October 9, 2015


September was not my best reading month.  I think the combination of new routines and school starting left me pretty sleepy at night.  Falling asleep with a book on my face has become a bit of a routine over here, but I suppose there's worse things.  In addition to a slowed pace of reading time, I had to abandon a book...I actually almost abandoned two books, but I resurrected the second and gave it the ol' college try and it seems to be redeeming itself.  

Posting these monthly reading recaps have been great to look back and remember what I've actually read! If you're interested in the past couple months of reads, you can check out August and July or read all about our book endeavors under my handy-dandy "reads" category.

Alicia's Reads

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I think my attention span has just been really short lately.  Maybe I'm just distracted by the other things going on right now, but I have had trouble with The Zookeeper's Wife and Rules of Civility.  The Zookeeper's Wife was just weird to me.  I couldn't figure out if it was a biography or a novel and it felt like it kept flip-flopping between the two and it couldn't hold my attention.  I read almost half and ditched it.  Life's too short.  I'll try again, but not this month.

Rules of Civility also started a little slow for me and I almost ditched it too.  But then, as fate would have it, I happened upon two great reviews of it in one day so I picked it up again.  I'm really glad I did because by the time I read one more chapter, I was hooked.  When I don't have a really good book going, it feels a little sad to me.  So, I'm happy again.

I've been paging through Margin for several months now, but I've really been reading it more seriously this last month.  It is really good and makes so much sense to me.  If you're having trouble with time management or if your days feel too exhausting, you might not have enough margin in your days.  We all run ourselves off the page sometimes.  This book tells you how to create more margin and avoid running ourselves ragged. 

Noah's Reads

Right now, Noah is only reading required books for school.  I think he's a little uninspired in the literary department.  He says he's enjoying both of these books, but I'm not sure he's not being overly zealous.  He's just not been able to find books he really likes lately.  He's really into the fantasy-type books like Percy Jackson and those types, but he's read so many I wonder if he's burned out.  But he is reading these two every single day, which is good.  I have lots of books to keep him busy while he's in his dry spell.  His history curriculum is literature based, so he'll always have a book to read for that and his book list for 8th grade will also keep him busy.

Jack's Reads

Jack, on the other hand, is completely immersed in his reading and loving it.  He chose The Witches from his 4th grade book list and finished it in just a few days.  His love for Harry Potter is not being squelched at all either.  He has announced that he wants to read a different book between each Harry Potter book so that the series lasts longer.  I like his reasoning.

Family Reads

The younger kids and I just finished up The Story of King Arthur for our history reading and they really enjoyed it.  We are doing a little bit of history reading in the morning at our morning meeting so it's a good way to make sure it fits in.  We've moved on to The Royal Diaries: Eleanor now and those books never disappoint.  Eleanor was and incredible woman, we can see that within just a few pages of her biographies we're reading (Noah's and the littler kids).  

We are almost finished reading The Mysterious Benedict Society.  We're actually listening to it on Audible.com and l-o-v-i-n-g it! My voice is really tired by the end of the day, so this might be something we keep up.  But either way, our read-aloud time at night has been a stand-by for a really long time and my kids love this time of day.

This week was the third Poetry Teatime we've done together.  We've always read poetry together, but setting aside a special day every single week to be intentional to read poetry together has been fabulous! I read a poem by Jackie O. this week and my eyes filled with tears it was so beautiful.  These three books are some of our favorites right now.  We're focusing on poems about autumn and the change of seasons, but we're throwing in some silly Shel Silverstein too...the boys love his stuff.

That's our reads for September.  What have your been reading?? I love to know this stuff!

October 8, 2015


When planning our homeschool days, I want my kids to be fully emerged, with all five of their senses feeling it.  For many subjects, it's great to incorporate their hands, their brains, their taste buds, their ears, and their eyes as well.  We all learn differently, but if you touch on all styles of learning at least a few times a day, your kids will all benefit, no matter what their personal learning style is.

