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Five Baby Steps To Getting The Family Outdoors

We all know by now how important time spent in nature is for our health, and especially the health of our growing children. Not only is fresh air and exercise essential for healthy bodies, more and more studies are linking time in nature with mental and emotional health.

Unfortunately getting out is one of those things we often strongly believe in, and yet don’t quite manage to do. I know. The commute is killing your evenings, and soccer is eating up your Saturdays. You don‘t know where to go, and when you get there the kids melt down. Then there’s the mess when you get home.

I had all those same issues keeping us from getting out as often as we knew we should. Finally I had to decide that getting outside was as essential as food and water and build bridges over the hurdles keeping us from making it happen.

1. Clear Time

We are in a over-scheduled season at the moment and it is making outdoor time harder to accomplish. For future planning purposes I intend to keep each kid to one activity at a time, and be very selective about my volunteer time. But for now one thing I’ve done to get us out is to make a morning walk part of our homeschool checklist. That way even if we can’t clear time later in the day, we’ve had some fresh air and a bit of nature first thing after morning chores. It’s not quite enough time for my taste, but it’s better than an hour in front of a screen any day.

2. Gear Up

As the old saying goes, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothes”. Last winter I gave up trying to squeeze into my old snow gear and finally bought the right size. Suddenly taking the kids out sledding didn’t seem like such a chore. Having the right gear for whatever Mother Nature throws at you will keep you comfortable and enjoying your outdoor time much longer. At a minimum you’ll want to dress in layers, wear sturdy shoes, and a carry a backpack for snacks, water and a first aid kit.

When it comes to sporting goods, I’d recommend renting gear for your first season so that you can decide whether the new activity is going to stick before you shell out your hard-earned money.

3. Pair Up

If you don’t live in an area with easily accessible open spaces it may be that you are uncomfortable getting out because you are unsure where to go, and when you do get out you are on unfamiliar turf. It can be helpful to find an outdoorsy friend to show you the ropes until you get your legs under you. Another option is to join a nature study group or an outdoor education club such as Scouts or Camp Fire. If there is cell coverage where you venture, bringing a phone can also give you a sense of security.

4. Start Small

If you’re new to getting outdoors with the family you won’t want to jump right in with a full-on hike in the woods. Instead find an out-of-the-way corner in a nearby park, and ease into the dirt, bugs, and weather with short initial visits. As you get more comfortable being outdoors you can try a short jaunt to a good picnic spot, and then a day hike before taking on longer treks, or over-nighters.

5. Just Be

When you’re decompressing from a hyper-scheduled lifestyle it can feel like you should be doing something at all times. For that reason it may be good to have a scavenger hunt or a nature journal with you for your first few visits to the woods, especially if you are bringing children who are accustomed to fully regimented days. But part of nature’s wonder is the peace it can bring when you are able to let go and just be. Eventually you’ll find yourself ditching the crutches and letting your senses fully engage with the sights, smells and sounds surrounding you, while the kids get engrossed in watching bugs or clouds.

Getting out isn’t always easy, but I’m more and more convinced its absolutely essential. Taking these baby-steps will get you on the path to more time outdoors and all the good it can do for your mind, body and spirit.

For those who already regularly get out, what baby steps would you add?

To The Twenty-Something In A Thong Bikini

Free Stock Photos for Blogs at picxclicx

Hi there. I’m a homeschool mom. I haven’t quite gone over to the denim jumper side, but I’m pretty modest. I think it’s more a mom thing than a homeschool mom thing. I only bring up clothes because I took my kids to the water park the other day to commemorate the end of summer, and take advantage of the short lines, since public school started backup. While we were there I noticed my kids snickering at something, and following their gaze I saw you. I saw a lot of you.

Oh. My. Gosh. Becky!

I have to admit my first instinct was to put on my McJudgy britches and look down my nose at your complete lack of modesty, or at least join my children in giggling at your naked buttocks. And I also have to admit that if you had been Brazilian Butt Lift perfect, or airbrushed clean of any hint of cellulite, I probably wouldn’t have resisted the urge to scoff at you. That is a failure of my character, and I’m working on it.

But you weren’t bikini model perfect. Don’t get me wrong. You have a better body than my mirror has seen in the last decade. Still, I could tell you don’t deny yourself the occasional carbohydrate. Maybe your desk job has taken a little toll on your figure. But there you were. Wearing whatever-the-heck you wanted, and not worrying about a few extra pounds. You were laughing and splashing with your friends. I even saw you eat ice cream, and you didn’t seem worried about it.

You were so confident!

