Just a few faves...

1.  Grounds for Change.  Delicious coffee.  Fair trade.  What more could you ask for?

2.  Starfall.com  If you have preschool age kids, this is a great way to get them interested in phonics.

3.  coconut oil.  I have been loving coconut oil for a long time now.  Now, this list of 101 uses...well, some of them might be a bit of a stretch.  But if you're not using it, then you're late to the party.  Get on the bandwagon already.  I use it for healthy cooking, face moisturizer, and shaving cream (!!  This is probably my favorite use!  Thanks for the recommendation, Chrissy!)

4.  Renew lotion.  Coconut oil is all I need most of the time.  But I am a mom to three dirty, yucky, stinky boys.  I have to wash my hands a lot.  I also live in the North.  It's cold here.  Winter skin care is serious business.  Thankfully my friend Lindsay sells Melaleuca products.  If you want to order, send me an e-mail and I can hook you up.  Oh, and if you decide to go with the Renew lotion, do yourself a favor and get the 20 oz bottle.  You won't regret it.  I have never used a moisturizer that lasts so long, even with the constant hand washing.

5.  All Sons and Daughters.   For your listening pleasure:

6.  Sevenly.  Because people matter.  Get a cute new top AND help someone.  Win.Win.

7.   Do some research before you shop:
Green America  and Free2Work are great sites (and also have mobile apps!) 
I have been doing some reading about slave labor, child labor, and human trafficking.  This is scary stuff, friends.  It's easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless in the face of such big problems - especially in light of how deep the corruption is in some major companies.  But, I don't want to cop-out and say we can't do anything.  Surely, you can't be certain about every purchase you make being completely ethical, but I'm trying to change the things that I buy on a regular basis (like coffee, chocolate, make-up...that pretty much sums up all of life's needs, right?  :)).  I also feel like I could change where I make bigger purchases that I can plan out/research ahead of time.  Let's make our money talk!

8.  Along those lines, here are some some sites where you can read about slavery and find ways to be part of the solution: 
The A21 Campaign  "Human trafficking is the illegal trade of human beings, mainly for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. As the world’s fastest growing criminal industry, it affects every nation across the globe. Every thirty seconds, someone is forced into this type of bondage—modern slavery"
End It Movement  "Nothing happens just because we are aware of modern–day slavery, but nothing will EVER happen until we are."

9.  National Geographic Picture of the Day  I have probably already written about this in a previous post, but I'll write again because we love it that much.  This is a much-loved part of our school day.  We like to look at a new, breathtaking picture every day.  We make observations, write stories about them, find the location on a map, do some research about that particular place/animal/thing, the list is endless of what you can do with this! 

10.  If you're not following Honest Toddler on twitter, you should be.  So so funny.


Homeschooling: The Why

I have had several people ask me about homeschooling lately and so I thought a post might be the best way to communicate my thoughts on the topic.  You know, given that I can't get through a phone conversation without having to say "hang on, I have to stop Judah from climbing the counter to steal chocolate chips" or "Call you back, just found Silas playing in the toilet."

Homeschooling has been a topic of discussion in our family for quite a while.  My degree is in elementary education and so homeschooling had always been an idea I had tossed around.  Roman turned 5 last June and so it was time to buckle down and make a decision. 

I want to make it clear that I had mostly great experiences in the public schools I attended.  I have several teachers that I could name as huge influences in my life, both personally and intellectually.  I think, like most people, I had a couple of not-so-great teachers too, but that's the way it goes..  I always enjoyed school.  With a very few exceptions, all the teachers I know are heroes.  They work so hard to not only educate, but genuinely care for each student in their class.  Which is a big job when you have 20 kids that you are responsible for on a daily basis.  If you don't know it, teachers are up at night thinking about the best ways to motivate your kids; they spend  hours of their time and hundreds of dollars of their own money trying to make projects awesome and engaging.  They are the most underpaid, under appreciated and SIMULTANEOUSLY the most dedicated, life-giving workers you'll ever meet.  Teacher friends/mentors, you know I love you!

ANYWAY, when we moved, we really had to get on figuring out what to do.  Since our church here in Wisconsin has a school, that seemed like the obvious choice if we weren't going to homeschool.  Joe and I visited the school and Roman and I actually went to one of the kindergarten visit days, too.  I had no complaints about anything I saw at that school. 

Our decision to homeschool was not out of fear or lack of options.  It has simply been what we feel called to do.  It's what we feel works best for our family right now.  We have no long term plans for our kids' educations.  We want to keep prayerfully discerning what is best for our family.

