What kind of Clutterbug are you?

Cassandra Aarsen’s The Clutter Connection makes a bold claim: that all people fit into one of four clutter categories based on their preferences around the visibility of their organization system and the degree of organization within their system.

“Butterflies” prefer visual abundance and organizational simplicity. They need big, visible, easy-to-access containers that make it easy to toss something back where it belongs (even if it’ll take some extra time to dig around for the specific battery they need.)

“Bees” prefer visual abundance AND organizational abundance. They like to see their stuff, but they also like to micro-sort it into dozens or hundreds of categories.

“Ladybugs” prefer visual and organizational simplicity. They want things out of sight but have little patience for maintaining detailed systems.

“Crickets”, on the other hand, prefer visual simplicity and organizational abundance. They want things neatly filed out of sight into complex organizational schemes.

Okay, sure, you may be saying. Everyone has different preferences. So what?

Well, if the best organizing system is the one you’ll actually use… then knowing your type and that of the members of your household can be helpful.

And that’s the real strength of this book. Aarsen gives lots of tips for how to help the clutterbugs in your life keep on top of their stuff. Perhaps the most helpful tip for those of us in a huge household is to defer to visual abundance and organizational simplicity. It’s easier for a lover of visual simplicity to hang jackets on a coat rack than to get a lover of visual abundance to open the closet, get out a hanger, and hang up their coat. An abundant organizer can create an “inbox” for broad categories so that the simple organizer can toss items in – the abundant organizer can always micro-organize later.

I took Aarsen’s quiz and discovered that nearly every question slotted me neatly into the “visual abundance, organizational abundance” category. I didn’t pay any attention to which bug that was – which meant I was sure her quiz had gotten me wrong when she started describing the “bee”. It fit me to a T! Silly me for not paying attention to the moniker – I’m a total bee.

As is Daniel. Our kids, on the other hand? At least one is definitely a butterfly – and probably a whole lot more than one. We need to simplify our organizational systems wherever the children interface with them. And we need to have less stuff. Sigh.

All in all, I found Aarsen’s book to be an enjoyable and thought-provoking listen as I’ve been sorting through seemingly endless boxes of loose parts. Whether the insight I’ve gained will be able to help keep those loose parts from finding a place back in a random box? That remains to be seen.

What I do for myself

Eloise Rickman, in her book Extraordinary Parenting, writes of asking mothers what they do for themselves only to meet blank stares. Many mothers don’t do anything for themselves.

I had to stop the audiobook to clarify to Beth-Ellen, who was folding laundry alongside me, that I was not one of those women. I am no martyr. I do things for myself all day long.

I make my bed when I wake up and delight in the beauty of the quilt my mother made us or the one I made myself.

I copy out a passage of Scripture, slowly working my way through a text.

I cuddle with one of my little ones as they slowly wake up.

I peer out the window at the newest visitor to our bird feeder, trying to memorize its features so I can look it up later (if I don’t know its identity) or pointing out its various features to my children if I do know something about it.

I memorize passages of Scripture and sing hymns with my children during our morning worship.

I grub about in one of my many beds of native plants when I step outside to call the kids in or to get the mail or to empty the compost pail.

I read The Story of the World and Hans Christian Anderson during “together time.” I read poems, old and new. I learn the names of the clouds with my children and what weather each type of clouds portends.

I take long baths while reading up on whatever my current pet topic is.

I dream up and research out the next garden bed and then work to implement it.

I plan the next year’s school curriculum and delight in thinking of the next subjects my children and I will deep dive into together.

I sketch ideas for the next Easter or Christmas outfits and then comb through the patterns I have and what free patterns I can find to approximate the vision I have in my head. I dig through my fabric collection and delight in not spending anything, except joyful time sewing, on my kids’ festival clothing.

I make cut-up cakes for my kids’ birthdays, with each opening of the Twizzler bag bringing back fond memories of the cakes my grandma made me.

I do these things for myself day in and day out. Just because I also do them with or for others does not make them any less for me.

Sometimes, my family and I drink deeply together of life-giving water. Other times, I pour out and find myself all the more enriched for having used the things I delight in to serve my family.

Truly, I lead a rich and fulfilling life.

4 Things to Do When You’re Stressed

I had a headache today as I was trying to get a whole lot of Christmas preparations done while simultaneously trying to play a game the kids wanted me to play with them (note to self: trying to multitask when one of the tasks is “play a board game with the kids” is only going to result in frustration.)

Anyway, I was getting frustrated and stressed and overstimulated.

Tirzah Mae's list of things to do when I'm stressed
Tirzah Mae’s list of things to do when I’m stressed

Tirzah Mae got out a dry erase marker and wrote up a nice list of things I can do when I’m stressed :

  1. Take a deep breath
  2. Take a time out
  3. Stop, look around. What is helpful for you?
  4. Read your favorite book

It’s a very nice list, and definitely worth trying next time I’m stressed.

