There’s No Place Like Home: Vlogs and Livestreams

If you’ve been here before, you may be aware that besides my blog, I also have a YouTube channel

A few weeks ago, I made the decision to start sharing not only some DITL vlogs, but also to start a weekly livestream. (Thursdays at 10pm ET)

Today I’m going to share with you the links to those videos, just in case you’re interested. 😉

Thanks so much for being a part of my life, and Happy Homeschooling!

Here are my latest vlogs:

 

 

 

And here are my livestreams:

 

 

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Notebooking 101: Nature Study Journals

I’ve finally reached the end of my Notebooking 101 seriesIt sure took me long enough, right??

Nature study notebooking, or nature study journals, were actually the first type of notebooking I ever heard of, yet they were the last kind we actually tried.

Go figure.

Inspired by the Charlotte Mason method, these notebooks are a beautiful keepsake for both your children and you. Find out some practical tips in my latest Notebooking 101 video.

Enjoy!

 

Homeschooling and education are my passion. It is my fervent hope to one day devote more time to creating content for you. If you’re interested in helping to make this a reality, consider supporting me on Patreon.
Thank you so much. I appreciate each and every one of you!

A Tale of Ten Homeschoolers- Back to “School”!

We’ve reached the end of our first week of our new homeschool year, and we have had so much fun! The kids and I were all so excited to begin, and that has lasted throughout the entire week, so things are looking great so far!

Unfortunately, we almost got off to a rocky start because I got a phone call early Monday morning from a family member asking me to drive them somewhere (they live 1/2 hr. away). After I explained that it was our first day of homeschool, they were very understanding. Unfortunately, though, when I mentioned it to another family member I was lectured about sometimes “having to make sacrifices.” I got more than a little angry at that, because I have sacrificed many a homeschool day to help people out. The problem is that once I started doing that, people have constantly been expecting me to do it over and over again.  Continue reading “A Tale of Ten Homeschoolers- Back to “School”!”

A Tale of Ten Homeschoolers- Our First Official Week of Break!

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Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Now that all of the kids are “officially” on break and our homeschool evaluations have been turned into the school district, the summer fun has begun!

On Saturday we had a birthday party at my mother’s house for my two youngest daughters, whose birthdays are only five days apart. All of the kids had tons of fun playing on the slip and slide…okay, maybe I did, too.

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Sunday and Monday we really didn’t do much. Unfortunately, our invitations to Memorial Day and other picnics are few and far between because people either assume that a. they won’t be able to feed all of us, or b. they’re afraid they won’t have enough room for all of us, so…we usually do end up just barbecuing in our own backyard on those days. That’s actually all right with me because I have become a bit of a homebody lately.

Devin (17) left on Sunday to spend a few days at her friend’s house (she lives an hour away). After a few days, they’ll be heading to Penn State for the Special Olympics because her friend’s brother participates in the track event. This will be her third year going with them, and she always enjoys it.

Dillon (16) is still on a quest for snakes and has been a regular attender at the creek once again. He’s also been swimming quite a bit in his friend’s pool and actually got a really nasty sunburn the other day. Hey, these kids are half-ginger- they’ll burn after five minutes in the sun wearing SPF 100!

Arianna (14) and London (10) have spent most of the week at my mom’s, although today they left to spend a few days at my brother’s house. Anything to get out of chores… 🙂

The rest of the kids have just been traipsing around the house with me. They’ve been outside quite a bit because it’s been gorgeous out. I did put up a clothes line in the yard this week because the dryer was making the house too hot. The kids are fascinated with it. You’d think it was a new iPhone or something! But, hey, I’ll take the extra help while I can.

 

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This is Violet. She always looks like she wants to hurt someone.

 

If you’ve read some of my earlier posts, you probably know that my kids and I are fans of Shopkins. We were really excited this week because my husband was able to get some of our very favorites off of eBay.

 

We’re expecting a few more on Saturday. It’s little things like this that make us happy!

