Thursday, July 24, 2014

How to get started with homeschooling when you have no idea!

Challenges are what makes life interesting and overcoming them 

is what makes life meaningful...

I feel like some posts need a little explanation or something to go with them. This is one such post. I feel like homeschool can be such a loaded phrase and idea. So, let me just put your mind at ease and say- this isn't a post telling you why you should homeschool. This isn't a post telling you why we are better than you for homeschooling or that public school is evil. Truth is- every single kid is different and what works for one doesn't always work for the other! So, find what works best for you, and if some of these ideas are helpful- awesome :) So, without further ado-

Last year, we decided for a few reasons to try out homeschooling for first grade this school year and see how it went. I liked the idea that it meant a little more time together and would give Andrew more opportunities to learn through his outside-the-box hands-on style. Two years ago though, you never would have caught me saying the word "homeschool." Nothing against it, but it just wasn't for me, you know? I mean, teaching our kids? I didn't think I was cut out for it at all or could handle it, but I discovered a few things that helped change my mind and helped me not feel so overwhelmed at all the ideas and curriculums and questions floating (or more like, massively, dizzily, swirling) around.

If you're wanting to homeschool but feel really inundated by it all, here's what helped us so quickly get into a comfortable groove.

Start simple! 
In our area, there is a plethora of homeschool groups and activities. What to even pick from?! Since this is our first year, I wanted to start at square one, and just get the basics down before we try to add in a lot of other things. Many of the groups have either open enrollment or semester enrollment so there is always the option to add some things later. Don't feel like homeschooling has to have much extra-curricular activity for there to be learning! Kids can get easily overwhelmed so start with finding your comfortable groove at home and go from there! Andrew will be in a kids group at church this fall so that is providing a great social outlet for him. If you are looking for ideas, some of our favorites are a children's museum membership, being apart of our local MOPS moms group, playdates through that, field trips another homeschooling mom does. Check and Facebook for local homeschool groups too! A church here hosts what they call Friday School and homeschoolers meet every Friday during the school year where a good variety of classes are available. The cost is affordable too. We might add that in eventually. 
Science with Usborne space flashcards. Sometimes we overthink how learning can happen and put so much pressure on ourselves to create the "perfect" learning environment! Check it out though-
Pretty real life there with cleanup not having happened yet, but I'd say learning is still going on ;-)
Andrew's favorite place to do school is lying on the living room floor. Outside is fun too.

This is another great example of simple but fun learning!
The lesson for the day was place value. I used dimes to teach the tens and pennies for ones. Andrew got to "buy" things that cost different amounts. The trio block was 1cent, the tootsie roll was 5 cents, and the pencils were 10 cent (he was pretty excited to learn since it meant a tootsie roll at the end!)  Don't overthink what you can use for teaching! You probably already have a lot of things at home! 

Make it yours! 
You know your kids! And your homeschool experience is yours. It's SO easy to compare to other families but I can promise that they have their own challenges too! And, they also have different kids who likely have different learning styles. Don't be afraid to do what works for you! If that means lots of hands-on activities outside, go for it! If that means doing lots of real life projects like cooking to teach math- there you go. If you have a kid who loves repetition and flashcards or worksheets, go with that! If your school day needs to be a little shorter or split up, there is nothing wrong with that! We do school three days a week for a few hours, and guess what? We have no set schedule. It's the routine that Andrew loves! We start each day (even if it doesn't start until 11 am!) with setting the day of the week, date, weather and how Andrew is feeling today. From there it's a few worksheets, supplemental activities, and then we are usually done. Incentives help a lot for Andrew (like, getting to go play outside afterwards, or a cooking project, or special activity later). 
I love this quote!

Remember- There is no one perfect curriculum!
(There are also no perfect kids either!! They all have their off days even with the best books!) Have you seen how many curriculums there are?! It's incredible really. I decided to not worry about finding ONE I loved. This year we are doing a little bit of this and that. Some friends offered for us to borrow from their curriculum, so we are doing history and science using their books.  I found a great math book on a swap/buy page on Facebook(they had a preview on the book website of the pages that I looked up to decide to buy or not), and the rest I am supplementing with Pinterest activities and worksheets, and things from the dollar store and Target's dollar section like manuscript practice sheets, flashcards, and some classic books like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn & Tom Sawyer. It's also been a great place to get things for Adrian! This was going on the other day!
Adrian's "school" while Andrew did his math. Andrew was SO excited to help!

