July 31, 2015

OLD FAITHFUL AND CALLING MULLIGANS

We've been home for about a week now from a pretty epic road trip.  I packed the car to the gills, kissed Jarrod goodbye, and heading to the wild west with my four little cowboys (and girls).  It was pretty wild--especially when you consider the endless hours across a pretty desolate Montana with no cell service.  And then we hit the mountains.  Hello, beautiful.
 
We hiked it up to the Glacier Park area, then back down to Big Sky for a few more days, then, because we couldn't very well head home only visiting two National Parks, but we needed to squeeze one more in, we decided to dip south a titch and see what Yellowstone could offer us.
 
So a 13-year-old with constant ear buds, a 9-year-old with a free spirit, a bossy 7-year-old, and a super intense 2-year-old and one mom head to Yellowstone National Park--sounds like the beginning of a sad joke right? Or a really good reality TV show--but it was real.  It was my reality.
 
And drama, did we love you.
 


Yellowstone has all the wildlife.  We saw exciting things right through the gate--hooray, mom didn't take us someplace boring!

My first impression of the park was a cold, hard memory of me--about Noah's age--sulking bitterly in the backseat with my Walkman blaring, tuning out the sound of my dad's voice urging us to go check out one more flipping geyser. It's kind of one of those funny family memories now, but at the time I had some deep hate for bubbling hot springs and mud pots.  My family seemed to be enthralled by the ceaselessness of natural wonder.  I, on the other hand, wanted to just go someplace cool, like, somewhere without stinky underground volcanos. 

I'm so happy I did not reap what I had sown on that trip so long ago--my kids thought Yellowstone was pretty amazing.  And it was until we got to the iconic Old Faithful and drama socked me in the gut outta nowhere.
 
If you're in Yellowstone, you have to go to Old Faithful.  I mean, it's Old Faithful! So if you've never been there, here's the scoop: it's super crowded.  Everyone there is wearing their best vacation outfit: "Favorite Dad" t-shirt. Check. Fanny pack. Check check.  And there's cameras for miles.  Where you park your car is insanely busy.  There's busses, vans, and a sea of Thule cargo carriers--my car joined the ranks with his friends.  Right off the parking lot is a whole string of shops, ice cream, t-shirts, magnets, stickers, and anything else that will hold a Yellowstone National Park logo.  Ya, we bought stuff.  When you make your way through the sea of people and souvenirs, you'll find your way on the path to Old Faithful herself. 
 
It's clear as day when you see it.  It's surrounded by happy tourists, cameras ready, pencils ready to check it off their bucket lists.  My kids were up there, front and center too.  They were digging it.  Big time. 
 
Those kind ranger folks post a nice big sign when the next predicted eruption of Old Faithful will come.  She's supposedly pretty predictable--hence the name.  But my stomach dropped when I saw we still had over an hour (+/- minutes) to wait for her to blast off.  Travel tip: do not trust the sign.
 
So, what's a mom alone to do with four kids at a geyser, waiting for it to erupt?  That's right, ice cream.  I sent Noah with a pocket of cash to run and fetch ice cream for the kiddies to make our wait a little less painful.  He was happy to do so.  I mean, ice cream doesn't ever become uncool, does it?
 
You may have guessed--about 10 minutes after he left--the damn thing erupted.  
 
 

The other two that gave a shit couldn't have cared less--it was sudden tears for both.
 
He's missing it! He's missing it!! He's never going to see anything like this ever again!
 
Applause and cheering from the geyser's audience.
 
Wait! Mom, let me take a picture with your phone--MOM! Your phone's dead!  (ya, and the camera was forgotten in the car.)
 
More applause.
 
Tears all around.  Yay for Old Faithful.
 
A few minutes later, I spotted my boy in a dead sprint, his whole body flying through the exiting crowd sans his ice cream filled arms, smiling at his quick pace and for even remembering to get me a treat--which never happens.

When I sheepishly told him he missed it, he didn't believe me.  Apparently, sarcasm runs deep and he was trying to call my bluff.  No bluff, son, you missed the bloody thing.  My mom sonar felt the depletion before I saw it--he was so bummed.  And probably a little pissed at me for asking him to get the ice cream.

So we waited for the next one.

