How Making a Bed Changed My Summer

By: Leah Prescott 

Do you make your bed every day? It’s a habit I never really picked up. It just never seemed important to me. Anyway, I would always pull the covers down again, so what was the point? In my quest for household peace and simplicity, I have added some new habits to my daily routine, and making my bed is one of them. I have been surprised by the results.

Organization tips

It takes only about a minute to make the bed, but it can change your mindset and set the tone for your day. I have realized that making my bed becomes the signal to me that rest is over and work has begun. It’s nice to walk through the bedroom and have it finished. It’s nice to have a smooth surface to lay a basket of laundry on. It’s nice that if we have to call a plumber or HVAC technician at the last minute, I won’t have to be embarrassed by the state of my bedroom (not that that has ever happened to me….) It’s nice to see the pattern of the bedspread I chose with care, rather than have it kicked and twisted at the foot of the bed or find my beagle trying to nuzzle her way under the covers. She does that every chance she gets.

As I add habits of household harmony, I’m finding it creates a snowball effect. When I leave a room, I’m naturally looking around for an item or two to return to its place as I go. When the closet is neat, hanging up a jacket isn’t difficult. If my bed is made, I am less likely to fling my purse on it or pile it with books. When I am able to enjoy the cleanliness daily, I am motivated to keep it up. Here are a few more simple habits that are working for me this summer:

Leaving the house neat. This has been a bit of a battle but I knew the time to start was over the summertime when our schedule is relaxed. It does take me quite a bit of effort and the kids have to be involved in this. But walking into a neat house on return is totally worth it. If we walk into a neat space, it’s so much easier to deal with the chaos of a barking dog, groceries to put away, hungry kids, and approaching naptime.

Dishwashing on a schedule. This is a tip I got years ago and it has worked great for me. Every evening after dinner, I start the dishwasher without fail. If it isn’t quite full, I seek out items to fill it (a great excuse to clean out the fridge, collect water bottles from the car, or run the bath toys through the dishwasher). Every morning, I unload the dishwasher while I am waiting for my coffee. This makes it easy to load throughout the day and the kids can put their plates directly in after meal time. Simple, but it really helps me keep up with the dishes.

Organization tips

Make clean-up a no-brainer. I have realized I have to eliminate any excuses to clean, no matter how weak they may be. This means having cleaning products easy to access wherever they are needed: in the kitchen and under each bathroom sink. I thought since my house was tiny, I could keep all the products in one place, but having them at arm’s reach makes a difference. I’ve also discovered a new product I really love: Windex Touch Up. You just dab a rag on the top and it dispenses a bit of cleaner right where you need it. This is great for quickly wiping down the counters and mirrors in between deep cleanings.

Multi-tasking. When waiting in the car, I pick up clutter. While my son is bathing, I clean the bathroom. While making meal plans and grocery lists, I take an extra moment to quickly wipe down the fridge. While chatting on the phone, I start a load of laundry. I know that many of you will think these are obvious, or maybe you do them by second nature. For me, these have to be very deliberately added to my lifestyle since order doesn’t really come naturally to me.

Organization tips

Create spots of beauty. I read this on a blog somewhere and it really resonated with me. In the chaos of parenting, my home “décor” (if you can even call it that) has not really changed. While we don’t have the time or resources to do some of the major projects on my wish list, these quick face-lifts are totally doable. The idea is to focus on a clutter-magnet area and give it a mini makeover. An example is my bedside table. Hanging a homemade wreath, cleaning out the drawer, and finding the perfect basket has motivated me to keep it neat. Buying new velvet hangers and organizing my closet by color has made it so much prettier and I have easily kept it neat. Sometimes the little things can make a big difference.

Organization tips

These habits have made my summer far more productive and have given me a sense of accomplishment. Progress is progress, after all! Have you found any easy ways of improving your productivity? I would love to hear about them!

