Category: Blog

Word of the Year – 2019

word of the year

I’m sure you’ve heard the idea of choosing a Word of the Year. If not, basically it means choosing a word that represents what it is you would like to focus on for the year. This directly relates to some sort of goal in your life. And in some cases, the word can even be turned into a phrase.

I’ve heard about this trend for a couple of years now but was a bit skeptical. I usually prefer to wait it out to see if it is something that lasts (thus verifying its usefulness). I also want to make sure something is biblical or at least doesn’t go against God’s Word before jumping into it.

But this trend not only seems to be hanging on, I would even venture to say that it is growing. So this year, I decided to join in. But in my typical overachiever sort of way, I’m choosing two words. One for my personal life and one for our homeschool. And in order to keep my goals in God’s framework for my life, I’ve chosen a Bible verse to go with each of these words.

Now, I could combine them both under the same word and verse. However, the way I see it, the goal I have for my life can be vastly different from that for my homeschool. This is mainly because I have to consider others’ goals as well as my own when planning for the homeschool year.

If you are curious about trying this but aren’t sure how, here’s a rundown of how I did it. It’s not too late. And it just may help you achieve those goals you’ve spent time creating.

Personal Word of the Year – Intentional

The first thing I did before even thinking of potential words, is to review my past year. I looked at everything I had been through both as a mother and wife but also as an individual. This is necessary to know not only what worked but also where I struggled most.

On the whole, last year was a pretty good year. But there were some things I had not achieved by the end. On top of that I added to my list of responsibilities.

Review of Last Year

First, I wanted to lose weight and get in better shape by eating healthier. I started learning about herbal remedies and was beginning to apply them to our daily life. But I couldn’t seem to shake the bad habits I had acquired with eating.

Because we are such a busy family and are quite isolated with no real family or friends in the area, we would often be too tired in the evenings to make a healthy meal. We often fell back on the classic and easy meal of sandwiches or casseroles made from processed goods and sometimes even take out.

I tried to implement a meal plan. But we never truly followed it. Instead, after activities were over and it was late, we’d be so tired from the long day of running around. And we needed to eat quickly so the kids wouldn’t be going to bed too late. So, sandwiches it was. Or pizza. Or something equally fast and easy.

Then, in September, I added another child to the homeschool schedule, one that would need a lot of hands-on. My second daughter would need to be taught to read and need the basics of math (and every other subject). Because she could not yet read and was just starting out, I needed to be present for every single subject we worked on. Especially the French.

And in November, I made the decision to finally launch this blog after years of wishing for it. I just jumped in with both feet and said, “Let’s do this!” But of course, this added a huge responsibility and demanded even more time. Time that I barely had enough of as it was.

My word and verse needed to take all this into consideration.


The one thing that all these struggles had in common was my attention. I needed to be physically and mentally present for each and every one. But attention wasn’t a strong enough word to help me grow.

After much deliberation (and just as much prayer), I found the word intentional. This was exactly what I needed to succeed in all aspects of my life. I need to be intentional. Above all, this reflects God’s purpose for me as well.


The definition of intentional is stated (on as:

  1. done with intention or purpose; intended; and
  2. of or relating to intention or purpose.

I then looked at to get some related words to clarify it even more for me. The first four synonyms clinched it for me. Calculated, premeditated, voluntary, willful. Let’s break it down some more.


The only way I am able to not only keep up with all my responsibilities but to also thrive on them, is to calculate the time necessary for each task. I need to give each task it’s own place in my daily and weekly life. Things need to be planned.


Obviously I need to be aware of each task. I can’t just waltz through my day and hope that I’ll hit some targets accidentally. I need to think ahead to each month, each week, each day and (as stated above) plan it all out.


All my responsibilities are ones that I have chosen for myself. I choose to homeschool my children. I want to try to feed my family more healthily. Plus, I choose to start a new blog and to try to make it as successful as possible. I could just put my kids in school and then focus on my blog while they are gone. Which would also give me time to plan and make better meals. But I want to teach them at home. I think it is important that their education includes more than the public schools can offer. And I feel God has called me to do so.

I volunteered for each and every task on my list. So I have the drive to succeed at them all. Which brings me to the last word:


Because these are all my choices and I truly want to do them all, I have the necessary will to see it done. I have already made the hard decisions to add more to my day. Now I just need to see it through.


All these words and ideas can be tied up in one word: intentional. I need to voluntarily plan each day in a calculated and premeditated manner. And then willfully execute those plans. I need to be intentional to get it all done. My only caveat is that even though I am being more intentional in the choices I make this year, ultimately my success depends on God. So the Bible verse I’ve chosen to reflect these two things is from Proverbs 16:9 “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.” (KJV)

Homeschool Word of the Year – Consistent

This time, when looking for the word I would focus on for our homeschool, I looked back at the previous two years. Basically, I went back to the beginning to see what worked and what didn’t.