I knew I'd be covered in sweat and high fructose corn syrup after another hour or more wait.  I knew that Vera would probably fall or throw an epic tantrum and try to ride someone's dog.  I knew we'd roll into our hotel super late, but I couldn't pack them up and leave and have that be their memory of Old Faithful.  I had to redeem Yellowstone.  We waited and listened to the rangers give an interesting talk about bison.  And we waited.  And we filled out little Junior Ranger books and earned patches.  And we waited.  And I did run back to the car for my camera and to change a poopy diaper, but other than that, we didn't go farther than a few feet for the not so faithful wonder.

But when she was ready for the next one, she sure put on a show for my kids.

 
Noah took selfies--like he did everywhere else we were--he's making a photo book I think.
 
Jack hugged Noah because he wasn't missing it.
 
Sophia whooped and hollered. 


Vera picked her nose.

And I took it all in for a whole 2 minutes and 45 seconds. 

 
On the way to our stopping point for the night, while trying to not hit lazy bison, I thought about when we'll be here again.  Maybe never? Maybe ten years? Will Noah ever be here again? Who knows--but he saw Old Faithful because of me.  And I felt pretty good about that.
 
He also missed it because of me, but I was trying not to think about that small detail.
 
All of us need to call a Mulligan every once in a while.  A redo, a second chance, a replay.  We don't always get them, but that day I forced one.  Because I could.  And now we've got the selfie and the story to prove it. 
 
These last few shots are from the next day when we drove through the Big Horn Mountains.  Why aren't those a National Park? Big Horns, I think you are totally National Park worthy. 


 


 
This vacation was so full of beauty.  Some of the most beauty I've seen.  The miles in the car were long, but exciting too.  We packed our 13 days to the brim with wild west things.  More on the South Dakota part of our vacation coming next month. 
 
And now, it's almost August.  We left and it was summer.  We returned and Back-to-School had invaded the Target aisles.  Still digging my heels in and trying not to think too far ahead. 
 
Long live summer.
 
And summer vacations.




July 28, 2015

NEW ECOURSE: A PURPOSEFUL HOMESCHOOL

Since my very first e-course came out in April, I've been getting questions about all sorts of homeschooling details.  Details like planning your year, setting up a functional planner, and how to work out a good daily schedule.  I love talking about these nitty gritty details in homeschooling, so I compiled my thoughts and created another course for you, A Purposeful Homeschool, starting August 31st.





When I was starting out on this homeschooling path, I was reading and taking in whatever I could--but there wasn't podcasts or downloads or e-courses then.  (Well, maybe there was and I'm just tech illiterate--that is totally a possibility too.)  Homeschooling is my passion.  I have seen so many moms begin homeschooling--sometimes willingly and sometimes out of necessity--and it is overwhelming to figure out all the details of a homeschool-life.

Maybe you are just starting to homeschool this year.  Maybe you've been homeschooling for a few years, but your daily schedule isn't working for your family.  Maybe you're struggling to know how to plan your school year.  I hope to answer these questions for you in this course. 

Charlotte Mason said that "anything worth doing is worth doing well."  I believe this to be so true with everything--especially educating our kids.  When we plan, think ahead, and prepare for our homeschooling year we are choosing to be purposeful in what we do--and that creates success! Not every day will go according to plan, actually, with kids many days may not go according to plan, but taking the time to be purposeful about what we do will help our homeschools to be great anyway. 

Here's what we'll cover:

How to Set Up a Functional School Space
You don't have to have a whole room dedicated to homeschooling--we'll talk about carving out spaces in whatever size your home is to create a great learning space.  We'll also talk about organizing all the books and curriculum and school supplies that come with homeschooling.  I'll give you a tour of my homeschool space and show you some of my older spaces too.
Setting Up a Highly Functional Lesson Planner
Obviously I'm partial to one lesson planner in particular, but there are some main keys that makes lesson planners work and not work.  We'll look through some of my past planners and why they worked and why they didn't.  We'll also talk about how to set up your own to work for you and the beauty of hand-written lesson plans.  You will also receive a coupon code for my lesson planner at it's lowest price ever.  Score!
Planning a Successful School Year
Right now, we're in the thick of planning-mode for our upcoming school year.  In this segment I'll share just how I go about planning our year.  We'll cover setting goals, writing a mission statement, creating your own planning retreat, choosing curriculum, and all the details that go into planning a successful homeschool year.
Four Daily Schedules for the Homeschool Family
We are all in different seasons. Our kids are different ages, we have different needs and demands.  Your schedule will change with these things.  Here, I'll share with you four different daily schedules that will work for most homeschooling families.  We'll address some of the things that put a cramp in our style of daily scheduling like toddlers and overly busy seasons and we'll discuss how to work with these things and not against them.
Creating a Master Homeschool Binder
Of all the posts on my blog, the post on how to create a master homeschool binder is in the top three of most-pinned and visited posts.  Creating a Master Binder is an idea I had a few years ago to keep things organized.  In this section, I'll walk you through, step-by-step how to create one of your own, what you should keep in it, and how to keep it updated. 
 I am so excited for this course.  I am looking forward to learning with you! Register right here! The price of the class is $25. 

