Buckets & Loops to Save the Day!

Take the drudgery out of your school days by integrating the concept of buckets and loops into your plan!

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
Some of the links on this site are affiliate links. This means if you click on a link and purchase something, I'll receive a small affiliate
commission at no cost to you. Thanks so much for supporting my efforts with this blog!
All of the Molly of Denali graphics are actually photos of the show on my tv. 

I'm over at Pam Barnhill's site again today, sharing my Hit the Reset Button with Order & Wonder post that explains why her 3-part mini-training is so perfect for this time of year.

Click on over to see what it's all about and grab it for yourself (you can get it here, too), then read on with this post to see how we're integrating this concept into our own days.

Long ago, when I first started thinking about homeschooling, I created an Excel spreadsheet with tabs for different topics and learning areas.

Whenever I came across an idea or resource that sounded interesting, I'd add it to my list. These items ranged from books to websites to apps to things I'd done in my classroom that I didn't want to forget about, to posts and products on other blogs to little, random thoughts that would (occasionally) pop into my head.

Once Gv got a little older, she started adding ideas as well. This spreadsheet became our "brain dump" for anything schooly that we didn't want to forget to explore one day.

Then, to prevent getting too overwhelmed, we chose a handful of items to include on our learning checklist:

This list has 3 sections for things we'd like to do every day, at least once a week, and at least once a month.

It's been working fairly well, but the two of us still get frustrated pretty often at not always finding the time to get to everything on our list.

"Daddy's on his way home from work already? We haven't even done everything we wanted to today!"

So we're excited about revamping it all and going about it in more of a bucket-and-loopy sort of way.

Doesn't take much to make us loopy, so we just needed to find a few buckets...

I've kept our checklist (because we just can't give up the enjoyment of marking off those boxes every day!), but I've now organized it a bit differently.

More sections, but (hopefully) more manageable

Before, I'd included the specific bucket-list items that we didn't want to forget to do, even if that meant that several things covered the same topic and took up a bunch of space.

Now, I'm just listing the "bucket names" for each category, and we'll consult our Order & Wonder lists for the particulars to cycle through.

These are our bucket lists, and we're pretty excited to get started on them!

We'll see how it all turns out, but I'm pretty confident that by combining the things we'd come up with before along with ideas from Pam's system, we'll hit upon a routine that keeps us going for years and years, even as interests change and turn those buckets into something new.

So, what buckets do we have, and what types of things are on them? 

Well, a lot of the ideas and resources come from things I shared in my Ultimate Guide to Doing Preschool at Home post. Even though Gv is no longer a preschooler, we still follow plenty of these tips in our learning.

We definitely follow a regular rhythm of doing a few more "schooly" things each day like language arts and math activities, then we always spend time reading from our current novel and Bible story (in this and all of the zillion other great story Bibles we have!), along with things like practicing the piano and Gv's Awana verses.

Then there are different activities that come up on a weekly or monthly basis, like CCD, Awana, 4-H, skating lessons and practice, and local museum and nature preserve programs.

But in addition to those, we have the following "buckets" to loop through on a regular basis:

  • Faith - This includes special verses, prayers, projects or devotional books that we're working our way through.
  • Reading - This bucket focuses mainly on decoding/reading skills, things like Teach Your Monster to Read, comprehension, vocabulary, or spelling activities.
  • Literature - This list is pretty much full of the zillion books that we want to read, including classics that I've added, titles mentioned in books like this, RAR lists, My Book House books, books on the myon or epic apps, or any other books or reading lists we come across that strike our fancy.
  • Math - These are all the fun things, like Bedtime Math, Life of Fred, Greg Tang books, math puzzle books from my classroom, or just playing with different games or manipulatives that reinforce math skills.
  • Writing - This area includes handwriting, journal prompts, pen pal letters and different forms of writing (we're currently writing poetry) that we want to make sure to cover.
  • Content - This is probably one of our largest buckets. It includes science and social study topics that are "for fun" and outside what we're already learning for the year (our Language Arts program covers these fields extensively). These are things like books about presidents or geography/states, or Magic School Bus videos or National Geographic Kids magazines as well as things like Jr. Ranger or webranger activities that have caught Gv's eye.
  • Arts - This bucket ranges from art history, composer and ballet studies to learning to implement different art and craft techniques. It's also one of our favorites and one we'd do every day, if we could.
  • Foreign Language - This bucket comes and goes, depending on time and interest. When we were getting ready for our trip last winter, we were spending a lot of time on these activities -- and kept it all up pretty much until we went away for the summer. But so far this school year, this bucket's seen pretty sporadic use. It includes things like talkbox.mom, Italian-dubbed cartoons like this that we watch, and the Duolingo app.
  • Life Skills - Most of these items enjoy a temporary stay on the list. Once Gv learns to do things like tie her shoes, ride a bike, call 911, recite her address and my phone number, we take them off, but we also include loads of games like these, just because they're just fun.
  • General - These are mostly websites or apps that cover a range of topics (like abcmouse.com, Starfall.com or Storybots) or just a catch-all for anything random that doesn't fit into another category.

To be honest, we try to keep the repetitive "schooly" part of our day to a minimum, and we prefer to fill up our time with exploring our buckets. But in the past, it was easy to get bogged down by our list and not feel as much freedom as we'd like.

Our problem has just been that there are too many things to learn about and explore...and not enough time.

Out of time again?

So we're hopeful that our post-Order & Wonder alterations will be just the thing we need to work out the last few kinks in our learning rhythm!

What do you think? Will this new adaptation to our plan be the perfect fix? I'd love to hear!  Either leave a comment below or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.

Also, if you don't want to miss a single minute of great tips like this and all the fun around here, be sure to sign up for free updates and then look forward to having each post delivered right to your inbox.