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Menu Planner for Mini Binders

menu planner array

Menu Planner for Mini Binders

menu planner pinterest picture

For those of you who have mini planners, I have created an easy to use menu planner.

menu planner array

Every Sunday, I plan our meals for the week and it takes only minutes to do with my menu planner. This menu planner, if laminated, are sturdy and reusable week after week. But before I introduce these pages, here are a few items you may need. Many of these items are optional but will make putting your menu planner together and easier and some items just make it pretty. I’ve also added links if you’d like to purchase them online.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links that I have provided for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

  1. adjustable hole punch
  2. paper cutter (optional) *scissors will do
  3. laminator or you can take them to an office supply store that will laminate them for you or you can use #4 below
  4. mini binder page protectors (optional) you can use these instead of laminating your pages
  5. Post-It page markers (optional)* you can use a dry erase marker as well (see my example below)

menu planner binder ringsFor those who do not have a mini binder, you can still use these pages by punching a singular hole on the top left corner of each page and threading a keychain ring or binder ring clip through the hole.

I created these sheets so that you can print on both sides to save paper. If you are going to use the menu plan for more than one meal, I suggest printing more of the inventory sheets. After printing all your sheets, I suggest laminating them. If you don’t have a laminator, you can get them laminated at most office supplies stores where they will also cut and hole punch your sheets.

Planner Inventory Sheets

The first few pages of the menu planner consist of the inventory sheets as well as a shopping list page for when you run out of an item. These sheets are divided into proteins; grains, rice, pastas, and potatoes; fruits and vegetables; dairy; miscellaneous; and lastly beverages and desserts. Using Post-Its colorful page markers, I use a different color for each category. This makes finding items and relocating items easier to manage.

three inventory pages for menu plannershopping list for menu planner

*See below on how to make your markers prettier using your printer

Creating your inventory for the first time will probably be the only time consuming part of using this plan. After that, it should only take you a couple of minutes to adjust your inventory each week, preferably after you’ve done your weekly shopping.

Daily Plan Sheets

Your daily plan sheets will consist of two days per side. On the last sheet, I created a rainy day/leftovers section which I use to plan a back up meal. It is my go-to page if we are suppose to barbecue and the weather doesn’t allow for it. Or if something unexpected happens during the week making little time to cook a whole meal, I can then easily switch out a meal for any leftovers I have on hand.

example daily menu planner

Now, if you don’t want to use Post-It markers, then you can also use a dry erase marker and write in both your inventory and meals as I have done below. I recommend using dry erase markers with a fine tip.

example of dry erase menu planner

When planning my meals, I personally like to take out all my sheets and lay them before me. This way, I am not constantly flipping back and forth in my binder.

Making Your Page Markers Prettier

If you are an organizing neat freak like me, then here is how you can make your menu planner prettier with a consistent font on your page markers. First, get your inventory list ready.

inventory list for menu planner

In your word processor, format your document with narrow margins and three columns. In my photo above I only used two but three columns will save you paper. Choose the font that you like and make it bold. I used Lucida Handwriting. For foods that are 13 characters or less including spaces, I went with a font size of 18. In the photos below, you can see where some of my longer food names, like mashed potatoes, went beyond the page marker. To avoid this, go with a size 16 font and it should work. Lastly, you want to double space your page to leave room for your page markers.

After you have written all your inventory items, go ahead and print and do not close out your document. After printing, take your page markers and cover each item with your preferred color as neatly as possible.

partial food list with page markers for menu plannerpage markers covering inventory list of food for menu planner

When you are done, place your list back into your printer feeder/tray so that when it reprints, it will print on the same side of your written page. Hit print again and Voila! Your page markers will be pre-printed with your food items.

printed page markers for menu planner

Now, eventually your page markers will get worn out as you continue to enjoy your menu planner so save your document on your computer as well as the printed version. This way, all you have to do is add page markers to the already printed version. So far, I have been using my planner for over a month and I have yet to change out my markers due to wear.

So if you are ready to try out my menu planner, click here and enjoy!

UPDATE: Click here for my free 2017 Mini Planner Cover and Year-at-a-Glance Sheet as well as the 2017 bookmark.

This post contains affiliate links that help pay for this blog.

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Bra Organizer, Simple and *Free

SimpleBraOrganizer bra organizer

Bra Organizer, Simple and *Free

simple bra organizer pinterest pic

*free bra organizer if you have a closet full of department store hangers

Corralling My Bras

For those of you who follow me, you know that I am a big fan of Marie Kondo and her sparking joy method for tidying one’s home. As I continued my KM journey, I kept having problems with one area, storage of my bras. I have over 20 bras ranging from sports bras to what I like to call my comfy ‘house’ bras. With all these bras, it was becoming completely unmanageable in my drawer. I tried corralling them in a shoe box, as per Marie Kondo’s advice, but they just wouldn’t stay organized.

Aha! I Found my Bra Organizer

When looking at my closet, I found was that I had a lot of Kohls hangers. I also noticed that they all had a tab sticking out of the bottom middle, directly under the hanger hook. This tab had two openings that when I inserted the hook of another hanger into the tab, it fit perfectly. Voila! My simple and free bra organizer!

using Kohls Hanger design for bra organizer

removing size tag from hanger bra organizerAs you can see above, I used a pocket knife to remove the size tag located on the hanger’s neck.

