inventory of what is happening in my family and what we have coming up. I consider how things are going and what needs tweaking. If my schedule doesn’t have room for my little date, then I’ll spend some time planning after the kids are in bed. But, friend, there is something so relaxing about getting out of your every day environment. It is SO much easier to focus when that pile of laundry isn’t staring at you in your peripheral vision. I find that monthly planning is what works best for me, but you might find weekly or quarterly is better for you. The frequency isn’t as important as the consistency, which then develops into a habit. Now, I am not talking about a daily to do list or things like my homeschooling lesson plans. I am talking about planning things like family time, how I am going to grow in my relationship with the Lord, what needs focus in my marriage, what needs changing so I am living my life from a place of rest. Big things. Important things that if we aren’t intentional about will slowly disintegrate if left unattended.

I have been doing intentional planning like this for about two years. I know it works and is beneficial. But I’ll be honest, it’s been harder this year. 2020….there really aren’t enough or adequate words to brush the surface of what this year has been like for all of us. Putting it lightly, it’s been hard. Some months, I have been on it. Like planning and intentionality to the tee. Then other months, like last month, I’ve rushed it. I always pay for it. But that’s ok. Remember, it’s the consistency that matters. We don’t have to do life perfectly to do life well. So, I’m pausing and evaluating what and where to spend my time. And you can to!

Do you plan out the big things in life? How do you live intentionally in the season you’re in? Let me know in the comments below.