May 25, 2015


Happy Monday, folks!  It's technically a holiday, but it's still a Monday so we're going to keep on track with our weekly goals.
It feels like time is flying by right now.  It's full this time of year.  Lots of baseball games, end-of-year loose ends to tie up, and spring projects.  Here's my list of goals for this week to help keep me focused despite the goings-on right now.
 I've been doing my best to exercise regularly, but I feel like I need to cut myself a little slack right now.  I've been really tired and waking up at 5:30 is pretty much killing me.  So I decided to scale back a lot.  I still have lots of goals--I would love to run another half-marathon this year or next and get back some of the strength I've lost these last few months.  But for now, I need simplicity.  My sister and I are doing a squat challenge and it's perfect.  I'm adding in this 7-minute workout on certain days when I can fit it in too.

This weekend we tore apart our basement.  Carpet ripped up, white paint on all the walls and new floor laid.  This is a big project and we're not done yet, but there's so much I can't do on my own without Jarrod, so I'll have to wait to finish till next weekend--or the weekend after that.  In order to lay flooring in the whole basement, we shoved all the stuff from the family room into the school room so we could finish that area and then we'll flip flop it--shove everything into the family room while we finish the school room. 

The one thing I can do on my own is get the school room painted.  Think, white paint and black chalkboard paint! I'm so excited to see it all finished.  But I'm also very impatient and can tend to be a very "bossy" person during these projects....God bless my husband.

 We're still following the lesson plan this week.  That is all.  Just finish strong! This week we need to complete our state tests and send them in.  I'm hoping to get a little time with each kid to complete these.  We normally do these in April, but with the move, it wasn't going to happen. 

 All I want for this week is to just move a little slower--be a little more relaxed.  I've been so on-edge lately--checking off projects, still trying to fluff our home and make it feel cozy, finish our school year, and just normal life!  My kids totally feed off my anxiety and get more edgy and crabby then as well.  This week my to-do list will be much shorter and we're going to relax a lot more, have more meaningful conversations, more cozy bedtimes, and less hectic days.

Ok, so this goal should have been on here weeks ago, but I have a confession to make: I am late for everything.  Like, everything.  I do not like this about myself.  The biggest reason is that I am such a doer, I feel like I can cram 20 tasks into a space where only 5 tasks fit.  If I have 20 minutes to leave somewhere I will naturally think this is JUST enough time to mop the floors or fold a load of laundry.  But I never account for the fact that there's FOUR kids to get into the car and that easily takes 20 minutes.  So, I am late.  This week I'm going to allow more time for each task I do and be on time for every appointment, game, and practice I have. 

Whew.  Let's do it!

As always, leave your weekly goals here in the comments and I'll email you some "get it girl" notes this week. Just make sure you leave your email address in the comment so I know how to get ahold of you.

May 22, 2015


It's been quite the school year, there's no question about that.  But even in the craziest of school years, there's been lessons learned.

Kids will learn, no matter what. 
It's like a train you can't stop.  We can't stop--and we won't stop. That's right, they learn no matter what.  When we moved to Minnesota at the beginning of April, school took an immediate halt.  We didn't do our regular school for a good three weeks.  I started to worry about this, as I had only planned on taking a week off and I was feeling like we were slipping farther and farther behind.  But some things happened that I didn't see coming.  They didn't learn new math concepts or finish memorizing the prepositions, but they did learn other things. 

Sophia bought a rubber band set and made dozens and dozens of different designs of bracelets, necklaces, and rings. 

The boys started baseball and learned new things like how to bunt, some of the fine print rules of the game, and how to slide headfirst. 

Jack got sucked into the world of Harry Potter and all the kids memorized our new address.

It didn't look like I expected, but they still learned on their own anyway.  You can't stop it, kids' brains are like little sponges.  I've started setting things around the house more and more that they can pick up and read or explore. 

Life learning counts--big time.When you move, there's a WHOLE lot of life learning going on.  Measuring the walls for fitting in the furniture, learning how to use new tools, calculating prices for plumbers and electricians, figuring out the area of the floor for new carpeting, and above all else, how to place a call to order pizza.  This is what I like to call: LIFE LEARNING.

