Homeschool Planet: An Online Planner Review

I stood staring at the library shelf, desperately trying to remember the name of that book!  The one that I needed for our co-op meeting the next day.  If only I had remembered to bring the book list, then I’d be on top of things. 

I found myself saying that little phrase often… “If only I had remembered {fill-in-the-blank}.  The truth is life has challenged my juggling skills over the past year.  Homeschool activities, library visits, appointments of every kind, household tasks, remembering to buy birthday candles and ink for the printer!  When I think of all the little details that I manage as a homeschool mom, I’m brought to my knees.  It’s easy to let the magnitude of orchestrating the schedule overwhelm me.  This year, with six homeschooling children, I knew I needed to “up my organization game.” 

Homeschool Planet has allowed me to do just that!  After a few hours of tinkering with the program, I found many, many reasons to love it!!  Here are three!

{I was given free access to Homeschool Planet and the Brave Writer Lifestyle lesson plans, and I was also compensated for my time to review them.  All opinions, however, are my own.}

Online Lesson Plans!

Online Homeschool Planner Brave Writer.png

The Brave Writer add-ons are not your average lesson plans!  Opening them up, felt like I had stepped into the most encouraging homeschool conference.  Professional development for me, the homeschool mom: links to pdfs on topics like freewriting and copywork, podcast links that will inspire you to connect with your kids, and a treasure trove of wisdom right from Julie Bogart herself.  A daily dose of support!  Who doesn’t need that?!

Even as a seasoned Brave Writer Lifestyle homeschooler, I found fresh ideas to enliven our days.  With the Homeschool Planet format, I was able to easily rearrange the lesson plans to fit our family’s needs.  All I had to do was click and drag the activities from one day to another!

Lists: Books, Shopping, To-Do

Online Homeschool Planner Book List

My book lists go with me everywhere now!  So no more blank stares in front of the library shelves!  I have shopping lists for Poetry Tea Time, Book Clubs, science experiments and co-op.  And all those little details of to-do’s are right at my fingertips when I find five unexpectedly free minutes.  I used to spend those five minutes trying to remember what I needed to get done, but now I just glance at my list and get to work.  (Or I may just drink my tea while it’s warm and pretend I don’t have a to-do list :-). )

Portable & Print!

Online Homeschool Planner Print

I’ve always been a paper planner kind of gal so I was skeptical about moving my planning online.  Well, Homeschool Planet must have been reading the minds of all of us paper planner lovers because there are two print options: color or economy print!  I’ve enjoyed having my master plan for the month printed out and tucked into my homeschool binder, and printing the weekly schedule has helped my kids to anticipate upcoming activities.  Whichever method or combination of planning methods work for you, Homeschool Planet is adaptable. 

Homeschool Planet has quickly become a favorite planning tool.  I love when I find a resource that I can personalize to fit my needs.  Each home and family is different but we all need some organization to brings our good intentions into reality. 

Try Homeschool Planet's FREE 30-Day Trial!  It's plenty of time to fall in love with it!


Homeschool Planning: 4 Tools for Creating a Flexible, Focused Homeschool

Crafting a homeschool year can be a daunting task.  The curriculum catalogs trickle in like a monsoon, enticing us with the new and improved that we hope will solve all of our homeschool struggles.  If we just buy a different phonics program, our struggling reader will magically read.  If we plunk down a bucket of cash, the new math program will stop the math tears.  This may be true.  But often it's not. 

That's why creating a homeschool vision and looking deeply at the children in front of you is key to a realistic and productive plan.  Without taking the time to consider the learning styles of your children, the realities of your homeschool, and the priorities you hold, you are likely to find yourself in a cycle of frustration and impulse buying which will only lead to more frustration and wasted time and money. 