Making Them Pretty

Once finished, I realized that they were kind of boring and decided to pretty them up. For one, I glued felt to the hanger, wrapped it with ribbon, and added a bow.

Ribbon covered hanger bra organizer

For a couple of them, I painted the flat wider portion of the center with paint and then wrote on top of the paint using chalk markers. I think they came out cute.hanger for bra organizer

For others, I made tags that can be inserted into that front portion.

Home Sweet Home tag for Bra organizer

Now it was time to start connecting them.

Connecting Hangers for bra organizerAfter fitting my bras onto all the hangers, I placed them in my closet and they barely took any space. You could also hang them on the back of a door if closet space is an issue.

Bra Display of bra organizer

Anyway, if you are looking for a way to organize your bras in a way that does not take up space horizontally in your closet, try checking your closet for store hangers with these tabs. You might just have them and didn’t notice.

Pic of Bra Organizer Tags

I have also made some [content_upgrade id=6048]Bra Organizer Tags[/content_upgrade] that you can download here. To make them colorful, I used neon colored cardstock.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links that I have provided for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

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Planner Templates for Mini Binders

Free Planner Templates for Mini Binders

pinterest picture of mini planner templates

It is finally here: free planner templates for mini binders!

UPDATE: Click here for my free 2017 Mini Planner Cover and Year-at-a-Glance Sheet as well as the 2017 bookmark.

If you’ve read my last post on planners you would know that I love having a planner but was unhappy with those sold at most stores. There was never one that fully worked with my lifestyle and so I tried my hand at making my own. I also wanted something compact so I found a pretty mini binder and went to work on creating paper-efficient planner templates that would fit my mini binder. Now, I know that it’s mid-August but I will be working on 2017 very soon especially for those who want to use this as a student planner.

Before you print!

Before you print, you will need some supplies and others are just optional but can make putting this together much easier (and prettier).

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links that I have provided for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

  1. mini binder(5 1/2″ x 8 1/2″) Avery has a few of these with pretty designs
  2. hole punch
  3. paper cutter (optional) *scissors will do
  4. laminator (optional) *packaging tape will do
  5. mini binder page protectors (optional) *you may need reinforcement labels
  6. index tabs (optional)
  7. heavy paper or cardstock (optional) *you may need reinforcement labels
  8. highlighters or color coding labels (optional)

Here is What You’ll Get

Planner Covers with Year-At-A-Glance

So, I have made several cover pages with a cute ‘charm’. And don’t worry, the website name pictured here will not be there when you download your cover. They are butterfly, heart, purple sun, flowers, cat, apple, and yoga mom. There is also a student planner cover (not pictured). If anyone has suggestions for 2017 ‘charms’ just let me know in the comments below and I’ll get on them soon.

After printing out your cover, I suggest folding it and then put it into a page protector. This will help make it last longer. Or you can print it on cardstock, hole punch it, and use reinforcement labels.

planner templates fold cover yearplanner templates hole punch cover year


I’ve also created a bookmark to keep your daily pages organized. On it, are the last six months so that you do not have to flip to the front’s year-at-a-glance. When you print these there will be two sets of bookmarks: light blue/apricot and pink/apricot. After folding mine in half (along the middle gray column), I laminated it but you can also use packaging tape to make it durable.

planner templates bookmarkfold

After laminating it, hole punch the left side. Remember that you want the bookmark to stick above the pages so line up the holes to the height you would like it at. Using scissors, make a single snip from the hole to the left edge of paper.


Cut the top left corner as shown in the picture so that it doesn’t get in the way of the binder rings’ tabs.


Then insert the bookmark. Now it can be moved daily without having to open the binder rings.bookmarkinsert

Month Covers

Update: I discontinued the month covers for 2017. Click here to get you 2017 mini binder planner cover and year-at-glance.

Your free planner templates will also come with monthly covers. On the back is a space for notes. These will run from September-December 2016. I am working on 2017 and will make this available in November in case you are using this as a student planner.

When you print these, make sure you are using both sides of sheet. That is, September/Notes pages should have October/Notes on back and the same goes for November and December. Then cut each sheet in half for each month.

planner template month page protector

If you decide to put them in page protectors or laminate them, don’t forget that you can use dry erase markers to make notes.


If you decide to forgo the page protectors or lamination, then I suggest using card stock or heavy paper and/or reinforcement labels. This will help to make them last throughout the month. This is actually what I do for my binder. As you can see I hole punch it and use Post-It tabs to help me locate the month.


There a couple of ways to use your month cover. One way is to highlight special days as shown. I am in love with Sharpie’s liquid highlighters!


Or you can use Avery’s color code labels as shown here.


Daily Pages

Last but not least, the daily pages. Some have filled in headings and some are blank. Choose the one that works for you and your child. These are created so that you can save on paper. Each sheet, if you print them front and back, has four days. These sheets are highly customizable so after downloading your free templates, you can keep printing these for years to come.