Email me if you were a member of Learning Well e-course and I'll send you a private link to with a discount for the course. My email is aliciaahutchinson@yahoo.com. 

You'll get a receipt for the course--hang on to it for future reference--and you'll receive an email the day before class starts with log-in information.  Class starts August 31st!



July 20, 2015

OUR SCHOOLROOM 2015-2016

I love the beginning of a project--the plans and details are all ready to go and the excitement of the project is like a happy rainbow over the current "before" picture.  I love the end of a project--the bright, shiny, new space that's just waiting to be fluffed and primped.  The thing that almost always puts me over the edge--unless it's a super quick one--is the middle.  Projects and fixing things up are a huge excitement to me--until they take over my life.  Then I can't stand projects.  This is why I like to go heavy on the planning stage, figure out how long everything should take, and then just get it done. 
 
Our basement project was a big one and you can't really factor in family emergencies or extended baseball schedules, but I can finally say...it is finished.  Hooray and hallelujah. 
 
 
 
I shared our schoolroom and the school room problems a few weeks ago.  It all just needed to be streamlined and freshened up.  We tore out the old carpet and laid some high-quality laminate flooring that I am in love with.  I painted white all over the basement--lots and lots of white.  There is some wainscoting along the bottom of the walls, so I gave those a fresh coat of white and painted the top portion on the walls with black chalkboard paint.  I really love how it turned out--but first, the before:


 

This is a small room and I really wanted to open it up as much as I could.  We used one existing bookshelf and added two the same size from IKEA to house all of our books.  We also rearranging everything and took lots of stuff out to use in different areas of the house.

Note the stripped down steps to the left--another project that is almost complete.  More to come on those beauties soon.




Before:



I am really pleased with the desk area.  I knew I wanted a nice, deep counter space that I could also use for my own projects and sewing--eventually, that is if I ever craft or sew ever again.  We just bought some stock upper cabinets that were unfinished and painted them white.  They're about $45 each, which made this a pretty cheap desk.  For the counter, we used white shelving.  It works really well and we've used this before in other projects.



 There's still a little bit to fluff in here--add a little art, add handles to the cabinets, putting on new outlet and light switch covers, etc.  But this space has improved so much over these last hectic weeks.  I'm feeling much better about the upcoming school year and I can finally feel really good about ordering curriculum and planning our school year. 
 
Here's a few other school room posts to check out:
http://www.aliciahutchinson.com/2014/08/our-school-room.html
 
http://www.aliciahutchinson.com/2010/09/our-school-room.html
 
 
 
 
Also, check out iHN's Not Back to School school room round-up today for tons of great school room ideas:
 
http://www.ihomeschoolnetwork.com/project/school-room-week-2015/
 


July 17, 2015

WESTWARD

The last six days have felt like a whirlwind of summer vacation, driving, more driving, lots of photos, lots of oohing and ahhing over amazing scenery, and more than that--lots of family and friends.  The kids and I are on what you might call the quintessential American summer road trip.  We starting heading west about a week ago.  We've been through four states and have driven a large "L" shaped route--twice over Montana.  Let me just say--it's pretty amazing.


So far we've:
sweated and hiked through the Badlands of South Dakota,
dug Wall Drug and enjoyed some free water,
hung out with family and shopped at my sister's store,
driven a helluva lot,
spent a few days with my bestie, Amy, and her girls,
slid down a mountain in Whitefish, MT,
driven through Glacier Park,
swam in Lake MacDonald in GNP,
driven some more,
went junking--Montana style,
taken a zillion photos,
and driven a little more....