It's taken me ten years to recognize this cycle and find the tools I need to step out of it.  Along the way, though, I've learned a lot about what our family's needs and how to meet them.  The most important factor is flexibility.  With six kids ranging from pre-school to 9th grade, I definitely need a plan, to lay my intentions out on paper so that the details don't get swept away with the tide.  But these plans need to be flexible enough to allow for the ever-changing individuals in our home.  Here I am sharing 4 of my favorite homeschool planning tools that have helped shape our flexible plan for the upcoming year. Well, let's make that 5.  Homeschool planning is not complete without a steady supply of chocolate ;-)

{This post contains some affiliate links.}

The Homeschool Alliance

Homeschool Alliance

The Homeschool Alliance is hosted by Julie Bogart of Brave Writer.  Inside you'll find a wealth of wisdom and support that is like no other.  It's a safe place to ask your questions, share your fears and celebrate the joys of homeschooling.  I recently meandered through the archives and uncovered the gem of Planning Month (July 2016).  With a new stage of homeschooling ahead of me, it was exactly what I needed.  The webinar replay, readings, and community conversations were alive and relevant to me now as I plan for a high-schooler, a struggling reader, and everything in between.  Working through Planning Month left me with a sense of calm as I moved forward to planning the nitty-gritty of our homeschool.  It helped me look at the big picture and the individuals in front of me.  The best news is that The Homeschool Alliance will be hosting another planning month starting in just over a week!  Even if you join just for July, it will be well worth your time!

Plan Your Year Planning Kit

Plan Your Year Homeschool

Pam Barnhill's Plan Your Year Planning Kit was the perfect complement to the work I did in The Homeschool Alliance.  It helped me continue to focus in on our homeschool vision and goals.  From there, I was able to identify what books and resources would best fit my unique family of learners.  I love the practicality of Pam's kit.  It includes:

  • 79-Page Planning Guide
  • Over 40 editable planning forms
  • Audio workshops with Sarah Mackenzie and Mystie Winckler
  • Free lifetime updates and bonuses
  • Free Facebook community

And as a free bonus, Pam is including a student planner and audio workshop! (This offer ends July 2, 2017)  I love everything about this kit!  I can type right into the forms and print them out or print them and then write.  The Facebook community keeps me motivated and encouraged when I'm in the trenches of planning.  The planning guide walks me through the steps I need to craft a productive, flexible year.  And best of all, whenever Pam adds or updates new pages, they're available to all those who have purchased the kit. Forever! 

You can download a free sample right now.  I think you'll love what you find!

Your Morning Basket Guide

Morning Basket.png

We love our daily basket over here.  That basket of goodies that we dig into each day, usually in the morning but not always.  It's full of exciting read-alouds, beautiful art prints, poetry, music and whatever else we are obsessed with at the time.  The problem I run into, though, is not remembering what I wanted to do over the course of the week, month or year.  This left me frustrated, feeling as though I hadn't made the most of this special morning time.  Then I found Pam's Your Morning Basket Guide.  In it, I found all the pages I need to personalize our daily basket and enrich our homeschool days. 

If you're new to the idea of the morning basket or just need some inspiration to breath some life back into yours, you'll love all the other resources that comes with Your Morning Basket Guide.  From the video tour of Pam's morning basket notebook, to the Facebook community, to the Morning time snapshots and e-book guide, there is a wealth of inspiration and practical tips for starting or enlivening your morning time.  Even after years of morning time, I found myself learning something new and nodding in agreement with Pam's advice.  I think you'll love it.

The ProClick Binding Machine

ProClick Binding Homemade Planner

With all these amazing forms printed and ready to go, I was looking for a way to keep them organized without having to carry a clunky binder.  But I still needed a system that was flexible and able to add and delete pages as necessary.  Thankfully a friend recommended the ProClick Binding Machine.  With it and the ProClick spines, I'm able to use Pam's planning and morning basket pages to create my own planner.  This video gives a quick demo of how the ProClick Binding Machine works. 

I love it!  I print what I need, as I need it, and pop the pages into the spine.  I'm notorious for tucking papers into random "safe" places assuming I will remember where I put them.  Nope. Never happens. Instead, I wander around rummaging through stacks looking for that one paper.  So it may not be too bold to say that the ProClick is going to save my life.  

So there you have my four favorite planning tools (so far) this year!  What are you loving right now?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments!  Happy Planning!

An Accidental, Mathematical, Poetical Teatime

“That’s my parawewogram!”

“No, it’s mine!  See?!”

“Oh, yeah. {giggle} Mine is hidin’ under the poetwy book.”  {giggle, giggle}

They’re arguing over a parallelogram?  They’re arguing over a parallelogram!  Woohoo!  This is big news!  Not the arguing.  That happens everyday. But the fact that these little ones even care about parallelograms at all. That’s the best news of the week. 

