Being a mom is HARD. It seems like there are always competing responsibilities, social engagements, appointments, and activities, and no time to get half of them done. While I can't promise to help you find more time in your day, I can recommend strategies that have helped me feel more on top of life, and it all starts with organizing your schedule. Here is how!
Pick the Right Planner
I've found stickers to be one of the easiest ways to personalize my planner, and keep myself on track. With planner design becoming a true hobby (and not just a necessity), there are tons of options on the market. Here are two that I've used and love.
Get Your Key Words and Sections Planned
What key words will you use to keep yourself on track? I like separating my To Do list from my To Contact list and separating those from my To Buy list and appointments. I also like setting goals for the week or day. Sticking with 3 seems to be the sweet spot! I've continued this practice whether bullet journaling or using a traditional planner. Do what makes sense to you, but make sure it is something that is helpful. If you are new to the practice of organizing your week, play around with different ideas. There is no shortage of examples on Pinterest or Google!
Here is some examples of how I've broken up my responsibilities:
Need more inspiration? Here is a list to get you started!
And don't forget to take some time to celebrate your accomplishments or log memories! Think of including some of the following in your planner!
Make your planner your own! Add decorative stickers, washi tape, or draw designs or pictures! Here are some of the products I've used and designs I've done in my bullet journals/planners.
What About My Phone Calendar?
There are a variety of great apps for phones and computers available on the market, including the Google app suite. Don't get me wrong, the automated reminders are SUPER helpful, and I use them. I also use my phone calendar on the go. But when I get home, I transfer everything into my hard copy planner. Here is why:
What are your best planner tips for busy moms? Be sure to comment to share!
I'd love to update this article with YOUR tips! Not comfortable commenting? Feel from to use my contact me form, or reach out to my on social media!
Then, share this with a busy mom who would love these tips for staying on top of their schedule!
Find even more great ideas for your family on my Family Life page!
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Making the choice to pull my child from preschool this fall was difficult. I feel fortunate to have the resources to be able to stay home with my little one during this challenging time; I know it isn't an option for many families. I also feel quite lucky to have a background in teaching (including teaching preschool!). For critical social skills we are doing playdates with a small circle of cautious friends, at least until it is no longer a safe option in our area, or until the pandemic passes and we can go back to school. But what about all that time when we aren't occupied by playdates?
That is where my background in teaching has really been an asset! But I know not every parent has a degree in education and formal teaching experience.
That is why I've decided to share our homeschooling journey with you!! Here is what we did during our first week learning from home:
Starting the Day: Calendar and Weather, Themed Story (Daily)
Circle time is a vital part of the preschool day. It helps children center and prepare for a day of learning, connect with their classmates and teacher(s), and, of course, learn. Sure, we are learning from home with no siblings, which means there are no other students to connect with. But that is no reason not to start the day by focusing on the learning ahead!
Each morning we start with our calendar; we discuss what month and year it is, count up to the current day, sing our days of the week song (see lyrics below) and review any special events or holidays happening that day. We then sing our weather song (see lyrics below) and then look outside to figure out what the weather is that day.
Once we have finished the calendar and weather, we read a story (or stories) related to our theme.
Our theme for the month of September is 'The Alphabet'
Each day we cover a new theme related to a letter of the alphabet. Sometimes we cover the same letter a couple of days in a row, other times we only spend one day on a letter (the only reason for repetition is if I have a lot of content related to one particular theme and can't fit everything into one day). I cover each of this week's themes in detail below.
Week 1 - Themes and Books
Why no curriculum for Thursday and Friday? Part of our homeschool journey is accepting sometimes things come up that make it difficult to follow through. My goal is always to do the best I can, as a parent, and in all my affairs. While older children doing virtual learning may not have the luxury of taking time away from formal learning, preschool is different. We can be more flexible. If there is one parenting lesson I hope to impart on readers it is that parenting requires flexibility and being mindful that sometimes things don't go as planned.... And that is OKAY. I love routine, but trying to rigidly stick with plans stresses me out. After years of running on a hamster wheel with trying to be perfect, I've decided instead to work hard to go with the flow. Thursday I wasn't feeling well and Friday we had a playdate in the morning and got sidetracked in the afternoon. And that is absolutely okay! I originally planned to cover the letter C, but instead moved those activities to the following week.