Now I have never been one to let my weight dictate how much fun I’m going to have. Life is too short for that. So I’ll jiggle my thighs all around the water park, plop down in the wading pool with my two year old, and eat the damn ice cream too. But I do think it bears mentioning that I do this while brushing aside worries about how I look and wearing a bathing suit that is basically a dress with a built in girdle.

Physically that bathing suit is not what I would call comfort wear. It actually feels a bit like steel-plated armor. But it is emotionally comfortable. I don’t know if that’s a good thing.

I remember being you.

I remember a trip to Hawaii, in my late twenties. We didn’t have kids yet, but I had put on weight and certainly wasn’t an airbrushed looking 19 year old anymore. But I wasn’t going to go to Hawaii and NOT wear a bikini! In fact I bought two new ones just for the trip. I wore them pretty much the whole time. I climbed up a waterfall confident of my body in a stringy blue slingshot I called a bathing suit.

Where is that girl? I haven’t seen, or even thought about her in ages.

She got buried in mundane tasks, and heavy decisions, and big ol’ cotton granny panties.

You reminded me of her.

Of myself.

A self I need to find again.

So I want to thank you. Thank you for reminding me that, while I’m doing okay in the fun department, I need to be a little kinder to myself in the confidence department.

Motherhood has changed my modesty settings. I’ll probably never wear a bikini again. But I am definitely going to loosen the ratchet straps on the girdle of my soul.

All because you wore a thong bikini to the water park.

Homeschool expenses 2017/2018

This is less a blog post than a list I’m keeping for my own information. But it may be useful as encouragement for those of you who either want to homeschool and think it will be too expensive, or are homeschooling and wondering where all the money is going.

It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, thanks to hardworking homeschool parents who have gone before (such as the lovely Ambleside Online advisary) and are willing to share what they have pulled together and make it available FREE online for you and I.

As I make purchases I’ll add them here and tally it all up when we finish next spring.

I haven’t included the cost of any materials we are carrying over from last year. There are quite a few, and I don’t want to do the math. As each expense comes up I’ll just count it to the year we bought it.

I also won’t include any activities or services we would have paid for even if they had been in public school. So while gymnastics, internet, and the reading tutor definitely count toward their education, I don’t consider them homeschool-specific expenses.


Art Study Prints…………………………….$7.72
Joan of Arc, Diane Stanley…………….$6.00
Handbook of Nature Study…………..$24.8
AO Year 2 Poetry Anthology…………$2.99

Big Spender!!  Let’s see how much damage I can do buying spiral notebooks at the back to school sales!

How I Plan For A Year Of Homeschool

Oleanders and Books, Vincent Van Gogh Image courtesy of Wiki Art

Can you believe it’s already July? I can. I’m about done with Summer to be honest.

We finished our 16/17 school year way back in May, and the lack of structure is starting to get to me. Thank goodness I plan to start us back to school August 1.

I originally intended to do a modified year-round schedule wherein we would school six weeks on/one week off and take the entire month of July as well as six-ish weeks off from Thanksgiving to the New Year. But since the girls were itching to start school early last year, and then we also forgot to take a couple of our scheduled weeks off (which I think speaks volumes about this lifestyle…we forgot to take a break from school…more than once…chew on that a minute)  we finished early this spring, which led to us having extra weeks off in early summer. (Although we’re still doing reading and Math…shhh, don’t tell the kids it counts as school…suckers!) It hasn’t been as structured as I need for my sanity though, so I think it’s time to ease us back into a Charlotte Mason Summer schedule, and then start back to AO in full force August 1.

That means it’s time for Mama to start planning and get some ducks in a row.

The first thing I do is set the dates for our school year.  I like printing free year at a glance calendars from Anny Studio for this.  I start at Thanksgiving and count back six weeks, then cross the 7th week off for a scheduled break.  Then I count back another six, cross one off and so on until I get to August 1.  Then I go to the New Year and count forward six weeks, cross one off etc. until I get to July.  Sometimes it works out to not quite six week intervals, but that’s okay as long as you get your 36 weeks in all.  (Or however many your state requires–find out here.)  We ended up with 37 scheduled last year, which gave us plenty of wiggle room.  Joy of homeschool in Washington State–we don’t have to report our schedule, so as long as it works out in the end I don’t worry too much about shifting dates, or taking time off as needed.

We follow Ambleside Online for our spine curriculum, so my next step is to print the book list and 36 week schedule for the year.  AO years don’t necessarily correlate with public school grades, so at this point I’ve chosen to keep my girls in the same year.  They still do Math and Language Arts at their own level.  More about that later.