But I must confess, I didn’t teach them this.  It wasn’t some heroic effort on my part that blessed them with the knowledge of the parallelogram.  If anything, it was because I was lazy! 

You see, I’ve got six kids ranging in age from three to thirteen, and sometimes homeschooling all of them just overwhelms me.  Keeping up with six unique learners takes everything that this introverted mama has.  Sometimes I just run out of juice.  Do you know what I mean?  Have you ever felt that way?  That’s what happened on the parallelogram morning.

Every lesson doesn’t need to be laid out in the plan book.  The best learning happens, often by accident, when good things come together to create a spark of connection.  That’s what I learned on the parallelogram morning.

I woke up late, scrambling into the morning.  The list of learning activities I had planned for the day would require much more time than my late start would allow.  As I poured a strong cup of tea and dolloped it with honey, my phone dinged.  Another reminder from the library.  “That whole stack of books you took out.  They’re due. Yesterday.” 

In the first five minutes of my morning, I was greeted with all the balls I’d dropped.  Late library books, late nights and late mornings.  Late.  Late.  Late. 

I cheered myself with a few bites of chocolate while I piled the books onto the kitchen table - mostly math themed poetry books I’d been using to plan a co-op class.  I’ve homeschooled long enough to know that this day was headed one of two ways: into the nothing-goes-right kind of day or into the let’s-make-the-most-of-it-and-see-what-happens kind of day.  The choice was mine. 

Seeing those math books stacked up, knowing we needed to make the most of our morning, I grasped forinspiration.  Thankfully, I found a thread of it and held on tight.  We’ll do math and poetry together, all together. 

That’s when a little bit of magic happened.  At least that’s how I prefer to see the chaos that followed. 

Tangrams were dug out of the back of the closet.  Muffins baked in the oven, dangerously close to burning, while pages spewed from my printer onto the floor.  The geometric coloring sheets I’d bookmarked the week before were saving my day. 

In the midst of all this distraction I heard, “That’s my parawewogram!”

It stopped me in my tracks.  I braced for the argument that I expected to come.  And then melted as the exchanged played out.  My kids were learning from each other simply because I was lazy and hit the snooze button.  Simply because I had chosen a let’s-make-the-most-of-it-and-see-what-happens kind of day.  Simply because there was a spark of connection between my children and the engaging materials which were sitting way-too-close to a puddle of almond milk on the kitchen table.  Learning was happening despite my scatteredness. 


One by one children found their places around the table, lured by the smell of cinnamon.  One by one, they picked up colored pencils and tangrams, rulers and poetry books.  Mathematical riddles, disguised as poems, were passed around along with warm muffins.  Belly laughs and quiet moments of concentration took turns dancing through our kitchen.  Our morning, though late to start, was long in the best sort of way. 

Math and poetry had accidentally collided.  And for that, I have to thank the snooze button. 

Want your own mathematical, poetical teatime? 
I’ve got the tools for you listed below.


The Stack of Overdue Library Books ( plus a few favorites)

The Best of Times, Gregory Tang
Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie, J. Patrick Lewis
Marvelous Math, Lee Bennett Hopkins
Math Curse, Jon Scieszka
Math Talk: Mathematical Ideas in Poems for Two Voices, Theoni Pappas
The Grapes of Math, Greg Tang
Math for All Seasons, Greg Tang

Our Favorite Math "Toys"

I love to "accidentally" leave math manipulatives and games out on the kitchen table.  My early risers find them there and dig into some before dawn learning.  As the rest of the crew wakes and meanders into the living room, games are underway.    They made a great addition to our poetry teatime too!

The Geometric Coloring Designs

These coloring pages are open-ended and created a lot of math-focused discussion at the level of each child.  We talked about patterns, angles, similarities and differences in shapes and lots more.


What are your favorite ways to sneak some math into your day?  Share in the comments!

A Magical Poetry Tea Time

This post contains affiliate links.  by making purchases through these links, nurtured roots receives compensation at no cost to you.  thanks!

This post contains affiliate links.  by making purchases through these links, nurtured roots receives compensation at no cost to you.  thanks!

We sipped our “Twist-the-Time Tea.”  Eyes wide, we waited.  And then………….our laughter burst the silence.  Nothing had happened.  We didn’t travel back in time.  But it was fun to think about where we’d go if we could. 

