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A Long Overdue Life Update (Hello 2024!)

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? There are so many moments that I mentally make a note to write a quick post, but it never seems to materialize (and truthfully, there’s so much to tell, that it seems overwhelming at the same time!).

So instead, we’ll take the abbreviated version, but still give an update, shall we?

Many of you have been long time followers of our blog, watched our family grow up online, and as we are getting near the end of our own family’s homeschool journey, it’s often harder to share the day-to-day (because our youngest two are teen boys and there’s a fine line in oversharing). :)

Here’s the bullet point summary of what’s happening in/around our house, because 2023 brought so many changes!

Laurianna and her husband Ian moved back to our area early in the year and in April we welcomed our first grandchild, Judah. He has truly been the sweetest addition to our family, and becoming an Oma is the craziest and most amazing blessing. Our family group text thread is honestly a massive compilation of daily pictures of the cutest baby and milestones he is achieving (is there anything better?).

McKenna took a brief break after her graduation in 2021 to work and focus in on what she might want to study (nursing). In January 2023 she began working toward her degree and has proven herself to be an absolutely amazing student (despite all her doubts), excelling in her coursework. Her goal is a BSN and almost all of her pre-requisites are now out of the way, so she’ll jump into the nursing program in the fall of 2024.

Zachary graduated high school in May, and in December he officially completed his first semester at Bridgewater College, where he is also swimming for their men’s team, breaking school records, and settling into college life. We missed him over the holidays as he jumped on a plane and spent over two weeks in Prague with friends, revisiting an area where he spent time over the summer.

Kaleb is a junior in high school, swimming with our year-round team, and more recently our last official driver in the family. He is officially taller than me, and it’s very strange to know that in just a year and a half our homeschool journey will wrap up with his graduation.

While I haven’t been especially active (at all) with the blog, Facebook, or Instagram, at the personal level, I have been otherwise busy working for our year-round swim team in addition to homeschooling Kaleb. Swimming has been such a big part of our family’s life and sharing that love with other families is honestly a joy (plus I get to know some amazing families and people along the way). In addition to working part time, I’m teaching a literature class (small co-op setting) and trying to fit all of life in, because if there’s anything turning 50 and having the sweetest grandson will do – it’s make you want to enjoy each moment of life to the fullest.

I hope you all have been well! Thank you SO MUCH for those who have been readers through the year and allowing me to share a quick update via your inbox!

It’s Been Awhile, Hasn’t It?

Around the blog this past year, I’ve been quiet for the most part with the exception of sharing a little life update back in August. Considering we’ve been home the majority of the time and life has completely slowed down (comparatively speaking), it would seem that the opposite would be true. That said, life with four teens at home is nothing short of full. :)

Keeping up with school has been, at times, challenging – mainly keeping motivation going for both the kids and myself. College options are going back and forth with McKenna and Laurianna, and life is moving along in general.

Rather than sharing an exhaustive list of all that is happening in our lives, how about a quick sum-up?

  • Laurianna returned home in October 2020 (FINALLY) from Mercy Ships where she had been serving since May 2019.
  • Swim competitions began opening up, slowly but surely. At the end of March we even traveled to Florida for two big swim meets for the boys (so thankful they will both be in the same age group meets next year!). Zachary even had a chance to meet a few Olympic swimmers including Caeleb Dressel (pictured above) and Ryan Lochte.
  • McKenna and Zachary both started working at the same restaurant and have been loving their jobs
  • Zachary is now an officially licensed driver, after so many delays thanks to slooooooow mail and other restrictions.
  • We’ve enjoyed continuing with a small weekly co-op for literature and chemistry with Zachary and a few other high school kids (all girls – poor Zachary).
  • We are prepping for McKenna’s high school graduation and contemplating what her fall will look like.

In March I also traveled to Nashville to speak at Teach Them Diligently, where I was able to spend some time with one of my best friends, Carisa. I am so thankful we were able to see each other and incredibly thankful to be able to spend a few days relaxing. The trip to Nashville was the first time since everything shut down last March that I was by myself – literally a year. (Hear me on this – I love my family, but it was nice to just be completely alone for a few days!!)