Something that can help a lot in making a decision with curriculum is to visit a homeschool convention and get a hands-on look at the different ones. You can get great discounts too on ordering the books there.
I just found out there is also the option to rent books here!!

Something to remember before you toss the curriculum you are using- see if supplementing a part they are struggling with is the answer you are actually looking for rather than replacing the entire thing. Sometimes kids just need help getting through one concept. Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers are great for that. If it's time for a new one though, check out Craigslist, eBay, textbook rental sites, and friends are all good places to save money on books! 

Speaking of Pinterest-
Pinterest is an invaluable resource!!
You can literally look up any topic or specific concept. People are very generous with what they are sharing these days! If you have a kid who loves Legos and is struggling with a certain concept, plug that into Pinterest! Or, if you are covering a topic and feel like your kids just aren't getting it, or you want more ideas to expand it, the world is at your fingertips! I've also found some of my favorite homeschool blogs this way!

Other favorite places to find things:
Thrift stores and garage sales
Thrift store score! They got rid of it because it only went to 2013 
but that was easily fixed with some craft paint! Homeschooling doesn't have to be expensive!

Other favorite resources
Teachers Pay Teachers website - Lots of awesome affordable worksheets and printables here (many free!)
This list  of lots of neat sites by grade and topic
Free tutoring at Khan Academy
The local library bulletin board- I was surprised at just how many local events I had never heard about that were posted here! The library is also a fantastic place to get free books! 

Incentives work wonders!!
Tablet time is a favorite but it's also definitely an incentive Andrew has to earn! (And one that is usually timed too. He gets half an hour max.) He earns more or less time depending on how his day is going. It seems to be effective to warn him that he is going to lose a minute if X doesn't improve or change (refusing to do a worksheet, or correct something or change a bad attitude). This can also be true of outside time- he can earn extra for having a great day! 

And last but not least-
Some days just stink! And that is ok! If you need a break for the day, take one! There is always tomorrow!
Find community whether it's making a little effort to say hi to other parents at the park, finding a local parent group on Facebook, or joining a moms group like MOPS. You don't have to do this alone! 

Bottom line- 
You are doing better than you think!
Love and laughter go a long ways on the hard days!
Don't be afraid to change something if it's not working!
Keep your chin up! This hard work really is worth it!

If you want to follow along with our homeschool journey, check out my Instagram feed here and also Pinterest where I have an entire board devoted to all things educational and fun here!

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I'll take a big slice of peach pie with some reality and sprinkles thrown in too!!

Actually make that cobbler, because, doesn't that just sound amazing?? Hot peach cobbler, fresh out of the oven, with vanilla ice cream just melting on top of it. Especially the really good kind of ice cream.
Lately though, cherries have been hitting the spot. No kidding I've probably eaten a pound or two the past few weeks. We have to restock at our local farmer's market every week (not a bad thing!) It's become a tradition of sorts to go every week and get more cherries, bread, local coffee and always some cookies at a stand. Last week I got two pounds of sugar snap peas. They are almost gone already. Yum.
Adrian is a big cherry fan too! He's easily eaten as many as me!

Couple great reads/watches/listens for you this week-
"Are you Raising Nice Kids?" This article is fantastic food for thought to challenge kids a little more! I've found if we aren't intentional, these things don't just happen. For some reason, osmosis doesn't work with parenting and just because we believe it and sometimes mention it doesn't translate to deeply held beliefs.

This song a friend helped pen the lyrics to! I like it. What do you think?
I know someone who could be famous! How cool is that?!?!

These awesome creative inventions. Some of them I seriously had a, "Wow.. Why has no one made this before?! It makes so much sense!!" moment with! The fish weirds me out though!! I think it's the name?!