This conversation began our Just Add Magic poetry teatime.  This amazon prime original show has captured my kids’ imaginations.  It’s rare that all six kids enjoy the same television show, but this one has won them all over. Mystery lingers from episode to episode and magic recipes are made to try to solve it. 

After binge-watching season two, the kids’ conversations were peppered with new recipe names and accompanying riddles.  They were composing poetry and didn’t even know it.  In their fun, I saw our next Poetry Tea Time.

Though I had a general plan, this poetry teatime was more on the spontaneous side.  A nasty cold had kept me from heading out for any special foods or decorations, but that didn’t stop our fun.  I rummaged through the pantry.  Popcorn, apples, peppermint tea and just enough ingredients to whip up some breakfast cookies.  (Poetry tea time in our house happens Thursday mornings as Poetry-in-Pajamas.) 

Armed with index cards and markers, I brainstormed some magical names for these foods and served them up with poetry books I had snagged at the library the week before.  Finding poems about magic proved difficult so I kept my definition of magic loose.  If it had magic in the title, it was added to the pile.

Featured Poem: from Poetry Teatime Companion
Spellbound by Emily Jane Bronte

The night is darkening round me,
The wild winds coldly blow;
But a tyrant sell has bound me
And I cannot, cannot go.

The giant trees are bending
Their bare boughs weighed with snow.
And the storm is fast descending,
And yet I cannot go.

Clouds beyond clouds above me,
Wastes beyond wastes below;
But nothing drear can move me;
I will not, cannot go.


Magical Book List:

Make Magic!  Do Good!
Poems of Magic and Spells
Sky Magic
Flower Fairies
Poetry Tea Time Companion: A Brave Writer Sampler of British and American Poems

Magical Teatime Foods:

Twist-the-Time Tea - Guaranteed to send you back in time.
Kernel of Truth Popped Corn - Sure to make you see or tell the truth!
All-Is-Well Apple Slices - Something wrong? Not feeling well?  These apple slices will make everything all right.
Bring-Out-Your-Sweetness Breakfast Treats - These cookies will help your sweet self shine through. 

Poetry Teatime Activity:

Creating new recipe names and riddles or make a riddle for one the foods on the table. 

Kernel of Truth Popped Corn

If the truth is what you seek,
Be sure not to peek
As you pop this corn in your mouth.
Keep your eyes shut tight
And prepare for the sight
Of what you will see in your mind.

Here are some of the new recipes the kids are working on.  I’m not sure some of them are safe!
Life-Giving Lollipops
Get the Giggles Grapes
Break Your Neck Bananas
Stretch Your Arms String Cheese
Re-do Raspberry Pie

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse of our Magical Poetry Teatime.  I'd love to hear from you!  Do you enjoy poetry teatime in your home?  If you do, what's your favorite poetry book or treat?  If not, what questions do you have about Poetry Teatime?  I look forward to chatting with you!

A Brave Writer Inspired Homeschool Planning Guide

If you don't already know, I'm a huge fan of the Brave Writer Lifestyle.  That's because it's much, much more than writing guides or a homeschool curriculum.  It is a lifestyle.  Of connection.  Of flexibility.  Of engaged learning.  All of which I want in my home and I'm guessing you do too.

To allow for the flexibility the Brave Writer Lifestyle offers, I created a Brave Writer Inspired homeschool planning guide.  It's nothing more than a graphic that I've printed off and tucked into the front of my planner.  But despite it's simplicity, it has become an integral part of my monthly, weekly, and sometimes daily planning.

I learned long ago that for things to flow smoothly in our homeschool and for us to make the most of our precious days together, I need to be intentional with our time.  I need to think ahead to include things like Poetry Tea Time or a trip to the theater. 

The graphic lists core learning areas that we intend to work on each week, sometimes multiple times a week.  Our work with The Wand ,  The Arrow , and The Writer's Jungle are part this time.  The bi-weekly section are activities, we typically enjoy every other week,  while the Block schedule section lists the subjects that we aim to explore in an extended block of time throughout the month.  Sometimes we get to all three in a week, but some months we find ourselves immersed in a science or history topic that we just don't want to pull away from.

The icing on the cake are the things we sprinkle throughout the year.  Our Documentary Day   and family movie night happen quite regularly, especially during the winter months.  Party school, a time when we celebrate a topic we're learning about through a themed party, happens only 2-3 times a year. 