One thing that almost never fails to excite my kids is incorporating videos into what we're studying.  Something about combining a picture and narration in a great movie or documentary makes things stick...well!  We love watching great documentaries together, but finding appropriate ones that an array of ages can watch is tricky.

Enter CuriosityStream, my kids' newest obsession...and maybe mine too.  
I received a subscription to this product for free to review, all opinions are mine.

What is CuriosityStream?

Picture CuriosityStream like a Netflix with no annoying cartoons--an educational video streaming service.  You simply purchase a monthly subscription and away you go!  The programs featured on CuriosityStream are primarily in documentary form.  The array of subjects is huge.  

Their programming covers subjects like:

  • science
  • civilizations
  • inventions
  • technology
  • history
  • engineering 
  • and transportation
CuriosityStream is the world’s first ad-free, on demand streaming service for quality educational programming. CuriosityStream delivers over 1,000 titles, including high-quality documentaries and series created by the world’s most accomplished producers. Educate, inspire, and entertain your family whenever and wherever you want to watch.
Currently, my kids are fully immersed in the series on the Crusades and Knights, which fit in perfectly with what we are  studying in history right now.  It's kind of amazing.  When we finish these two series, we'll have so much more to choose from for history...

  • the holy grail
  • the stock market crash of 1929
  • Winston Churchill
  • railways
  • Joseph Stalin
  • Viking women
...the list goes on and on.  We will never run out of great history documentaries to watch! 

If we want to switch to science, we could learn about things like...
  • Mars
  • nature
  • weather
  • the internet
  • hummingbirds
  • lakes
  • robotics
  • Isaac Newton
CuriosityStream was founded by John Hendricks, the founder of Discovery Communications, the parent company of several channels like Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and TLC.

The Benefits of Educational Video Streaming

From a homeschool mom perspective, this idea is so beneficial for several reasons.
  1. Ease of use// We can literally fire up these shows anywhere; in the waiting room at the doctor's office, in the car, in the family room.  If you have a smart device, a tablet, or a computer, you can watch anywhere.
  2. Ease of lesson planning// Yesterday for history, I wrote down "Watch Knights Documentary episode 2" That's it! Having quality shows for your kids to watch is so great.  It also helps that you don't have to monitor inappropriate commercials.
  3. Covers multiple ages//For most of the programs my kids have watched, they have watched all together.  That said, I would highly recommend watching beforehand to make sure it's right for your child. Nothing that I've seen so far has been too intense for all of my kids.
  4. Great sick day or rainy day activity//For days when school is getting too monotonous or if you are under the weather and your kids are running  muck or if the rain isn't stopping long enough to play outside, this service is perfection for you.
From a curious mind perspective, I am loving CuriosityStream for several reasons too.
  1. CuriosityStream offers a low-cost, endless plethora of subjects for me to explore too.  My husband and I love watching documentaries.  The list on CuriosityStream is so vast that we will never run out of great programming to watch together.
  2. I am always trying to learn more about something.  Whether it's about how our brains work or photojournalism, I can find more information on CuriosityStream.

If I haven't piqued your interests enough, let me sweeten the deal a little bit...CuriosityStream is offering 15% off the first two months of your subscription until November 1, 2015.  Just use the code: homeschool when you check out.

Here's the details for the discount: 

1. Standard Definition​(regularly $2.99) will be reduced to $2.50 each month for two months after the free trial month (total charge $5).  
2. High Definition​(regularly $5.99) will be reduced to $5.09 each month for two months after the free trial month (total charge $10.18). 
To sign up: 
1. New users need to head to curiositystream.com and click on the "Start your free month" button. 
2. On the next page, select preferred plan (SD or HD), input email information, and create a username and password. 
3. Once that is complete you will be prompted to input the payment information and will get the option to fill in a promo code box. With code homeschool, the 15% discount will be automatically applied. 
Find CuriosityStream all over the interwebs and follow them for updates and cool information:

Go check it out now! Adding in great video content to your homeschool is a great way to enrich your kids' (and your own) education.  Enjoy!

