May 31, 2017

May 2017 Update

We made it another year and school is officially out for summer! Unlike previous years we didn't limp across the finish line. Instead we coasted easily to the end thanks to our new approach to homeschool.

To celebrate the end of school, us girls went on an epic road trip with my Dad. We visited Plant City, FL where we lived during my 5th and 6th grade years. We realized that Skylar is the exact age now that I was when we moved there. Everyone commented on how much she looks like me because it's been that long since they've seen me. We had fun tracking down all of our favorite spots around town including restaurants, our old house, the church we attended, where we kept our horses, and my school.
Next, Skylar and I dropped Dad off for his work conference and headed for Disney. We had an amazing visit to the brand new Rapunzel breakfast and then a full day at Animal Kingdom. We walked NINE MILES! It's amazing how much we squeezed in with just the 2 of us. Best of all, the entire day was paid for by the reward points we earned during our remodel. It covered our tickets, character breakfast, lunch, dinner, and souveniers!
While we were in Orlando we stayed 2 nights with an old friend who let us swim and chillax. It was so much fun to catch up. Before leaving, I tracked down Michelle Hyatt and picked up a dozen Nourishing Cupcakes! I have been craving these since she left Nashville.

Back home we hit the ground running! Skylar had her first softball game (a double header). The girls did a great job and won both games. That same night I had an opportunity to speak to a group of authors about my book layout and design services. It was also fun to meet some of the authors I've already worked with over the past year.

Mike worked for his company in Louisville for the Kentucky Derby earlier this month, which is always fun for him and I'm glad they keep asking him back each year. Plus, he always comes back with really cool swag. :)

We also managed to make it out to the lake a few times this month. At the moment, we can't seem to get a weekend without rain but I'm hoping that changes soon so we can spend more time on the water.
On the BFF front, we are basically consumed with grass cutting season. It now takes us about 3 days to cut the grass as opposed to 30 minutes at our old house. I've ran the zero turn out of gas twice. LOL! We've also been working to clear out a ton of brush to open up around some of our trees and help them mature. We've been getting quotes for exterior painting, gutters, and garages so it will be fun to move forward with those projects soon! I'm really hoping we can get the brick painted before our Summer Solstice party! I can't wait to have everyone over and share our new home with those who have followed our journey over the past 6 months.
Unfortunately May ended on a sad note. Today we lost our little Easton. At the ripe old age of 13, he seemed to love it here at the BFF! We saw new life in him and thought he was doing better than ever. Around lunch he began having a grand mall seizure that wouldn't stop despite several rounds of meds and a transfer from the local vet's office to the ER. After several hours with no change we made the very difficult decision to say goodbye. It was so unexpected and abrupt and, well, we are all having a hard time with it. We brought him home and buried him in a beautiful spot under one of our trees. Last week, Skylar had carefully crafted a cross on her own not knowing that we would need to use it for this purpose, but it made the perfect addition to his memorial. We have so many good memories with Easton and I'm thankful he hung on long enough to experience the BFF and let this be his final resting place with us forever!

For more May photos including Disney pics, click here!

May 2017 in Pictures

 I've been updating the flower beds at the BFF using pavers and rocks we've found around our property.  Looks SO much better!
 For Mother's Day, Mike got me these awesome rain/muck boots in my favorite color!
 Sweet sunset at the Lake!
 Road Trip with K-Diddy

Reconnected with a friend from my middle school years in Orlando. 
♥ I got to see my Disney boyfriend, Flynn Rider. ♥
We also met Ariel, Rapunzel, and Prince Eric at this Breakfast. 
Mickey & Minnie Safari Style
Donald didn't want to give me my girl back. 
Animal Kingdom Day and the Tree of Life with my best girl! 
Picked up a dozen cupcake jars and I'm not sharing!!
Softball season has begun!
Fun at the Lake on the Lilly Pad
Our Preds are doing great this season and made it the Stanley Cup Finals
Setting up our rain barrels at the BFF!
Relaxing in our hammocks!
Said goodbye our our Easton buddy after 13 years.

Click here to read the full May update and details.

May 11, 2017

Top 10 Fidgets for Sensory Kids or Kinesthetic Learners



I'm homeschooling a sensory kiddo who is also a kinesthetic learner. She learns completely opposite from me. I quickly saw that if her hands aren't moving, it's more difficult for her to take in new information. She's also particular about textures. Below is a list of fidgets we have found that help keep her hands busy so her brain can be open. In fact, she asked me to write this post to help other mamas or teachers with kiddos who learn like she does. Click on each image to learn more or view the detailed list at the end of this post. 

1. 2. 3.

4. 5. 6.

7. 8. 9.

10.

  1. Fidget Spinner
  2. Cube Bot
  3. Fidget Cube
  4. Stick bot
  5. Galaxy Slime
  6. Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty
  7. Tangle Jr. 
  8. Lego Creative
  9. Tangram Puzzles
  10. Play Foam

May 3, 2017

A New Approach to Homeschool

Many of you are curious about our new homeschool approach because it's been working out so amazingly well.

Basically, I threw all the curriculum out the window. Wait! What!?!? Let me explain.