As you can see, there is a lot of flexibility with this approach.  If you're a family that loves science, maybe that would be listed in Core Learning.  Perhaps you have a co-op day so you need to do a long math block on Thursdays.  With the Brave Writer Lifestyle, you can do that!  The beauty is that every family can tailor it to their own needs and interests.  You can take some.  Leave some.  Change it up.  Whatever works for you.  In doing so, I think you'll find the engaged learning and connection with your kids that is at that heart of a happy homeschool.  Feel free to pin a copy from my Pinterest page.  Happy Homeschooling!

{This post contains affiliate links.  When you click on those links to make purchases,
Nurtured Roots receives compensation at no cost to you.  Thank you!}


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Documentary Day: February Edition

The days of winter are short, but they can feel so long, especially when you’re home all day.  Sibling squabbles, sniffles & sleepless nights, long weeks of gray skies can start to wear on even the most enthusiastic of homeschool moms (and kids).   If this sounds like you and your family, I’ve got a solution for you: Documentary Day!

Documentary day started last winter, as a way for me to take a breath during the closed-in, kids-have-so-much-energy days. It was my way of pausing, while continuing to remain engaged in meaningful learning.  What started as a tool for surviving the winter months, became an anticipated space for connection with new ideas and each other.  Together, my kids and I were exploring the world without leaving our living room.   We had big, juicy conversations about history, science, art, and music.  By listening to my own needs and the needs of my family, we found treasure in learning together.

So now, each month, through every season, I look for documentaries to complement our studies and special events.  I keep a list of YouTube links handy so that all I have to do is open and click.  Or I reserve DVDs from our local library.  This small amount of planning allows us the freedom to use Documentary Day in a variety of ways. 

3 Ways to Use Documentary Day:


  1. Choose one day each week to watch a film.  For the month of February we’re choosing Friday evenings. 
  2. Choose a day or two a month.  We once binge-watched a whole series of wildlife documentaries.  At the time I wondered if it was a good idea to spend all afternoon two days in a row watching documentaries.  Our next trip to the library proved it was a fruitful choice.  As I watched my kids sit among stacks of animal books, I knew that they were truly learning.  Sparked by the images and information the documentaries provided, they were insatiable for weeks with all things wildlife.
  3. Keep your list handy for an S-O-S.  This can be a Save-Our-Sanity day or an honest-to-goodness sick day.  Either way, you’ll be glad you have a list of educational films to nourish the mind while the body rests.

February's Documentary List:

*Please use your own judgment about whether or not a film is appropriate for your family.  I have included documentaries of various maturity levels.  There are countless other documentaries that could be included.  If you have a suggestion, I’d love to hear about it!  Please share it in the comments.

Black History Month:
Animated Hero Classics: Harriet Tubman
Up from Slavery
 This links to the trailer for the 7-part series.  I highly recommend previewing this before sharing it with your children.  It is definitely more appropriate for high school age.

Chocolate, in honor of Valentine’s Day (February 14):
The Dark Side of Chocolate: Stop the Modern Child Slavery - History Channel
How Stuff Works: Secrets of Chocolate - Discovery Channel

Great Backyard Bird Count (February 17-20):
Snowy Owl - National Geographic
Hummingbird - National Geographic

Presidents’ Day (February 20):
The Presidents 1789-1825 - History Channel, series
Animated Hero Classics: George Washington

Engineering Week (February 19-25):
Engineering an Empire: Ancient Greece - History Channel
Hoover Dam - National Geographic  

Art Institute of Chicago - Sister Wendy series

Fun & Festive Free-Write Prompts

Need a simple and fun way to sneak some writing into the busy days of December?  I've got you covered!  Below you will find 25 free-write prompts for the holiday season and winter.  Here's how to get started:

1. Download the PDF at the bottom of this page.
2. Print & cut the prompts apart.
3. Pop them into a jar or basket.
4. Grab a notebook & pencil.
5. Reach in and select a prompt.  No peeking!
6. Set the timer.  (You choose the length of time.)
7. Start writing.

It's that simple!  There's no need to worry about perfect spelling and mechanics right now.  The goal is to get the creative juices flowing and to have fun! 