"I Blamed My Wife for Our Messy House; I was Wrong for Many Reasons."- If you wonder what in the world stay at home moms do all day with their time, and wonder why their houses aren't spotless, read this article. (please?!)  I posted this about it on my photography page because as a small business owner and stay at home mom, it really rings true with me.  photo clients, ***read this!!!***** Seriously! Because I know you want to think I have so much time on my hands to edit your amazing photos, and I know you wonder why they aren't done yet. But, i can promise you- it's not quite as peaches and cream and easy as pie as you might think keeping up with a house and kids. Amazingly, it's this full time job, and while I have sweet magical visions in my head of our boys playing nicely together while I get hours of photo editing done, it *NEVER* happens that way! Instead, it looks instead like this: I sit down to work on pictures, hear screaming going on. Get up to check on screaming, find younger brother hitting older brother on the head because he wouldn't give younger brother the Legos that he will inevitably try to eat and then possibly choke on. Resolve Lego conflict by giving younger sibling some playdough. Sit down for more editing. Hear lots of laughter. Playdough is now SO give kids Cheerios for a snack. Five minutes later, the youngest is giggling saying, "Funny!! Cheerios!! Jump!!!" There are about 50 Cheerios (wet and soggy mind you) all over the table and floor because he thought it was hilarious they were jumping out of his bowl. So, photo clients, I promise I am getting to your photos as I can! And i know it feels like forever, but I honestly only have 8-10 hours a week after being a wife and mama. Read this though It's good

"Top 20 Pieces of Advice Moms Wish They'd Received". #15 is my favorite and serious life saver these days!!

And then, some really neat ways to make a difference:

This life-changing subscription box service. I love this quote: "But I wasn’t able to shake this truth: While it’s often easy to give people in poverty what they need; it’s empowering to help them meet their own needs.
They don’t need more charity. They need more opportunity." Check out more info here

Putting your smart phone away the next time you're at a restaurant!  
Here's why!! 

And last but not least, someone please send this sweet boy with an inoperable brain tumor (so far. They're still doing treatment and praying for a miracle!!) a birthday card! Sweet guy is lonely because he can't be in Kindergarten anymore cause of treatment! His 6th birthday is coming up July 25th and all he wants is a big post office box full of cards for his birthday!! He loves Legos and Mario! Andrew is putting together a Lego creation for him and making a big huge card to send (all his own ideas!!! I'm kindof proud of his sweet heart!)) 
All cards can be mailed the Nickerson’s home addressed: Danny Nickerson, P.O. Box 212, Foxboro, MA, 02035. 

Happy Tuesday guys. Go make someone's day today!
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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Weekly digest of **awesome!!**

I'm so awesome that I just found snickerdoodle crumbs in my shirt. Yum? :)
But hey- If you've never had fresh-baked farmer's market snickerdoodles, you, my friend, are missing out!

Favorite things this week:

This huge awesome list of free printable wall art!! You could order any of these as a print and either modge podge to canvas or frame them! And, cheap diy frame idea? Hit up the thrift store, get some spray paint and knock yourself out! I want to get some gold glittery spray paint just because it'd be fun!
I really want to create a nursery space, but we are on a budget and as much as I love premade art, I'll take saving a few dollars over that any day! This is one of my favorites. Free printable that you get to color!
via Tried & True Blog 
Speaking of the Farmer's Market, have you seen this?

Good challenge there! It really wouldn't be so hard and there are quite a few shops I'd love to spend a little money at! I know a lot of times I feel like I'd like to make a difference but just don't know where to! It's a good reminder that we really don't need to look farther than our own town and neighborhood with where to start! I can tell you personally as a photography business owner, ever $100 really truly does make a difference! Keep up the good work guys :)

In other news, Seattle made several headlines (including in the UK!) from a guy who thought a lighter and spray paint would be a pretty good way to deal with a spider! Check out what happened here!! 

These delicious, refreshing bars.
No coconut pieces in them, and they just hit the spot!
(Going to grab one as we speak!)
What is keeping you cool this summer? Our temps are finally looking like they might start dropping a little (yay!!) Looks like baby girl might follow suit? We'll see!!