Here is a sample of the upper portion of my daily page as I would use it. The upper portion is like a to-do list. You can use the left column to add in a time or as a check off box. For the goals section, I added fitness, learning, family and me time. Again, you can customize this to fit your goals. Next, is the pay, errands, and menu section.

top sample page

The lower part of the page, I assigned the green section as my “Blog” to-do section. But again, you use this section as you see fit. Label it whatever you’d like. And, of course, no day is complete without having a few chores to do. I also added a shopping list and notes section.

bottom sample page

Here’s How to Get your Free Planner Templates Now

Click here–> I want my mini planner daily pages!

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Harry Potter Golden Snitches

Making Harry Potter Golden Snitches

pinterest picture of flying golden snitch arts & crafts project

This year, the boys and I began reading Harry Potter. We have just completed The Chamber of Secrets and have started on The Prisoner of Azkaban. Last week, the local library held an event in honor of the latest play, The Cursed Child. While there, one of the activities was to locate three golden snitches within the library. We found them quickly and I thought the snitches were cleverly put together. So I decided to try to make them at home for the boys. The snitches were placed up high in the library so I had to figure out for myself what supplies I would need and how to make them. So here is how we went about making Harry Potter Golden Snitches.

Gathering Supplies

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links that I have provided for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

What you will need (not pictured): newspaper, scissors, (optional): a pipe cutter, and drill with 7/64 drill bit.

styrofoam balls for Harry Potter golden snitches
2 1/2 inch Styrofoam Balls
styrofoam glue for Harry Potter golden snitches
Styrofoam Glue
Feathers for Harry Potter golden snitches
Glitter Elastic Cord for Harry Potter
Glitter Elastic Cord
Gold Glitter for Harry Potter golden snitches
Gold Glitter
bodkin bobbin for harry potter golden snitches
Bodkin and Bobbin Threader
Dowels for Harry Potter golden snitches
3/8″ Dowels

If you plan on just hanging the snitches like ornaments then you don’t need dowels. I figured my boys would want the snitches to fly so I added the dowels. The dowels should be cut into 2ft. long pieces. We used a simple pipe cutter to do the trick. Most of my purchases were bought at Michaels and for some of the supplies I have links for the equivalent on Amazon if you do not have a Michaels near you. You could also use any kind of cord. I just chose this particular one because it was clear with small glitter specks. The bodkin and bobbin threader can be purchased on Amazon as well and are not very expensive. I am lucky to be married to a fly-tying man so we had these tools on hand.

Steps for Making Harry Potter Golden Snitches

First, you want to lay out some newspaper to cover your table or bench. This not only avoids glue spills on your surface but it works to collect unused glitter. We started out by applying and smoothing out the glue on the surface of the Styrofoam balls. When I purchased my materials, I wasn’t sure if Styrofoam needed a special glue so I bought this just in case. However, I think that ordinary white school glue will work just fine as well. Quickly add glitter by sprinkling it on. You may have to do this a few times allowing glue to dry in between times. This is to avoid bald spots on your Styrofoam ball.

pouring glue 400x400smoothing glue 400x400

adding glitter 1applying glitter 2

Waiting is the Only Hard Part

The kids and I made this right after dinner so I decided to let the glittered balls dry overnight before going on with the next steps. Choose four feathers and make sure you have a good point on the end. If not, just pull off some of the ‘hairs’ on the bottom portion.

Glitter balls 400x400feather points

The next step involves the bodkin. I advise parents to do this step. Puncture two holes directly across from each other on the ball. Dip the pointed feather end in glue and insert it the punctured hole, two feathers per hole.

puncture holes 400x400

Cut a piece of cord to your desired length. If you are going to use as an ornament, you may only need about 4″ and if you want it to hang off a dowel, I recommend about 10″. After, take your bodkin and puncture a hole close to the top of the ball and make sure it goes all the way through. Insert your bobbin threader until it comes out to the other side of the ball. Thread the cord into the threader and pull the cord through about half its length. Insert the threader again but on the opposite side and pull the other end of the cord through all the way.

top puncture hole 400 x400insert bobbin 400 x400thread bobbin 400x400

Next, using a drill, make a hole on one end of the dowel. Insert the bobbin threader into this hole and pull the ends of the cord just like you did for the ball. Tie the ends and there you have it, Harry Potter golden snitches.

drilling hole 400x400

snitch stick 400 x 400

Harry Potter Golden Snitch

Now, if you have neighbors that live below you, I suggest you take this outside. The boys were having fun chasing each other trying to catch the golden snitch.

I thought these Harry Potter golden snitches were pretty fun to make that I was inspired to maybe come up with some Harry Potter themed party favors. I might make a Golden Snitch Pinata where the kids would have at it using small brooms. Any suggestions? I would love to hear from you. Comment below and tell me what you think.

This post may contain affiliate links that help me pay for this blog.

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2016-2017 6th Grade Homeschool Schedule

picture of school schedule

Our 2016-2017 6th Grade Homeschool Schedule

6th grade homeschool schedule pin pic

Below you will find the boys’ 2016-2017 6th grade homeschool schedule. After choosing their curriculum, I was able to create the boys’ school day schedule that takes us from 9am-3pm. Keep in mind that there are days when we are unable to stick to our schedule due to appointments, errands, etc. We try our best to stick to the schedule so that we can finish our day on time.