Luke (7) earned himself a few dollars doing some extra chores, so today Caollin (11) and I walked him to Family Dollar. On the way there, he was fascinated when we found some ant hills because, apparently, he had never seen any before! (I don’t know how that’s possible considering the number of ants in our yard.) We actually found one that looked like it was made out of gravel. Now that I’ve never seen before. We had an interesting discussion about how hard ants work, the tunnels inside the ant hills, and the ant farm I had as a kid. I can see one of them requesting their own in the near future. They love bugs!

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This weekend, Dillon (16) and I will be attending Family Day with Brendan’s (22)  Army Reserve unit. While we’re there, the rest of the kiddos will be at home with my husband while he fills up their sandbox and sets up their new pool.

We’re all looking forward to a fun-filled, yet hopefully, relaxing weekend. What have you been up to?

A Tale of Ten Homeschoolers- Spiders and Squirrels and Snakes, Oh My!

The end of the school year is in sight, and the great outdoors are calling! (If the rain ever stops ;P) Join me for another week of highlights from There’s No Place Like Home!

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Well, we’ve now just completed the second last week of school for the Littles and the Big Kids. The Teens have another three weeks to go because they follow a more traditional school schedule. The end of the school year is a bit bittersweet for me because, while I love the summer, I do not enjoy the lack of structure from not doing our school routine everyday. Besides that, I really do enjoy our school routine, so I know that I’m going to be bored out of my mind without the hustle and bustle of the school day. Oh, well. Just plan on me posting lots of new unit studies because that’s what I usually spend my time doing when boredom sets in. I will admit, however that I am looking forward to the deep cleaning we always do the first few days of summer break because this house is a wreck.

This week was very similar to last week in that it’s been cold and, once again, I had to take five children to the dentist. Fun. No cavities this week, but one does need to see an orthodontist. Joy. Other than that, it’s been a pretty laid back week- as far as a household of twelve people can be laid back. 🙂 Now on to our week:

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The Littles

This week we started reading Madeline, which the kids have enjoyed so far. We found France, where the story takes place, on our world map and each child got their own map to place a story disk on. They also colored their own French flags, and we discussed so many different topics while reading, such as appendixes, hospital visits, steamboats, land line telephones (who would’ve thought they would be considered history in our lifetime!?), and the Eiffel Tower.

I’m going to confess that we spent a lot of time vegging out in front of the TV because it’s just been a cold, rainy week, and we really didn’t feel like venturing outside.

The Big Kids

The older kids are still working on their research/reference unit and will probably do so until the end of next week when they finish school. We read about Noah Webster and each child has been busy compiling a list of words they don’t know from our read-alouds and their silent reading selections (which, incidentally, are all the same as last week) to author their own dictionaries. Today they got to decorate the covers.

Caollin (11) did get to spend some time at the creek with Dillon (16), and she had a blast finding salamanders, crayfish, and a newt. Otherwise, they, too, have just been relaxing in the house, waiting for the sun to finally come out again.

The Teens

Schoolwork-wise, it’s really just been business as usual with these three.

Arianna (14) has been busy reading and helping with the younger kids during school time this week. On Sunday she went to see a local theater group’s performance of “Mary Poppins” with my mother. She really enjoyed it and hopes to see some more shows like it. (She recently saw “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” as well).

Dillon is still having the time of his life taking photographs and has even ventured out in this dreary weather to hone his photography skills. Here’s a sampling of what he did this week:

A few days ago he created a Facebook page for his photography, and he’s really been working hard at perfecting his skills.

Devin (17) has, once again, spent a lot of time with our oldest son this week. She’s looking forward to next month’s anime convention in Atlantic City and is busying herself with the details of what characters she’s going to cosplay. She also wants a job in the worst way, but I just haven’t gotten around to getting her a photo ID just yet.

Unfortunately, our school district does not issue school IDs to homeschoolers, which makes everything from getting a job to attending after-school events to taking SATs that much harder. I honestly believe they should begin issuing them to homeschoolers, since we do have to report to them yearly, so our kids are, technically, still students in the district, but what are you gonna do?