My Girls are Potty Training

ALDI had Cocomelon underpants on their ALDI finds aisle, and I bought some (who am I? I don’t buy branded stuff! But, alas, I am growing soft in my advanced age as I realize my time with little-littles is nearing its end.)

My guess that this might motivate Shiloh to try potty training was absolutely correct. She eagerly put them on and set off to run, run, run to the potty, aided by big sister Beth-Ellen. Beth-Ellen was quick with the hands-on part of training – grabbing Shiloh’s hand and running with her, noticing if it had been been a while since she’d been potty and asking her if she needed to now, and helping Shiloh fold her new underpants and put them away.

Beth-Ellen wanted me to get out the little blue potty and to turn on the Daniel Tiger potty episode, but I declined. Shiloh is proficient with climbing on the big potty seat and using the fold down little hole. And I still don’t watch TV with the kids except in dire circumstances (Shiloh knows Cocomelon from Saturday morning cartoons with papa – not because *I* show the kids shows!)

Tirzah Mae helped in her own way, sitting down with paper and pen to devise a potty-training program complete with an elaborate tracking and rewards chart.

I told Daniel about the girls’ potty training project last night and he just had to laugh (especially about the potty training program!) “They’re *your* daughters!” he said.

Why, yes, yes they are!

Sensory Delights

There was something stinky in the kitchen trash, but kids were already sitting down for breakfast and I wasn’t wearing shoes to take it out, so we opted to diffuse some essential oils to mask the smell.

It being fall (at last!), we decided to try some fall scents – and arrived at a blend that delighted us all day long.

See my diffuser there? I’m no essential oil enthusiast (MLM + uber-questionable health advice = Rebekah’s not a fan) but I’m allergic to a lot of fragrances, so blending my own smells lets me screen out the stuff that gives me sneezes!

I liked it so much, I put it in again today just for the joy of it (no stinky trash needed.)

In case I forget, it was 4 drops cedarwood, 4 drops cinnamon bark, 2 drops cloves, and 10 drops orange.

Respite from the Heat

Squash love heat. They need warm soil to germinate and a long hot season to bear good fruit.

But even squash have their limits.

From mid-July to mid-August, twenty out of thirty days were above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

I got a few zucchini from my four large hills, but they were few and far between – not like the bumper crops one expects.

Zucchini blossoms

I barely saw any squash blossoms, and those I did see stayed mostly closed – not an ideal situation for pollination.

But, in God’s mercy, the temperatures have cooled to the low 90s for the past week – and I was delighted to discover plants full of wide open blossoms when I went out to water this morning.

Wide open!

Thank you, Lord, for this respite from the heat!

A Berry Nice Arrangement

It’s been two years now since I last taught the Fall of Mankind (I was having a baby around this time last year so I took a year off teaching 3-year-old Sunday School.)

In the meantime, my berries – used to pantomime forbidden fruit – have gone missing. So I was off to the store yesterday to find something in the floral section. Unlike the last time I went searching (five years ago?), I couldn’t find anything that was almost exclusively berries. All the berries were a part of a bigger arrangement of flowers.

It just so happened, though, that several arrangements were in the basic colorway of our main living space – and so I did a bit of impulse buying.

A couple of minutes snipping and arranging the three sprays of artificially flowers I bought and now I have a pretty arrangement above the china hutch.

My new floral arrangement

And some forbidden fruit. I also have the forbidden fruit I was looking for.

A 5th Wheel and 3rd Time’s a Charm

Shiloh and Frank had eye appointments today. I needed to take all the kids because Daniel had already gone into work late so I could take Tirzah Mae to an orthodontist appointment this morning.

I was SO on top of it. The kids were in the car and we were on the way in time to be there 15 minutes early. I was rocking this.

We went over some train tracks with a jolt. The cement truck behind us started acting weird.

We stopped at a stoplight.

A woman with a construction vest knocked on my window. She was the cement truck driver. “I’m sorry, but you lost your spare tire back there.”

Yep. I took a U-turn and put on my hazards. Grabbed the tire and rolled it to the back of the van. Hefted it in. Turned back around.

About a block off from the eye office, I had a hunch. When I pulled in, I checked my phone. Yep, the reminder text was not from this location.

Good thing I was still ten minutes early despite the tire. The other location was about ten minutes away.

I took another U-turn (since the parking lot wouldn’t let me take a left). I drove down the road I thought the other location was on – and passed where it should be.

I pulled off onto a side road. Checked Google maps. The other location is a mile north – but didn’t the text reminder say this street?