Bittersweet Summer

By: Leah Prescott

A few weeks ago, I said goodbye to a place that held some of the happiest memories of my childhood. Decades ago, my grandfather built a house on Lake Marion as a respite from his work as an ENT specialist and surgeon. He chose a simple layout with practicality in mind and my grandma decorated it in a casual, welcoming style. It was a weekend getaway and a summer oasis. At this house, my mother spent her teen years water-skiing, fishing, running barefoot, and swimming. My parents even started their life together there as honeymooners.

Lake Marion

I have visited this spot hundreds of times over the years and always felt it held some kinds of particular magic. Maybe because my grandfather refused to ever install a telephone and all the TV could ever conjure up were grainy golf tournaments or Lawrence Welk re-runs. Or maybe it was because my grandfather was the most patient, kind, and peaceful person I ever knew and his character was woven into the very house itself. Somehow nothing bad could ever happen there. My worst memories are of my brother running through leftover ashes of a bonfire and burning his feet. I also had a terrible case of chicken pox when I was twelve. And once I got a fishhook caught in my hand. But Granddaddy was a doctor, so no need to worry.

picking blueberries

We fished and ate fried fish, rocked in a hammock for hours with my grandfather, and spent lazy afternoons paddling around old stumps that we pretended were alligators. We picked blueberries and put together jigsaw puzzles and made huge pitchers of Sun Tea with mint. When my siblings and I were older, it was a place to re-connect away from the distractions and friends from home. Even as a teen obsessed with a social life and music, I could always slow down to watch a magnificent lightning storm through the huge wall of windows, catch lightning bugs with my little sister, or use binoculars to sight a crane.

Lake Marion

This was a place for birthday celebrations, sleepovers, and reunions with cousins. My mother, brothers, sister and I even lived there for months on end as we were re-locating for my dad’s job. When I first arrived, I always ran next door to play with my dear friend Bevin. We made playhouses in the lush, lake watered trees, ate scuppernongs right off the vine and picked figs from the biggest fig tree I have ever seen. We rode old Schwinn cruisers down the gravel paths to the graveyard, learned to water ski and watched fireworks from a pontoon on the Fourth of July. It’s a place I learned to swim, discovered how much I loved to write, and, on the dock in front of brilliant sunsets, I spoke aloud to God about all my fears. In the sweetest sense of the word, I grew up on Lake Marion.

Lake Marion

Since my grandfather died, and my grandmother’s mental health has declined, the lake house has been neglected. The upkeep was overwhelming to my parents and Aunt and Uncle, and the property taxes were eating away at its worth. This summer, the house was sold. We visited one last time and took hundreds of pictures. To say our time was bittersweet doesn’t quite seem to cover it. It’s by far the place that is most full of happy memories of my life. As my brother Kyle described, walking through the doors always felt like coming home.

Lake Marion

Over the years, I’ve dreamed of this peaceful spot dozens of times. Even though I tend towards nightmares that distort even friendly faces, I never had a bad dream about the lake. Instead, my dreams were much like reality there: slow, lazy and overwhelmingly peaceful. That’s one of the reasons I remember distinctly as a child picturing heaven as the quiet shores of Lake Marion. But this morning I woke up from a dream with tears in my eyes. I dreamed that I was searching for my childhood on the lake, but I knew I could never return. One day, I’ll be reunited with my grandfather in heaven and see if it really looks like Lake Marion at sunrise. Until then, I’m happy that new owners will be living there and fervently hope that they can find as much joy and serenity there as my family always did.

Summer Fun Baskets

By: Leah Prescott

This year we are taking a true summer break, free from formal studies. I am sure this won’t always be the case as we sometimes have subjects to work on over the summer or some catch-up from days lost over the year. Still, while “book learning” is fun, nothing can take the place of carefree summer days filled with playing in the sprinkler and hunting worms. I’m looking forward to my kids wearing themselves out in the sunshine and teaching them some new board games when the South Carolina heat gets unbearable.

Summer fun basket

On the other hand, I want to do all I can to preserve the knowledge my 8-year-olds have gained over this school year and get those little thinking muscles primed for third grade. I’ve been thinking of ways to help encourage learning without major preparation or angst for any of the parties involved. Today I wanted to share one of these ideas with you. Whether you homeschool or not, this is a simple idea that is easily adapted to many ages. Perhaps it isn’t revolutionary, but it’s easy…and sometimes that’s better.

