Category: education

Clean Start: A FREE eBook

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Our family has been pursuing a more natural lifestyle for several years now. (Remember my chicken years? Oh, how I loved those!) Part of the process has been changing our food sources to more natural, local, and organic ones. We’ve changed our spending habits to be consume and waste less. We’ve tried to green up every area of our home from replacing plastic with glass to changing our cleaning products to more natural ones without toxic chemicals.

And, if you’ve followed me for more than, oh, I don’t know, FIVE MINUTES you know I’m fully in love with essential oils and what they have done for our family.

I’ve mentioned before that it took me a couple years to work up the courage to fully get started on essential oils in our family. We dabbled here and there but I just lacked the courage to dive right in. When I finally did start integrating them into our daily life I realized how easy it is and how much I had wished we had started using them sooner.

I am such a huge believer in what they have done for our family that I wanted to make things easier for others to get started so I put together a simple eBook to share some tips on getting started. Inside you will find recipes for diffusers, health & beauty products, and roller bottles that  all of your kids can help make and use. This is truly a fun and exciting journey for the health and wellness of your family and I am super excited to share it with you!

Check out the eBook here! I hope you enjoy it!

My top 5 homeschool hacks.

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I’m not a great homeschooler. Really. When I imagined homeschooling I pictured my family sitting on blankets in a field on a prairie reading Anne of Green Gables and eating homemade bread and jam while we absorbed the beauty of the knowledge in the stack of books we had brought with us.

Okay, so I am a bit of a romantic. Also, possibly delusional. Whatever.

The truth is in this particular stage of life homeschooling looks a lot more like us scrambling to find sharpened pencils and desperately trying to get as much school done as we can while a very very very busy toddler takes a nap. It’s not generally pretty. But we get it done. Mostly thanks to a few things that work for us. They aren’t necessarily revolutionary but they work for us.

  1. Online free curriculum – We use a lot of online tools in our homeschool. Kahn Academy is a fantastic resource for math of all grade levels and we love using it. Starfall has been a staple for the little kids for as long as we’ve been homeschooling and it helps to entertain them and make them feel a part of school when they are too little to do much on their own. Homeschool curriculum is not cheap and any freebies we can find help take the financial burden off of the process. Sites like Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool are also an excellent source of 100% free homeschool curriculum. This particular site breaks everything down in days using free links to web content that allows the student to be self-directed. We love it as a supplement to the other things we do but many families use it for their entire school curriculum.
  2. Single focus days – We’ve done this during different seasons of homeschooling and it is still one of my favorite ways to homeschool. Basically we just assign a subject to each day and focus solely on activities that surround that. For example, Monday = Bible, Tuesday = Science, Wednesday = Literature, Thursday = History, Friday = catch up on all the things that didn’t get completed on previous days. When we were doing this we would do math each day just to try and keep things consistently moving in that subject since it is our least favorite/weakest subject. The beauty of this method is that it is kind of like unit studies in that each subject really covers composition, spelling, reading, critical thinking, handwriting, etc. The kids think they are doing less work (always a win in this house!) but really they are doing the same amount of practice in all of these areas it just feels less noticeable since each day they are working on new subject matter.
  3. Ted Ed videos – Do you ever have one of those homeschooling days where everything goes wrong and you need to clean oatmeal out of the carpet and somehow throw food in the slow cooker before you get everyone to ballet/boy scouts/whatever activity you foolishly agreed to participate in and then on top of that you have the pressure of oh, you know, EDUCATING your child? Me either. But if I did have multiple days a month like that then I would surely use Ted Ed to help fill in the gaps when I need to fill those sweet little brains with info and run a household. All kidding aside, Ted Ed is a great way to learn things that don’t fit into traditional homeschool curriculums. They’ve learned about how the band-aid was invented, the paradox of value, and whether spotty fruits and vegetables are safe to eat. I know, I know, not exactly Common Core aligned stuff here but what I love is that it fuels a love of learning. Each lesson includes a video, a quiz, an opportunity to dig deeper into the subject, and a format in which to discuss it. The world is a big place and by learning about some of the more random parts of it my kids have discovered a love of knowledge that I think can sometimes be tricky to impart when you’re hammering them with tests and quizzes.
  4. Outsourcing – We utilize a homeschool hybrid once a week as well as a once-a-month co-op class in teaching the kids. Maybe you think it’s a cheater’s way to homeschool. Maybe it is. The thing is I find outsourcing a great way to help the kids learn from others without giving up my ability to help meet their individual educational needs. Once a week the kids spend 3.5 hours at an arts-based hybrid learning things that I would never have thought to incorporate into our schooling. Kai is working with other students on a student film. Ivy is learning Calligraphy. Each of them is working in a group with friends and enjoying being a part of a classroom experience one day a week. Then once a month the homeschool group we are a part of holds an enrichment day that allows the kids to learn about different subjects each month. One month the kids participated in a Shakespearean drama and had a feast to go along with it. They’ve built volcanoes and met geologists and enjoyed learning about cultures from people who are experts in a way I will never be. Each time they come home filled with information and enthusiasm about a subject they hadn’t previously interacted with and it fuels their desire to pursue knowledge about it for the rest of the month.
  5. Year-round School – We officially start school every September but the truth is we try our very best to “school” the kids year round. The first year we did school we stopped at the end of summer and when we got back to school-time in the Fall getting the kids motivated to learn again was a nightmare. They enjoyed the summer and didn’t feel like diving back into school. The more I thought about it the more it bugged me that we were basically telling them they got to spend 3 months not learning and that they could stop pursuing the study of the world that we were trying to tell them was so important for the other 9 months of the year. The second year we tried not breaking for summer. We changed the pace of our lessons and did lots of unit studies with the kids. We explored different subjects and cultures and found ways to take unexpected field trips and just kept the learning going. Then by the time Fall rolled around we just jumped right back into “regular” school and no one complained. And we felt like we were reinforcing the idea that learning is a forever thing. Not something to take a break from. It’s been a win-win scenario for us.