This is real! And my kids got so much of this type of learning this spring.  It's not "regular school," or checking off boxes in a lesson planner, but it's really important and so great for your kids to experience.  I have seen my kids grow just in the last few months from what we've done together. 

My kids have learned things like: how to use a pressure washer, how to properly pack for a move, how to hop into a new group of kids and play a sport with them, how to adjust to different time zones/ living arrangements/ climates, how to make certain meals, how to do new chores, new addresses, how to order a pizza, and so much more.

Life learning counts.  We may not finish this year with all our math lessons completed, but there are so many other invisible boxes checked off that we're just going to roll with it.  It's life.  They've learned a lot about it this year.

Reading aloud with your kids goes a very long way.  There were times this school year where I could do nothing else but read to my kids.  That is it.  I was too exhausted, drained, and emotionally overwhelmed to do anything else.  But let me tell you, we read A LOT this year.  We read books like The BFG, James and the Giant Peach, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Heidi, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory...just to name some of them. 

Even though we were lacking in some other areas of school, we excelled in this one and I'm going to take what I get!  I wouldn't recommend it for all the time, but sometimes, when we have nothing else in us--just read.  It goes a long way.

It's quiet.
They're attentive.
They're being swept away to another land.
Their minds are growing and expanding.
They're learning new vocabulary and dialect.
Reading is good.

Our homeschool space matters.Moving around so much this year, we had our homeschool spaces in several different areas...we started out with a great little corner space of our family room in NC.  We then moved to South Dakota and tried to do school around the dining room table--that didn't work so well--way too many distractions.  Then we moved to the basement of my aunt's house and that worked much better.  Then we moved to our new house--and it has a whole school room! I realize this is what works best for us.  We can't really do school here, there, and everywhere.  My kids just are too distractible.  I realize that not everyone has an extra room for this, but even find a corner of your family room, your office--something that is just for school. 

Less is more.  Almost always.Since we moving into our new home in April, we have been doing the bare-essentials in school.  Currently, our days look like this:
-Idiom of the day
-Math lesson
-Spelling practice
-Grammar lesson
-Minnesota Study

It's been going really well.  I feel like focusing on just a few things each day has made us more thorough in the things we are doing.  Now, I am excited for a little more next year--like fun history units and typing and cursive and foreign language, but for now--this is perfect.  Less=More.

We need routine more than I knew before.I've always known this, but now even more.  Moving is hard and your routine kicks totally kicked out the window.  But I'm slowly regaining it back, trying to get my feet under me.  My kids thrive on a regular bedtime and a regular wake time.  Regular school time, play time, meal time is essential for them too.  It's not a rigid schedule I'm searching for, but just a flowing one that makes sense for my kids--and me.  We're still not there yet, and this time of year doesn't comply very much with regular or routine with all it's activities and warmer weather, but I'm working on it--bit by bit.

I mean a lot to this family.Really, I do. 
We mothers are the ones who keep this ship afloat.  I mean, I love my husband and he's amazing at his job and is successful at everything he touches, but that's just it--he's out doing his thing!  I am the person back on the ship--keeping it afloat.  I love this--this is the job I signed up for, the job I was made for, and the job I love.

But sometimes I forget.

This school year, I have lost a little bit of myself.  I've let some things go that I never should have--mostly taking care of myself.  I've been so busy with working on my business, packing boxes, traveling five hours every weekend for weeks on end from South Dakota to Minneapolis trying to find a house, packing boxes again to move to Minneapolis, and unpacking and setting up a home--these have all taken a toll on me. 

Everyone is fed and cared for, the house is pretty clean, and the kids are (fairly) educated ;)  But then there's the one who's supposed to hold it all together and keep things running smoothly, who is not getting enough sleep, not eating regular meals, and not taking very good care of herself at all.  I am starting to see how that really affects everything else in the household so much.  It's not a good thing.

I'm trying.  I'm working on weekly goals and trying to get things together, but I'm not there yet.  A lot of it is just being too exhausted to have the self-discipline to get things back on track.  But I know it will come.  And I know how important my own self-care is to this family.  It really does matter.  I matter.

