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    Seven Quick Takes on Buying a New Planner, Cold Remedies, What’s Going on at Afterthoughts, and More!

    October 9, 2015 by Brandy Vencel

    Seven Quick Takes

    :: 1 ::

    It’s October, and you know what that means, don’t you? It’s time to buy my new planner for the coming year! Or, at least, that is what I decided, seeing as I’m turning over a new leaf. I usually wait until five days before the New Year, and then complain that I can’t find one I like. And I’m usually keeping a list of commitments to add to my new planner, once I get it. This year, I bought a new one ahead of time! Go me!

    Because I use both a weekly/monthly view calendar as well as a bullet journal, I don’t need a fancy, detailed planner. In fact, fancy and detailed scare me off — it makes my life look too complicated and then I intimidate myself. A few years ago, I had a Blue Sky planner I really liked, but couldn’t find one quite like it in January. Amazon is carrying Blue Sky right now, and as a bonus they are in the 8.5 x 11 size that I love.

    I thought this one was really cute, and also this one, but both of them have large, dark graphics that might get in the way of me writing all over the margins of my planner, something I do with great regularity. So I bought this one {pictured at right}. It’s still pretty, but the muted colors mean that I can still jot all my notes down without any images getting in the way. If you like solid colors, I thought this gray one had surprisingly pretty insides. 🙂


    :: 2 ::

    Unfortunately, I had occasion to stock up on this early in the week. Because I didn’t have any on hand, I missed my opportunity with my husband and Daughter Q. They had to fight it out the old fashioned way. But the others {and I} were able to avoid it. The key seems to be giving it at the first sign of symptoms, and I don’t usually realize something is going around the house until someone is already fully sick, you know? Either way, I’m now armed and dangerous for the season. This isn’t the only thing we use, of course, but it’s a good start for my winter medicine chest.


    :: 3 ::

    This week’s links collection:


    :: 4 ::

    This month in 2012:

    On Herbartian Unit Studies

    In October 2012, I rewrote and updated an old {now deleted} post about why Charlotte Mason didn’t approve of unit studies. When I was writing my talk on Charlotte Mason’s 20 Principles this summer, I revisited this post again, which is why I thought it was a good post to share. 🙂


    :: 5 ::

    homeschool-plan-pinThis afternoon is the free Work the Homeschool Plan Webinar with Mystie and little ole me! It’s not too late to sign up {at least, I don’t think so}, and if something happens and you miss part of it, there will be a replay option. It’s live, people! This means that you can ask questions and stuff! I think it’s going to be great fun, so come on over and join us.


    :: 6 ::

    There are a few fun projects going on here at Afterthoughts behind the scenes. First, Ravi Jain {co-author of The Liberal Arts Tradition} is working on a guest post containing some practical tips on nurturing wonder in our students. Second, Pam Barnhill is also working on a guest post for the same series, this one an inside look at how her co-op has made changes based upon its reading of The Liberal Arts Tradition. She’s told me what they’ve done, and I wish I could move out there and join them!

    Another project we’re working on {and by “we” I mostly mean Hayley because she’s better at this stuff than I am — I mainly cheer for her and spout my opinions on how it looks} is compiling all of this year’s volume of Newbie Tuesday into a totally awesome magazine-style PDF that you can either print or view on your device. It won’t be out until January {our last issue isn’t until December, of course, and we want it to contain all of 2015}, but for those of you who have been requesting back issues, this is going to be even better than what you were hoping for.

    Finally, I’m still working on getting my other talks up and into the shop. Soon, soon, I hope! It always takes me longer than I think it will — and can you believe my children want to eat three meals per day? Totally unreasonable! 😉


    :: 7 ::

    Answering Your Questions:

    •  Question: I have an 8-year-old starting AmblesideOnline. Should I start at Year 1 not to miss anything?
      • Answer: Honestly, I wouldn’t unless your child needs an easy year for some reason. If your child is already reading and narrating well, you could probably put her directly into Year 3, but if she’s starting a Charlotte Mason education for the first time, I’d suggest Year 2. The books are a little bit easier, which in turn makes it easier to concentrate on learning skills like narration, if that makes sense. You might want to check out my post So You’re Switching to AmblesideOnline. You can also give more detail and gets a whole bunch of opinions to guide you over at the AO Free Help Forum, if that is more your style. 🙂
    • Question: Who is doing most of the reading in History, Geography, Literature, Poetry. … Is it I, during Circle Time? For those subjects is it basically reading and no journaling of any sort?
      • Answer: Who does the reading totally depends on your goals, your child, your family’s needs, etc. With my oldest child, I read pretty much everything aloud to him until Year 4. Part of this was me wanting as much bonding time with him as possible — he very much bonds through reading aloud together. He was able to read all of Year 3 aloud, but I read to him, anyhow. Looking back, I think I should have eased him into reading on his own, rather than simply starting Year 4 out with him reading almost everything himself — it was shocking to him. So, I think the ideal is easing our children in the process by turning over what can be turned over, when it can be turned over, with the exception of not handing everything over in Year 1 just because a child is gifted.While we don’t start written narrations in a Charlotte Mason education until around age 10, we do often add more than just reading and narrating aloud. So, with history, you might add something to a timeline. With geography, you might begin with a quick map lesson, tracing the part of the journey you are covering in the day’s reading {ahem … if you’re covering a journey}.
    • Question: Does all their writing practice come from Dictation, Copywork, Grammar, Math?
      • Answer: In the younger years, yes, except for those children who like to write a lot on their own time {I’ve had two of those, actually}. I think checking out the Language Arts Scope and Sequence from AO might help. 🙂

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  • Reply Kate S January 28, 2017 at 8:20 pm

    Hi! I am greatly appreciating your blog! My previous homeschool plans have fallen through and in desperation I found AO. I am now planning to use it for this coming fall. Yes; I’m super early, but I’m basically scared out of my mind that I’m going to be a teary disaster and want to start buying the books, looking through them, and figuring out how to organize a day.
    Thanks to it now being 2017 instead of 2015, the planners you linked to do not come up, unfortunately. I have never used a planner book before *in my life,* not even in college. And, as a matter of fact, organization of my days is so much my weakness that I still have nightmares about missing classes, tests, and assignments in college. It’s been a decade. So. Right now I’m storming the internet trying to find a planner that I can buy and not print out myself to use to do Y1 with my oldest and Y0 with my middle. Do you happen to remember the name of the planner you used or could you possibly give me a link to one that I can use? I just do not feel equipped to make one up even if it’s printed out all pretty on Excel. It’s not you; it’s me. Planners terrify me. Thank you greatly!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 29, 2017 at 9:09 am

      Have you seen the charts on AO’s site? Some people really do just use those, especially at first. A good example is the one for Y1 at the top of this page:

      I really grew into my planning process over the years as our needs changed, my children needed to work more independently, etc. But in the beginning, I just worked from the AO lists — there weren’t charts back when we started. But I think the chart really would work.

      My planner this year is a Happy Planner and they are on sale this weekend at Michael’s, I think. (I bought mine on Amazon. Here is a link: You can just take out the months that already passed.) I’m really super pleased with it.

      With that said: you will be okay. Promise. 🙂 On the schedule pages, AO breaks all the reading assignments up into weeks. All you have to do from there is decide what you want to do each day. I used to break it up by book — we’d read Book X on Mondays, Book Y on Tuesdays, etc. After a couple weeks of doing it, you will know how it best fits your real life at your house.

      AO also has a free Help Forum where moms help moms, if you are interested:

      • Reply Kate S January 31, 2017 at 3:49 pm

        I appreciate your response! I have printed out the list you linked to. I had not seen it. Apparently I haven’t looked at the site as much as I thought I had- I completely missed that. It’s very helpful, thank you.
        I am on the forum and have been browsing quite a bit.
        It’s the daily thing that gets me; I’m great with overviews but the nitty gritty “you were supposed to call the doctor today” thing is what trips me up. I think a good planner will keep me on track with that. Thank you again for your help!

