What’s for dinner?
I used to hate that question. Either I hadn’t planned anything or I had planned to make something new, but then thought better of it. I knew that new recipe would take extra time and I didn’t have the energy. I ended up serving junk food far too often.
This pattern became a drain on my time, my pocket book, and my family’s health. I tried many cookbooks and meal plans, but ended up dreading the “What’s for dinner?” question anyway. That’s when I quit trying to be a nutritionist and chef, and put my degree in psychology to work.
What kind of meal plan would work long-term?
By studying my own behavior (and my family’s, too), I knew I needed to ask myself a different question. Rather than what was for dinner on any given day, I wanted to know what kind of meal plan would allow me to:
- save time
- save money
- improve my family’s health
- be flexible
- enjoy making new recipes
- share cooking responsibilities
- be fearless when faced with “What’s for dinner?”
I discovered a plan that can work for anyone.
I was only trying to solve my own problem, but realized that the solution I had could work for anyone. Like so many solutions, it’s simple and common sense. I wrote the Once-and-for-All Meal Plan to encourage homemakers to try it and experience the benefits of knowing what’s for dinner (and breakfast, lunch, and snacks, too!). It’s free for subscribers to the Psychowith6 mailing list. Want to know more? My friend, Deb, did a great write-up of what you can expect from the book and this blog on Counting My Blessings. If you’re ready to subscribe, you’ll receive your meal plan ebook that you can read on any computer or mobile device after you confirm your email. I’d love to hear what you think!
It isn’t even summer yet, and homeschoolers are busy planning next school year. Take these ten steps to have your best year yet.
Go through all of your homeschooling curriculum, books, and supplies before you do anything else. Why? So you don’t buy something you already have and also because you will get a very clear indication of what worked and what didn’t.
As you review each item that you’re not currently using, put it into one of four piles: 1) Using in the fall; 2) Using another year; 3) Sell/Give away; 4) Not sure. I like to store everything I am using in the current year in plain sight and everything else out of sight. This is the time of year to sell your unwanted items at used curriculum sales or online. Put “maybe” items in a separate box and review it when your school year is over.
Make a list of what worked well for you this school year–even if it only worked well for a while. What was it that made it successful? Newness, time of year, your energy? These are things you want to keep, return to, or build upon.
Make a list of anything that did not work for you this school year. What was it that caused the problem? Can it be fixed or does the curriculum or activity have to go?
Discuss your plans with your homeschooling friends. Maybe you can create a co-op, share curriculum, or share driving responsibilities. Perhaps your friends know a curriculum that would work better for you and your children.
Talk about your impressions of the year with your children. They may have a different perspective on why something didn’t work or may be willing to give up other activities in order to keep a favorite. Discuss your thoughts with your spouse, even if your spouse isn’t that involved in these decisions. Often, talking it out will give you a fresh perspective. Budgetary issues should be addressed during this time.
Prayer can and should be a part of the entire process for believers. I sold a curriculum book for a tiny fraction of its retail value at a used sale last year, only to have a woman tell me she had prayed that she would be able to afford that very book. Our Lord wants to be involved in the smallest details of our planning and when we invite Him to be, we are blessed.
One of the most common mistakes new homeschoolers (and even veterans like me) make is assuming they can handle more than they can. You will not have time to teach every subject, or even most of them every day. If you are running several days a week, you will not be able to do justice to the core subjects at home. Creating a detailed schedule will help you determine what you can reasonably accomplish.
Once you know you need a new approach or a new curriculum, start doing your research. Read the reviews and do your price comparisons, looking at used outlets. My favorite sites are Rainbow Resource, Christian Book Distributors, Amazon, Homeschool Reviews, Cathy Duffy Reviews, Ebay, and Homeschool Classifieds.
After completing steps 1-9, you’ll be ready to make your purchase, whether you are online, at a bookstore, used sale, or a homeschooling conference. As the wife of a book salesman, please accept my encouragement to buy from someone you have a relationship with or a family business if the price is at all comparable.
One final bonus tip: start enjoying your new materials now! Why slog through the end of the year with the same-old, same-old when you have inspiring new stuff to delve into?
Are you planning next school year right now? Anything you’re struggling with or particularly excited about?
After sharing one way of deciding what to do with our time, I wanted to share a second way that works for me. JOY stands for Jesus, Others, and Yourself.
As Jesus is the One Who has given us all of our time, we ought to give Him the first fruits of it. For me, this means regularly having devotions the first part of the day. Spending time with the Lord became very easy for me when I chose to spend the time in a way I enjoy. I like variety, but right now, I read several devotionals, then a chapter of the Bible or two, and end with prayer.
Putting Jesus first doesn't just mean giving Him our time; it also means asking Him what He would have us do with our time. I have come to enjoy my alone time with God so much that I can get a little cranky when my husband crashes the party! But I know that Jesus' desire is that I devote my time to my husband as well because the O in JOY is for
We know from Jesus' example that we are to put others before ourselves. If I have done what I know the Lord would have me do, then I can ask myself what my husband would have me do. I can even ask him directly! Fortunately, my husband and I are on the same page about what needs to be done for the most part. Some days, however, I must admit that he would rather have me do laundry when I'd rather be reading. You single ladies, take note!
After doing things that would please my husband, I can decide if my children are in need or would be particularly blessed by something I could do. Some mornings, breakfast is all the blessing I can muster! But on other days, I may decide that I've put off doing a craft or just playing with them long enough. I have a large family, but I need to consider the needs of other family members, friends, and co-workers as well. Any commitments I have made to others should come before my to-do's.
Finally, we can think about ourselves. You might be wondering how on earth we can be all things to everyone who needs us and still have time to do anything for ourselves! Some days that's a real challenge for me. But here is the blessing.
First, spending time with the Lord and giving to others is the best thing I can do for me. My energy and mood are renewed. Second, God can guide us in what to do for others and when. He doesn't expect us to run around serving everyone. Sometimes the best way to serve others is to allow them to depend on God or learn to meet their own needs. He gives us the discernment we need when we need it. Third, some seemingly selfish activities are actually serving the Lord and others, too. For example, my husband loves it when I exercise and the kids love having an energetic, less-stressed mom as a result.
How can we use TODAY, TOMORROW, and TOWARD together with JOY for deciding what to do on any given day? Here's how your to-do list might look:
- What would Jesus have me do today?
- What do my husband, kids, friends, co-workers/boss need me to do for them today?
- What do I need to do for me today?
- What would Jesus have me do today to prepare for tomorrow, next week, or next month?
- What would my husband, kids, friends, co-workers have me do to prepare for tomorrow, next week, or next month?
- Who do I need to do for myself today in advance of tomorrow, next week, or next month?
- What goals or dreams would Jesus have me work toward today?
- What goals or dreams would the people I love and work with want me to help them work toward today?
- What goals or dreams do I want to work toward today?
Some days, you may spend all day on #1, but you won't be sorry like you would be if you just web surfed the day away. Give the JOY method a try!