These are 7 lessons of many I've learned this year.  We are winding down our school year.  Only two weeks left now.  I'd say I wished it had been a better, more thorough year of learning, but in a way, this was a great year.  There were many ups and downs and many unchecked boxes, but here we are almost on the other side of it.  We will have these school years, these seasons of more craziness than normal.  Next school year will look different...they all do.  For now though, I'm taking this summer to focus on little things--like sleep, a few new things to add into our mix of curriculum, and getting myself into a healthy routine.  That is all.  OH, and fun...we're planning on lots of fun this summer. 

Cheers to that!

May 21, 2015

LEARNING WELL: What People Are Saying

It's been a couple weeks since the new Learning Well ecourse has launched.  This is the first time I have ever created anything like this, I had no idea what to expect.  I wasn't sure if other homeschool moms would be willing to help me out or if anyone would even sign up, but with sweaty palms, I went ahead anyway--and guess what? People signed up! Not only that, they actually loved it!!

I have received lots of emails about this course--how it's helped people begin their homeschooling journey, how it's helped them sort out issues that had come up, and motivation to keep going.  This has been my huge return on my investment of time and energy on this project--your feedback. 

Thank you.

Thank you for showing up, signing up, and letting me know what you loved and what you want to see next--because you better believe there's going to be more courses!

Many people have asked if they can still sign up--yes! You can totally still sign up.  You'll be able to find all the information you need about the it on the course page.  We've got a forum with conversations going and a facebook page where you can ask questions and get help there if you need it.

If you were wondering what it was like and needed a little sneak peek, I created a short video for you to check it out.

I hope to see you in class! Please email me with any questions you might have.

aliciaahutchinson (at) yahoo (dot) com

May 20, 2015


I am so excited to introduce Cindy West to you today.  When I decided to create a homeschooling ecourse, I knew I wanted Cindy to be a part of it.  Since the very beginning of our homeschool journey, I've been looking to her for advice and inspiration.  She's been homeschooling for a very long time and is just getting ready to send her oldest to college.  Cindy's approach to homeschooling is just so inspiring, I know you will love her too.  Here's an interview I did with her recently.  Enjoy! 
Your oldest, Mahayla, is about to graduate! As the homeschool mom, how are you feeling?! What's your advice for homeschooling all the way through?
Well, graduation is definitely bittersweet - that's for sure!  I am so incredibly proud of Mahayla's accomplishments and my own.  We've both worked so hard to get to this place of finality in our homeschool.  The best part, though, is knowing that she will always have a heart for learning and growing because our homeschool takes the "life is learning, learning is life" approach and she loves to learn.

My best advice for homeschooling all the way through is to never doubt yourself.  You can homeschool high school!  There are so many resources available to you these days - online classes, lessons on CD-roms, co-op classes, etc.  When you get stuck, get help. 

Another piece of advice is to begin charting out a general plan for high school courses by 7th or 8th grade.  You can always deviate here and there when you need to, but you'll feel better having a plan in place when the time comes.  The framework allows you to spend more time finding appropriate classes and resources rather than thinking through requirements and transcript hours. 

One more thing...well, maybe two.  Allow your children to take at least some classes that meet their interests or passions (like agriscience and equine science for my daughter.)  And, make sure you begin turning over the responsibilities of learning early so your children can be (at least mostly) completely independent learners by their senior year.  That's going to serve them well in college!

You write an amazing blog that I use as a reference constantly.  You also write nature studies and other helpful books that I can attest to as well.  WHat are you working on right now?  Anything new in the works?

Thank you!  I wish I could say I'm actively working on some new books - but this homeschool gig takes a lot of time.  Some new books that may or may not find their way in my store soon will be on the topics of project-based learning and homeschooling advanced learners.
I can interject here and say that Cindy's books have helped me so much! Two great ones are the following:

Charlotte Mason Homeschooling in 18 Easy, Step-by-Step Lessons - Cindy has found such success with the Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling and wants you to as well.  This book is super-easy to understand and gives you simple "homework" assignments to help you integrate one CM aspect at a time into your homeschool.  Move through the book as slowly or quickly as you like.  In the end, you'll be running a functional Charlotte Mason style homeschool! 