A few weeks ago, while Rick and I were sitting on the beach and the kids were playing around in the water together as the sun was setting, I was honestly overwhelmed (and started crying) as we were watching the kids together. Life is far from perfect in our household. There are lots of stories and things that happen behind the scenes that aren’t shared for all the world to know (you know, respecting privacy and all). But in that moment – seeing them all together laughing, talking, and just being together – it was just so amazingly wonderful.

I’m probably feeling overly sentimental these days again as we prepare to graduate McKenna from high school and in a few short months send Laurianna off to Minnesota to start college. McKenna is weighing her options for school this fall as well and will likely start off with community college for now.

That’s the teeny, tiny nutshell of happenings in our home for the time being and in no way exhaustive because life is moving along.

How has your year been going?

An Update on Laurianna (and Mercy Ships)

It seems as though life has been going in spurts lately. Things have felt like we are in such a tailspin here. While we are dealing with the various things happening in our state because of the COVID-19 virus, we’ve also been staying in communication with our oldest daughter, Laurianna, who is currently serving with Mercy Ships in Dakar, Senegal.

Before I go too far – please know that I am not trying to be vague in some of the things I’m sharing, but we are respecting Mercy Ships as well by not over-sharing information regarding the field service. One GREAT source of information can be found HERE: https://mercyships.org.nz/2020/03/24/latest-news-covid-19-plan/.

We SO APPRECIATE the many emails, messages, and questions we’ve received from you all about Laurianna – and knowing you all are praying for our girl as well is overwhelming.

Our daughter has been in Senegal since July 2019, but serving with Mercy Ships since May 2019. With the recent outbreak of COVID-19, Mercy Ships made the difficult decision to suspend their field service in Dakar at this time to protect both their patients and the crew.

Although the Africa Mercy is a hospital ship, it is essentially a surgical specialist unit. The vessel is not suited to take care of patients with a highly contagious respiratory disease. – SOURCE


As you can well imagine, the crew has been through a range of emotions regarding the suspension of the service, and our girl has struggled as well. We are so grateful to have the ability to speak with her via Facetime and there have been a lot of calls going back/forth along with a flurry of texts over the last several weeks.

Laurianna made the decision to remain with the crew aboard the Africa Mercy (with the possibility of extending her field service an addition 4-6 months). As parents, I’ll be honest and say that it’s tough being here and having your child (yes, I know she’s 18, but she’s still my kiddo!) across the literal ocean with so many unknowns.

There have been a few moments of panic from me, but quite truthfully, we do have an overwhelming peace about her and know that Mercy Ships cares immensely for each of the crew members on board – and everyone on board is healthy. :) (Continued prayers are appreciated for this!!)

Is the Africa Mercy leaving Senegal and where is it going next?

Yes, the Africa Mercy is leaving Senegal two months earlier than planned to begin the ship’s yearly maintenance according to maritime regulations. Our aim is to use this advanced maintenance to bring the Africa Mercy back to Africa so that we can continue our mission to bring hope and healing to the forgotten poor once the restrictions ease.
Mercy Ships is also evaluating how, given our operational limitations, the ship can be utilized to assist in the global COVID-19 response. SOURCE

I wanted to share a quick picture with you. Since many of her co-workers on the reception team have gone, the reception team is pulling 12 hour shifts. This past week Laurianna had the night shift and to keep herself occupied she would update the whiteboard in the reception area with something fun – but I love this verse she shared with a drawing of the Africa Mercy:

“Why are you gripped with fear? Where is your faith?” Then he stood up and rebuked the storm and said, “BE STILL,” and instantly it became perfectly calm. The disciples were astonished by this miracle and said to one another, “Who is this Man? Even the wind and waves obey His Word.”

Matthew 8:26-27

If you haven’t already, you are more than welcome to follow along with updates on Laurianna’s Mercy Ships Facebook page. Again – we SO APPRECIATE your prayers and love for our girl and her crewmates.