Summer fun basket

I was pretty proud of myself for cleaning out our entire library area by the end of the school year. I had to prepare for our annual book sale, so my arm was twisted into action. I took stock of our materials, filed away completed work for our records, sold some unneeded items, and tossed a lot. All the pencils found their way back to the pencil boxes and I discovered that we actually own one billion crayons, which surprised me since the perfect colors always seem to be eluding my little artists.

Summer fun basket

After the big cleanup, I set aside a large basket for each child and started filling them with “summer fun.” There are only two rules for the contents of the baskets: they must be fun and they must require little or no supervision. Here are some of the things I added to these baskets:

Summer fun basket

  1. Pencil box with basic supplies: glue stick, crayons, pencils, scissors, ruler
  2. Clipboard and legal pads (My children love clipboards. Any writing project is instantly twice as enticing if a clipboard can be utilized.)
  3. Flash master handheld game (electronic flash cards)
  4. Construction paper, stickers, and stencils
  5. “Fun” workbooks (We like the ones in the Target dollar spot.)
  6. Three Ring Binder with cardstock (My girls like to “scrap book” with magazine cuttings.)
  7. Play-Doh or silly putty

Those are the basics that I added to start out. It’s nice to continue to refresh the basket throughout the summer. A new paperback book, card game, or puzzle would be fun to add. Bead kits, rainbow looms or embroidery kits for older children are perfect. I’m looking for a paint-with-water coloring book for my preschooler.

Summer fun basket

This is also a nice place to stick those prizes from Chick-fil-a that would otherwise get lost at the bottom of your purse or the freebie stickers that come in the mail. Really, the options are endless and can be tailored to your child’s interests or needs.

The only “rule” I give the kids about these baskets is that they clean up after themselves. Summer is the time when I really try to crack down on housework and form better habits, and the whole family has to be on board. (If anyone has any tips for teaching my 3-year-old to clean up after himself, they will be humbly received.) Of course, if you have any ideas for easy summer learning, I’d love to hear them in the comments!

Grizzly Bears and River Otters

By: Leah Prescott

If you have visited Riverbanks Zoo recently, you have noticed lots of changes. Always a destination for locals and visitors alike, the zoo is currently in the midst of 36 million dollars of improvements and additions. Construction is underway for a spectacular new entrance, a vast children’s garden, and, eventually, an interactive sea lion habitat that my family is already anticipating.

Riverbanks Zoo

The kids and I were recently excited to visit Riverbanks Zoo to experience the opening of the Grizzly Ridge and Otter Runs. During the construction, Riverbanks grizzly bears Butch and Sundance were relocated to the Tulsa Zoo while their new bigger and better habitat was created. North American River Otters Divya, Savannah, and Sophia Grace joined them from their home at Miller Park Zoo and are now happily exploring Riverbanks Zoo.

Riverbanks Zoo Grizzly Bears

The new exhibits are amazing. The grizzly bears have always appealed to my children, but we have never seen them in such close proximity. The bears are very close to the glass and the height is perfect for kids and adults alike. The bears were clearly enjoying their new habitat and were both lounging in the sunshine when we visited.

Riverbanks Zoo Otters

We fell in love with the sea otters at the Georgia Aquarium last year, so we couldn’t wait to see the three river otter sisters at Riverbanks Zoo. Otters are just such cute little entertainers and really interact with the crowd. My three little ones loved the “rocks” you can stand on for the perfect view into the otter run. I finally had to drag our family away from the glass to visit the rest of the zoo. We will definitely be visiting the river otters again soon.

To read more about Riverbanks Zoo’s latest news, click here.

Summer Reading

By: Leah Prescott

One of my most fervent hopes for my children is that they grow into enthusiastic readers. A couple years ago, when we were struggling through blending and painfully making our young readersway through the repetitive BOB books, I thought for a while it might never happen. But something finally clicked with each of the girls and soon they couldn’t be slowed down. One of my girls particularly races through books at a pace that challenges the library’s young reader section.