Next I go over the book list and see what I need to buy.  Ambleside uses public domain books as much as possible.  Many are available free for Kindle, or as e-texts from Project Gutenberg, or audio books at Librivox.  They also provide alternative suggestions for the books that must be purchased.  Between what we already had on hand, and what I was able to get for Kindle, I will only need to purchase three books for the upcoming year!  I do prefer “real” books over ebooks, so I am always keeping my eyes open for quality hard copies of the Kindle books.

At this time I also take a look at Ambleside’s composer, hymns, folksongs, and artist studies for the upcoming year, so I can have prints made (public domain images can be printed on card stock by Walgreen’s or Office Depot very inexpensively) and create or find youtube and prime music playlists, and decide if I want to sub anything out.  I make note of these right on my 36 week schedule so that I don’t have to keep looking up what I’m supposed to be singing/looking at each term.

I feel like we floundered a bit with Math last year, mainly because I couldn’t decide on a curriculum.  I wanted something not too teacher intensive, like Teaching Textbooks, but the cheapo in me couldn’t spend the money for it.  We tried, Moby, and Kahn Academy (both free) but I didn’t feel like either of those was linear enough.  The girls would do their work each day, but the progress graph never seemed to change, so I was never sure if they were making any progress.  With a workbook, they bring it to me, we go over whatever might be incorrect and I can physically see where they are.  But I keep hearing such wonderful things about Khan Academy that I am giving it another trial for summer, just to rule out the possibility that the problem with it wasn’t my own lack of understanding on how it is set up.  This year I will likely get them some basic grade level workbooks and also use Khan Academy as a supplement/evaluation tool.

I’m also considering pre-planning this year’s copy work (This is the beginning of language arts in a Charlotte Mason style education) and scripture memorization, so that I don’t have to come up with those as we’re going along.  Last year we did it off the cuff, choosing whatever we liked best from what we were reading, or looking up inspirational quotes and scriptures.

Finally I plug everything into a Course of Study, to be sure I’ve got all my bases covered.  This wouldn’t really be necessary if one were to purchase a complete open and go curriculum, but since I’m pulling resources from several places, I like to lay it all out in one place so I can see how I’m meeting each of my states eleven required subjects.

Now all that’s left is daily and weekly planning.  For this I simply take 5 minutes each Sunday to look at the week ahead’s scheduled readings, as well as a look at any appointments etc.  I put a M, T, W, TH next to each reading selection, two or three each day. Again, I just scribble right on the 36 week schedule.  For Math we just do the next thing, so I don’t pre-plan that with the exception of giving errand days lighter workloads.  I leave Friday open for catch up, field trips, Nature walks etc.  This works well because the kids feel like we don’t have school on Friday, but I know that what we’re doing “counts”.  Once that’s done I just sit down each evening and write out a checklist including the next day’s chores, reading, math and copy work for each kid in her spiral notebook.  I leave these on the kitchen table with sharp pencils so they are ready to go first thing in the morning.  I really liked having most of the written work all in one place last year.  Minimal paper-clutter that way.  The notebook checklist also allows the kids to be largely self-directed in case I need to be out of the house or otherwise busy.  I wrote about our average day here.

That’s it!

Reading back through all that it sure seems like it would be easier to open a box and do the next page of the workbook, but that’s just not my style!  If I wanted to follow someone else’s plan to a T they’d be in public school.  😉

Are you doing any planning, dreaming or scheming for the upcoming school year?


The Dark Side of Homeschooling: 3 Things Nobody Is Talking About

Homeschooling isn’t really a new sensational thing anymore. It’s almost mainstream. Everyone knows someone who homeschools.

Look, you don’t need me to tell you about all the wonderful benefits of individualized education, more family time, or marching to your own drum.

You need me to tell you what can go wrong.


That’s right.  It’s not all lap books and tea time over here.

There are some real issues starting to crop up as we finish our first year of homeschooling, and they’re things NOBODY told me.  I never read a single word about this dark underbelly of the homeschool movement.

I won’t keep you in suspense any more.

Personal Hygiene has hit an all-time low.  

This goes way beyond doing school in our pajamas, and BO.  I was pretty surprised that my oldest had a couple cavities at our most recent dental visit.  But after some thought I totally know why it happened.  We don’t get ready in the morning.  Brushing teeth, washing faces, combing hair, were all part of the “getting ready to leave the house” routine.  And now we don’t get ready to leave the house until late in the day, if at all.  So here I sit in the same ratty sweats that I sweated in yesterday, nursing another cup of coffee instead of brushing my teeth to head out the door, and I don’t even know where the hairbrush is.  The kids do the same.  Yikes.