Hello Friends – Life in the Moment

This weekend I’m in Nashville, TN, spending some time with one of my favorite people – Carisa from 1+1+1=1. We’re both speaking at Teach Them Diligently Nashville and the downtime has been much needed.

It’s times like this weekend that remind me so much of the WHY I’ve been blogging and sharing over the years. Making connections with other homeschool families. The opportunity to encourage parents as they are starting out. Laughing, crying, and sharing honestly from my heart. This weekend I have met some incredible families and just loved the time we spent at the convention (and soaking up the beauty of the Gaylord!).

The kids meanwhile – well, I suppose there’s quite a bit to share on that front too (you know, since I last shared in October!).

11th Grade (McKenna)

One of the things McKenna has jumped onto with both feet is snowboarding – and she has fallen in LOVE with it. We are fortunate to have slopes close by (the mountain resort is essentially in our backyard). While the snow hasn’t been optimal this season, she has spent as much time as she can learning how to handle herself and tackle the various slopes, no matter how difficult.

On the school front, McKenna is working through all of her classes when she isn’t working locally. We haven’t been able to sit down and dissect her shark yet – that’s coming up (and truthfully I’m EXCITED to work on it!).

9th Grade (Zachary)

Many of our days are spent cozying up on the couch together as we go through various subjects (Geometry is his love/hate subject at the moment).

There are quite a few times where he stretches out and takes a nap (Kaleb too), because the early morning swim practices are catching up to all of us. 4:45am is a lovely dark o’clock hour and I feel for them. :)

Our co-op classes have been going along smoothly too – next week we start dissections with a worm, something we’re looking forward to.

We’ve also been able to continue volunteering at a local soup kitchen (of sorts) once a month and I love that the boys are helping take more ownership of the meal prep alongside us.

7th Grade (Kaleb)

Kaleb prefers to do as much of his work independently, and as I’ve mentioned before, he isn’t the hugest fan of writing in any form. We’ve added in a simple map/geography workbook for him so that he has a better handle on using an atlas.

Both boys recently aged up in swimming, so they have been working hard to make cuts for some of the larger meets coming up. The next several weekends mean a lot of competition time for them, but it’s so much fun to see all their hard work paying off.

The Graduate (Laurianna)

Our oldest, Laurianna, is still in Africa with Mercy Ships. The above tree was HUGE. She is absolutely loving her time onboard and has extended her service time until the end of June 2020. And then she will be HOME!!!

Once she returns, she will be jumping back into school in August at both our community college and another local university.

If you are interested in reading what she has been learning, I would so encourage you to visit her blog, Deeply Rooted.

That’s the super-quick wrap-up of our lives at the moment. How are you all doing so far this year?

Refocusing in the “New” Year

Moving into the months of January and February is often a more sluggish time in our homeschool. It’s easy to get bogged down in the more dreary days of winter and find our footing after Christmas break.

We recently had the most beautiful snow storm, on our first day back no less, that seemed the perfect start to re-booting the year. Everything was blanketed with a pristine white covering, hiding all the imperfections around. A clean slate, if you will.

As we ease back into our year, pulling all of our subjects/materials out, decluttering our homeschool life/room, and evaluating our progress so far this year, the fresh snow has given me reason to pause and consider how we can best move forward in the remainder of our school year.

DeCluttering Our Homeschool Life

Now that the house feels cleaner and emptier after boxing up all of the Christmas supplies, I’m also a bit more in the mood to start de-cluttering our schoolroom and remove anything in general that is just making our days just feel (for lack of a better word) – blah.

A few years ago I wrote a post, 10 Things to Eliminate from Your Homeschool, talking about some of the distractions we allow to creep into our year. It’s one I revisit to remind myself and then take a good, hard look to see if there are few changes that will help bring a fresh perspective and motivation to our day!

Evaluating our Homeschool Life

It’s also the time to infuse our day with some much-needed pick-me-ups and things we maybe pushed aside because we felt we didn’t have time or were otherwise too distracted to remember.

