Get Your Life Back… (Independent Notebooking // Educational Engineering)



Ok. Deep breath. You’re not going to believe me. If you can’t walk up to your teaching day with your cup of coffee and turn a page, you are heading for a crisis! But you already knew this. Because you might be in the middle of one!

(No, I’m not selfish. Yes, I realize education is a life-size committment. Here’s what I mean.) You wanted a smooth year, but it’s hard to find your groove. When you’re hopping around, you think, no wonder the kids are unruly.  But NO. It’s not true.  Mid-year, you can switch this. 

>>Keep Reading for the Guide and Printables + Class Access Below.<<

In 15 years of dedicating my life to schooling children I’ve seen education from both sides now: institutional and home-grown.  Both times, I discovered the same paradigm rescued me out of the daily grind.   

I want to share with you the paradigm that rescued me out of the despair I discovered in BOTH environments. When my ideal vision crashed and burned, I found the answer in the rubble. Both times, it completely took me by surprise . It is a paradigm/system that that will help you

  • blend curricula
  • resurrect old unused material
  • catch up on skills
  • automate things you didn’t know were automate-able
  • make schooling more adaptable and mobile
  • …and get your life back! 

I call it Educational Engineering

If you’re a public school teacher or a homeschooler… um… you’re not a teacher; you’re an engineer. Now a college professor? Maybe he has gained the status of … teacher.  You walk in, you talk…  Done.  But in the environment of today’s secondary public schools and in homeschooling, you’re an engineer.

At this point, I use My Fathers World, Classical Conversations, Abeka, and Rod and Staff…. and I have my own life and work to do! I was drowning and barely succeeding.

I have the brain of a CC classical schooler, the heart of a keep-it-real Charlotte Mason schooler, the skills of an ex-public school teacher, the lifestylfe of an easy-going-go-with-the-flow, homeschooler, the faith of a teaching-from-rest schooler, but in my quest for pulling things together, I re-discovered something that I had also discovered during a turning point in my 10 year teaching career.

Here’s the story:

As a high school teacher, I was in a school that required me to roam from room to room, and everything I believed about education, everything I wanted to do, the ways I had used for years to have a wonderful environment in my classrooms…. all of it was hanging in the balance, and my sanity was gone.  I was heartbroken that I could NOT do with the kids the things I WANTED to do.  I could not BE the teacher that I WANTED to be.  At a breaking point, I saw that I was going to have to build a system that would catch me when I was falling. It would have to work on good days and bad days. When the motivation is pumping and when it’s not.  When I’m energetic and when I’m BEAT.  If I could not walk up to it with my coffee cup and succeed, it was not going to work!  Now this may sound nuts, but I did it.  I thought the fun and vitality and life of my classrooms would fade away, but it was just like going off carbs and our body finding a new source of fuel.  I began to thrive. The WEIGHT of preparation had shifted off my shoulders, and I could breathe … and TEACH!

Then, hitting that same wall as a homeschooler, at a painful turning point.  I realized that getting through the day was taking more than I had and my ENTIRE LIFE was completely SWALLOWED up by homeschooling, and it was week 12 and I was out of gas, and my family’s side business was about to require some extra time from me that I DID NOT HAVE… I hit that same wall of despair.  Despair, y’all.  You know what I mean.  How do I homeschool if I can’t reach the heart of the ideals I’m going for.  Is there any other way.  My engineering metaphor came back to me. I would have to build it to withstand extreme heat, cold, storms, drought.  And I knew what I had to try.

I thought it would be wretched! Blah and bland. But instead we all began to thrive. It gave me my life back. It was this engineering paradigm. And in both environments, both times, it transformed everything, and began to shift things back into a sensible balance where we could both succeed.


My mom (also a teacher) said it this way, “If you’re working harder than the kids are, something’s wrong.”

  • If a coach is working harder demonstrating skills than the athletes were at practicing them, something’s wrong.
  • If the choreographer is working harder than the dancers….

I had all the books, all the power, while the kids fidget and wait or don’t wait for me to put my hands on the next thing….

All the responsibility was on me. But how do you shift it? And why? Is this even possible. I mean, I’m the adult, the teacher, right?

That would be like taking responsibility to walk your kid to each chore and oversee him.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME? No, a kid has responsibilities. If he can hold rag and get it wet, he can wipe off a counter without supervision. If he can lift a fork to a drawer, he can put the forks away without supervision. If he can hold a binder, his work can be pre-loaded into it.  Months in advance.

But how?

Rip the books apart.

Punch holes in EVERYTHING.

But what about REAL and LIVING Books?! I don’t want a life of worksheets on the couch.

Well, you want a kid who can spell some words correctly and has nice handwriting. Load those babies up.

You want a kid who can do some math… load em up.

Want him to copy those scriptures, or copy that history sentence for Classical Conversations? Gonna have to create a template and punch holes in it, loading it up for each day you want him to do it.

They’re walking about the house looking for something to tear into.  Let them tear into a couple of extra phonics pages on a grade level below them to strengthen their spelling.  Rod and Staff has cheapies.