Anyway, this has been our week! What’s yours looked like?

 

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A Tale of Ten Homeschoolers- Art and Election Day

It’s that time again for our end of the week review. Join me as I write again about another crazy homeschool week with ten kids!

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Image courtesy of atibodyphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

(Disclaimer- This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy.)

(If you’re interested in a more detailed example of our homeschooling days, click here.)

I can’t believe another week has gone by! Time flies when you’re having fun, right?? While last week my kids were enjoying the warm weather all week, as I write this post, I’m sitting in my dining room in a sweatshirt, next to a space heater, shivering. Gotta love this fickle weather.

Anyway…this week my kids got much more book work done than last week, but we also accomplished quite a few other things, as well.

On Monday, I accidentally stumbled upon a new snack idea for the kids. Since I have to make so many waffles for breakfast at one time, I usually put them in the oven instead of the toaster. I happened to get…umm…sidetracked and forgot they were in the oven, and if there’s anything my kids hate, it’s crunchy waffles. Desperate to save some time and avoid making something else, I came upon the idea of waffles and ice cream in a chip and dip platter. (Okay, two things- I know ice cream is a horrible breakfast idea, but, hey, it was Monday :P, and the reason I thought of using the ice cream was to make my hard waffles softer. Phew! I feel much better confessing, so now I can move on…)

A desperate mom's breakfast hack!

The kids ended up really enjoying it, and I promise I will only use this idea for snacks from here on in!

On Tuesday, five of my kids had dentist appointments, so on the way home from there, I stopped by the local polling place to vote in the primary election. Since the 2-yr.-old threw up in the van (my kids always get sick after the dentist, do yours?), my oldest daughter sat with her and the 4-yr.-old while I took two of my other daughters in with me while I voted. This is an actual conversation with my 11-yr.-old as we walked through the parking lot:

Daughter: Mom, who are you going to vote for?

Me: Ted Cruz.

Daughter: Isn’t he an actor?

Me: (Cracking up) No, that’s Tom Cruise.

One hour later…

Older daughter: So who did you vote for?

Me: Tom…I mean Ted Cruz.

{Sigh}

And now on to the fun stuff:

The Littles:

The younger children finished up Lentil this week by learning about acoustics by singing in the bathroom, testing taste buds by eating sour candy, singing Fifty Nifty United States, and learning how to use shading when drawing.

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Here, my youngest decided to showcase her artistic prowess by decorating our bathroom wall.

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The Big Kids:

We’ve still been reading through Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone together, although all three kids have started new books for their silent reading. The 8-yr.-old is reading Mummies in the Morning (Magic Tree House), the 10-yr.-old is reading Dork Diaries No. 10, and the 11-yr.-old is reading Horns and Wrinkles. They’ve spent most of this week preparing for a report they’re going to be writing tomorrow and next week. We’ve also been doing lots of fun activities which emphasize how books are categorized at the library. They really seem to enjoy these and are excited for the scavenger hunt we have planned tomorrow which goes along with this theme. Besides that, they’ve been doing all kinds of art projects on their own (as they always are).

 

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Drawn by the 11-yr.-old during our Harry Potter read-aloud. This is Harry and Ron eating the candy on the train to Hogwarts.
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This was by the 10-yr.-old. All of the kids made several variations of fish and sharks and later used ribbons to tie them to long branches to look like fishing rods.

The Teens:

My 14- and 16-yr.-olds spent quite a bit of time at the creek this week looking for snakes and other critters. My son actually went there for several hours almost every single day, and this experience has motivated him to become an amateur wildlife photographer.

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One of the many photos he took.