I've always been fascinated by Maria Montessori and her approach. In fact, for the 3 years that we were in the public school system, Skylar attended a Montessori school. Here's a basic overview.
The teacher, child, and environment create a learning triangle. The classroom is prepared by the teacher to encourage independence, freedom within limits, and a sense of order. The child, through individual choice, makes use of what the environment offers to develop himself, interacting with the teacher when support and/or guidance is needed.
Montessori education is designed to awaken interest and to allow children to pursue learning about issues that personally interest them. This is necessary to a system that is based on intrinsic motivation; a drive to action that is rewarded by doing the activity itself, rather than deriving some external reward from it. 
I wasn't ever quite brave enough to offer student-directed learning at home until now. Being the "Type A" that I am, I felt the need to have a specific curriculum for each subject that I could use to teach her. A checklist of sorts. The idea of student-directed learning led me to believe she would choose to play her iPad all day, every day. I wasn't having that. 

During our 3+ year journey of homeschooling so far, It has become apparent that Skylar's best teacher is actually herself. When left to her own choosing, she is surprisingly curious, inventive, creative, and thirsty to learn. Best of all, what she studies sticks with her!

Still, I was hesitant. Student-directed learning isn't traditional. Some groups call it "unschooling" and some people have very strong and unfavorable feelings about that word. Mainstream isn't really my jam and many of my life choices have been frowned upon over the years, so choosing to do something "alternative" isn't really new to me. If I am passionate about anything, it's advocating for my kiddo. I've always said we would continue homeschooling as long as it was a good fit for our family. The flexibility of homeschooling definitely works well for us but I had a sinking feeling that our curriculum-based approach wasn't the best fit for my girl. So I changed.


By now, you might be wondering what a student-directed homeschool day looks like. They look a lot like life. It also looks a lot like the book If You Give a Pig a Party. One experience leads to another and another and another. It's the "a spark creates a fire" mentality. My job is to offer materials that will create an interest and then fan the flame and watch her consume that subject/topic/experience. Rinse. Repeat.

There's a neat method called "strewing" that I've been using quite a bit.
Strewing is the art of allowing your child to discover something you have casually left out.
The basic concept is to leave interesting objects, materials, or combinations of things out as a quiet invitation to your child to notice it, touch it, explore it, use it and most importantly, have fun in the process.
There are no rules to strewing, other than to strew widely and diversely.
If I could add one other "rule" for strewing, it would be to strew with no expectations. The whole point is to get a child to bite off on something naturally out of their own curiosity. It shouldn't be forced or coerced. I put out a lot of things that she never even touches, which is fine. Because when she does find something that interests her, it takes over the day. I love watching her learn with glee!

I've been keeping notes in my same little homeschool planner about what we do each day. Much to my surprise, she is still covering all of the major subjects. Yes, including math. Here's a small sampling of the educational experiences she's had in the last few weeks.

  • Researched chickens and wrote a report on her findings.
  • Learned about the different types of dinosaurs and created her own flip book. 
  • Played with Snap Circuits. 
  • Read countless fiction books. 
  • Studied George Washington Carver. 
  • Completed two Life of Fred Mathematics books. 
  • Did a Geometry workbook.
  • Cooked dinner for us. 
  • Read poetry. 
  • Animal husbandry (chickens, dogs, birds, turtles, butterflies).
  • Created her own essential oil tick spray. 
  • Lots of crafts & art projects. 
  • Decided she wanted a gerbil and has been using fun facts to try and persuade me. Daily. 
  • Working her way through a book of at-home science experiments. 
  • Planted seeds in the greenhouse with our neighbor and has been checking the sprouts regularly.
  • Egg drop construction contest. 
  • Watched a documentary on abstract art. 
  • Taught herself how to play several songs out of an old piano book. 

I have been amazed at all she has accomplished of her own free will and imagination. It's truly fascinating! Looking ahead, we still plan to participate in our current co-op next year. She enjoys the elective classes and she's made a few sweet friends there too.We are also still with our original umbrella school. 

Back when we first decided to homeschool, my main goals were to 1) capture her heart 2) teach her life skills. That's it! Granted, we were in measly first grade, so I wasn't too concerned about "curriculum." It was more about learning to read and write. 

In the last few months, I've felt a renewed commitment to pursue her heart.  I feel like we are rapidly approaching the Tween years and it's more important to me that she feel deeply connected so we can have those hard conversations when they arise. It's also vital to me that she has a firm foundation for her faith. Truly, in the grand scheme of things, not much else matters. I'm serious! 

Now, the next obvious questions are about graduating high school, going to college, and getting a job.  I get it. I wondered about those things too. Here is a sampling of articles I discovered in my research that helped put my mind at ease. 

  1. How Do Unschoolers Turn Out
  2. 30+ Life Skills That Aren't Taught in School but Largely Affect Our Lives
  3. Hackschooling Makes Me Happy
  4. "Unschooled" Kids Do Just Fine in College
  5. Unschoolers Learn What They Want, When They Want
  6. How Self-Directed Learning Can Benefit Every Student
As always, we will continue down this path until it isn't benefiting our family and then re-evaluate, but I'm really excited to see how her knowledge and skills progress. After all, a custom-tailored education is the ultimate beauty of homeschooling.  

April 30, 2017

April 2017 in Pictures

 Special Treats from Uncle Bennie
 Crafting Day in Bluff Ridge
 Lego Mini Build
 Muscadine Jelly with Aunt Sheila
Finished her quilt 
 Our 1st day of getting 6 eggs!
 First Lake Trip
 Oh how we love being on the lake with our buddies. 
 Hanging outside on Easter
 Love my sweet little family!
 Made me so happy to find all the cousins hanging out and playing in the living room. 
 Grandma & D-Dad and all the kiddos!
Skylar & our neighbor heading to the greenhouse to check their seedlings. 
 We had a hard rain and ended up with a lake in our front yard. Metro Water is coming this month to spruce up our storm drainage. 
Skylar & Max are big buddies! 
My girl racked UP at Field Day!