As we wrap up our homeschooling year in a couple weeks, I’m looking forward to reading more books with my girls. Even though they are strong independent readers, there is still something magical about reading aloud together. I look forward to introducing them to some of my favorites like “Pride & Prejudice” and “Anne of Green Gables” with an almost giddy anticipation. Revisiting your childhood’s joys with your own children has to be one of God’s sweetest gifts to parents. Right now, we are reading the Five Little Peppers and it’s bringing up some very helpful conversations about entitlement in our family.

If your children are reluctant readers, here are some things you can do to help draw them into the world of literature:

1. Visit the library weekly and check out an abundance of books. Don’t give up, even if your kids don’t show much interest. Don’t forget to show them that YOU read too (blogs and Facebook do not count).

encourage kids to like reading

2. Do some research into your child’s favorite toy, movie, character or subject. Whether it’s Minecraft, cupcakes, kittens, or hula hooping, chances are, you will find a book or series that will spark their interest.

3. Keep books in the car. I sometimes regret that our minivan didn’t come equipped with a TV, but my children can get in a lot of reading in the car just from riding around town during our typical week.

4. Go media-free. Having a TV and video game free week, month or summer may be exactly what your child needs to finally embrace books. We have done this a couple times and it always helps us center our attitudes and hearts, as well as free up time for more productive hobbies like reading.

encourage kids to like reading

5. Discover audio books. The library has a good collection of audio books for adults and kids, as well as downloadable content. There is also Amazon’s sister store, Audible.com, although I confess it intimidates me. Whether you choose classic literature or a Magic Treehouse book, audio books can help your children connect to the stories in a way that reading might not have.

6. Throw a book party. This might take a little more preparation, but why not plan a book-themed evening with food and games related to a story or series? This could be elaborate as a Cat in the Hat dinner party or as simple as a Tom Sawyer picnic.

As a kick-off to a delightful, book-filled summer, don’t miss Storyfest 2015! State Museum and Library will host this free event on Saturday, June 6th from 9-4. The event will include crafts, presentations, face painting and more. Find more information here. Happy Reading!

Hosting a Yard Sale

By: Leah Prescott

It’s yard sale season! It’s time to drag out your whatchamacallit collection and finally say goodbye to the box of heirloom thingamabobs. Although I’ve only hosted yard sales a couple of times, I’ve shopped at hundreds. Here are my tips for a smooth, simple, successful sale!

  1. Plan ahead. The best sales are going to require some planning. Start making lists of large items you will be selling. Go through your garage, attic, and closets to drag out those hidden “gems” that eager Saturday morning shoppers will be seeking. Consider the date of your sale and start monitoring the weather. Decide whether you will re-schedule in case of bad weather or go forward “rain or shine.” Also, begin to ponder if your goal will skew towards turning a significant profit or clearing out the junk.planning a yard sale
  1. Advertise. Make a brief ad for your yard sale and start posting on Craigslist and Facebook groups for sale or trade groups. This will increase your traffic significantly. You’ll want to mention some of your items or categories of items (“TONS of kids stuff, great prices!”) as well as your neighborhood or street name (Forest Acres, close to downtown) and the date. Don’t put your address unless you want folks coming ridiculously early or even the day before. The night before your sale, post an ad with your exact address, or simply, “Main Street, look for our huge green signs.”image
  1. Gather Supplies. You are going to need SIGNS, STICKERS and CHANGE (along with a safe space for storing your cash).  I can’t tell you how many folks fail at this crucial step. People make their signs absolutely inscrutable or open up for sales without any change at all. Don’t make this mistake! I recommend the Dollar Tree for signs and price stickers. Also, half a dozen helium-filled balloons divided between your signs will draw people in. Use arrows and large bold text. Pretend an out-of-towner is looking for your sale; could they find it? A sign for every turn is ideal. Don’t forget the change. You can find recommended guidelines online.
  1. Make your “store” appealing. Every yard sale is different, but you can do a few things to create a more welcoming environment for shoppers. If possible, use tables and surfaces to display the products. If items are filthy, either clean them ahead of time or give them away. Everything doesn’t have to be priced, but at the very least hang a sign with some ranges (Clothing $1-$3). It’s nice to have old grocery bags for people to carry their items home. Use an extension cord so customers can test electrical items. Sort by type of item and put large items closer to the street to catch the eye of travelers. Also, a box of free items will free up some selling space and appeal to some shoppers.yard sale tips
  1. Be courteous. Above all, be friendly and kind to your customers. If I approach a yard sale and the sellers look like they just ate a lemon or they won’t even greet or make eye contact, I will probably leave. On the other hand, don’t act like a car salesman and hound your customers, begging them to “make an offer” or touting the merits of your wares like an infomercial. Both are a turn off! Just be nice and be willing to take reasonable offers.
  2. Don’t over-value your cast-offs. In general, keep your prices firm at first, then start to negotiate as the day goes on. When pricing items, remember: your front yard is not ebay or the mall, so don’t expect to charge ebay or mall prices! Be creative with pricing. If none of your clothing is selling, offer a grocery bag full for $5 or Buy One Get One Free.
  1. Wrap up your day. The last yard sale I hosted was slow in the morning and sped up towards lunchtime. I stayed open until 3 pm because folks kept coming. I won’t ever put an end time on my signs in the future, since you just don’t know what will happen. When you are finished selling, what do you plan to do with your remaining items? Palmetto Thrift Store on Fernandina Rd. will pick up donations! And whatever you do, please, please take down all of your signs.