And what I found is that every time we got off track or didn’t complete something or struggled through a schedule, it was because we were not remaining consistent. We worked hard one week, then took of the next one. We let our attentions get diverted to other interests and fun projects. In fact, we did not follow the schedules that I had so meticulously planned at the beginning of each school year, term, month and week.


Though I consider myself a Charlotte Mason homeschooler and am drawn to the classical methods of education, in practice, I am much more of an unschooler. I love the freedom of going where our minds take us. I love following a whim and I know that my kids do this as well.

A lot of this comes from having a first child who was high needs. I had to learn to let go of schedules and just spend time getting to know her and respond as she needed. Once I saw the value of attachment parenting, I used this same process with each successive child. Even though none of them demanded quite like the first had, I had gotten into a rhythm of following the child.

This has bled over into our homeschooling. I prefer working at the child’s individual rhythm, not some preordained schedule of what they should be doing and when. Since this is especially difficult to do in France with our yearly inspections, I looked for (and found) a method that did this as much as possible. But the daily work was suffering because we had gotten into the bad habit of following our impulses without tempering it with the discipline and control needed in growing children (and adults).


And one big aspect of this discipline and control is consistency. Creating a schedule or program and sticking to it (as much as possible).

The definition of consistent is:

  1. agreeing or accordant; compatible; not self-contradictory;
  2. constantly adhering to the same principles;
  3. holding firmly together; cohering; and
  4. fixed, firm.

These all sounded like something our homeschool was lacking. But, again, what really decided me were the first 5 synonyms: dependable, logical, persistent, rational, and steady.


We were not dependable. If I told someone to come join us for a class at 10:00 Monday morning, there was no guarantee we would be actually in the class. (This is an exaggeration. Of course, if I told someone to come, I’d be there. I’m not that flighty.) But our homeschool was not dependable. The kids were not learning that school was happening when it was scheduled, rain or shine. They were instead learning they could get out doing their work if they presented a more enjoyable learning activity. This is not what I wanted them to be learning.


How could I be such a fan of Charlotte Mason’s methods but completely disregard the training of habits? It was illogical to be a classical educator with such inconsistent routines.


And when we started struggling to stay on track, instead of being persistent, we gave in. We followed our base desires to take the easy course and put the books away for more enjoyable things. Again, I didn’t want this for myself. But much more, I didn’t want my kids growing up to follow their every instinct. That has never worked for anyone and would only lead to trouble and heartache down the road.

More importantly, it would most likely lead them away from God since we are commanded to be disciplined in our faith. Hebrews 12:1-2 tells us quite clearly that we are to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of of the throne of God.” (KJV)


This ties in with being logical. It was irrational to choose a Christian life, a homeschool life, that professed to follow the Bible and the methods or Charlotte Mason but at the same time, choose to follow our own “rhythms” before everything else.


And this is really where I want us to be. Steady. Unwavering. Not just in our studies but in our faith. In order to teach my children to be steadfast in their faith, they need to learn to be steady in other parts of their life as well. It needs to become an ingrained habit.  As we are told in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of  the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (KJV)


These ideas all come together to create my homeschool word of the year, consistent. In order to logically and rationally follow God’s intentions for our learning, we need to be dependable, persistent and steady in the work we do. The Bible verse I’ve chosen to reflect this is Galatians 6:9 “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (KJV) We have a goal and a purpose. And with consistency, persistence, and God’s will, we will achieve them.

To help you create your own Word of the Year, I’ve created a short worksheet that follows these steps to lead you to the word that best suits you. To receive your copy, subscribe below. If you are already a subscriber, you will find a copy on the Subscriber Freebie page.


February Doldrums – How to Overcome Them

rainy boring day

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It’s that time of year again. We’ve been in winter mode for at least 4 months and it will probably last for another 3. The fun holiday period is over. And the excitement of working on new goals has started to wear off.

My daughter just finished reading the book Seabird by Holling Clancy Holling and has fallen in love with a new word – doldrums. If you don’t know what that is, in nautical terms it’s defined as “a belt of calm and light baffling winds north of the equator between the northern and southern trade winds in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.” In business or art, it can be “a state of inactivity or stagnation.”

But for the homeschooling mom, it simply means trouble. It takes longer and longer for the kids to get to work. They have a harder time focusing. Complaining becomes our constant companion. And everyone fights more.

We’re all going a little stir-crazy from the short moments outside. And it’s months before the next big project or activity. Even I start to lose motivation.

Last year, it didn’t hit so hard simply because we still had our inspection coming. So I knew we had to maintain our rhythm. I couldn’t let anything slide unto they had come to see our routine. And we were all just stressed out enough to keep working despite the doldrums. But this year. Oh boy, that is a whole different story. Our inspection is over AND we already heard officially that we have been approved for another year. So… no one feels much like doing any schoolwork.

It is much easier to give in to the blues with nothing to keep us motivated. So we have to come up with our own ideas. Here are three things to help you get through.

Fake It Til You Make It

The first thing is to just simply do. Even if you don’t feel like it. Or you start school late every day. And even if you don’t finish everything, just do it. The most important thing is to just keep the momentum going.