2016-2017 6th grade homeschool schedule

We will be starting our first day of school this year on August 8. It does seem a little early but I plan on making several trips this year. The boys are bummed out about the early date but they are looking forward to those breaks throughout the year.

Coming soon…Planner inserts!

This year I created a student planner for each of the boys so that they can keep track of their schedule, work, and grades. Just another little step towards independence. I included a laminated daily schedule and a laminated school day schedule where they can insert tasks with a dry erase marker. Jack really likes this since he tries to stay on task. Josh, not so much.

I am currently preparing to offer planner inserts for students and moms (and dads). These inserts were made for mini binders but I realize that some people prefer regular binders and so I will make both available soon. Here is a sneak peek of what I am creating:

  • goal worksheets
  • menu planner
  • fitness tracker
  • blogger’s planner
  • homeschool planner
  • household chores checklists
  • weekly couponing checklist
  • finance tracker
  • student reading logs
  • grade tracker
  • attendance sheet

It seems like a lot of inserts but some are laminated so that you can use them over and over like the daily/weekly chores list insert. One simply crosses out each chore using a dry erase marker once its been completed. Then simply erase the marks and reuse it for the following day/week.

Stay tune for future posts where I will make these available for you for free. ????

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links that I have provided for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

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Our 6th Grade Curriculum

6th Grade Homeschool Curriculum 2016-2017

Our 6th Grade Curriculum for 2016-2017

6th grade homeschool curriculum pin pic

It amazes me how time flies. The boys are now entering 6th grade: middle school. This homeschool year will be a little different in that the boys are expected to take on a little more independent work. They will have less ‘elementary activities’ such as lap books, and have more writing assignments in the form of reports. I know the boys won’t mind the first two things but the last is going to be difficult to sell since they hate writing, but I have a plan for that. Below is our 6th grade curriculum along with how I am scheduling these subjects so far.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links that I have provided for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

6th Grade Curriculum for Math

math 6th grade curriculumWe have been using Math-U-See for the past three years and it works very well for our family. The boys really enjoy watching the videos and seeing if they can solve a given problem before the answer is given. This year they will be taking on the Zeta level which deals mostly with decimals and percents, but also metric conversions, mean, median, mode, probability, area of a circle, angles, and more. Math is a daily, Monday to Friday subject.

6th Grade Curriculum for Language Arts/Writing

English 6th Grade CurriculumFor our Language Arts and Writing assignments, the boys will be using BJU‘s English 6 Curriculum. We used BJU for third and fourth grade, but last year I decided to try a more Charlotte Mason approach to this subject. Unfortunately, we ended up going back to BJU’s curriculum because Joshua was having trouble with dictation. We did well with BJU in the past so we are sticking with them again. This curriculum is also a daily, Monday to Friday subject.

6th Grade Curriculum for Literature

6th grade curricula literatureOur approach to this curriculum will be a little different this year. Each month we are going to tackle a different form of literature.

For August, we will complete our last ‘Classical Start’ lap book activity for Gulliver’s Travels, by We really enjoyed their literature curriculum.

In September, we will concentrate on the poetry of Robert Louis Stevenson. The twins will read and discuss selected poems from his book, A Child’s Garden of Verses.

For October and part of November, and in April, we will delve into Shakespeare covering the plays “Much Ado About Nothing” and “As You Like It“. In the past, we did one Shakespearean play per year but I am doubling that now mostly because the boys really love it. Every day we read a scene then watch a movie clip for that scene.

In March, we will cover selected short stories by O. Henry. In between these assignments (part of November-March), the boys will be given independent reading time. I selected the Percy Jackson Series by Riordan and Classic Start’s The Man in the Iron Mask. This is also a Monday-Friday assignment.

6th Grade Curriculum for Technology

This year I am introducing the boys to computer science. I scoured the internet trying to find an appropriate curriculum and found Homeschool Programming Inc. They offer both textbooks and online courses. They also provide a curriculum syllabus for each course helping to plan out my whole year. We will be doing the online course called Digital Savvy. Once the course is paid for its access is granted for only one year as their servers cannot hold student records for an indefinite period. After reviewing the syllabus, I decided to make this a daily Monday-Friday course because it offers so many different modules.

I am also considering adding another technology component as an elective. Right now, I am looking into EEME‘s monthly subscription kits that get kids to create various electrical components. The subscription also includes lesson plans. I came upon this after being disappointed with Lego’s kits which are very pricey. I am going to wait a few weeks after we settle into homeschool mode and then work this into our curriculum.

6th Grade Curriculum for Typing

This is a also a new subject for the boys. Seeing that they will be taking a computer course I figured they should start learning to type as well. I chose the Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing Family Edition download from Amazon. This will also be a Monday-Friday course but I will omit it only on days when school runs a little late for the boys.

6th Grade Curriculum for World History/Geography

History 6th grade curriculumThis year we will stick to our newly loved curriculum, Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer, Volume 3, Early Modern Times.The boys will have to write short summaries of famous historical people and events using inventory. We will also use’s timeline record for placing the figures and events that we touch upon. For a review of these curriculums, see my post: This is a Monday, Wednesday, and Friday subject.