By that time, I was already on my way to location 2. I won’t get the kids out until I know for sure I’m at the right place.

I ran in and the receptionist confirmed – the right location was a mile south and five miles west. He’ll call and let them know I’m on my way.

Got out to find the big kids had been super helpful and unbuckled their younger siblings. We only arrived at the correct location a half hour late.

The eye doctor saw us lickety-split. Both kids see just fine.

We made it home with only planned stops and no U-turns, despite Louis’s fear that I wouldn’t be able to find my way home and would instead route us through England!

Recapping Kindergarten (2021-2022)

Tirzah Mae was a rather old kindergartener – she turned six just a couple months in. Louis has been a rather young kindergartener – he turned five a mere week before we started our school year in July of last year.

I took this into account in my plan and intended to take things very slowly in a sort of kindergarten-lite.

Since we do most of our “subject work” together as a family, Louis’s individual work was just phonics, handwriting, and math.

Phonics: American Language Series K, with supplements

Young and male as Louis was, I knew we were going to need to take it slow with phonics. So I printed some supplemental material to give us more practice than the American Language Series K provides. I appreciate The Measured Mom blog, so I went there first and found just what I’d hoped for: an alphabet letter find, a beginning sounds coloring page, and some beginning sounds clip cards. Hedging my bets, I also opted to have Louis do his workbook pages for ALS-K in a page protector with a dry erase marker so he could redo a page as many times as he needed to. Turns out, I was really glad I had.

It only took a couple of lessons to discover that the phonemic awareness Tirzah Mae had just arrived at through singing and chanting and whatever did not come quite so naturally to my brand new five year old. He could kinda-sorta isolate beginning sounds, but definitely not ending sounds. And segmenting and blending sounds? Nope.

I began to panic. Why had I gone all gung-ho purchasing the same curriculum I’d learned to read with before I’d had a chance to read up on the science of reading? I should have done my research better and gotten a good Orton-Gillingham program that could meet all my students’ needs, whatever might come. I should have gotten Logic of English.

But I hadn’t gotten another curriculum, and since he was just barely five and since I was able to identify the problem (phonemic awareness), I started him on the fast track of the Sightwords.com Phonemic Awareness Program. We worked on it for a semester until I observed he and his younger sister playing all sorts of word games together, switching out rimes, making new rhymes, blending and segmenting like pros, and demonstrating, well, phonemic awareness.

Back to ALS-K, and this time with good success. We spent 2-3 days on each lesson, learning the sounds of each letter and the consonant digraphs and to read one-syllable short vowel words. (Yes, the printables from the Measured Mom were very helpful.)


I wanted to be really careful here to get the letter formation down without overextending my young boy’s fine motor control. So I spent two days on each letter, using chants from the Kindergarten Works blog. The first day, we formed the letter in the air with our finger and then wrote it a few times with a dry erase marker on these letter cards (I had him use his finger to erase in the exact same path that he’d used to draw the letter in the first place.) The second day, we wrote that letter in a sand tray and then completed the corresponding “letters of all sizes” worksheet from The Measured Mom (uppercase and lowercase worksheets) .

After we had finished both uppercase and lowercase letters, we started a program called Sylladot. I met Carla Cox, the author of the Sylladot phonics curriculum, at the Great Homeschool Convention in St Charles Missouri back in March. Ms. Cox gives away copies of the kindergarten book to mothers of five-year-olds – and when she discovered that I had a seven-year-old who was just now working on vowel digraphs, a five-year-old, and a four-year-old nipping on the five-year-old’s heels, she gave me three copies of the kindergarten book. When I got the book home, I was able to see that Tirzah Mae was really too advanced for it, but that it might serve Louis very well. The first 30 or so lessons focus on learning the names of the letters of the alphabet and how to write them – and I was ready for some new handwriting work, so this seemed good to me (also, I typically focus on sounds such that my kids say /F/ instead of /ef/ when they’re asked to read an eye chart so learning the letter names might be handy!)

I have really enjoyed the clever little pictures and sayings that help the kids remember the names and formations of the letters. Unfortunately, I don’t think Louis could have started with this as his phonics program last fall since his fine motor development probably wasn’t far enough along then. (Beth-Ellen, on the other hand, will likely not have any problem starting Sylladot for her Pre-K next month. I also plan to use Ms. Cox’s alphabet chart and teaching technique for the little girls’ preschool “circle time” next year.)

Mathematics: Shiller Math Kit 1

Perhaps with Louis I will finally get my money’s worth from Shiller Math. He hasn’t asked for a workbook yet, at any rate.