Have a writer who isn't quite ready to write alone.  No worries!  Have her share her thoughts aloud while you write them down.  You'll be spending valuable time together and she'll see that what she has to say matters.  Together, you'll be paving the way to a connected writing relationship.  Win! Win! Win!

The prompts are also listed below in case you'd prefer not to print!

1. Colors are often used to describe Christmas.  Choose one color, any color, describe what a Christmas of that color would look like.

2. Imagine you just built a snowman.  Write a story about what you would do with your snowman.

3. Choose a holiday treat to eat.  Using your senses, write about what you ate.  What did it taste like?  Smell like?  Feel like in your mouth? 

4. Make a list of 10 holiday nouns.  Then make a list of 8 descriptive words.  Put your lists side by side and make phrases with them.  Then choose one phrase and write about it.

5. Choose a letter and think of a word for each of the following categories.  Using the words create some tongue twisters.
Girl’s name
Describing word
Boy’s name

6.  Imagine you just opened the best gift ever.  Describe how you feel.  What was in the package?  Give as many details as you can.

7.  Go back to one of your free-writes from this month.  Choose one sentence that you think is really well-written.  Put that at the top of a clean sheet of paper and start writing.

8. A blind person wants to know what your house looks like when it is decorated for the holidays.  Describe it to them with lots of detail.

9.  If I could give my ________________, just one gift, it would be __________.  Describe that gift, how you feel when you give it and how the person reacts when it is opened.

10.  Find one of your favorite holiday stories (or any story you have handy).  Copy the last sentence onto a clean sheet of paper.  Use that as the beginning of a new story.

11.  Imagine that the trees are talking to each other at this time of year.  Write a conversation between them.  What are they saying?

12.  What is something you love to do at the holidays?  Write about it.

13.  Imagine that you live in a gingerbread house.  What would it be made of?  What kinds of treats would decorate it?  What would you do if you lived inside?

14.  Try this word game with a sibling, parent or friend.  Start with a holiday word like “Joyful.”  The next person thinks of a word that starts with the last letter of the word.  So, in this case “l” would start the word so you may choose “lights” as your word.  Keep going back and forth until you have at least 20 words.  Make sure you write them down as you go.  Now choose one of the words from the list and use it to inspire a story or poem.

15. Make an advertisement for snowballs.

16. Write directions for how to build a snowman.  Number the steps.
17. Spend some time watching the birds outside your window.  Write about what they are doing this time of year.

18.  Imagine racing down a hill on a sled.  Write about the experience.

19. “Oh the weather outside is frightful…”  Write about the frightful weather. 

20. Write a secret note to someone in your house.  Leave it somewhere for them to find. 

21. You just made friends with a gingerbread person.  What will you do together?

22. Look through magazines and catalogs to find a photo that reminds you of the holidays.  Cut it out and use it for your free-write.

23.  Make a holiday card for someone.  Decorate the front, write a note on the inside and pop it in the mail.  Better yet, deliver it in person, if you can.

24.  Choose a holiday word and use it to write an acrostic poem.  Write the word vertically on the left side of your paper.  Write a word or phrase beginning with each letter of your word.  They should describe your chosen word.

25. Fold your paper so that when you open it up you have 4 sections.  In each section, write one of these words at the top.  Lights, Cozy, Sweet, Family.  Then, set your timer for 3 minutes.  Jot down words and phrases that come to mind for one of these categories.  Repeat for each section.  Then file this away until the next time you free-write.  When you come back to it, re-read what you wrote and see what stands out.  Choose a word, a phrase, an entire category, or any combination and use it for the topic of your free-write.

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Poetry Tea Time: Thanksgiving Recipe

“Giving thanks    giving thanks
for rain and rainbows
sun and sunsets
cats and catbirds
larks and larkspur…”

by Eve Merriam

Thanksgiving is a natural time to pause and reflect on the blessings in our lives, and poetry tea time lends itself beautifully to celebrating our thankfulness.  Just a quick search on amazon for “Thanksgiving poems” yields 2,822 results!  Why is that?  Because thankfulness is something we can all get behind.  I’ve never met anyone who wouldn’t agree that we should be grateful for what we have, and that fostering a sense of gratitude in our children is an important part of raising them.  The poetic nature of gratitude, the sometimes elusive emotion that can not always be translated into words finds a home in poetry where phrases and metaphor abound.  So here’s a recipe for Thanksgiving poetry tea time! 