Looking for a great lesson planning template for little ones? Here is the one that I've been using (please feel free to download it for your own use (conditions apply*!)
Circle Time Book (literacy): The Book of Shadow Boxes
This alphabet book takes the form of a poem, and is quite creative. It moves away from alphabet book stereotypes, and focuses heavily on promotion of phonemic awareness (focusing on the individual sounds each letter makes), as well as some phonics strategies. You can find it here (it is out of print, but you can find used editions), or check out some of our other favorite alphabet books!
Activities: Letter coloring/Tracing (Fine motor, writing), singing the alphabet with a visual aid (see below).
Stay tuned to my subscriber's library for access to these great (and free) printables!
Circle Time Book (literacy): The Book of Shadow Boxes - Letter A poem only; How Do Apples Grow
Activities: Apple stamp painting (fine motor, sensory, STEM); Letter 'A' & apple matching (literacy).
Stay tuned to my subscriber's library for access to these great (and free) printables!
Apple stamp painting is a great activity for toddlers and preschoolers. I paired it with "How Do Apples Grow", and we used the opportunity to cut open the apple, look at the different parts of the apple as shown in the book's diagram (including the seeds). We then removed the seeds for planting (we placed the seeds in a wet paper towel for safe keeping until they could be safely planted; I was out of potting soil!). By extending the painting activity to include talking about the apple as a plant, we in turn covered apples a science topic as well as art, literacy, and fine motor skills!
Letter activities (printables coming to resource library soon!)
Favorite products for making the most of these printables:
Circle Time Book (literacy): The Book of Shadow Boxes - Letter B poem only; my child's book of choice (we read All Are Welcome repeatedly!).
Activities: Letter 'B' coloring/tracing; Body tracing activity. (click for full description of activity)
We had so much fun with these homeschool activities during our first week of homeschooling preschool. We were also super grateful to be able to build on social skills as well (since social skill development is one of the most critical elements of early education). I can't wait to share our activities from week 2!
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*Access to this template (and all Mindfully Scientific Mama content) is for personal use only. Mindfully Scientific Mama content may not be shared for commercial use, or on another website, without explicit written permission of the content creator.
Mask Organization Station (Plus Tips for Keeping Your Masks Clean While Traveling, Tips for Washing, And More!)
Family Mask Station
An inexpensive and convenient way to keep your family health and organized.
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With my husband back at work and my child and I leaving the house more and more (now that our area is mostly open with extensive precautions and community spread is extremely low), easy access to clean masks and a good place to drop dirty ones when getting home became a necessity. We were storing masks somewhat haphazardly, throwing dirty masks in a laundry bin in our utility/mud room along with other clothes leaving them prone to getting misplaced, and were often left low on mask stock when masks didn't get washed, or having difficulty finding masks when it came time to leave the house.
I knew we needed a better way to store our masks.
Where else would a mama to look for organizational goods during social distancing (when not really shopping much in person) but the internet? I found a great farmhouse wire shelf with hooks (click here or on the image below to learn more), and then scoured the internet for the perfect basket to pair with it (click here or on image below to learn more). I couldn't be happier with how the mask station turned out (scroll to see).
We used doggie poop bags to line the basket closest to the door for a dirty mask drop. We've found them to be the perfect size, and we have them on hand anyway because of our pups. Using bags helps ensure germs don't transfer to the basket while masks await being washed. Keeping them in the basket instead of the laundry helps avoid the issue we were having of masks getting mixed in with clothes and lost (masks are the new socks!). Of course, sometimes we do at least remember to put masks in a delicates bag when washing them. This helps them not get misplaced while washing, at least! Please note, the CDC suggests placing masks directly in the washing machine. However, if you live in a home like mine where some clothes are washed on cold and others on warm (you will want to wash your masks on the warmest setting possible, not in cold water), or if you don't have a washing machine, the plastic bag method will help ensure segregation of masks (thus hopefully avoid contamination).