My oldest daughter, who is turning 17 on Sunday, spent a lot of time with our oldest son, who is 22, this week. Although he is over five years older than her, they get along wonderfully, and they share many of the same friends. Tonight she went to an alternative gallery with some of her friends. She visits there several times a month and is planning on showing some of her work there in the near future. This was one of her favorite pieces she saw there today:

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Book-wise, my son is still working through several WWII books, while the 17-yr.-old is still reading Dante’s Inferno and the 14-yr.-old has started The Rise and Fall of Adolf Hitler. Believe it or not, neither of these books were assigned to them. They chose them on their own. 🙂

So that’s where we’re at in our homeschool right now. What have you been up to?

 

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Looking at the Bright Side of Unschooling

Finding balance within your homeschool is the key to superior learning, and some unschooling philosophies can play a key role in that.

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Image courtesy of lekkyjustdoit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

After writing yesterday’s post about our experience with unschooling, I began to wonder if I was able to adequately convey our good experiences with it. I fear that there was a bit of negativity at the end, and I felt the need to clarify myself.

I am not against unschooling. I feel that some of its philosophies about allowing children to pursue their own interests and using life as a curriculum hit the nail right on the head. I have seen first-hand how much children learn when they have a vested interest in something. In fact, our family still uses natural learning as an important part of our homeschooling routine. Our structured learning normally takes only about two hours a day, while the rest of the day is open for my children to engage in anything they find useful and interesting.

What this has looked like this past week has been my son deciding that he would like to become a wildlife photographer after spending hours at the creek every day taking photos like these:

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Spending six hours a day doing structured school work would have prevented him from committing the time he did towards this project. Is this as valuable as book work? I’d have to say that this holds even more value because this is something he initiated on his own and will, therefore, remember all the better.

Before our unschool experiment, I would have scoffed if he had asked me to go to the creek during the school day every single day for an entire week. I would have lectured him about the importance of getting an education. Unschooling taught me to recognize that this is an education.

It also gave me the ability to see the worth in seemingly mundane things that many parents overlook. Caring for a sick baby bird. Making homemade paint out of sidewalk chalk. Helping the neighbor in her garden. These are all things I would happily set aside school work for in order to pursue.

Does this mean I do not assign value to book learning? Absolutely not. I am a self-professed nerd, and I realize that there are some things that are better learned with some structure- usually some sort of book, but not always.

It all comes down to balance. At the end of the day- at least with my children- there are some things which are best learned when they are taught, and there are other things best left to experience in real life. This is what homeschooling is all about. Finding the balance that is right for your family and allowing the joy that follows to shine through.

For more photos like these, you can follow my son on Instagram!

 

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Learning in Freedom- Our Nature Study Wake-Up Call

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So many doors are opening now that spring is finally here. Yesterday was another glorious day, so we took full advantage of it and walked to a nearby creek.

Watching us walk anywhere must really be a sight for others. We’ve been practicing walking with a partner in a straight line, and it’s really funny watching people drive by craning their necks to see the long line of kids behind me. I know it sounds too schoolish to some, but it beats having them all over the sidewalk, never knowing what they’re going to do. I love to hear the kids talking to each other. Yesterday we passed a cement truck, and I could hear Caollin explaining why the cement mixer has to keep turning. Eavesdropping has its perks!

There is an elementary school, which is right next to the creek ,and passing it was a little depressing. Not because I want my kids to go to school, but because I would love for those kids to experience the freedom that we homeschoolers enjoy. As we strolled past the playground, there were a bunch of kids playing outside, and all I saw was a sea of black because our school district recently implemented a school uniform policy. Seeing all the darkness and sameness there was a fitting symbol for the assembly line learning that is happening in these schools. The school kids always like seeing us pass (we go there quite a bit when it’s warm), and they always wave to us and smile.

Dillon took his fishing pole with him, so as soon as we arrived, he set out to try to catch a fish. The kids all scattered as soon as we got there- that walking in a line is quite difficult for them! They’re all explorers at heart, and that’s just what they set out to do.

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We took a sample of the pond water there (there’s a pond, too) to do an algae experiment later. The water is still quite deep from all of the rain and melted snow, so I eventually tried to lead them over to an area not so close to the water. It lasted for a short time while they found worms, bugs, and tree nuts, but then that blasted water beckoned to them again.