We said goodbye to our friends yesterday and headed south.  Amy flew to Asheville three July's ago.  We hadn't seen each other before that and we haven't seen each other since until this week.  The funny thing is, it didn't seem like that much time had passed and we just pick up where we left off.  I love friends like that--easy and refreshing.  We get each other and our kids were like long-lost cousins.  It was pretty perfect.

We're still Montana.  This state has too much to offer to only stay a few days.  It feels like summer; the packed car, the road map, the travel journal, and all the things I remember from road trips with my family.  There's something about doing something with your own kids that you did growing up that makes being a parent so much sweeter.

Happy summer weekend to you, wherever you might be...

July 13, 2015

OUR CURRICULUM 2015-2016

There's been a lot of work going on in the school room, but not so much with actual school.  I have yet to order anything and I still have lots of planning to do, but I have managed to get a general plan of what curriculum we'll be using this year.  Note that it's not ordered yet, so this list is definitely subject to change.  I struggle with commitment sometimes...

...with that said, here's our list of curriculum for the school year 2015-2016:

This post contains affiliate links, thanks for supporting this blog.

This will be our 8th year of homeschooling.  Over these years there are a few things that have helped me streamline my curriculum choosing. 
  • I like built curriculum, not boxed.  Nothing at all against boxed curriculum--I think its great! I really do.  I'm just too much of a rebel to listen to a preprinted lesson planner.  Personal preference--it's just my style to create my own.
  • We need hands-on history.  We've tried some history curriculum that is more literature driven, but we always do better with a great mix of books and hands-on activity.
  • We need to change it up a bit every year--but not too much.  There's a few tried and true pieces of curriculum that just work best for us.  If it's not broken, why fix it?
  • Less is more.  I have tried to just pile it on many times.  My enthusiasm exceeds my rationality and we end up with piles of stuff we'll never use.  I've learned to restrain myself.

A few months ago, I was freaking out a little bit about 8th grade.  I started doubting my abilities as a homeschool mom and second guessing all the choices I've made in the past years.  Thoughts of completely  changing the way we did school started spinning in my brain.  I had forgotten that what we were doing actually was working though.  Two things happened to help me get my head on straight. 

1. I called my friend Cindy West.  She is amazing at homeschool coaching and encouraging mamas along the way.  She helped me to see our successes in the past and evaluate what Noah and I both needed to do for the coming year(s).  She helped me formulate the plan for curriculum this coming year and I am so excited about it. 

2. We took our state tests for the year and my kids killed it.  I'm not saying this to brag or put myself on a homeschool pedestal.  I'm just saying that seeing good numbers in black and white can sometimes give us that encouragement we need.  The test was really hard and I was fully prepared to get pretty low scores back in the mail. Our school year last year was very crazy--we lived in three different states in a nine month period for gosh sakes--so I wasn't expecting anything overly awesome.  But all three of them did so well.  I'm talking college levels for Noah--he did a great job.  I am not saying we should put all of our esteem in state tests at all, but at this point in time, it really helped with my confidence.

(click the photos for more info on each piece of curriculum.)

Language Arts


Math and Logic


Science and History

  History is currently undecided...will update when that happens ;)

Language Arts
 
Math and Logic
 
Typing



Foreign Language


History and Geography


Jack and Sophia will both be using Story of the World for history with some other unit studies thrown in.  We didn't finish volume two last year, and I'm totally fine with stretching it over two years and really taking more time with it.
 
Science
We're going to be using a lot of these NaturExplorer studies for science this year.  We'll throw in some other unit studies along the way as well.

 
Language Arts
 
http://www.christianbook.com/handwriting-without-tears-grade-2-kit/pd/498105?event=ESRCG
Math and Logic
 
This is basically our plan for the coming school year.  I'm hoping I can sneak away for a "teacher retreat" to do my planning this year--doesn't that sound awesome!? Crossing my fingers--and getting excited! I'm excited too, because we'll be doing school in our new school room--tour coming soon! Here's a little sneak peek.
 


More curriculum lists can be found here:
http://www.ihomeschoolnetwork.com/project/curriculum-week-2015/
 
More school planning posts:
 
http://www.aliciahutchinson.com/2015/07/creating-personalized-lesson-planner.html

http://www.aliciahutchinson.com/2014/08/our-curriculum-2014-2015.html

http://www.aliciahutchinson.com/2014/07/how-to-plan-your-homeschool-year.html



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