Linking up for fun here today!

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Monday, July 14, 2014

It's called pregnancy swag!! {36 week bump update!}

Yep. Pregnancy swag. :)
This third pregnancy thing is anything but glamorous so I'm all for renaming some of these awesome symptoms. Just a warning: this is pretty honest! Consider yourself warned!!

I am wondering why no one tells you that-

You will go through about 3 pads a day. And finding one that is super absorbent yet doesn't scream "pantiliner under here!!" is next to impossible. Almost. I think I may have succeeded at a winner.

On that note, you'll be planning all excursions around the closest bathroom (and the closets one ten minutes after that!) Word of advice: always have a backup plan because if you're like me, your luck will have you finding every.single.bathroom that is closed for cleaning (and, of course guys cleaning all of them so you can't sneak in. Although I may have seriously contemplated it!) Be prepared to break some doors down if you need to!

You will crave all kinds of things you never dreamed you would! No odd combinations here yet, but it's allthesweets. I had this yesterday. 
via the Ice Cream Informant
And peach upside down cake. With whipped cream. It was amazing. Josh made it for me. Sweet guy. 
On the flip side though, I finished my no-sugar challenge and have to say, it is really nice to not be craving as much sugar. I had a plain almond milk + frozen blueberry smoothie yesterday and it was refreshing, cool and just hit the spot. No sugar added. So, little steps. 

What else does no one tell you about?

The cervical pinching. And you thought Braxton Hicks were bad. These stop you dead in your pee-holding steps! Most days these have me really limited. It's just the baby growing and stretching but they hurt and they have no name. 

The nightly discomfort and insomnia. It feels like I have abdominal "heartburn" from the baby growing and stretching my skin out. Just when I find the perfect place at night (ok just kidding. That doesn't happen!) I either have the cervical pinching sensation, Braxton Hicks, heartburny feeling, or finally get a little comfy and have to pee. Ahh such is life!! I am feeling like this is too true these days!
via Pinterest

Also this. 
I feel like there's a contest going on or something up in here!
And this too.
And you know, this too.

I'm pretty much on bedrest if I do so much as move, so I'm thankful there are four(ish) weeks left!

On some plus notes:
//I have the birth center bag packed!!!!!( I don't remember if I already told you that? Oh well :) )
//I am getting lots of rest in. Teaching the hubby how to really keep up the house is no easy feat but I think he's getting it! I mean, don't get me wrong. He is great at doing the dishes (occasionally ;-)) and getting the recycle and trash out but there is so much more to keeping up a house than the bigger jobs. It's incredible how much wiping down and picking up & putting away plus keeping up with the kids goes on in a day!
//I scored some lavender body wash/bubble bath for $5.99 for a huge thing at a local liquidation store. I'm going to have to remember to go there more often because they had some great deals! 
// I know it's bad luck to plan your own baby shower (or so I've heard?) but because I know way too many people and the second shower my friend is throwing will be right when school starts after baby girl comes and a lot of my friends are busy then, I decided to throw myself a little one this weekend. It won't be a lot of friends but I don't mind. I'm a little excited! What are your thoughts on third pregnancy baby showers? I know they're not traditional but I say bring on the merriment! The new baby needs at least diapers and those ain't cheap!!
//Actually downloading some music for our birth playlist. It's not done yet but it's a work in progress! I need some good recommendations though! So far some faves-

All of Me cover by Boyce Avenue

A Thousand Years cover by Boyce Avenue

Keep Breathing by Ingrid Michaelson

Incredible Love by Ingrid Michaelson

Bloom by Radiohead 

Sunrise by Nora Jones

What are your favorite songs to help you stay motivated, focused, and calm?

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Trashcan footprints

Yeah. For reals. Trash can footprints. See?!

I cleaned some dirty smudges off the trash can last night, only to be puzzled at how- what?! there they were again this morning. And then it clicked- they were footprints and that was how Andrew had been getting the candy that Adrian had this morning from in my new inside-the-mixing-bowl-on-top-of-the-fridge hiding spot. Guess I need a new hiding spot now, huh?!