All the clothes have become play clothes.

This follows the hygiene issue.  We decided to go to church a few Sundays back and sadly discovered nobody had anything really appropriate to wear.  Thank goodness we attend a come-as-you-are church.  (I was brought up with Sunday Best, so that’s hard for me, but now I’m starting to warm up to it.) When you rarely go anywhere fancier than the grocery store or sports, (which solve their own clothes issues with gear/uniforms) it’s so easy to overlook how the kids clothes are looking slightly too small and dingy if not outright ruined.  And my best sweats are about to blow out.

We are using, like, quadruple the amount of toilet paper.  

No joke, and the youngest one isn’t even wiping consistently.  I don’t know how often the kids were visiting the restroom when they were in public school, but if toilet paper usage is an indicator it was a lot.  No wonder public schools need more money.

You know what, though?  It’s worth it.  

Even with the warts exposed, homeschooling has been a great fit for us so far.  The grooming issues are just things were going to have to add to our daily check list going forward, and the toilet paper usage is something I’ll just have to allow for.  Goodness knows I wouldn’t have them cut back.  I don’t need another laundry issue.  😉

If you homeschool, what is the dark side for you?


Mother Culture Monday #2

Thanks for coming back for more Mother Culture!


Let’s dig right in, and take a closer look at the words Mother and Culture.

Click below to find out what Merriam-Webster says:

Definition of Mother (alert… one definition is decidedly naughty…I don’t know why they included it)

Definition of Culture

Did you make it through all that?

I’ll admit I only skimmed it.  Study skills, y’all.

We can use each definition as a lens.

In this case Mother means just what we first think; Mother, Mommy, Mama, the lady in charge of the kiddos

As for culture, this week we’ll focus on definition 6, and think of Mother Culture as the process of cultivating living material.

Do you feel alive?  You should.  Read on.

The reason I’m choosing this lens first is that the primary purpose of Mother Culture in CM’s approach was to prevent burnout.  Yes, even in the good ol’ days Mothers were prone to burn out.

How do we cultivate ourselves in order to prevent burnout?

First we have to decide it’s absolutely necessary, because I bet you’ve thought this:

I don’t have time for myself.  

Who’s in charge here?

This is going to start out like a political post, but if you’ll bear with me I think I can bring it around, to NOT a political post.

And since it’s rather a rant, it won’t be my best writing. I pay the hosting, I can lay an egg now and then if I want to.

Here’s some background info that you may not be aware of:

I’m brown.

I came from a broken home.

I’m pretty sure my absentee father –who I’ve never laid eyes on– was “undocumented”. (That’s code for ILLEGAL in case you didn’t know, and I HOPE the reason I’ve never met him is that he was deported; it’s better than thinking he ditched me by choice.)

I grew up desperately poor.

I was responsible for my little brother, and a latch key kid at eight or nine.

I was often unsupervised as a child.

I even had a real, live bully in junior high.

Sounds pretty rough, right?

According to the leftist rhetoric, if anyone were going to be oppressed, it should have been me. But guess what?

I’m not.

Being held down never even occurred to me. What did occur to me was working hard.

I don’t want to paint too proud a picture of myself. I was a typically bratty kid, and I had some advantages; a level playing field, if you will. Public school. Financial aid for community college. A big loving family.

Except for the latter, I’m pretty sure those are things that every American still has access to.

I’m not saying there aren’t obstacles.  What I’m trying to say is that if I can overcome obstacles, like being a poor minority, so can anyone. We don’t lack opportunities in this country,  what we lack is gumption.

Now I’m not saying don’t stand up for yourself.  I’m not saying don’t be kind.  I’m not saying don’t help.  I’m not saying if you need help you’re somehow flawed. I’m saying that help is already available. I’ve used it.  I didn’t have to throw a fit to get it, and neither do you.

It comes down to locus of control. Who’s in charge of your life? I hear a bunch of young people saying in not so many words, “My life, My choice, My rights; Your responsibility”.

That’s an external locus of control. Let me just say, if the government is in charge of your life, you’ve put them in charge.  And don’t even get me started on your right to feel a certain way (safe is the word that comes to mind). Nobody gets to choose your emotions for you.  If being different makes you feel unsafe, my guess is there’s no legislation that will change that for you.

The good news is that we can change our locus of control.  I think the current buzz phrase is “adopt a growth mindset”.

I don’t have an eloquent wrap up.  So I’ll finish by saying this isn’t a politics post. It’s a parenting post. I’m not going to waste your time by telling you how to parent, or how your parents went wrong. I don’t know you. I’m not an expert. I’m just a small town poor girl, who turned into a not-oppressed woman, who has exactly the life she wanted, because she didn’t wait for it to be legislated for her.