I’ve noticed that if we stop completely, it makes it so much harder to get back into it. Especially when the weather is already making us feel a little down in the dumps. But just getting the next chapter read or the next math assignment finished does wonders to morale. We keep going, acting like everything is normal and we are having fun.

Because you know what? Eventually it will be back to normal. And we will be having fun with our work again. We’ll be spending more time outside in the backyard. Our energy will grow as the sun stays out longer. We just need to keep moving towards the goal of finishing out the year, no matter how long it takes us.

Try Something New

The other thing that can sometimes get us over the hump is to change things up. Here’s where I will vary the schedule as much as possible. We’ll do morning time in the afternoon and our afternoon work in the mornings. I’ll move Composer Study from Mondays to Thursdays. We’ll drink hot chocolate instead of tea for poetry tea time. Anything to switch it up while still moving forward.

We’ll start rearranging the house. This is a great time to start decluttering as everyone decides to switch it up a bit in their room. We’ll move the beds closer to the windows. I’ll put their desks facing each other in the schoolroom. I even let the kids build a huge fort in the living room and sleep in it for over a week. A change of scenery can do wonders to cheer up all the gloominess.

This is also the time when I will try to fix what’s broken. So when math is taking so long because they are having a hard time switching from French to English every other day, I’ll do French math one week, then English math the next. Or we’ll drop a book that no one seems to enjoy and try something new in it’s place. We’ll pick out a new handicraft or try to find a different nature spot to study.

The trick is to find that one thing that arouses interest in learning again and pushes us back on track.

kindness challenge

Do a Monthly Challenge

This is a new trick we’ve found to put some excitement back into our lives. We do monthly challenges alongside our regular schoolwork. We’ll pick a theme each month and try to complete the challenge as many days as possible. And this is something everyone can get involved in, including the toddler.

This idea was sparked by the Read Aloud Challenge we did in January with Read Aloud Revival. The kids really took to this like fish to water. Every day they woke up ready to pick the next book they were going to read. And if I hadn’t found time to listen to them before bed, they would not let me read the bedtime story to them, instead reading one to me. It was lovely. And they were so sad when the month was over. I had to tell them we didn’t need to stop just because I took the calendars down.

So I decided to start the month of February with another one. This time we are doing a kindness challenge in coordination with Valentine’s Day. Every day, they have to choose one kind thing to do for another, either in the family or out. So far, they have written nice letters of encouragement to each other, cleaned up each other’s messes, and even finished a couple of chores without my even asking! (I may have just found the secret to get them to do chores). I haven’t even offered incentives to keep it going this time around. They are just happy to do it for it’s own sake.

We’re Still Learning

The beauty is that even if we aren’t doing what is written on our schedule, the kids are still learning. They are using their creativity to come up with new ideas. Sometimes it’s practicing their spelling and writing in those little notes. Or they use engineering skills to figure out how to create a tunnel out of blankets and string. And they are reading with much more pleasure. The bored little faces that used to look outside at another day of rain are now looking inside with smiles at each other. Most of the time. Because let’s face it. They are still kids.

What are you doing to combat the February doldrums? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments below, on the Facebook page or by email at

Best Way to Learn a New Language

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Have you ever wanted to learn a new language? Do you think that it is something that you need special training to do? Or a special teacher to teach you? If you are reading this, I can guess that you speak at least one language already. And I’m guessing that your children speak at least one language already as well.

You see, it is not as difficult as it seems to learn a new language. It just takes strategy. And lots and lots of practice. Plus, the strategy is pretty easy. Simply follow the natural rhythm of learning a language. There are four steps:

  1. Listen,
  2. Speak,
  3. Read, and
  4. Write the language.

That’s it. All it takes is following those four steps (and in that order) to begin to master any language. If you think about it, this is the exact process you went through to learn your first language. As a baby, you listened to your parents and other family members speaking to you. As you grew older, you began to use what you had heard. You began to speak. A few years later, you started the process of learning to read. Often learning to write was taught alongside because by then, it was a bit easier to learn two skills at once. Of course, this took a few years. But by the time you were 7 or 8 years old, you could be considered fluent, in both speaking and writing. Everything after that was just honing your skill.

So how do you put this into practice now for a new language?


I didn’t start learning French until I was nearly 30 years old. In school, I had studied a little bit of German, a little bit of Spanish and a little bit of Chinese. But no French. It wasn’t until I met my future husband in my mid-twenties that I even considered learning French. Since he spoke fluent English and we were living in the United States, I didn’t really try that hard either. But when we decided to move to France in 2006, I knew I’d better get cracking.

I had been around my husband’s family a few times and was beginning to understand a bit. But speaking was another matter. So I took an accelerated French course at the Northwestern University School of Professional Studies (then called the School of Continuing Studies) in Chicago, Illinois. This helped a bit with basic grammar. But I was nowhere near ready to be let loose on my own in France. Especially in a town where few people spoke English.