Flash cards… forget them!  Get some math facts that are taught in a slow and gentle way like Rod and Staff, and load them up in a way that these are taught before his normal math program introduces them. Works like magic.

Having trouble getting him to do that indpepndent reading? Type, “Do your independent reading” on a word doc. Print that sucker out and load it up.  For every day? YES, EVERY DAY.  That’s like printing out 84 of a stupid dinky worksheet just to tell him to do this one thing. If that’s what it takes…. do it.

He’s always losing his spelling spiral, right? The only you said, “use this to copy your words every day, since you can’t get all your words right on your tests to save your life,”  Make some lines on a page and print those out and load one up for every day with, “Copy your spelling list” on it.  Genius.

Your goal is a turnkey operation.

At any time you can take school on the road.

At any time, you can say, Daddy’s off early, he’s home in ten minutes. Just find 2 things you can do yourself, and we’re good for the day.

Then junior knows, here is my work.  When I’m done, I go play.  Until then, I’m here on the couch.  Or whereever.

Obviously there is freedom.  But that is the gist.

But this is just the student side of things.

As for my part, the things that only I can do–I have also in a turnkey notebook. I can walk up to it with my coffee cup and turn the page and what I need to do with them. Boom. I’m in, I’m out.  I sit beside them on the work that they need to do with me.  They do the rest on their own with me nearby working on my work.  We all work.

I might have to make some videos to give you some footage of what I’m talking about. I don’t mean footage of us being dorky homeschoolers working beside each other. I mean taking a peek inside these binders and they look like in our house for K, 2nd, and 4th.  And mine.

Yes, you’ll spend a few netflix nights punching holes and loading… while the kids are SLEEPING and you can actually THINK! And those ten minutes will deliver months of peace.

And when I can get them ready, I’ll share with you some of my files and pdfs… created for a fool-proof binder.

All I know is… I got my life back.  Thats why I’m telling you about it.

It worked.

They are working as hard as I am now.  They are learning they are responsible. Truly responsible for their daily load.

PS. As a high school teacher, it looked like this: I made packets for note-taking for everything.  I gave them all in advance.   I would walk in the room… uh, with my coffee cup, thank you… and say, “Ok, get out your literary terms packet… or your Romantic Period packet.. or your Idioms packet..” And I would glance down at the page they turned to and think to myself, “oh, we’re on this page.” And I would just carry on. Nothing to go get, nothing to reach for, no copies to find. If I didn’t have it set to memory, I might have to go find my teacher key of my HOMEMADE packet.  y’all.  It changed everything.

Get my step-by-step free PDF guide and access to my class HERE.  OR The first 10 get free access to this self-paced class if they’ll give me feedback on creating a class for others!


4 thoughts on “Get Your Life Back… (Independent Notebooking // Educational Engineering)

  1. We just finished our first year of homeschool in the 5th grade. Will this be helpful information as my child goes into 6th grade? we are looking for more structure. I currently use CC and would like to add in Abeka.

    1. That’s great! And you know, I have a few posts about how & why I use CC and Abeka, but you may have already seen those. But they don’t go into detail about how & why I turned everything into a mobile, flexible notebooking method, because that came later after the posts were written and was too much for one blog post.

      This is a good and tricky question, because the course does not talk about CC and Abeka specifically at all. I think I mention it once or twice and some of the printables in the course do refer to CC and Abeka specifically, but they are just examples, because the course is meant to blend any curriculum together. But your comment about needing structure is what the course is about. It is tackling that administrative aspect of homeschooling that no one talks about. We win and lose the battle in the details of managing everything. “Where is that stack of paper? Why is the book under your bed again? You spilled ketchup all over your math book and it is smashed in the floorboard of the car! You have dentist appointments today, so we will do all of this later I guess.” All the soul crushing administrative details, that are so unforgiving, if we get behind, we end up feeling like we may as well throw the whole thing and try again next year. Choosing the curriculum and having a plan does not at all execute the plan in a peaceful way. I always use June to detox and rethink everything. It is hard to switch gears, so kudos to you for thinking about homeschooling and preparing for next year. To me, that is all the success – preparing ahead. And that is so hard, because we need our summer so bad! To recharge and disconnect and throw the books in a closet and shut the door. But after that detoxing time but after that detoxing time, and ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I am not a natural planner or prepare-er. Maybe I am…. but I have learned the hard way that my success depends on how I set it up before ever start. By pre-loading it all.

      Now, I know I’m going on and on,lol!… but there is one more issue that I have not really delved into in official written form, though it is a conversation I have with all the people who do CC: When people hear you are adding a curriculum to it, they will often say, CC is your backbone, what are you doing!? Why are you adding stress!? Some of my blog posts about blending cc with “ my fathers world“ explain my thinking on this. But in order to dive into any area you want to explore, you need materials. And relying on another company’s plans for those materials is ok. If you end up with any ideas you want to bounce around with someone, you can use my take on it & email me any time. All of us are homeschooling differently, and there is freedom to do it the way we want to do it, so good luck to you!!!

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