You might have a strong-willed kiddo on your hands if not even the thought of losing a brand new toy (or the danger involved?!) deters them from standing on top of the trash can to reach the candy. On the other hand, l am sure loving all the cleaning he is doing for me as a result of his little trash can footprint shenanigans!! 
This one is going in his scrapbook! :)

What have your kids been up to lately?! What do you have to hide from them?!
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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Just a coffee chat

I was going to write up another "weekly digest of awesome" but it's just not coming to me this week guys. Instead, I thought I'd do a little "coffee chat" just for fun, and because it just feels so much with where I am this week- low key, contemplative, happy, but not so much "awesomely inspired & impressed with these things I found." Some days you just need a little bit more mellow. You are welcome to join in on the questions. In fact, please answer some of them in the comments because I love getting to know you friends even more! It's one of my favorite things. I might not have mind-blowingly high blog reader numbers that score great campaigns and help pay the bills, but you know, I am ok with that. Deep down, I really want this blog to be 1)a journal of our life, and 2)a means to have meaningful friendships with people. I'm realizing that I don't need 10,000 readers to do that. I'll take five great friends over that any day, quite honestly!

via Pinterest

Inspired- lately by colorful mismatched things. I think to me they say "cozy and fun." This is one recent favorite.
via Pinterest
Sentimental- at this song. It was the intro song on the old version of "Where the Red Fern Grow."  I can't tell you how many countless times I watched it at my grandparents. It's timeless really. So many memories. I tear up thinking about how time is going to go on and one day, I won't have them with me. For that reason, I think I am putting this one on my birth playlist. (Especially since baby girl is going to have my Grandma's middle name as one of her middle names). I don't know how some simple things do that. For me, so many things do this whether a song, certain food, or outfit- sometimes they just stop me in my steps and bring back a flood of emotions, reminding me of everything bittersweet about it.
Wondering- why I am doing a 7-day no-added sugar challenge. I guess in a way, I'm already taking some baby steps because I have to eat things super low in sugar anyways with the borderline low blood pressure and high risk I have of fainting/blacking out in pregnancy. It's just an extra motivation to not eat things I know I will pay for later! It hasn't been easy, but so far, I've managed to survive a BBQ with s'mores and amazing looking fruit dip. 
Smiling- at the fact that Bloglovin just moved all my old website followers over to my "new" ones (new as in, I've been at for over a year but didn't realize I could simply email them and have them do the switch! Yeehaw!) Little things, huh? :)
Loving- MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers {actually, any agers!}) new "Be You, Bravely" theme. I just received my welcome packet in the mail with tons of goodies, and inspirational book that I am already so inspired by (just at the first chapter!)  Favorite quote so far? "We all need people in our lives that give us permission to be extraordinary." If you are in a rut and need some time with other mamas, please please find a group near you! They usually run September to May. It is a lifesaver twice a month (plus, hey-childcare is included!) You can locate one here.
Confession- It's almost 3 am. I told myself I would go to bed about five hours ago with the hubby. Oops. 
Excited- at my last Stella & Dot payday! I hit some huge personal goals and still can't believe it! Yeah!!

Your turn! Tell me some of your latest thoughts with the prompts!

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Saturday, July 5, 2014

Easy ways to make summer cool!

Two in one baby! Some of our favorite ways (and things on our bucket list!) to make this summer not only fun but a whole lot cooler too! (All images are linked!)

Starting with this great idea to cool kids off and keep them busy! I am making this asap this week and might add in a bunch of different food colors throughout the ice to make it even more fun! This one would be perfect in the tub or pool!

This is on our list tomorrow! We have craft sticks and watermelon. I can't wait!

My toddler would go nuts over this idea. We are getting some jello tomorrow for this week!

I've been on a salad kick lately, but I sometimes want out of the typical salad rut. This is a cool & delicious way to do just that!

I wish I could take credit for this idea. It's ingenious!

But, if you want something easy peasy, head over to your local drug store and get yourself this awesome sprinkler! Dude, it's an elephant with a trunk! You can wind it however you want and adjust the spray depending on how water-loving your kids are. Our boys LOVE it for so many things, including as a car & bike wash! Best $9.99 ever spent!!