6th Grade Curriculum for Science

This year I am taking a different approach to our science curriculum. I tried to find a curriculum online instead of trying to create my own using Virginia’s Standards of Learning. Because I love the Charlotte Mason approach to this subject, I went to Sonya Shafer’s site: and looked up science books in her very handy guide, the CM book finder. I came upon Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding by Bernard J. Nebel, Phd. After reading the introduction to this book, I was hooked. In fact, I went ahead and purchased the next book as well, Elementary Science Education.

The first book is geared towards K-2 grades but as the author suggests, no matter how thorough a science course is, there may be gaps that are missed. He recommends using his books (there are 3) together as he has created a way to integrate science topics for better understanding. He provides a flow chart for how to teach each topic as well as the pre-requisite topics students need before moving on to the next topic. Once we complete a couple of months of this curriculum, I will provide a review of our progress.

6th Grade Curriculum for U.S. Geography

Scholastic 6th grade curriculumJust as last year, we will use United States state study forms to research various state facts such as the state motto or state symbols. We also accompany this with Confession of Homeschooler’s Road Trip USA curriculum and Highlight’s Which Way, USA subscription. We only have 16 states left and will finish this curriculum in March. This is a Monday, Wednesday, Friday course but I plan on suspending the course for the month of October so that I can add in our U.S. Government before Election Day in November.

6th Grade Curriculum for U.S. Government

Government 6th grade curriculumFor the month of October, I added this curriculum with a focus on presidential elections. This will primarily consist of reading Presidential Elections and Other Cool Facts by Syl Sobel and watching presidential debates as they air on T.V. The boys will write down definitions for certain vocabulary and I may add in activities where the boys can debate each other and create a mock election and ballot box. This will be a Monday, Wednesday, Friday component to replace U.S. Geography for a few weeks.

6th Grade Curriculum for Spanish

I am currently working on creating this curriculum as opposed to buying one. For the past three years, the boys’ Spanish consisted mainly of naming and labeling objects. I believe they are ready for small phrases and sentences. I’ll keep you posted if I am able to create this curriculum or give in and buy a curriculum. This will be a Tuesday/Thursday subject.

6th Grade Curriculum for Health

Health 6th grade curriculumThis year I decided to add this component as the boys are embarking on puberty very soon. I chose Kelli Dunham’s The Boy’s Body Book because it has a strong focus on puberty, hygiene, and safety. I plan on adding this in when our U.S. Geography component is finished in March.

Well, this is it, guys. It seems like a lot but I do spread this out so that the kids can get done before 3pm. I usually allot about 30-45 minutes per subject. If I make any changes to their curriculum I’ll be sure to update them here.

Please note that I added affiliate links to some of the products. I have, in no way, been given any free curriculum and even if I had, my reviews would still be honest. If a product disappoints me then I will say so. Throughout the school year, I will also try to review products so you can see if it is a fit for your family.

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Customizing Planners

planner cover page customizing planners

Customizing Planners

UPDATE: Click here for my free 2017 Mini Planner Cover and Year-at-a-Glance Sheet as well as the 2017 bookmark.

pin pic of customizing planners

Trying My Hand at Customizing Planners

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links that I have provided for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

I know, I know. Customizing planners is now the latest rage. But I swear I had no idea it was the latest fad until I stepped into a Michael’s and saw shelves of stuff dedicated to putting one together. For years now I have looked for planners and organizers that suited my freakishly organized ways…there are none! So I end up buying those planners that just have a lot of lines where I just insert those ‘things to do’ items. It turned out to be equivalent to a mini notebook. My current planner has a 4 months-at-a-glance set up (see arrows in pic below), which I like, and lines for specific times of the day. Pretty boring and most of all ugly.

black planner cover customizing plannersinside classic planner customizing plannersWith my current planner ending in June, I decided to start shopping for a more customizable and pretty planner. The search was on and it was going nowhere. One day while needing to go to Michael’s for paint supplies, I came across their display for creating one’s own planner. I was intrigued with all the beautiful shiny parts that one can buy to create a planner but I was also turned off by what I saw as clutter. Their binders were beautiful but everything else was just clutter with hundreds of stickers and doodads. While this may seem cute for some people I don’t think I could get anything done having to wade through all that stuff. So the next logical step for me to do is to create my own planner and begin customizing it to fit my lifestyle. It wouldn’t hurt to make it look pretty too.

To get started on this new endeavor, I quickly wrote down those things that I wanted in a planner. One thing I needed was a way to remind me of all the things that need my attention on a daily basis. This could be accomplished by listing certain topics on a daily page. Some planners had a ‘bills to pay’ section or ‘errands’ but I needed more than that. I wanted more sections for other parts of my life like fitness goals. I also wanted sections to cover my homeschooling and blogging duties. Lastly, I wanted to have my months (current and next month, if possible), visible on my pages.

Once I felt that I had listed everything I wanted, I got started on creating the most awesome planner. Not! OMG! I didn’t realize how difficult this was to put together. The easiest part was purchasing my beautiful shell of a binder. I got mine at Walmart for under $4. It is made by Avery.

Pretty Mini Binder customizing plannersHaving used a letter size binder a few years ago which I didn’t like for various reasons, I opted for a mini one this time.