Good luck with your yard sale! If you are a yard sale shopper, check out the Yard Sale Treasures app. It’s connected to Craigslist yard sales ads and gives you a mapped out route guiding you from sale to sale.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

By: Leah Prescott

I have mentioned before how much I strive (struggle?) to organize our home. I’ve read a few books on this topic and from each I have gleaned some helpful tidbits. When I heard about the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo I immediately got on the coverwaiting list for a copy from the library. I was intrigued by the title as well as its overwhelmingly positive reviews on Amazon. It’s apparently very popular, so I had to wait over a month to read it on my Kindle.

I thought I would give a review with some of the main points of the book. I felt like this book had some great information, but could have been written much more concisely. Like most books in the genre, I take what I like and disregard the information that I don’t find valuable. Readers should be aware that Marie Kondo addresses inanimate objects as if they have feelings and even delves into reincarnation as a part of her philosophy. Although I disagree with these ideas fundamentally, I don’t mind reading about them. At the very least, I found it interesting from a social perspective.

Marie’s philosophy begins with decluttering on a massive scale; attacking one category at a time in a specific order. She advocates holding each item in hand and asking the question: “Does this bring me joy?” If you are searching for detailed organizational tips, this book probably doesn’t fit the bill. However, if you are seeking inspiration for a major life-change, this book will inspire you. I realized immediately that if I evaluated items by this criterion, the process of purging would be vastly simplified. At the same time, I am afraid I might be left with almost no clothing if I attacked my closet this way!

Another thing I loved about this book, is that Kondo teaches that tidying is a one-time event, rather than a lifetime pursuit. This resonates with me because I am so weary of the constant process of decluttering and reorganizing. According to the book, purging so ruthlessly allows the home to be filled only with loved and used objects. The happy result is a simplified life-style that calls for minimal cleaning. The home doesn’t have to be neatened because everything is naturally put away and the absence of clutter leaves a surplus of time and energy. Sounds good, right?

Perhaps the most important thing that I personally took away from reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is that keeping or discarding objects should not be guided by guilt. So often I find myself paralyzed by a guilty conscience. I feel guilty that I have purchased things that we didn’t need. I feel guilty that clutter and housework are piling up. And, I feel guilty that my time is sucked up by these often trivial objects. This book really shows how simplifying a household can lead to more freedom and less guilt. And I am all for that.

This spring, my family is gearing up for a big yard sale as a way of de-cluttering our home. I have already been preparing for this event for several weeks and intend to be much more ruthless about adding to the “yard sale pile” now that I have read this book. I’m looking forward to more breathing room and less housework as a result. If you want to have a yard sale, this is a great time of year to hold one!