October 7, 2015


The fall season here in Minnesota is showing off like no fall I've ever seen before.  The setting, perfectly cued up for a spectacular show has me completely smitten.  Everyday for the past two weeks I've woken up, poured my coffee and peeked out on my deck at the colors showing up more and more each day.  The winters here may be brutal, but fall is at least giving us a dose of euphoria before we all freeze to death.

This season has jogged my memory to a few Octobers ago. It will never cease to amaze me how strange life is.  The way people change, the big moments in life that you don't realize are big until later, the difference a year makes, two years makes.  Two Octobers ago I was in a really hard place.  I hurt deep.  I read back through posts from back then and I just had to sit back and take it all in--how much things have changed, but how thankful I really really am for that dark time.  Those periods shape us just like the good seasons and right now it feels like a season of celebrating.  My four walls are actually mine, the scene outside my window is so good, and we've finally ditched the limbo period we were in for so long.

I'm leaving you with some fall favorites because, well, I'm high on fall right now.  It's got me in this contented place that leaves me feeling so grateful every single day.  I'm thankful for this season I'm in, and candles help.  They help a lot.  Throw in some plaid and I'm doing cartwheels through a pumpkin patch in my daydreams.  Check out some of my faves:

1. Plaid scarf // My favorite one ever is from my sister's store.  Can't do fall without it.
2. New scents//  Connecting scents with seasons in life is a real thing.  Right now  I am loving Aveda's Chakra 1.  It's woodsy and strange and nothing like I've ever worn before, but I love it.
3. Perfect mug//  Coffee is a staple all year long.  Duh.  But a sweet mug like  this one makes coffee time extra special.
4. Fall candle//  Fall begins with the first flick of a match to a Leaves candle by Bath and Body.
5. Pretty baking dishes// Fall just makes me want to bake.  I don't even eat what I bake, but I keep baking it anyway.  The  Pioneer Woman's new dishes at walmart.com are gorgeous.
6. Autumnal nails// New season, new nails.  It's required.  Something like OPI's Lost on Lombard is perfect.
7. Natural Curiosities// The squirrels in my yard are going absolutely crazy.  We need to do some crafts with all these beauties we're finding.
8. Cozy throw//  I found several vintage, plaid throws at the Junk Bonanza, but this one from Target is so cozy!
9. Good books// I just put Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter on hold at my library.  There are 431 people in line ahead of me, but when it's my turn I'm gonna really be happy!

October 2, 2015


I have no idea what happened to September.  None.  It was here, then it was gone.  The thing that I love about posting my Monthly Goals though is that I can look back and see that the previous month actually did exist and we did things.  Lots of things.  It makes me feel better.  Maybe September flew by so fast because there was a ton of stuff packed in it: 

visits from family
fall baseball
Boy Scouts started
popcorn sales started
living room update
painted the garage
FALL arrived!
apple orchard
several field trips
and lots more that I am forgetting.

I love setting these monthly goals because they keep me focused.  I can so easily go off on tangents and never actually get things done, but having goals that are set, scheduled into the month, and checked off is SO fulfilling.  If you're wondering how I did on September's and August's goals, you can definitely check up on me, but now...on to October! 

  • I'm doing another  Whole30.  I'm not excited about it.  But I knew I needed something to shock my system before the cold weather and holiday season set in.  Jarrod's doing it with me, which is everything!! We're on day 11 and it's not been that bad really.  So, Goal: Finish Whole30 strong!
  • I've been working the last two months on regular exercise and eating well.  I just want to continue using My Fitness Pal to track my meals and the Commit app to track my consistency.
  • Sleep.  Sleep.  Sleep.  Need to sleep more.  I've been good about getting up in the morning, and my morning routine is good right now, but I'm still tired--I need to go to bed earlier.  

I'm trying to focus on ONE room of the house a month to keep myself sane.  This month is the GARAGE.  

  • We've been needed a shed since we moved into this house.  It was delivered on Wednesday, now the goal is to BUILD the shed.
  • Last month we painted the walls of the garage.  They were taped, but never painted.  Next on the list is to paint the garage floor to block moisture from coming up through the older porous concrete floor.
  • Build lockers for the garage.  I'm so excited about this one!