Set the Table:
Any table setting will work for poetry tea time but if you want something different, create a vase of balloons taped to sticks.  One for each child.  Inside each balloon, add a piece of paper that tells why you are thankful for that child.



The Books:
Thanksgiving Poems Selected by Myra Cohn Livingston
The Circle of Thanks: Native American Poems and Songs of Thanksgiving by Joseph Bruchac
Merrily Comes in Our Harvest: Poems for Thanksgiving by Lee Bennett Hopkins
Thanksgiving Day at our House: Poems for the Very Young by Nancy White Carlstrom
It’s Thanksgiving by Jack Prelutsky
Giving Thanks: Poems, Prayers and Praise Songs of Thanksgiving by Katherine Paterson
This is the Feast by Diane ZuHone Shore
Over the River and Through the Wood by Lydia Maria Francis Child

The Art Activity:

I'll be offering my kids two art options.  The first is the corn cob mixed media project.  It will be a perfect fit for my younger set.  The second is the "thankful tree,"  a beautiful combination of writing and art.  Click on either image to get to the directions.


The Poem Writing: 

Keep it simple.  Have each child write an acrostic for THANKSGIVING, listing for each letter things for which they are grateful.  These could be added to the artwork above.  Get creative. 

Happy Thanksgiving! 

A Bouquet of Leaves & Poetry: One Solution for Slowing Time & Savoring Autumn

Do you feel like you’re in a race to fit everything into your day?  Do you sometimes sacrifice connection with those you love as you sprint toward the elusive finish line?  And do you find your ability to savor all that Autumn has to offer gets lost too?  If you answered YES! YES! YES! Rest assured you’re in good company with so many other hard-working mamas.  But even better, I have a solution for you.  It’s my favorite remedy for fast-flying days. . . .
poetry tea time. 

Poetry Tea Time has become our family’s respite in the midst of the busy seasons.  Sometimes it just looks like a stack of poetry books and a plate of cookies, and it’s beautiful.  At other times, when I’m feeling a little more inspired, there’s a sort of magic that settles upon our teatime and it’s beyond beautiful!!  Either way, I try to remember that connection is the focus.  And let’s be honest, whenever we focus on connection, there is beauty.

Last week’s teatime was a magical one.  Fall had finally settled into the trees outside our door and the crisp air beckoned us to walk long trails.  As little hands will do, they gathered bouquets of leaves, and of course, these leaves made their way to our kitchen table.  That’s when inspiration found me, and boy, was she was a gracious visitor!  (I have learned to open the door as soon as she knocks because you never know how long she’ll be staying.) 

So the next morning, the scent of apple crisp greeted six sleepy-heads as they woke.  One by one, they joined me in the kitchen.  They knew what was up.  One plucked the poetry books from their shelf, being sure to put the seasonal ones on top.  Another set the plates and cups.  A third rummaged around to find the battery-operated candles we keep on hand for special occasions.  (Someday, everyone will be old enough for authentic flames but for now, these work quite well.)  The rest simply lingered watching birds at the feeder, checking on the monarch chrysalis at the center of the table, the little ones making a line of their treasured leaves across the table.  All of us soaking in the warmth of the moment. It was one of those moments that you want to live in forever, when time actually feels soothingly slow.  I was afraid my words would break the magic and so I welcomed Robert Frost to begin.

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

One by one, poems were found like lost treasures and favorite friends.  We read and ate and conversed and spilled some milk.  It was magical.

The leaves that had been brought home like treasures were passed around.  Each person describing each leaf laid before him.  (I may have casually mentioned terms like adjective and verb.)  Together, we wrote these words and phrases onto the leaves, creating a poem that in its simplicity, captured Autumn.  It was magical. 

Color collage
Speckled auburn dots
Tie dyed velvet red
  Twisting in air
Like a perfect sunset
Full of red and orange
To light the sky with beauty

Later on, I dipped those leaves into melted beeswax so that even as the trees outside turn to brown and the skies become covered with clouds, our leaves, our words joined together in poetry, will still look as though the sun is shining in them. 

Now, hanging in the kitchen, above the well-worn table that is filling with so many memories, is Autumn.  Our savored morning made visible, gently calling us back to sit a while longer.  Reminding us that time can slow if only we give it space to breathe.