So when we arrived, I went back to the basics.

I listened. I listened to G talk to his family and their responses. Then I listened to the radio and the tv. I just listened. My favorites were kids’ shows, especially cartoons because the language was pretty basic, the story line was easy, and the images made following along a piece of cake. I developed an ear for not only how the language was used but also how to pronounce it.

head phones for listening

And this is what you must do. Listen to songs. Watch your favorite tv shows but in the other language. We are lucky to be living in an age where that is so easy. Netflix and Amazon Prime both offer movies and tv shows in which you can change the audio. Stream a radio station in your chosen language. You might even be able to find audio books at your local library (depending on where you live and what your chosen language is).


Once I felt comfortable that I knew enough vocabulary to make simple conversation, I began talking. This was the hardest step for me. As a perfectionist, I didn’t want to speak until I was fluent. A totally unrealistic goal.

Now, this is not to say that I never said a word until then. Obviously, that would be weird for so many reasons. But up until that point, I basically just answered questions. I never really offered anything up on my own.

But as my vocabulary grew, so did my conversation. And really, isn’t that exactly how a child does it? They listen for at least a year of their life before even saying a word. And when they do start talking, it is in monosyllables. It is only after their vocabulary grows that their ability to speak in sentences can start. As they get comfortable speaking with their loved ones, they move on to speaking with others.

two people talking in nature

This can be a little trickier to do if you are not living in the country of your chosen language. Try to find a group of like-minded individuals who also want to learn. You can practice with each other and hold each other accountable at the same time. Use apps like Duolingo to practice your pronunciation. Or, if you are lucky, try to find a native who is willing to meet up with you for a cup of coffee. Then try to spend the whole time speaking in their language.

If you are teaching kids, play games with them that force them to use some of the words they have learned. Point to objects and see how many they can name. Do role-playing exercises. Or just learn the lyrics to a simple children’s song and sing it together. There are numerous ways you can practice saying words without having to live among the natives, as it were.


Depending on the age, this can be done alongside the listening stage. When I was learning French, I often checked books out at the local médiatheque (library). Usually I would get a few English novels (for pleasure), some kids books (for ease), and some comic books (for a bit tougher vocabulary). The adult comics were great because the vocab was more suitable for my age while at the same time easier to grasp because of the images.

When I felt comfortable enough to challenge myself, I started reading novels. I’m a little insane because I started with Les misérables by Victor Hugo. This was a calculated risk. Even though the novel itself was a difficult read, I was already familiar with, and loved, the book. I had read it in English and knew the basic story by heart. (Thanks Andrew Lloyd Weber!) Because I am a visual learner, this helped me make better sense of the words I was hearing daily.

novel with french title

Obviously, I would not recommend young kids read books while in the beginning listening stage. Unless, of course, they are already fluent readers in their first language and you feel they might benefit from seeing the words as well. Again, I’m not saying they shouldn’t look at books written in that language. Just don’t expect them to learn how to read it until they are able to speak it. Older kids may want to read simple books earlier on, especially if they are visual learners like me.


The last thing anyone should attempt is writing. Admittedly, this is the one area where I still struggle in French. Because I basically learned on my own in a social context, I never really spent any time on this area. After all, how often do we write to the people we see everyday?

I’m trying to change that as I begin teaching my own kids to write in French. But it is a tough one for me. I would venture to guess that this is the toughest part of learning a language for just about anyone. And often, it is the part we don’t even bother with. After all, unless you are learning another language for a job, usually you just need to be able to communicate verbally in order to navigate in that country. At the most, you need to be able to read to get information from menus or websites (or even street signs).

desk with notebook, clock, pencils

My suggestion (and what I do personally) to learn how to write comes straight from Charlotte Mason. Do copywork. Copy passages from books. Copy Bible verses. Or copy song lyrics. Anything to get used to the use of accents, spelling, and grammar. If it works to improve your English, why wouldn’t it do the same for your foreign language?

And when you are at ease with the copywork and are speaking fluently, why not try writing a short story. My kids even create their own comic books. They draw the pictures then label them in French and make the characters speak to each other in French. This is a great, fun way to practice writing. For any age.


After you’ve started all four steps, all you need to do at this point is practice. Depending on how quickly you want to learn this new language, you should do it at least weekly. The quicker you want to learn, the more often you need to exercise your skills. The most important thing is to practice all four steps as often as you can. By all means, you can get by just knowing how to speak and understand. But wouldn’t it great to be fluent?

If you want to learn about some of the resources I use to teach and learn French, check out my post 10 Favorite French (and Other Language) Resources.

What are some things you do to practice in a foreign language? Comment below or email me at I would love to hear your ideas!

Family Read-Aloud Challenge

When you are a Charlotte Mason homeschooler, reading is one of the most important skills that you should teach and learn. But how do you get the kids excited about reading when they are still struggling through the beginning stages? Or if they aren’t old enough to read yet?