This guy does have some credentials though, and some great advice if you want to raise kids with an internal locus of control, who face challenges head on, rather than seeking safe spaces.

Happy Saturday

My Great-Grandmother’s Commonplace Book


“Our Wedding Day, August 1 1912, Humbold Sask” Henry and Eliza eloped in an ox-drawn carriage in Saskatchewan. She was age 15

I never knew my great grandmother. But looking through her commonplace book, I know I would have admired her. And she probably would have been puzzled by, but tolerant of my my wide-eyed enthusiasm for doing things the hard way. I can almost hear her saying ,”For pity’s sake, just use your microwave”!

What is a commonplace book anyway?

It was your great grandma’s Pinterest; a scrap book of notes, ideas and clippings related to the interests and every day life of it’s keeper.  I was lucky enough to stumble on two of my Great Grandma Eliza’s in my mom’s basement, and Mom was nice enough to let me have them.  They are full of frugal recipes, garden tips, measurements (did you know 15 lbs are in a peck?), home remedies, and housekeeping tips.  You know, mom stuff.  My kind of stuff.

11259348_611568168946949_7970244153906018005_oGrandma Eliza was born in 1897, and she married in 1912.  Her commonplace books appear to have been started in the the early 1900’s.  The earliest date noted in either book is 1915, but entries don’t appear to be chronological.  I suspect she “filled up” the pages, and then came back later to add more in leftover spaces.  It even looks as though her daughter, my Grandma Dolly (given name Hazel, my youngest is her namesake) added a note or two.  One is mostly handwritten in a record book, and the other is mostly cut and pasted into what appears to have been a school notebook.  You can see bits of History and Math peeking out from between the pasted-in articles.  I love that.


Her recipes and tips reflect the thrift of the day, and the articles she clipped feature women making do and rising above.  One clipped article features a Mrs. HG who found herself widowed and without an income on “the shady side of fifty years”.  But she did have the family home free and clear.  She sold a piece of jewelry and purchased three tables and twelve chairs, which she used to convert her front parlor into a dining room.  She offered a luncheon of baked beans, green salad, bread, and her neighbor’s fruit preserves for fifty cents, and having such a low overhead was able to support herself nicely thereafter.  Such an inspiration!  I love that even so many years ago, my great-grandmother was interested in many of the same things I am today; frugality, good food, and creating a warm home.


Calves Brains With Potato Balls and Tomatoes. YUMMY!

Aside from giving a glimpse at the sort of things Grandma Eliza was interested in, her commonplace books offer useful information.  Okay, I admit I’m not likely to need directions for maintaining a kerosene cookstove, and honestly, I’m not keen on tasting calves brains with potato balls.  But you can bet I’ve tried her method for cleaning and seasoning cast iron with great success!  And my girls, who have been learning about proper tea etiquette, will be very interested in the article she clipped on Table Service In The Home.11217604_611568282280271_1343129495048705349_o

I’m inspired to start keeping a commonplace book of my own.  Yes, I know my great grandchildren will probably be able to look back on my facebook, pinterest and even this blog if they are interested, but how much more valuable to have a book to hold in their hands, leaf through, and use as a resource for “old timey” wisdom?

Oh and as a side note, as I was putting my girls to bed this evening, the two year old asked “Mom, where’s my notebook?”  Yes, she actually speaks that well, and her notebook was jumbled in her covers.  All three of my daughters adore notebooks and journals. My husband is a serial note-booker, so I always figured they got it from him, but now I realize that they may have come by some of those tendencies on my side as well!

How about you?  Do you keep a “commonplace book”?

Special thanks to my mother and cousins for filling me in in dates and details of Grandma Eliza’s life, and for the wedding photo.  I would love to hear from any of you who have more stories to share!  

What Am I Going To Tell My Children?

I see a lot of folks asking what they should tell their children.  Regardless of who you voted for an whether or not you felt you “won”, I believe you should tell your children this:

  1. Tell them that you love them.
  2. Tell them that we can only control our own behavior.
  3. Tell them that we don’t need anyone to tell us its okay to be kind.
  4. Tell them that we live in a fallen world, but we don’t need to wallow in it.
  5. Tell them that in a democracy, the pendulum swings both ways.
  6. Tell them that this is where we are now, we may be somewhere else tomorrow.
  7. Tell them that they can change the world by good deeds, but never by whining.
  8. Tell them to pray for our leaders, that they may have wisdom and fortitude.
  9. Tell them that you love them.