100+ Creative Nature Walks - Many people love the depth of nature study that the NaturExplorers series offer.  For those who would rather just have a pick-up-and-go book of learning activities to do on nature walks, 100+ Creative Nature Walks is perfect.  And if you download it to your smart phone, you can turn impromptu nature walks into amazing lessons right then and there!  You'll be surprised at how many subjects one little ol' nature walk can encompass!

What are your three top teaching tools?

In no particular order:
1.  Google/YouTube - I am amazed at how much easier it is to dive deep with learning through a quick Internet search.
2.  Field Trips - Nothing beats real-life experiences in learning and field trips fit the bill.  Not to mention, the expert teachers found on many field trips make great teachers.
3.  Living Literature - There is just so much goodness found within the pages of really good books.  Just. so. much.

Hypothetical question: You have $500 that you HAVE to spend on just you! What are you going to buy?

Ha!  An iPad.  Or new clothes. 

You've been at this homeschooling gig for a long time.  How does your homeschool look different now than it did in the beginning and what has surprised you about this journey?

What a great question that I was just thinking about the other day.  Hands-down, the biggest change in how I'm homeschooling today vs. 10+ years ago is the use of technology.  Eli (almost 3rd grade) is doing so much more interest-based learning than my older two did at his age because we have the Internet at our fingertips.  He wonders about something and we look it up right away - and sometimes get lost in rabbit trails of learning all day long.

The only thing that has surprised me about the homeschooling journey is how fast it's gone.  Truly, the blink of an eye and I'm graduating my first this month.
Answers like this make me freak out a little bit.  Enjoy each day, right!?
There are a lot of new homeschoolers taking the Learning Well course.  What's your top word of advice for them?

Take homeschooling seriously, but don't stress out.  You should be sure your children have a college-bound education by the time they leave your homeschool so there are no limitations to God's calling for their lives.  However, realize that there are so many ways to accomplish this and none of them is the "right" way. 

If you are taking your job as a teacher seriously, staying mostly organized with your planning, promoting a love for learning, and making sure your children are always making progress in their lessons - you'll see success!  You CAN do it. 
Thank are an inspiration. xo
Go visit Cindy's blog and her bookshop page as well! And don't forget to sign up for the Learning Well course and learn more from Cindy and many others!

May 18, 2015


This is another issue of weekly goals--mine and yours.  How'd your last week go?  I was a little hit and miss with my goals this week, but focus is always good and goals are even better.  
This week, I'm just really trying to focus on doing school really well right now and finish the school year strong.  We also have a lot of busy nights (like, all of them) for baseball, so I mostly just want to stay on top of the daily routine to keep everything on track. 

This week, I'm just following the plan.  I've got a good routine mapped out, now I just need to follow it.  Basically get up early and either do a Jillian Michaels video or jog.  Nothing more in depth than that. 

I really want to start painting the basement this week, but I am pretty sure I should just wait till the weekend since it's a long one and I'll have more help with Jarrod here.  But hopefully we can get a start on it.  We decided to hold off on ripping out carpet till after school is over--June 5th.  But after that, it's go time!

Follow the lesson plan--that is all!!  Unlike normal school years, we've taken a lot of time off this year for moving.  Usually by this time in the year, we're finishing books and doing a lot of fun stuff.  Not this year! We're buckling down and squeezing in every last bit that we can.  The kids are beyond excited.  (read my sarcasm)

This spring, I want to take each of my older kids out for a date and stock up on summer clothes with them.  Even the boys were excited about this, which surprised me.  I was able to take Sophia a couple Saturdays ago while the boys were at baseball, but I'm really hoping to get out with at least one boy this week.  We have one free night from baseball this week, so I'm hoping to whisk one of them away with me for a date to H&M.

Still...sleep.  It's always such a struggle for me.  Still focusing on getting to bed and getting up--giving myself plenty of time to get my bearings on before the kids are awake.  10:30 to bed and 6am to get up.  You can do this, Alicia!

Now, don't forget to leave me your weekly goals! I'll email you mid-week and see how you're doing.  Just remember to leave your email address on the comment or I won't know how to get ahold of you.

Have a great week, all!
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