You can have a family read-aloud challenge!

read aloud challenge

When Reading Is Not Intentional

I, personally, LOVE to read. You can ask my family and friends (and even ex-classmates at school). I have always had a book around. In fact, I’m even participating in a Back to the Classics reading challenge for myself this year. And one of my greatest dreams was to have a family that felt the same way. When I was pregnant with my first child, I had this vision of us snuggled up on the sofa together, reading. It was so vivid.

And I did everything I could to make that happen. I read to V while she was still incubating. After her birth, I continued to read nightly. And  continued it up until she learned to read by herself at the age of six. By then, I had three other siblings who took a lot of time away from her. I was exhausted after six years of barely sleeping and now had to stay up at night to prepare for V’s schoolwork each day. Reading books at night often took a backseat to all the other chores I needed to keep up with.

Of course, the kids were still given reading time in bed every night before lights out. But now they had to do it alone. I tried to continue reading as often as possible, but it just wasn’t easy. I hadn’t made it a priority so it was often the first thing to go when time was running out at the end of the day. This was made doubly difficult by the fact that we tried to read each night in both French and English.

Read Aloud Revival

This continued for more than a year. It is so easy to put things like this aside. As each child grew older, rather than having more time at night to read, I found that I had less. We started having activities nearly every night. This meant we weren’t getting home until after 6pm. Then it was a quick dinner, and the bedtime routine would begin.

The kids needed to be in bed before 9pm so we had little time to do everything. They could choose between read aloud or read alone. Since read alone time was often needed to calm them enough to sleep, read aloud was out. And it hurt. I went to bed every night regretting that another chapter was left unfinished.

Then I came across a website. Read Aloud Revival. Here was a blog and podcast about a family of six kids, all homeschooled, who made reading aloud a priority. And it was the very vision of the dream I’d had when pregnant. I started believing again that it could be possible.

Even just the free access to the website was enough to put that spark back into my desire to read with my kids.

Eventually I joined the membership because I knew how important it was for us to make this a more consistent practice. And I love the group there. There is always so much going on. And even if we only participate in a fraction of the events, we are still doing more than before.

Read-Aloud Challenge

Which brings me to this month’s challenge.

Though I had started being more intentional with reading aloud to my children on a more regular basis, I was still missing at least half the week. Those late week nights with activities kept sneaking up on me. Even though I knew they were there.

Then we got the word about our yearly inspection to take place just before Christmas. Reading aloud was pushed back again. Worse, I wasn’t even being consistent with listening to my oldest daughter reading. She’s only 8 so she still needs a lot of guidance. Especially with newer and bigger words.

When it was announced that there would be a Read-Aloud Challenge for the month of January, I jumped at the chance to participate. I’m a recovering Type-A personality and I love checking boxes. This was a great opportunity to get back on track and mark a few boxes in the meantime just for fun.

I downloaded the packet and printed a calendar for each child and myself. Then I explained the concept to my kids. I expected a little resistance from the just-beginning-to-read 6yo and the not-yet-reading 5yo. They often compare themselves jealously against the one sister who can read.

The toddler is on board with everything. She just loves to participate in everything we do.

I explained that the pre-reader just had to describe his books to me or tell me whatever story he wanted from the pictures. The new reader could use her reading lessons. The oldest could choose any book she chose. And I would join by reading the nightly devotions and a little story every night. And they didn’t have to read to me. They could read to anyone in the family, including the dog.

read aloud challenge

How It Went

I was pleasantly surprised at the excitement they all displayed. In fact, they woke me early January 1st to get started. This after staying up until midnight to ring in the New Year. Each one had their book all ready and we took off.

Since it was vacation when we started, it was fairly easy to get into the groove. Sometimes we’d read first thing in the morning. Sometimes we’d wait until just before bedtime. I was a bit concerned when their father went back to work on the 7th. But we kept up with it.

And now, halfway through the month, we have yet to miss a day. They are still just as excited each day to read to me.

There have been some unexpected but wonderful surprises to this challenge.

  • The kids only want to read to me. They consider this a special event that they want to share with their mother.
  • It has been a great way for me to have quality alone time with each kid every day. Something that is not easy to do with our busy schedule.
  • The oldest has chosen to read in both English and French (depending on the book she has chosen to read for the day).
  • The just-reading 6yo has gotten more comfortable with her reading skills and I can see her confidence growing every day.
  • The not-yet-reading 5yo is starting to show an excitement to get started on his own reading lessons.
  • The toddler has begun reading to everything and everyone around her in that cute little minion language she uses.
  • And Daddy has unexpectedly gotten on board and started reading every night as well to each child. Even when he has come home late from work and is tired.

This was just the kickstarter we needed to get back on track with our reading aloud. I highly recommend trying a challenge like this if ever you feel like your reading has gotten off track.

It’s a little late if you would like to join in this particular challenge. But that doesn’t mean you are out of luck. On the contrary, you can start anytime. Just grab a calendar, grab a book, and get going.

read aloud challenge

To help you and your family keep track of the books you are reading, I’ve created a Reading Log in both full size and half size. You can find this on the Subscriber Freebies page. Sign up below for the weekly newsletter to get access.