My next blog post will include all my best yard sale tips and tricks, so stay tuned.

Summer Hair “Hacks”

By: Leah Prescott

With all the humidity in the air, it’s time us girls pulled out some of our best hair tricks. I have mentioned before that my 8-year-old girls have extremely curly hair. In fact, their hair is so curly that it’s not unusual to find random objects tangled up in there. No lie….once I found a Christmas Ornament hook in some of these curls. After years of practice I have found some tips that really work for curly hair. And whether your hair is curly or straight, these are great ideas for easy summer hair styles.

curly hair tips

Before I get into those let me show you a before and after with Twin A and Twin B. This is before conditioning and brushing with the Tangle Teezer, and then the nice soft conditioned after! It’s an amazing tool to have in your mommy kit. Now a few more ideas!

sock bun

Sock bun: this is something I wish I had learned much sooner. This is an easy, comfortable method of making the perfect big bun. You need a sock, a couple of hair ties, and hair pins. Cut the toe off the sock and roll it into a donut shape. Next, put your hair into a ponytail with a rubber band. Then, place your donut around the tip of the ponytail and slowly roll the hair around the sock all the way up to your head. (If you ever make socks into balls when matching them, it’s really the same motion. Honestly, it’s much easier than it sounds!) Last secure with a few pins and hair spray if needed. Done!

summer hair tips

Two strand twist. This is a quick, easy way to deal with bangs that are growing out or to just go bang free for a day. First, part your bangs to one side and comb them well. Then, start twisting two strands of hair together, moving across your forehead. Add a small piece of hair to your front strand before each twist to anchor the “braid.” This is basically like a French braid, but with only two pieces. Simply pin the twist to secure it. Again, this is much easier than it sounds!

heat free curls

Headband curls. This is my new favorite way of getting quick, heat-free curls overnight. All you need is a soft headband and curl spray (I use Not Your Mother’s Beach Bum Sea Salt Spray). Comb your hair out and lightly spritz your hair with the curl spray. Then place the headband OVER your forehead and hair like a crown. Starting on one side, grab a piece of hair and twist it. Then you will wrap the twist over the headband. Then you will add a bit more hair to that piece, twist again, and wrap over again. You will continue twisting and wrapping until you get to the back of your head. Then you will repeat for the other side. I usually just take those last two strands in the back and just twist them up any which way. Then go to bed. When you wake up your hair is in natural, beachy curls! It really works!

I hope you enjoy trying some of these!

Easter Traditions

By: Leah Prescott

Happy Spring, Columbia! Other than the bugs and pollen, I am so happy to see the end of winter and to welcome warm days. Easter is early this year, so I wanted to share some things we plan to do to celebrate this special season.

Easter Wheatgrass

Sprouting Wheat Grass

It’s always fun to plant with the kids and quick-sprouting wheat grass brings extra quick gratification! All you need is a shallow container, wheat grass seeds, and some eager kids to water them. If you’d like to speed up the process, soak the seeds in water for 12-24 hours, changing out the water once or twice. Then fill some shallow containers with dirt and let the kids cover the dirt with the seeds. (The finished product looks best if the seeds cover every bit of soil). Water gently or spray with a spray bottle several times a day (the kids love this). These eager little guys will start sprouting in a matter of days. After just a couple weeks you will have a thick gorgeous crop of grass. We like to add other spring-y décor and make it our centerpiece for the table. Some grocery stores carry wheat grass or you can order them on Amazon!

The Jesus Storybook Bible

The subtitle says it all: “Every Story whispers His name.” The Jesus Storybook Bible will be going in each of my girls’ Easter Baskets. We already own the digital version but I know they will enjoy having their own copies. This is a beautiful retelling of Scriptures that poetically reveals Jesus at the center of the entire Bible. Rather than simplified Bible Stories, it helps to teach how each passage is tied into the rest of the story of salvation. Amazon has a great price on this item right now!