There are routines and rhythms that we’ve gotten into over the past few months that aren’t the most productive in getting things done. Part of that ties in with the kids getting older (and having a social life – yes, homeschoolers CAN be social!!), but also in ways we cut corners and let things slide.

The boys and I have been sitting down together to map out what they have remaining for the school year, coming up with a plan to make sure it all gets accomplished in the upcoming months, and talking about what areas we need to improve.

To give you a few examples:

Our current read-aloud: Greystone Secrets: The Strangers
  • Reading together. We’ve let read-alouds fall by the wayside the last few months. At times the boys complain (one a little more than the other). I do believe that reading aloud is important to do with kids, so we are pushing that to the front end of our days to make sure it gets done.
  • Mapping out lessons. Last year, Zachary didn’t complete his math for the school year and had to work on the remainder of the program this fall. That meant some major digging in. We mapped out the remaining lessons/tests and came up with a game plan so we don’t have a repeat this year.
  • Going back to our morning basket. We’re adding in a few extra things with Kaleb in the form of a “morning basket” if you will: a few things we do every day and then rotating through a few specific activities to make sure they are included. Reading poetry, reviewing sight words, reading aloud, etc…
  • Putting a rest time back into our days. Yes, our kids are 13 and older, but there’s still something to having a quiet time, even if it’s just for 20 or 30 minutes each day, that causes us to pause and recharge. And as a mom, I need that time too!
  • Setting limits. Beyond knowing when to say “no” in our social life, I’m also reflecting on how much time we allow other things, especially technology, to creep in. For me that can mean social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc) and for the kids – well, devices of all kinds. So we’re pausing, limiting times, and making sure we are interacting together.

Keeping it Simple

Overall I’m trying to keep it simple. Too many changes can make me feel overwhelmed right away, and then the likelihood of follow through is slim.

Personally, I’m making a simple daily checklist and keeping it in plain sight so I don’t overlook anything, but have a visual to keep me focused. I’ll admit I’m a list girl, so checking off those boxes is a help for me, but do what works for you: be accountable to a friend, another homeschool mom, even your kids!

Are you making any changes or tweaks in the new year? How do you stay focused and accountable?

Each Year is Different…and New

Tonight I’m sitting here and pondering. Feeling immensely behind in all that needs to be done and started for the upcoming year. 

Because here’s the truth you all – I haven’t completely wrapped up last year yet

There are so many excuses I could give and they are all valid, but the biggest one is this: we put stuff on hold because our girl was leaving to head across a huge ocean and would be gone for over a year. (gulp)

Every moment we had with her was precious. Filling out course descriptions for kids that aren’t close to graduating – well, that could be put aside. The focus was on the most important thing: relationship.

And yes, now I’m feeling a bit of the crunch in this moment. Each year isn’t just a “cookie cutter” year of what our older children have done. While that may have been a bit more so when the kids were younger, as our children have aged, both their interests and abilities have varied drastically. 

One kids loves medical stuff. 

Another one is a sports enthusiast. 

Still another – drama and music.

Each year is different and new, offering a chance to reevaluate decisions we’ve made in the past and the opportunity to make changes for the future. 

You know what I love about each new year though? Each year is an opportunity for me to learn all over again along with my kids. Sometimes that is in a new subject area and other times it’s an area that originally filled me with fear, but now I look forward to with anticipation (biology labs, I’m looking at you). 

In the next week I’m tackling some of the areas that have been driving me crazy. Curriculum that hasn’t been put away will find its way to the proper shelf. New curriculum to be ordered (and hopefully some missing items will show up…). A semblance of order should hopefully be established for the upcoming year.

Here’s the thing. We may not be starting as early as I had initially hoped, but we will be starting. One of the kids may be working on a few lessons that weren’t wrapped up last year (oh yes, it’s true) before launching into the upcoming year, but we will get it all in. 

And the focus? 

Enjoying the learning together and finding the JOY in the opportunity that we have: being with our kids and guiding them in the learning process. The past few months with our oldest out of the house have shown me nothing short of this: our time with our kids is so precious, so we need to soak up every second we have!

How are your plans coming for the upcoming year – no fear, friends! JOY!