Mistake #1 in customizing planners: learn how to use your margins for optimum space and don’t forget that you will need to hole punch these.

Mistake #2 in customizing planners: so that you are not wasting paper, learn how to create printables keeping in mind what the other side of the sheet will look like. You don’t want to hole punch through tomorrow’s schedule.

Mistake #3 in customizing planners: DO NOT ADD MONTHS TO YOUR DAILY SHEETS. This was the worst part. Because I wanted my 4-months-at-a-glance aspect, I had to make sure everything was in order, and if I made a small mistake, then I would have to start over and waste more paper. Not only that but I had to create separate files for each month and make more modifications for the beginning of each month and end. It was just crazy.

Mistake #4 in customizing planners: underestimating how much paper it would take for creating a two-page daily sheet. I was only able to fit two months at a time in my binder.

Mistake #5 in customizing planners: taking my creation to Office Max to be printed out. For about 100 color pages back and front, they wanted to charge me $120, this was without cutting my pages in half and having them hole punched. Never mind, OM, I’ll do it myself.

Ok, so after learning from those mistakes above, I learned how to create my planner without having to rip out all my hair. I learned what margins worked best, used my alignment buttons correctly to avoid hole punch errors, and I made myself a pretty page divider that holds my months at-a-glance. After working with my daily two-page layout, I realized that I did not need that much space and was able to condense my daily aspects into one page. I, also, used one page for Saturday and Sunday planning.

Below is the evolution of my planner (sorry for the blurriness, I’m in the midst of learning how to post better photos). I am now working on adding more parts such as a monthly goals worksheet, fitness goals sheet, finance organizer, blogging planner, and a menu planner. I know, I know, where am I going to fit it? Again, it’s all about optimizing paper space, getting rid of what you don’t need, and coming up with creative ways to fit in the stuff you need. If I can successfully get this finished, I am hoping this could be the start of a cute side business. I wonder if I can make a go of customizing planners for different individuals but first, I’ll test them on the family, starting with hubby’s beer brewing planner and the kid’s student’s planners….binder cover page customizing plannersyear at a glance customizing plannersmonth at a glance customizing plannersMonth covers customizing planners


two page daily pages customizing planners
1st attempt on daily pages: two-page layout
new daily pages customizing planners
last and final attempt on creating a one- page daily sheet for binder
planner divider customizing planners
bookmark like divider with months on front and back


planner divider in use customizing planners
bookmark in binder replacing 4 months at a glance aspect that i love

UPDATE: Click here for my free 2017 Mini Planner Cover and Year-at-a-Glance Sheet as well as the 2017 bookmark.

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Homecoming, At Last!

homecoming hugs

Homecoming, At Last!

pin pic of homecoming

A Dreary but Sweet Homecoming

homecoming ship at pierIt was a long seven months, but the day finally came. Homecoming! The day was the same as when my husband left in October, rainy. But this didn’t damper our spirits. The boys were extra excited because Grandpa, my father-in-law, would be arriving along with my husband. He was a part of the “Tiger Cruise” which allowed sailors to have a couple of family members join them on the ship for the last two days of their homecoming journey. My husband had arranged for his dad to meet the ship in North Carolina as they sail up the coast into Virginia.

The homecoming was set for 10 am. However, the boat was just arriving into view at that time. By the time they dock and secure the ship to the pier, I was sure that we would not see the men until noon. Since it was raining, the boys and I elected to stay in our car and hope it stops raining long enough to meet my husband and his dad at the pier.

homecoming hellosAs sailors were being let off the boat, I awaited my husband’s call saying when it was his turn to leave. Close to noon, he called. He was just coming down the stairs unto the pier. At that very moment, the rain had stopped. I was happy. We all were. I got the boys out of the car and we headed to meet the guys. After what seemed like an hour but was probably more like 15 minutes, I could see my husband and father-in-law in the crowd of uniformed men and women who were crying, taking photos, and hugging their loved ones.

After finishing our hugs and kisses, we quickly got away from the crowd to take a couple of photos and head back to the car. All my husband wanted to do was go home and all we wanted was to have him home. As he walked into the front door, I was surprised that Sammie, our dog, had remembered him. This was her first time going through a deployment and I was sure that she would probably bark a few times until she was sure my husband was ‘safe’. Instead, she was jumping for joy trying to get in her wet nose kisses too. What a homecoming for her too.

homecoming family

To read more about the USS Kearsarge’s homecoming and view more pictures, click here.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links that I have provided for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.


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5th Grade Science Homeschool Curriculum

5th grade Science Feature

5th Grade Science Homeschool Curriculum


How We Implemented 5th Grade Science in Our Home

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links that I have provided for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

For 5th grade science in our homeschool, I do not rely on any particular outside textbook/workbook curriculum. In trying to follow the Charlotte Mason approach, I rely on finding information on our science topics by borrowing books from our local public library. We used this same approach last year and it worked very well for us. The following is how I put together the boys’ 5th grade science curriculum but the approach can be applied to any grade.