  • Get the fireplace ready for fall.  This was a September goal that didn't get checked off.
  • I don't have a ton of seasonal decor, but I do have about four totes of Christmas decor.  This month I want to pull all those out and go through them really carefully, shuck the stuff that doesn't have a lot of meaning, and organize the rest.  Need to make more space for what matters most.
  • Deep clean kids' bedrooms.

  • We've been starting really slow this school year.  I decided to start with the basics: Morning Meeting, math, and language arts and add in the extras later.  We added in history towards the middle of September.  In October, I'd like to add in science (only for Noah), art, and typing.

  • Be more intentional about one-on-one time with the kids--especially one of them who seems to need some extra love right now.
  • Go fall clothes shopping! (Started this on Tuesday...need a couple more items AND I just got a 40% off coupon to GAP and Old Navy.  Score!)

  • I would like to update some of my older blog posts this month, years 2012-2013 to be more specific.
  • Revamp my desk.  It's too cluttered right now and not very inspirational.  Going off the suggestion of one of my favorite books, I'm going to fluff my work space.  New pens (only my favorites), better organizers, and a new comfy chair (opposed to the little bench I've been using.)
  • I love creating family yearbooks.  Thing is, I totally didn't do one for 2014! I know I could just forget it, but I don't want those photos to be lost forever! (and you know they would be!) For October, I want to work on 2014's photo book, specifically on the first half of 2014.  The goal is to finish January-June of 2014's photo book.

Well that should keep my busy this month! How about you? What's your goals for October?

September 30, 2015


A couple of weeks ago, I did a Periscope about my kids and what they do for chores.  (If you aren't on Periscope yet, you should totally look into it...it's so fun!)  I have received a lot of questions about that Scope and I wanted to lay it out with words right here for you.

I think the thing that we moms need to remember is that as our kids get older, they are more and more available to be our little assistants.  There's no reason for us mamas to be breaking our backs to get it all done, clean, made, cooked, accomplished, and checked off while our little darlings are crunching saltine crackers on the couch and watching ridiculous cartoons. (Why are cartoons SO stupid and WHY do my kids like saltine crackers so much!?!?!)  Anyway, they can help.  They totally can.  And they totally should. We're not just teaching them to tie their shoes and write their letters, we are training them to be good, functioning humans!  Your kid should know how to scrub a toilet, make a smooth bed, put their schtuff away, and properly load a dishwasher. 

The come-to-Jesus-meeting that started it all

A couple of years ago, I realized my mishaps at trying to start good chore routines were just silly.  The bottom line was this:

My kids had NO idea what their real expectations were.
My husband has been a bank manager in the past and his one tip for me, as the manager of the home, was this: your little employees need to know exactly what you expect of them or they will not ever know what to do.
Hello, genius!
I quickly called a team huddle for a little come-to-Jesus-meeting to lay it all out there: exactly what we expected of them every day:
  • Morning chores
  • Zone chores in their bedrooms
  • Meal chores and
  • Taking care of and putting away their own personal property
After they understood this, we've been so much better at enforcing chore time and having kids that actually DO their chores everyday.  It's been lovely.

Morning Chores

Here's what my kids do each morning:
  • self care
  • make beds
  • take out garbage in their bathroom and bedrooms (Noah)
  • wipe the bathroom sink (Jack)
  • take the dirty clothes to the laundry (Sophia)
So those last three things are individual chores.  That means the kid listed does that chore every. single. day.  We don't do charts.  We don't rotate.  We don't skip days. 

I have found that when we try to do that, it just gets too confusing.  My kids like repetition.  They do better with having a set plan that doesn't waiver.