  • Reply Cassie W. October 9, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    I’m sitting here banging my head on the table. I’ve spent a ton of money on a planner and you’ve just showed me one under $20 that would be perfect. Thanks a lot! (I really mean that as I will save the planner name for next year.) 😉

  • Reply Jennifer October 9, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    I like to bullet journal too. And I use the AO printable schedules. But I’m feeling the need for a Homeschool planner or journal or something…. I haven’t figured it out yet. Is your planner your bujo too?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel October 9, 2015 at 1:19 pm

      My bujo is separate — just a Moleskin with dotted paper in it. I use it for managing projects and move tasks from there to my planner. The planner aspect of bujo was too much for me — I’m too much of a slacker to hand draw every week and month! So I use both. 🙂

  • Reply Bethany October 9, 2015 at 11:35 am

    I really enjoy your 7 quick takes posts. I also like your planner purchase. How appropriate that you chose one that’s name is “Charlotte”!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel October 9, 2015 at 11:38 am

      Oh my goodness, Bethany! Do you know I didn’t pay any attention to the name. That is so funny! Maybe — subconsciously? — that is why I chose it? 😉

  • Reply Becca October 9, 2015 at 9:26 am

    Needed the LA reminder. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Sara McD October 9, 2015 at 7:25 am

    My experience with Shakespeare has been very similar to Mr. Shapiro’s. This summer we had a chance to take my children (boys ages 10, 8, and 6) to an outdoor community theatre showing of The Tempest. It was a minimalist production and very good. The actor who played Prospero was talented to the extent that I couldn’t believe he was right here in western NY. There were some edits and improvs, but interpretation and adaptation, both in rehearsal and on the fly is the nature of live performance.

    ANYway, my children “got it.” They understood the story, though not every line. Thankfully some of the innuendo and bawdy humor went over their heads or else they knew not to embarrass me with a discussion of it (smile). It probably helped that we read this play a couple of years ago using hand-drawn character cards.

    I think sometimes people forget that plays are meant to be enjoyed by an audience; they are entertainment. It’s not necessary for the audience to understand every little thing, but it is important for the actors really understand the material because, if you’ll forgive my analogy, they are like priests or intermediaries bringing the mind of the playwright to the congregation.

    When I read about this stripping of the richness of our culture I often think of Cindy Rollins’ assertion that we are building an ark. (That was a great post. Do you know if it is archived anywhere?) In my awkward, terribly imperfect way, I am helping to preserve knowledge and wisdom. We are losing music and art, ability and freedom. As an example I just realized this past year or so that some of my relatives can’t read the original founding American documents because cursive is a cipher to them.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel October 9, 2015 at 9:13 am

      I had forgotten about her building an ark post! So true. I have never seen an archived copy, but I wish there was one!

    • Reply Mariel October 11, 2015 at 8:16 am

      I agree with you that it’s not necessary for an audience to understand everything, and I’ll go one further and say that it is imperative that an audience not understand everything. There has to be something to discuss after the show. If everything has been explicit, we have propaganda, not art.

      • Reply Sara McD October 11, 2015 at 9:25 am

        I hadn’t thought of that!

  • Reply Tanya Stone October 9, 2015 at 7:19 am

    Wow, that Shakespeare company has no business calling themselves a Shakespeare company. 🙁 At first, when I read the link above I thought, well, yeah, there are lots of modern English translations. But then I visited the link. Come ON! You know what helped me love Shakespeare? Seeing really good productions with really good actors that can help you understand the story with the language. They translate with their acting, not by translating the words themselves. From them I was able to understand Shakespeare. Even now yes I sometimes have trouble and I go to resources but that’s just when reading. When watching, part of Shakespeare is hearing that language, seeing what it means, and growing. Blah.
    Ok, done getting riled, thanks for sharing that! LOL I hope to be on the webinar this afternoon. It may mean giving my kids TV time but with a deployed husband that’s usually the best option anyway if I want some alone time. 😀

    • Reply Brandy Vencel October 9, 2015 at 11:42 am

      I’m glad you plan to be at the webinar, Tanya! 🙂

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