In order to find our topics, I, first, go to the Virginia Department of Education’s website and search for their standards of learning (SOLs) for the 5th grade science. I print out both the standards and its accompanying curriculum framework. These documents help break down each topic into smaller manageable units as well as provide the essential knowledge, skills, and processes that students in this grade level should possess and/or demonstrate. For example, SOL 5.2 deals with the topic of sound:

“VA SOL 5.2: The student will investigate and understand how sound is created and transmitted, and how it is used.

Key concepts include

a) compression waves;

b) vibration, compression, wavelength, frequency, amplitude;

c) the ability of different media (solids, liquids, and gases) to transmit sound; and

d) uses and applications of sound waves”

As you can see the standards list the concepts involved with sound such as compression waves, vibration, wavelengths, etc. I then use these concepts as my keyword entries when looking up books in the library’s online catalog.

After gathering as many books as I can find on the topic, I use the curriculum framework to choose the best and most appropriate books to use. When searching for these books, I stick to those found in the juvenile or youth section. I also try to include books that have experiments. After choosing the books I want to use, I also like to search online for supplementary activities and worksheets. You can find lots of ideas on sites like Pinterest and For example, I scored some free printables on plant cells where the boys color coded and labeled parts of the cell.

Now, remember that I use the 5th grade science standards as a guide but I don’t stick to them to the letter. For example, when we covered the phases of matter, the standards addressed solids, liquids, and gas. As the boys and I read our library books, there was one more phase that was not included in the framework, and that was plasma. The boys were fascinated by this 4th phase and I saw no reason why we couldn’t add this to our learning.

Each of the boys has their own science journal. 5th Grade Science Journals

These are divided by the standards’ main topic. For example, the boys learned about sound and light, SOLs 5.2 and 5.3. Both these standards fall under the broader topic of Force, Motion, and Energy. In their journals, the boys keep vocabulary, worksheets, drawings, scientific histories/biographies as well as any data taken during experiments and any results. The examples below include: (from upper left going clockwise) a diagram showing the changing phases of matter with labels, planets sorted by whether they are terrestrial or gas giants, a Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting frogs and butterflies, a unit’s vocabulary with definitions, a small biography of Aristotle and his belief on the orbits of planets and data from a plant experiment we did last year. Note that some of these sheets below come from my membership with

Another thing I sometimes do as part of their science studies, is to find kits online. Amazon has plenty of these if you have the money in your budget but it really isn’t necessary. For example, I recently purchased a rock science kit as a way to incorporate the classification of different rocks, SOL 5.7. It was $10 and since I have Amazon Prime it shipped free. I am sure we could have went into our backyard and found some rocks to do this (and we still can) but I was afraid we may only find two or three different types of rocks whereas the kit has 15 different types.

Lastly, I also try to incorporate relevant biographies as part of the topic we are covering. For example, we read about Alexander Graham Bell when we covered our sound unit as well as Marie Curie when we finished our unit on atoms and elements. I used lap book activities that I purchased from one of my favorite homeschool sites,

Now, I know that some people may question my use of the state’s standards but here is my reasoning: if something should happen to me and my children are put back into the public school system, I can feel confident that they will be at the same level as their peers if not more so. Again, I use the standards and framework as a guide but I supplement their learning with lots of hands-on activities and scientific histories/biographies.

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5th Grade English Homeschool Review

5th grade english Writing

Our 5th Grade English Homeschool Curriculum Review

5th grade english homeschool curriculum pin pic

Welcome to our 5th Grade English Homeschool Curriculum Review. This review covers language arts, spelling, cursive, and writing.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links that I have provided for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

In an attempt to get away from ‘textbooks’, I had decided to use the Charlotte Mason (CM) approach to our 5th Grade English/Language Arts/Writing/Spelling/Cursive requirements this year. Last year, we used BJU Press textbooks for English/Language Arts/Writing and 5th grade english spelling wisdom coverSpelling. So what is the CM approach? To understand this method in detail, I suggest visiting Sonya Shafer does a beautiful job of explaining this approach in great detail and provides instructions on how to implement it. I was intrigued and fascinated by CM. I love the idea of using ‘living books’ to educate our children rather than using textbooks. I purchased Spelling Wisdom Book 1 and Using Language Well Book 1 from Spelling Wisdom contains 140 excerpts which the students are expected to write as I dictate. By doing this, the students are not only exposed to these wonderful excerpts, but also proper grammar usage, spelling, and language mechanics, all while practicing their cursive.

The boys were excited about this new curriculum for their 5th Grade English component because it eliminated having to do three separate curricula for each of the above requirements. Jack did very well with this curriculum. His copywork was near perfect and his handwriting was improving. Unfortunately, Josh was having a hard time with this method. It didn’t matter how many times he practiced his work, he couldn’t 5th grade english Using Language Well Book Coverproduce a good sample of the excerpts. As the excerpts increased in size, he was becoming more and more frustrated and so was I. I should note that Josh has always had trouble with understanding vowels and their sounds. To him, they all sound alike.

We were three months into this curriculum when I decided that the boys needed to practice writing their own work. I wanted the boys to practice writing a book report or a friendly letter, the types of writing that were not part of this new curriculum. So I added this component to their schedule. I started by giving them a theme to work around and every Friday this assignment was due. To start them off, I had them write a paragraph around a Minecraft theme. They enjoyed doing this.