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We decided to cross to the other side so they could roll down the big hill, when we began to hear a lot of voices. We turned around and saw the school children in their line walking past the creek all holding a paper (probably an assignment). I mentioned to my kids that the other kids must be there on a field trip, too. We stood there watching them, with interest, but what we saw made me really sad. Their field trip consisted of walking single file past the creek without so much as stopping to look at a duck. Then they left.

I turned and looked at my kids and expressed pity for those children. While my kids were there and free to explore, the school children only experienced a little tease. I don’t blame the teachers; it would be very hard for them to control that many children at one time, but, at the same time, it was such an illustration of what these children are missing out on.

As we turned back around and headed to the big hill, I glanced back at the sea of black returning to the schoolyard. Then I heard the laughter of my own children as they began to roll down the hill, and I smiled.

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Weekend Review: Breathing a Sigh of Relief

Early this week, I realized just how close standardized testing and evaluations are, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Remember that panic I went through a couple months ago? Well, I had a slight relapse. Homeschooling in Pennsylvania can be a bit stressful because of all the requirements we have to deal with, but being an unschooler here is new to me, and I started freaking out with worry over how we’re going to comply with these rigid laws. Our state requires us to keep portfolios with work samples, and since my kids are more hands-on, I became quite fretful.

I even went against every instinct I have about learning and started having the kids do an activity with me everyday, just so I’d have some sort of work samples. They really didn’t mind it, as we just incorporated a lot of what we learned from our nature walk on Saturday and went from there. On Monday, we examined, drew, and labelled a wild onion that Arianna brought home. We also studied some moss that Bailey brought home and discovered that moss does not have actual roots but little root-like structures called rhizoids. Arianna actually got really into it and went on to dissect a pine cone, a nut, and a wild potato from our outing. We never even knew that wild potatoes existed before this. I mentioned to her that the root of a yellow flower she was looking at looked like a little potato. She cut it in half, and we smelled it…definitely a potato. Google confirmed our suspicions.

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The kids also painted little wooden butterfly cutouts.

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On Tuesday, we discussed the differences between plants and animals, and the kids each drew their own version of a plant/animal hybrid. Dillon and Devin have been playing WOW often, and Arianna is still into her theatrical makeup. We made fruit salad for dinner that day, so the kids had a great time helping me cut fruit. (Actually, I didn’t have to cut any of it- they did it all!)

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Wednesday we watched a cute YouTube video of a photosynthesis rap song. Afterwards, we discussed the root words of photosynthesis and chlorophyll, and the kids made word scrambles using plant vocabulary words. The kids enjoyed watching a documentary about insects on Netflix called “Microcosmos.” We’ve also been reading Farmer Boy and have been discussing the many responsibilities of pioneer children. I’m hoping this will help to curtail their whining over their chores…
Wednesday night some of the kids went to Kingdom Builders, and Arianna went to youth group. I had nursery duty, so I stayed in there with Kenzie.

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On Wednesday evening, I got some exciting news…I found an evaluator who also has ten kids and is an unschooler. It was like a big weight lifted off of my shoulders. Part of the reason I’ve been so nervous about work samples is because of evaluations. I’ve always turned in extremely thick portfolios before, and I wasn’t sure how my evaluator would react to a much thinner binder. This new evaluator is much more relaxed, and since she is also of the mindset that children are always learning, the amount of samples makes no difference to her. Hallelujah. Big exhale.

On Thursday, I informed the kids that they no longer have to do activity time with me, unless they want to. They all said that they actually thought it was fun and will probably continue to do things with me sometimes. That made me happy because I really did enjoy it; I just didn’t enjoy feeling compelled to do it to please the bureaucracy. Learning should not be forced. Period. Ireland was the only one who opted to work with me today, so she made a plant lapbook, and we talked about why plants are important. Speaking of learning by choice, today was my third day of learning German through Mango Languages. I was able to start at Chapter 6; I took a placement test because I did take six years of German in school. I’m having a lot of fun with that. The younger kids have been on coolmathgames.com and Khan Academy brushing up on their math and logic skills. Ireland has been requesting math “schoolwork” quite a bit, so I’ve been printing a lot of Pre-K worksheets for her. Arianna still likes to cook, so after baking a cake, she helped me make stuffed peppers for supper. Yum.