Making SMARTER Goals

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We all need to make goals if we want to progress in life. Whether it is something personal like losing weight or family oriented like buying a new house, we need to take steps if we want to achieve them. Many people have taken to using a method known as the SMART method. But based on past experiences, I think we need to take it two steps further and make it a SMARTER goal.

making smarter goals


SMART is an acronym for how to set up your goal to make it more attainable.

A goal needs to Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-bound. Now what does this actually mean in terms of goal writing?

Let’s take the example of my goal to read more using the Back to the Classics challenge. A classic goal would simply be stated, “I will complete the 2019 Back to the Classics challenge.” This is actually not too bad of a goal. But it can be stated even more clearly and planned out more. By doing this, I will have a better chance of succeeding.


First, a goal needs to be specific. What exactly am I trying to achieve through this goal? What category of my life does this fit in? Work, Personal, Family, or Faith? Can I do this alone or do I need others?

This is a personal goal. I want to read all the books for a reading challenge presented on a blog Books and Chocolate. This is so that I can get back to the classics that are often overlooked in my reading. It is a solo project. So I do not need anyone’s assistance.


Next, a goal needs to be measurable. How will I know when I’ve achieved this goal? What are the criteria necessary? Is there a time limit? Is there any other limit?

For me that would be easy to answer. I need to read twelve books, one for each category. And I need to have read all these books within twelve months. Or by the end of 2019.


What actions need to made for me to succeed? Can it be broken down into smaller daily or weekly actions?

Another easy answer for this particular goal. Since I need to read twelve books in twelve months, I need to average a book a month. I could count up the total number of pages (4,314 pages) and then figure in the average by month (360 pages per month), week (83 pages per week), or even day (12 pages per day). It all depends on how closely you need to monitor your progress.


Is this project or goal able to be achieved realistically in the time allotted? Am I able to do this in my normally scheduled day or is it a new skill that may take me more time in the beginning? Is the season of my life amenable to this type of goal?

Since I have always devoured books, this is something that I should easily be able to accomplish. Even in the busiest year of my life with a new homeschooler and a newborn in the house, I was able to read almost 100 books. Granted, those books were all fun and easy. The books on my list are more challenging. Like War & Peace, at 1225 pages. But 12 books should still be doable for a reader such as myself.


How much time do I have to accomplish this goal? Is there a specific end-date? Are there any other rules to limit my time during the year?

This particular goal is exactly one year. It is to be finished by midnight on December 31, 2019. Technically, I can read all day every day should I want to. Realistically, as anyone with children knows, I am looking more at one hour per night. More if I forego sleep.

So now my new SMART goal can be stated, “I will read 12 books averaging 360 pages per month for the Back to the Classics challenge to be completed by midnight December 31, 2019.”


Now, I could stop here. I would probably even succeed. This particular goal is not too difficult. But let’s say that the goal is a little more complicated. And that there are multiple steps that need to be taken at specific times. Like starting a new blog or business. Or buying a new house. Adding on these last two steps may actually increase the likelihood of succeeding. You will want to Evaluate and then Readjust, possibly several times during the year.

Let’s continue with my example of the reading challenge.


Create a schedule to periodically review your progress. It can be weekly, monthly, quarterly, or even just at the half-way point.

I will probably check quarterly to be sure that I have read at least 3 books during the last quarter or averaged a minimum of 1000 pages read. I want to make sure that I’m not leaving War & Peace for the last month and making myself finish over 1000 pages in just one month.


Change your plan or schedule as necessary.

By checking occasionally to see what I have already read and what I have left, I can give myself more time to finish or force myself to find more time. I won’t be caught a few weeks before the deadline with half the books to complete and not enough time.

making smarter goals

This method can be used for each and every goal you make. It applies to yearly goals as well as something with a shorter time frame. It may take a little more time to plan and set up. But chances are you will be more successful.

To help you create your own SMARTER goals, I’ve made a chart that you can fill out. There is both a full-size and a half-size (to fit your bullet journal). You can use this in conjunction with the other Goal planning sheet where you can jot your quarterly evaluation results or adjustments. Just sign up below to receive access to the Subscriber Freebie page where all these resources are available.


A New Year, Your Best Year 2019 Conference

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. While purchasing from any of these links will not increase the price you pay, I do receive a small commission.

Boy, this year is really ending in a frenzy! Between our homeschool inspection the week before Christmas and all the birthdays in our family, I am overwhelmed. There are so many wonderful things happening between now and the new year that I just can’t seem to keep up! Luckily, one of those things will help me get focused right off the bat. It’s the 2019 Conference A New Year, Your Best Year.

a new year, your best year

This conference is starting just days after the new year. From January 4th until January 10th, you will be able to attend over 175 workshops from more than 90 speakers. The categories for these workshops include:

  • Faith
  • Family Life
  • Finances
  • Goals/ Planning
  • Health/ Fitness
  • Household Organization/ Homemaking
  • Marriage
  • Meal Planning/ Prep
  • Parenting/ Motherhood
  • Planning/ Time Management
  • Self-Care; and
  • Simplification/ Minimalism

So, a little something for everyone.