So, in no particular order, here are some of the reasons that we homeschool:

  • attention wise, we felt Roman may be better suited for kindergarten as a 6 year old, but he could already read by his 5th birthday so I didn't think it would be wise to wait a whole year to begin schooling
  • Joe works a lot of evenings.  I'm thankful to say that he is really good about making time for family and balancing home life and work life.  SO, when he works a lot of evenings, he will often take a morning or two to stay home during the week.  I want our boys to be able to have as much quality time with Dad as they can.  So, homeschooling works well.  Roman can do schoolwork in the afternoon, or we can do some kind of field trip all together or he can read for Dad.  That's always way cooler than reading to Mom.
field trip to the children's museum

  • It seems like the natural extension of what we have already been doing.  I have been staying home since Roman was born.  If I can teach him effectively at home, why not do it?
  • I always tell my kids "brothers are best friends".  I want them to have lots of quality time together and they definitely get that when we're home together during the day.  Let's be honest, they also fight a lot.  Such is the life of siblings, no?  I also love that when we spend time with other homeschool families, they get to interact with kids of all ages.  Getting along with peers is awesome and important.  I think it's just as important for our kids to be able to talk to teenagers and adults confidently, and for them to learn to include younger kids in whatever game they're playing.
  • We have had a big transition in the last year with moving to a new state.  I wanted this year to be focused on family bonding. 
  • There is an awesome homeschool group that we are a part of in Madison.  I think the community aspect is really important.  Roman actually goes to a kindergarten class on Friday afternoons (September-April) and he loves that! 
  • The little ones are around all of the learning and they like to get involved. 

  • (a great way to enterain the littles.  Grab an old cookie sheet and a permanent marker.  Write the alphabet on the back side of the cookie sheet.  Get some letter magnents and let the match up begin.  Judah has recently mastered this game.  Silas, as you can see, is still working on it.  :)  )
    (This is what happens when the littles are not being entertained.)

    Judah is just starting to write his name!  Yay!
     (He also wrote about ten letter A's on the wall behind the couch in the basement.  In pink marker.)

  • I want my boys to be able to do as much hands-on, messy learning as possible.  Because that's when they get really excited about something.  There are lots of ways to learn that don't involve desks or a classroom.  This is especially helpful for whild and crazy boys like mine.  And I like letting the boys be messy boys.  You can see the way their eyes light up when they get to to explore outside and really dig into things they want to learn about.  pun intended. 
  •  I like to have structured parts to our day (usually in the morning we do our Bible reading, handwriting, reading, and math.)  For kindergarten that takes maybe 1-2 hours, depending on how many interruptions we have and how quickly Roman catches onto the lesson.  I also enjoy having a good amount of the day that's open-ended.  This is where the child-guided learning comes in.  When Roman finds an insect outside we can all take turns making observations and go find a book that tells us more about that insect.  It's time that we spend on impromptu science experiments, exploring some art or music, watching a documentary, going for a bike ride, or writing letters to friends.  It's also time that we are free build more relationships with friends or family:  we could go to the zoo, cuddle up and read, have a play-date, or make a meal for someone.
  • On that same note, we can change things up when we want to.  It's getting close to the end of the year, sometimes Roman gets a little antsy on me.  The other day it was raining and he was mad that they wouldn't be able to play outside.  So, we got out one of our science books and read about water cycles, and did an experiment about rain.  That didn't make up for not being able to go to the park, but at least it gave him something new and exciting to think about for a while.  (And yes, I did let them out to jump in the puddles, too).
  • We can spend time on more important things when we need to.  Yes, I think there are more important things than schoolwork.  Obviously, most of our mornings are spent on lessons, but when there is someone in the community that needs our help or something we can do to reach out to someone, I want to jump on that opportunity.  That's WHY they're learning right?  So they can make a difference in the world someday.  (or today) 
  • We can travel when we want to.  We have family all over the country now so we like to get out and visit whenever we can.  It's nice that we can work our school schedule around (or into!) that.  For example, when we visited my brother and his family in DC for Thanksgiving, we did a lot US History reading/projects beforehand, and visited the Museum of Natural History while we were there.  We also strolled down to see the White House. 
  • I like hanging out with my kids.  I think I would miss them if they were at school.  They are interesting and funny and ask awesome questions and it's my joy to see them growing and changing every day. 

    (I love the simplicity of a child's mind.  This is story Roman wrote about a king:  "He will go to fight the bad guy.  He will save the people.  The bad guys is killed."

  • Of COURSE there are days that I think I'm INSANE for trying to homeschool.  Let's be real, no matter what school choice you make, there will always be tough days when you're going to question if you made the right decision.  Nothing is perfect.  What do you do when that happens?  Pray for grace, have another cup of coffee, and start over tomorrow.
  • We want our kids to know that their relationship with God, and their call to share the Gospel, is the most important thing in life.  We want them to see that knowing, loving, and serving God is an adventure that takes courage but that it will be their greatest joy!  I know that we could choose a private school where they would get that, too, and I know that many parents are great at teaching that while sending their kids to public school.  But, I like having them here and knowing for sure what they are learning and hearing.  And we can put the emphasis on what we feel is most beneficial.  For example, I'm a big believer in memorizing scripture, so we make that a part of life around here.  (Although now that I'm typing it, I'm realizing that I have been slacking on that.)  New mercies every day, see? 

(One of our favorites:  My Very First Art Book.   Each page shows a work by a famous artist and talks a little bit about the medium and technique they use.  Then it gives examples of ways your child can experiment with the same technique...this is Roman's chalk blending masterpiece.  :))

There are pros and cons to any schooling choice you might make, and I don't think there is a magical equation for the perfect education.  But we are loving the homeschool life thus far!