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Kenzie has started pushing her little stroller around the house. She’s not going to be a baby much longer. Sniff.

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Friday will probably be a low-key day. Saturday, Devin has drawing and painting class, and Sunday is her art show. And Caollin and London will finally be getting baptized on Sunday! The water heater for the baptistry had broken, but the replacement was supposed to come in today. They’re so excited.

What have you done this week? Leave a comment and tell me all about it!

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Maybe It’s Easier Than I Thought

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Today was another one of those glorious days that you look forward to all winter long. Blue skies, beautiful weather, snow almost melted. Like I said, glorious. Since everyone is feeling better, I decided that I was not going to let this day go to waste.

After Devin’s art class, I took all the kids (minus Dillon) to Lehigh Parkway, which is five minutes from our house and has an amazing bike trail that I wanted to walk.

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We set off, and 30 seconds into our trek, the kids wanted to stop and collect some pine cones that they saw.

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I gave them a few minutes, then announced that it was time to move on. That declaration was met with a few sighs, but they begrudgingly trudged on. After a few more minutes, they wanted to walk up to the water and take a closer look. This time I sighed, but I relented and told them to hurry up.

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Again, I hurried them along, so we could continue our walk. Behind me I kept hearing little mumblings of This is no fun, Walks are boring, I want to play. I’ll admit that, at first, I was a little irritated. After all, I was doing this for them, right?

That’s when it hit me. I have been worried, more than a few times, that maybe my kids aren’t learning enough. More than anything, I want my kids to feel confident to pursue anything that interests them. Anything at all. So there I was attempting to quash their natural curiosity about the world around them, so that I could accomplish what I had set out to do. It was like someone screamed in my ear, “What are you doing?? Let them run. Let them explore. You’re breaking their spirits!”

I took a deep breath and let them take the lead from there. It was amazing. They climbed “mountains” (actually big hills), picked wild onions, and discovered moss growing on rocks. This led to a conversation about how moss does not need soil to grow. Bailey pulled it off of a rock and studied the underside of it. We talked about the root-like threads that were there that held it in place. He was so interested in this that he brought it home with him. They looked for tadpoles- nothing yet- and tried to identify animal footprints in the snow. This evolved into a discussion about how sometimes tracks in the snow can be misidentified because the snow melt makes tracks look much larger than they actually are. We looked for signs of new leaves growing on trees- also nothing yet- and deciphered between evergreens and deciduous trees.

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Eventually, Summer started to get tired and London had to go to the bathroom, so we headed back to the parking lot. They played on the hill there, rolling down the hill again and again. Finally, we went home.

Frankly, I was pooped, but the kids were far from finished. While I made dinner, Arianna, Caollin, London, Bailey, and Luke jumped on the trampoline for a while (I got a few jumps in, too :)); then Caollin went in and reappeared wearing a dress- Time to play Little House on the Prairie! Inside, Devin decided to try to make sushi for the first time.

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My point in all this? Sometimes watching and waiting for your kids to do something can be frustrating and worrying. You may wonder when something is going to happen. You know that old saying- “A watched pot never boils.”? I think it applies here, too. Sometimes the most amazing things will happen when you least expect them. I didn’t take them out for a field trip today. I wanted to go for a walk, and that was really my sole purpose for going out. I let my guard down, and BOOM, they decided to do that something I’ve been waiting for- when I wasn’t looking!

So if you’re feeling fretful that your kids seem to be doing nothing, my advice to you? Stop. Take a deep breath. Stop expecting things to happen. Just know that they will, and leave it at that. Because, sometimes, maybe it’s easier than you thought.

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