I personally love Shiller Math. Manipulative-based, scripted lessons for low prep, and everything is in the box. The only thing I don’t like (well, apart from the songs that I find cheesy and not particularly helpful for learning) is the log sheet for recording lessons. It’s way too difficult to decide what to do next. So what I’ve done is make a spreadsheet with lesson numbers and names on the first column, a group of columns labeled “Dates worked on”, and a final column marked “Date completed”. After we work a lesson, we mark the date in a “dates worked on” box. If Louis has clearly mastered the concept of that lesson, I mark a line through the remaining “dates worked on” boxes and write the date in the “date completed” column.

Generally speaking, we did one new lesson and one review lesson daily, which took around 20 minutes (hello, Charlotte Mason). For review, I started with the oldest incomplete lesson and did the next incomplete lesson the next day and so on until we were reviewing the lesson we had just done the day before. Then we’d start again at the beginning with the earliest incomplete lesson. So far, I’ve really enjoyed this approach and feel like Louis also appreciates it.

So What’s Next?

We’re planning a pretty boring first grade year – it’s pretty much kindergarten redux. I plan to continue with ALS-K and Sylladot both, using Sylladot as supplemental work while we’re keeping our progress through ALS-K slow. The next part of Sylladot does not have a lot of handwriting, so I’ll be having him do copywork to practice his script. We will continue with Shiller Math, but I did have Math Mammoth 1 printed just in case we need to supplement with some workbook-type work. Louis and Tirzah Mae will also be working together through Core Knowledge’s What Your 1st Grader Needs to Know.

Recapping 1st Grade (2021-2022)

Tirzah Mae has now finished up her first official year of school as compulsory education in the State of Kansas begins at age 6 (and she was six as of September 2021.) For the most part, we continued on with what we’d been doing for her kindergarten year, except that now she wasn’t the only student working (which somewhat dampened the cries of “not fair”, albeit not as much as I would have liked.)

As previously mentioned, we do the majority of our “subject work” together as a family, with only the “skill subjects” of reading, writing, and arithmetic done individually.

Phonics and Reading: American Language Series K (part 2)

I learned to read using this program, then called Little Patriots Read. My mom had me do it all in my kindergarten year, but I chose to slow it way down with Tirzah Mae. The ALS-K order of phoneme introduction is single letters (CVC), consonant digraphs and blends, mother E words, r-controlled vowels, vowel digraphs, and then diphthongs. We completed all the short vowel work in kindergarten and did the rest (mother E words on) here in 1st grade. I also opted to do only the phonics and readers without the spelling, writing, and vocabulary workbook.

I spent way too much energy the first semester trying to make sure we were reading the stories that matched the phonics lesson (really using skills that had been taught several days or weeks prior) and asking the provided “comprehension questions.” Midspring, I finally came to my senses and just had her read and narrate whatever stories came next.


I started the year giving some instruction on the placement of letters on three-lined paper (you know, with the dots in the middle) since we’d focused on letter formation without the use of lined paper in kindergarten.

Then it was copywork, copywork, copywork. She copied the autobiography she’d (spontaneously) written in kindergarten (with mama’s edits for legibility.) She copied the ten commandments. She copied some catechism questions and answers. And she copied lots of happy birthday greetings for cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents.

Mathematics: Math Mammoth 1

I won an electronic copy of the entire sequence of leveled Math Mammoth worktexts back before I’d started schooling any of the kids. I was impressed by what I saw – a well-organized mastery-approach curriculum that I am able to print for about $25 per year at The Homeschool Printing Company. I had intended to switch to Math Mammoth once the kids finished the Shiller Math kit 1 (somewhere around 3-4th grade), but Tirzah Mae’s “wanna do a workbook” from last year made me bite the bullet and get her started on it this year. I did have her use some of the unit cubes from the Shiller Kit to help her conceptualize things a little better (rearranging is easier with 3D objects vs drawings on a page!) – but found that the 1st Grade workbooks are pretty good at making math concrete.

So What’s Next?

Now that Tirzah Mae has finished all six of her ALS-K readers, she is also the proud owner of her own library card (I remember well when I finally completed Sounds of Joy and could get my own card!)

1st Grade was mostly a continuation of kindergarten for Tirzah Mae – but next year we’ll be using all new curriculum. She’ll be learning cursive with Logic of English’s (LOE) Rhythm of Handwriting, doing phonics/grammar/spelling/vocabulary/etc. using LOE’s Essentials, and doing writing using projects/ideas from Brave Writer’s The Writer’s Jungle. She’ll be reading to me, to her younger siblings, and on her own for reading fluency practice. For math, she’ll be continuing on with Math Mammoth AND doing some Shiller Math kit 1 (because she saw the Shiller stuff at the Great Homeschool Convention and regretted giving it up.) She and Louis will also work together through the Core Knowledge book What Your 1st Grader Needs to Know.