Who’s speaking?

If you’ve checked out the blogs by some of the more well-known homeschool moms and Christian moms, you will recognize their names immediately. People like Arabah Joy, Tauna Meyer, Heather Bowen (who is hosting this event), Hal & Melanie Young, and many more! You can read more about each of these speakers on the event page A New Year, Your Best Year 2019 Conference for Moms Speakers.

Personally, I could use some help with my time management and homemaking. I saw multiple workshops that could help me out. My favorites include How Busy Moms Can Stay Connected to God by Kerry Beck, How to Ensure You Have the Best Financial Year Ever by Kati Kiefer, Declutter Toys Parts 1 & 2 by Tauna Meyer, and Mothering With Grace, Even Amidst the Chaos by Angela Taylor. There is even a workshop by Monique Boutsiv entitled Bullet Journaling for the Busy Mom! You can get a list of the workshops being offered with a description on the event page A New Year, Your Best Year 2019 Conference Workshop Descriptions.

With so many great topics to choose from, there is no way you could possibly get through all of them during the time of the event. And since we are all so busy, I doubt any of us could get through even a fraction. I know that there is no way I can.

How do I sign up?

The good news is that when you buy a ticket, you will get lifetime access to all these events. So you can watch those you are most interested in now. And those that aren’t relevant for the moment can be saved for a later date. Since I don’t have any teens in my house yet, I won’t be rushing to check out any of those workshops. But based on some of the titles, I’m sure I’ll be glad to have them when my kids get that age.

Early Bird tickets priced at $15 go on sale today, December 26th until January 3rd. After that, the prices will go up to $20.

Included with the lifetime access to all the workshops, you will receive a Swag Bag of freebies and discounts valued at over $800. I can’t wait to see what is included in mine.

a new year, your best year

I’ll be getting my ticket as soon as it opens up for registration. In order to better prepare for the event before it starts on the 4th, please enjoy the free worksheet I’ve created which lists all the speakers and workshops by category. There is even a space for you to mark the dates they are playing (when that information is released) and a place to check off those you’ve seen. Just to help keep you organized.

You can receive this free printable list when you sign up below. You will receive an email with the password to the Subscriber Freebies page where you will have access to all my free resources, including the master list of workshops for the conference A New Year, Your Best Year.


Setting Attainable Goals for 2019

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. Though you will not pay any more for any product, I may receive a small commission. 

The new year is fast approaching. And I’m starting to think about setting all those goals that I want to accomplish. We used to call them resolutions. But the problem with that is the word “resolution” has taken on a connotation of something we will probably never achieve. So now we say “goals” in the hopes that we will be better able to attain them.

Some of you may have already decided what you want to accomplish. With my busy schedule and recent homeschool inspection, I haven’t really gotten around to it before now. And I have to admit that I’m a bit stuck in terms of finding just one thing to shoot for. So what do I do?

setting attainable goals

The Basic Layout

Well first, I need to narrow down which areas of my life need the most attention. The main categories that I have seen in many goal planners include Family, Finances, Work and Personal. I’ve changed this for my own use. I still use the categories Family, Work and Personal. But I’ve replaced Finances with Faith. First, because if I don’t want my relationship with God to suffer, I need to be more intentional with how I live my faith. Second, because I feel the finances can fit into all the other categories.

In each of these categories, I pick three main things I want to work on. For example, in Personal, I have the goal of completing two reading challenges, the Back to the Classics challenge and the Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenge. In Faith, one of my goals is to be more intentional with my prayer life. For Family, I want to be more consistent with our weekly nature walks and nightly read-alouds. And in Work, I would like to complete a bilingual Nature Journaling program to be used year-round.

When I’ve chosen three goals for each category, I then break those goals up into actionable items on a quarterly basis. Basically, what I need to have achieved by the end of each quarter in order to accomplish the goal at the end of the year. In some cases, if the goal is complex enough, I will even break those actions down to a monthly or even weekly agenda.

Using the Bullet Journal

And this is where my bullet journal really comes in handy. I’ve talked a little about how I got into bullet journaling in my post Staying Organized for the Busy Mom. Since using this system, I have been much better at completing my to-do lists and in keeping up with the countless activities of my children. But this is the first time I will be using it to create goals.

In the final pages of my 2018 journal I am envisioning what my next year will be. I’ve dedicated a page to each category where I can brainstorm goal ideas as well as what I actions I need to take to achieve those goals. This is also where I’ve noted the different resources I’m using. For example, the websites with my reading challenges or the prayer group I’ve joined, or any pdf documents I might use.

I like using these last pages as brain dumps because then I feel like I’ve released some of the clutter in my head onto a paper that I won’t misplace. I can use these brain dumps to organize better in my new journal. I’ll narrow down the goals that are more urgent while saving others I still want to achieve for later.