So, there you have it. Five homeschooling hacks that are working for us! I would love to hear what works for you and yours when it comes to educating the kids whether it is homeschool, traditional school, unschooling or some combo of different styles. There is so much to be learned and shared with others on this journey and I love storing away great ideas for when we need to change things up!

Advice Needed: How do YOU homeschool with a toddler?

We’re approaching the end of our first homeschooling year. And, honestly, it has been great. I have learned a lot about what works for my kids and what doesn’t. I’ve learned that I need to be more organized and I need  (at the very least) a loose schedule for the day. That I can do.

Homeschooling Kai and Ivy together has been a relatively easy task. Ivy gets to experience more advanced subject work and I’m still able to work with her on her level. The only big issue I’m having? Traveler.

He’s mobile. Like, really, mobile. And I hate to stick him in the playpen all day. Or (even worse) plop him down in front of Sesame Street forever. But he’s super distracting to the girls during school. And his naptimes aren’t exactly reliable lately.

So, what do I do?

No, really. You tell me. What do you do? Some of their work can be self-directed but I really want to be a part of their hands-on learning. So, homeschooling parents who have toddlers in the mix, what are your suggestions for keeping everybody learning without resorting to TV or the dreaded baby cage? I would really appreciate your advice!

The post where my hormones make me way too philosophical about something relatively minor.

First Day of “Real” Preschool (2005)
First Day 2006

First Day 2007

Kai has been a part of this great church preschool/daycare since she was 8 months old. I remember the first day I dropped her off there. She was so little and her teacher took her out of my arms and assured me she’d only cry for a little while. I stood outside the tinted window in her classroom watching her for a few moments before reluctantly heading to work.

And she did get used to the environment there. And she grew to love it. And the teachers became family and we trusted these people to take care of our most precious baby.

Each year she moved into a new classroom. Each classroom became more grown-up than the one before. And she grew from a baby to a little girl.

But, tomorrow Kai will be walking through the doors to this school for her last time as a student there. She will leave behind friends she’s known since the age of 8 months to come home for homeschool Kindergarten.

And I am absolutely positively terrified that I am making the wrong decision for her. Because this, I am realizing, is where parenting gets hard.

Knowing what to do when your baby has an ear infection, or a stomach bug, or painful teething is easy. There are concrete and unchanging answers to these problems. Knowing how to potty train, or wean from the bottle, or pick developmentally appropriate toys is something we can all figure out how to do with a little help from Google and our friends.

But these big decisions, the ones where we make choices that affect the emotional, spiritual, and educational lives of our children, the ones where there are no answers to be Googled, no concrete and definitive truth, these are the decisions that define us as parents. And these are the decisions that tear our hearts out every time we make them.

As I sit here, crying on the sofa remembering all of the ways my girl has grown these past 4 years and wondering if we’re going to damage that growth with this choice, I know that we are entering into a new phase of parenting. A place where there are no certainties and no absolutes and no way to know whether we’re doing the right thing until we’re in the thick of it.

I realize that this is the beginning of a thousand difficult decisions to come. I know they are only going to get harder. But, I am thankful that I am blessed with the opportunity to make them. Because these decisions mean we are all growing. They define the direction of my life as much as my children. And I am anxious to see where these decisions take us all…

Simple solution.

About a week ago I posted a blog about my daughters’ playroom. More specifically what it was about it that was causing them to avoid it like the plague. I took it down not long after posting it ’cause I started to suspect what the problem might be. Some google-fu soon confirmed my suspicions.

My kids had way too many toys. In my attempts to keep them occupied at all times, I had overstimulated their senses and created a room that was too much for them. They couldn’t play in there because they were too busy tearing the place apart. So, this past weekend I did what is absolutely the most counterintuitive thing for a mom who is desperate to have her kids happy and entertained. I cleaned out the playroom and I got rid of toys. I got rid of bags and bags of toys. I eliminated whole bookshelves of toys and activities. I left them with simply dolls and a doll bed, dress up clothes, a kitchen and food, and a dollhouse. That is all. And I added a new element. Play silks.

I read alot about Waldorf education and the theory that children need to use their imaginations more and rely on “entertaining” toys less. It made total sense. So, for Easter the girls got play silks. They’re basically just 34″ x”36″ satin fabrics in various colors. So far they’ve become dresses for the girls. Blankets for the babies. The blue one has become a swimming pool. They have been super hero capes. They have been table cloths. They have built tents. They have been anything the girls can imagine.

I love to go in the room and see them sitting beside a blue piece of satin on the ground with sunglasses on and their baby dolls beside them with them telling me they are at the pool with the kids. I love seeing them put the babies on the fabric and teach them how to swim. I love seeing them absorbed in a make-believe world for hours. It is teaching them to use their imagination and see things that could be instead of things that are. I think that is what we all need to do from time to time.

Since the transformation of our playroom the girls have played in their room nonstop. Where before I couldn’t even get them to go in there, now they ask me nicely to go read in another room so they can play alone in there. I feel transformed. And I am excited to continue to apply the theories of Waldorf education in our home and see the difference it makes to my girls.

It occurs to me, too, that perhaps I should apply this same theory to my own life. Simplicity is never a bad thing, is it? Maybe I should go through and throw out some of my own toys.

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