So now we had two separate components for our 5th grade English to work on every week and again, Josh was not doing well on the copywork component. I decided to end these components and revert back to the previous curriculum that we had used before, BJU Press English 5. What I like about BJU is that it covers the language arts/mechanic component and every other chapter is a writing assignment. I would use 5th grade english BJU Press English 5these writing assignments to cover the cursive and spelling components that I eliminated from their schedule.

Please don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed using the Simply Charlotte curriculum but it just was not for our family. As I said, Jack did well using this curriculum; however, I felt he was not being challenged enough. I wanted him to formulate his own writing. Since switching to BJU Press, both boys have written a compare/contrast essay, a business letter, a couple of poems, and a personal narrative.

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Growing Crystals for Science Homeschool

Growing Crystals Crystal Growing Kit

Growing Crystals for Science Homeschool

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links that I have provided for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

pin pic of crystals

I bought this Crystal Growing Kit by Thames and Kosmos for Josh this past Christmas. After reading through the manual, I decided that both boys could benefit from doing the activities so I added to our science curriculum. Here is a review of this product for growing crystals, a review of what we learned, and pictures of all the different crystals we created.

Growing Crystals Kit

I purchased this kit from Amazon and found it reasonably priced. Before you attempt to start growing crystals, I suggest reading the manual not only for the safety precautions but you may also have to make a few purchases. For example, you will need to have distilled water and several small jars. I thought I could get away with using old spaghetti sauce jars which ended up being too big for many of the experiments. They did suggest smaller jars (like those used for jam) so I would recommend that if you do not have small jars, head to your local Walmart or Target and pick up small canning jars.

Growing Crystals Manual

Also, be aware that growing crystals will take a few days. This means that you will have several jars of ‘chemicals’ around. For safety, make sure that they are stored in a safe and out of reach place if you have very young children.

There are 15 different experiments that teach basic concepts of solubility and saturation. We also performed experiments that involved the evaporation and cooling methods so that we can see the effects of temperature of particular solutions.

Growing Crystals cooking

One of the first experiments, we were able to create a few small crystals which we stored in a clear treasure chest that came with the kit.

Growing Crystals Hand

Growing Crystals chest

In another experiment, we created crystal ‘seeds’ that we could use to grow larger crystals.

Growing Crystals Jar

Below are the larger crystals.

Growing Crystals Jar 2

Growing Crystals Big Crystal

If you look carefully, you can see the hexagonal shapes of these crystals.

Growing Crystals Crystal Collection 2Later, our experiments would include some artful designs. Below are the plaster moldings we created before encrusting them with crystals. (And yes, the molds and plaster come with the kit.)

Growing Crystals Crystal Mold Shapes

Growing Crystals Crystal DolphinOne of the last experiments we did was making an crystal-filled geode. At first, the geode came out in a lavender color, not the dark purple we were expecting. Also, the picture below doesn’t do a good job of showing the crystals but believe me, they are in there.

Growing Crystals Inside Crystal GeodeAfter waiting a day, the geode’s outer shell did finally change into a deep ‘denim’ color which was so cool. You can really see the difference between that lavender and denim color below.

Growing Crystals Crystal Geode Front View

Growing Crystals Crystal Geode Side View

I have to say that this product was fun to do even if it took weeks to perform all the experiments. By the way, we still have so much of the inventory left that we can do all the experiments again, at least 3 more times, making it worth the money spent on it.

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Organizing Your Finances Printables

organizing your finances Budget Binder Cover

Organizing Your Finances

pin pic of finance pages

I am hoping that for the new year you have set some financial goals for yourself such as paying off that student loan, saving up for a much needed vacation, or opening up that retirement account you keep putting off. Whatever your goals, you should first have a firm handle of your finances. That is, you need to start organizing your finances. Now there are tons of software out there that can help you set up a budget and electronically fill in your expenses from your bank account and these are great. However, if you are terrible with saving money and just can’t seem to climb out of debt, might I suggest plain old paper and pencil to track your finances. I believe that by documenting all your finances by hand, you can get a better understanding of where your money is going. By relying on software to do this, you can easily deny yourself the practice of recognizing certain spending patterns that you follow.

Personally, I have been documenting all my finances by hand for years now. Sure, I could probably do this using software since I have a strong hold of my finances but why mess with a good and reliable system. So, today, I am giving away for free printables to help you start your own budget/finance binder and help get you organizing your finances.

These free printables include:

  • an account sheet (these can be printed multiple times for each and every account you have open such as a checking account, savings account, credit cards, and loans)
  • bill recorder (I use these to track all upcoming bills to be paid so that I don’t forget to pay them)
  • budget page

With these binder pages, I have also included examples and directions on how to use them especially if this is your first time tackling your finances. Please note that I created two different pages for the account sheets so that if you wish to print them front and back, you have room for hole punches.

Below is our family’s financial binder. In it, I used index dividers to separate my accounts into the following categories: budget, bills, checking, credit cards, loans, investments, savings, and our net worth. But by all means, name your index dividers according to the types of finances you currently have at the moment.

I really hope you find these printables helpful.

To download your free financial binder pages, click here. 

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links that I have provided for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.