Zone Chores

I love this bit of our chore life--the ZONES!  Yes, these are awesome.  Our kids pretty much have one "zone"--their rooms.  And they share, so it's even easier for them.  I got most of these ideas from flylady.net, so you can read more about it on her site, but the just of it is this:  our kids need to now exactly how to clean their rooms.  If we say, "go clean your room," to them that could mean shoving everything under the bed.  Hey it looks cleaner, right? But the truth is, they need more instruction than that.  So our zones look like this:

Monday: bedside table and a quick look under the bed to make sure there's no trash or misplaced items
Tuesday: closet//pick up the floor and hang up anything that's fallen down or needs straightening
Wednesday: floors//pick up anything that doesn't belong on the floor and vacuum
Thursday: desk and dresser//clear them off and dust
Friday: bathroom//wipe down toilet, tub, around the toilet on the floor, bring towels to the laundry room

These chores have been so good to do daily--right after their morning chore.  I feel like I'm no longer angry at them for letting their rooms get too grimy.  And it's only about a 5 minute chore per day, which is perfect.

Meal Chores

At mealtime, my kids have known for life that you clear your place from the table.  You just do.  If you don't you may get turned into a pillar of salt.  Maybe.  Don't chance it.  Breakfast and lunch seem to be quick meals and we all help to pick up afterwards, those go pretty fast.  Dinner we usually make a bigger deal of.  Jarrod's home, I usually have cooked something, and it's pretty important for us to sit down around the table together.  For dinner, everyone also has their one chore that they do over and over and over. 

Before dinner:
  • Set the table (Sophia)
  • Fill drinks (Noah)
  • Put out the extras--like salt and pepper, condiments, etc.(Jack)
After dinner:
  • Clear the table (everybody)
  • Load the dishwasher and hand wash extras (Noah)
  • Sweep floors (Jack)
  • Wipe down surfaces (Sophia)
  • Dry dishes (Jack and Sophia when their other tasks are finished)
I try to teach the kids to focus on three main areas when you clean up after meals: dishes, floors, and surfaces.  If they know that one of those three things is pretty much their responsibility, they can really focus on that one thing without a lot of bickering about who's doing what.

To give allowance or to not give allowance

This is a hot topic and everyone has their opinions.  We have gone back and fourth on this, but we've settled here for a while now:

Our kids don't get allowance for any of the things I've listed above.

Our reasoning is this: are we really supposed to pay our kids for cleaning their rooms? For taking their dirty clothes to the laundry room?  For putting away the things that we've bought for them?  It just seems a little backwards in our view.  We feel like if you are all living under one roof, you all contribute in your way. 

I make meals, manage things, do laundry, clean main areas of the house, conduct school, run a blog that contributes financially to our family, do yardwork, fix-up projects, and an array of other things.

Jarrod goes to work everyday so our family can do things like eat, not be homeless, and have birthday gifts.  As far as home responsibilities go, he also is the handyman, the bookkeeper, he cooks on some weekends, works in the yard, and does anything gross I don't want to do--like clean out garbage cans or pick up dead rabbits from the yard. 

My kids have their own responsibilities in addition to the ones listed above, like to work hard at their schoolwork, and help us in the yard with raking or picking up sticks or sweeping the driveway. 

There's a good chance our kids will always live with other people.  It's good to know how to hold up your corner of the roof of where you live.  Everyone must play a role.  Because if you're not holding it up, you're draggin' it down.  No one wants a roomie that won't clean up after themselves.

On the flipside, we do pay our kids for big jobs that they don't normally do.  For instance, a few weekends ago, my boys and I painted the garage.  This was a BIG job and it was messy and sweaty and very fumy.  I paid them each by the hour--they got $8/hour and made about $40, which in their world--where they pay for pretty much nothing--that is like Trump-money.  Jarrod and I both grew up in a small down where most of our dads did really hard work.  This is important for us to instill in our boys--you work hard for the money!  Building life skills is also invaluable for your boys and girls. 

I will occasionally have Noah (13) babysit for Vera (2) and I will pay him for this as well.  He loves her and would totally do it for free, but I don't ever want to make him feel like I'm using him to be responsible for her and not giving him anything in return--she is a handful!!

So that's the lowdown on chore life in our home.  I'd love to know what you do too!

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