A center basket holds rolls of extra bags. Clean masks hang on the far side (closest to the door into the house, so closest to the direction we'd be heading in if leaving). The spacing between clean and dirty masks ensures germs from dirty masks don't transfer to clean ones. My husband and I also have our masks separated right now (hence why some are hanging outside the basket in the image above).
The wire shelf we bought has two compartments. In the larger one we've placed an adorable carry bag I've been use for my clean masks (I also keep a ziplock bag in there to store masks if they become dirty or saturated while out, and always carry spares for myself and my child). While mine came with a skincare kit, you can use any small makeup bag to carry your masks (see some highly rated solutions below). There are also packs of sanitizing hand wipes for easy access if we don't yet have some in my purse or the diaper bag. This ensures we can quickly grab and go, rather than having to search for sanitizer. In the smaller compartment I've placed dried flowers for decoration, as well as a large jug of hand sanitizer. This ensures we can easily clean our hands the second we walk in the door (though we also keep sanitizer on our person and in our cars, and have a sink in the utility room). We also use this larger hand sanitizer jug to refill smaller containers before we leave the house. Once we are able to find more lysol spray we are planning to store that on the shelf as well, so we can regularly sanitize the space without having to grab cleaner from somewhere else in the house (other than the masks, of course; you don't want to spray those with disinfectant!) I also hung a wire and sea glass piece we got during one of our visits to Peaks Island from the shelf. Even if we can't visit Maine this year we can still find ways to remind ourselves of one of our favorite places!
Highly Rated Products You Might Like for Your Mask Organization Station
Doggie Poop Bags
Have your mask storage system set up? Be sure to check these evidence based sources for how to keep your mask clean, and other tips for staying healthy while out of the house.
Why do we not store gloves in our organizer? Per the CDC, gloves aren't recommended/necessary during everyday activities such as running errands. They should be used when cleaning or caring for someone who is ill.
Instead, simply make sure to wash your hands regularly and well. Always wash with soap and warm water, scrubbing between fingers, under finger nails, and up your arms, for at least 20 seconds.
Hand sanitizer may be used in cases where it is not possible to wash your hands, or after hand washing.
Keeping our families safe and healthy in the pandemic era can feel overwhelming. This mask storage solution has helped us feel just a bit more in control of all the extra things that need to be done before we can walk out the door.
WHAT STRATEGIES HAVE YOU FOUND HELPFUL FOR KEEPING MASKS ORGANIZED?
Comment below to share!
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What kid doesn’t love a dirt cup? And just in time for beach season, here is a perfect take on this classic dessert. Use the ingredients and instructions below, or just get creative and have fun!
What you will need:
Click on images to view product pages. We've not used these items in our own home, but they have great reviews on Amazon and would be great additions to this project.
You may also like the following products for this activity:
Click on images to view product pages. We've not used these items purchased from Amazon in our own home, but they have great reviews on Amazon and would be great additions to this project.
In three easy steps your child can create this adorable and delicious beach themed dessert.
MAKE IT EDUCATIONAL!
Many readers already know baking is educational. Measuring helps teach fractions and fine motor skills. Baking helps teach sequences, following steps, highlights cause and effect, and for older children, gives the opportunity to practice reading skills.
So, to use the sand cup activity as a homeschool activity, simply have your children help with baking!
You can use prompts below as a guide, and tailor them to your child's academic level:
1. Read the instructions. What is the first step?
2. First we pour 'x'. What comes next?
3. We need [1/2 cup] of [sugar]. Let's look at the bottom number (the denominator). How many parts make a whole in this fraction? (Answer = 2).
4. What temperature do we need to set the oven at? What do you think would happen if we set it higher? Lower?
5. Let's use the food dye to make new colors! What color do you think yellow and blue would make? What about red and blue? What would happen if we added more [red/blue/yellow/green] to this?
6. The recipe says to bake for 30 minutes? 30 minutes is how much of an hour? (Answer: 1/2 Hour). What if we baked for 15 minute? How many parts of an hour would that be (Answer: 1/4)? How many parts of 30 minutes is 15 minutes? (Answer 15/30, 1/2, etc.).
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May 2020 (Prior to 5/31)
Find more recipes, product recommendations, activities, and more!
View my author page for Westchester County Mom here.
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