As the year progresses, I can update each month or each quarter with items accomplished or actions that still need to be taken. I can even change my goals mid-year. This is important, because even with the best of intentions, sometimes life happens. Sometimes we just need to change direction. That doesn’t mean I am not serious about achieving my goals. It just means that I am realistic enough to know that I am not in control. God directs my paths and I want to be able to follow where He leads.

setting attainable goals

Setting Attainable Goals

I have lofty goals running around in my head, and if I try to complete all of them, I may end up finishing none of them. I tend to narrow it down to four categories: Faith, Family, Personal, and Work. Many people make a category for Finances but I figure that this can fit in just about any of the other categories. I create 3-4 goals for each category. I break those down into shorter goals to be achieved quarterly or every twelve weeks

The important thing is that the goals are specific enough to be able to break down in manageable steps. The entire goal sheet goes in my bullet journal for easy reference. I can then check back as often as needed to make sure I am on track.

Sometimes, it is just a matter of creating a good habit. For example, I want to be more intentional about reading classics this year. My goal is to finish the Back to the Classics challenge in its entirety. Since there are twelve books on this list, I must read at least one book per month to achieve this goal. If a create a habit of reading nightly, it will set me on to the path to success without constant maintenance. If you can make goals achievable as a result of new habits, you will be setting yourself up for an easier win.

In order to help you set up your goals for this year, I’ve created a Goal Planning worksheet that fits perfectly in any average-sized bullet journal or even in a half-sized planner. Sign up as a subscriber to receive the password to the Subscriber Freebies page for this worksheet as well as any other resource that is of interest.


Back to the Classics Challenge 2019

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. Though the price for you does not change, I may receive a small compensation. 

I’ve always been a reader. And I do enjoy reading the classics from time to time. But, the list of classics I’d like to read never seems to get any shorter. I get caught up in the new books, the fun books, the necessary books for school and never get around to reading from my classics list. That is why this year, I am joining a Classics reading challenge.

Karen from Books and Chocolate has been hosting this challenge for five years already. And she has just recently posted the rules for 2019. I found out about this challenge last year during the summer. But I could never seem to get around to joining or even making my own tentative list.

However, I’m being proactive this year. I’ve officially joined and have even created my list. I’m going to share it with you to help keep me honest. And maybe you’d even like to join in!

back to the classics 2019

1. 19th Century Classic. Any classic book originally published between 1800 and 1899.

Lilith – George MacDonald (1895) 341 pages

2. 20th Century Classic. Any classic book originally published between 1900 and 1969.

Sons and Lovers – D.H. Lawrence (1913) 423 pages

3. Classic by a Female Author.

Black Beauty – Anna Sewell (1877) 255 pages

4. Classic in Translation. Any classic originally written in a language other than my native language.

Brothers Karamazov – Feodor Dosteovski (1880) 796 pages

5. Classic Comedy. Any comedy or humorous work.

The American Claimant – Mark Twain (1892) 291 pages

6. Classic Tragedy. Any work with a typically sad ending.

Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck (1937) 187 pages

7. Very Long Classic. Any classic single work 500 pages or longer, not including introductions or end notes.

War & Peace – Leo Tolstoy (1869) 1225 pages

8. Classic Novella. Any work of narrative fiction shorter than 250 pages.

The Lifted Veil – George Eliot (1859) 75 pages; or

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – Muriel Spark (1961) 144 pages

9. Classic from the Americas (includes the Caribbean). A classic novel set in either continent or the Caribbean or by an author originally from one of those countries.

Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys (1966) 192 pages

10. Classic from Africa, Asia, or Oceania (includes Australia). A classic novel set in one of those continents or islands, or by an author from these countries.

Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe (1958) 209 pages

11. Classic from a Place You’ve Lived. Read locally! Any classic set in a city, county, state or country in which you’ve lived.

Choices for me include the United States, China, or France.

The Man Who Walked Through Walls (Le Passe-muraille) – Marcel Aymé (1943) 244 pages

12. Classic Play. Any play written or performed at least 50 years ago.

Tartuffe – Molière (1900 though written in 1664) 208 pages; or

Uncle Vanya – Anton Chekhov (1897) 76 pages

These are my current picks though it is subject to change at any time during the year. However, I want to try to stick to this list as much as possible since most of these books have been on my To-Read list for several years and I’ve never gotten around to reading them. Please note: I will be reading the books by French authors in their original French as an added challenge. I wish I could do the same for the Russian books but, alas, I do not read (or speak) Russian. Yet.

If you’d like to join me in this reading challenge for 2019, you can find the details and rules at Books and Chocolate.

I’ve created a small checklist that can printed and pasted in your journal or planner. You can access it through the Subscriber Freebies page. If you are not a subscriber, you can sign up below to receive the monthly password.

Happy Reading!


Coming Soon!

Mason à la Maison is a new website that will share our homeschooling journey using the Charlotte Mason method in France using bilingual English/French resources. The site is currently under construction and will be coming soon!