Easter activities

The Resurrection Eggs

This is by far our very favorite activity over the Easter Season (aside from attending church with family). We have owned this set for three or four years now and we pull them out throughout the year to remember the story of the death and resurrection of Christ. Each egg contains a small item that tells a piece of the story and the booklet includes a verse and explanation for each one. This simple visualization of the story never fails to bring me to tears. I was amazed when the girls began telling the story on their own around age 4, using these simple props. This is an Easter must-have for sure!

Spring cookies

Bird’s Nest Cookies

This recipe is just too easy not to share. It’s a perfect recipe for the kids to help out with and even taste along the way since it’s a no-cook version. The finished product is adorable and delicious!

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz package of butterscotch chips
  • 12 oz package of chow mein noodles
  • Cadbury mini eggs or peanut M&Ms

Instructions:

  • Microwave the butterscotch chips, 30 seconds at a time until melted.
  • Pour over chow mein noodles and gently stir to combine.
  • Form into circles and place “eggs” inside the nest. Allow to cool or quick cool in your fridge. Done!

I hope that you and your family have a truly rich Easter celebration and that you find time to celebrate what makes this day so important!

Homeschooling Update

By: Leah Prescott

I thought it was about time to give you guys a little homeschooling update now that most of second grade is behind us. I didn’t want to write this update a month ago, because, for me, that January-February stretch is always the hardest time of homeschooling (and parenting, come to think of it). Now that March is here, we are looking forward to warmer weather and longer days. And since I’m feeling positive about our educational journey and where it is taking us, now is the time to share.

Homeschooling

Homeschooling

This has been a challenging but good year for us. It has been an absolute joy to watch both of my 8-year-olds gaining independence and taking more responsibility for their own learning. As they settle into a routine of daily reading I am reminded of my own fervent love for the written word! This week I have seen my daughter enthusiastically pouring over the very same, well-worn copy of Little House on the Prairie that I read myself at her age. Moments like these give me a thrill that I cannot describe. It’s those “joy of parenting warm fuzzies” that sometimes come between all the late night wakings and endless laundry. They may be rare, but they are better than caffeine for keeping a mom going!

Homeschooling

We are still enthusiastically participating in our twice-a-week hybrid program with our homeschooling partners. During those two days we get all the perks of a traditional classroom, but during the other three we’re back at home or out in the real world. I get a break from being full-time Mama on those days and the kids get time with friends and teachers who are so much more experienced than I am. It’s a great compromise for our family.

Homeschooling

One of my biggest challenges this year has been dealing with my youngest, who will be three in a couple months. He is a handful and sometimes I think his main goal is to distract everyone from their own tasks. I’m sure his endless energy is going to result in a strong, intelligent young man. For now, I often feel ill-equipped to parent him! However, we have had a lot of improvements since the school year began. He is able to focus on more “academic” activities now and he is having great fun learning “big-kid” skills like cutting with scissors and tracing letters. Like his big sisters, he loves a good book. The rest of the time, he is running around pretending to be a superhero and jumping off the furniture.

Homeschooling

As always, getting out of the house is high on my list of priorities to maintain sanity. To keep us all motivated, we often get started on schoolwork first thing in the morning, and get a bulk of it done in time to jump in the car and head to the library, the zoo, a museum, the park, or even a Chick-fil-a playplace. The big girls try to maximize their car time with practicing math facts. Around Christmas we bought them each a Flashmaster and it has really helped them. Although it’s basically just an electronic flashcard, they seem to really enjoy using them, which was NOT the case with traditional flashcards.

Homeschooling

Finally, we have had a bit of a break-through in the home management arena: I have started meal planning. Now, try not to laugh out loud. I know this is the most basic and obvious skill, only a small step up from microwave macaroni, but I can be slow sometimes. Simply compiling an organized grocery list and jotting down meals for each dinner of the week has proven so helpful. I have also reduced our grocery trips to once a week which has been difficult for me, but totally worth it from a practical as well as a financial standpoint.

Homeschooling

So that’s a bit of an update for us. I guess this semester I’ve been learning the importance of planning, flexibility and patience. Come to think of it, these are some of the same things that I want my children to learn as they grow into adults. As elementary as these concepts are, I still have to remind myself each day to practice these simple life skills!