This one we made at our MOPS group and it was a bit hit! Super easy- raw sugar + coconut oil + lime juice=amazing scrub!! Use it on your feet for a great exfoliating treat.

I'm saving the best for last here. It's one of my favorite "secret" summer drink recipes. It is so good- blueberry mint limeade. Refreshing and tasty perfection.

Linking up here. Happy Sunday! What cool summer things are on your list (or are favorite things you love?)

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Friday, July 4, 2014

Star Spangled Craft + Some Brace Face memories with Invisalign! #ad

This is a post sponsored by Invisalign, but all thoughts & ideas are my own!

Happy 4th of July!! Today is one of my favorite holidays and I can't wait to share one of our favorite new memories with you! (plus, watch for a giveaway for Invisalign treatment at the end!)

We love holidays around here, and celebrating them is awesome, but let's be honest- sometimes it takes a lot of work with busy kids to pull off the fun memories (more than I always want to do)! The memories are so fun and I don't want our kids to completely miss out on them, so I came up with a fun, easy patriotic craft that your kids will love putting together and is easy for you! (I'd call that a win/win!) 

First, gather your materials (and kids!)
Andrew loved putting it together and using double stick tape instead of regular school glue made it super easy and non-messy! (And, If your kids like it really really easy, just stick entire strips of tissue paper onto the stripes of the flag like Andrew did at the end! I guess he wanted his own take on it!!)

Another one of my favorite things about the Fourth of July is all the yummy snacks. Our local town has this amazing 4th of July festival (oldest in the state actually!) complete with a grand parade, rodeo, carnival and wood carving! Along with that are tons of great treats. I don't know what it is about holidays, but the food brings back such a nostalgia to me- perfectly crispy fried corndogs, curly fries, and my favorite- kettle corn! 

Rewind thirteen years ago though and my Fourth of July had so many of my favorite things off the list- no kettle corn, licorice, or chipped ice to chew on! You know why? Braces! I sure rocked some awesome rubber band colors (red, white & blue on silver baby!) but I have to admit- it was no fun missing out on the treats with the special day!

My 13th Birthday!

I've known about Invisalign for years, but I just found out they have new aligners that are available for teens! I am so thankful to have straight teeth now (apparently seven years of thumb-sucking will give you a great overbite. Oops.) but, I have to admit- if I could do it all over again, I'd pick Invisalign Teen in a heartbeat! Here's why:

*the cost is very comparable to braces (especially if you don't wear your retainer and need to go back for treatment later)
*confidence doesn't have to suffer because of awkward metal mouth and the "brace face" nickname is a thing of the past!
*no treats are off the list because you can easily remove them to eat
*no more awkward closed mouth-covering-up-braces photos (I am so guilty of that!)
*no visits needed for broken wires, adjustments, appliances (anyone else a Herbst appliance survivor?), headgear or any of that mess! (I actually had to have everything metal in my mouth taken out at one point because my mouth got infected. NOT FUN!! And then it all got to go back in :( )
*sports and any wind instruments are no longer a problem or concern
*six free replacement aligners are included with treatment! (Although, it's been proven in studies that teens wear the aligners the recommended time! Must mean they work!)
You can see more on how Invisalign works & get a free smile assessment here:

Just to note: Not all orthodontists offer Invisalign Teen, so check out and select "find a doctor" to locate one in your area!

Check out the difference!

I recently got to go check out the latest technology and aligners Invisalign has. I found out not only do they have the Invisalign Teen line, but they also have a brand new way to get teeth impressions done digitally. It's awesome. It also means- no more nasty impression trays and gel and junk to have crammed in your mouth! (my mouth is tiny too so it always stunk so get impressions done!! Gag me why don't you!) They can simply scan it now! Check it out!

I asked Andrew which he would rather have- braces or Invisalign and he was quick to show me which one!

Invisalign is actually giving away free treatment right now! Enter below using the Rafflecopter!

Happy 4th of July!! What are your favorite treats??

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