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The Last Few Months at Home – How are YOU Doing?

Where does one even start? Short of overwhelmed, which seems almost contradictory since we were mostly under a stay-at-home order for what felt like forever, I’m not sure how else to describe it.

Mentally, I’m exhausted, if you want the blunt end of it.

While there aren’t as many places to go and things to do, there is a constant mental overthinking of everything. Having everything suddenly yanked from your plate is freeing in one sense, but dealing with the fallout from that is hard as well.

Having time by myself is something I love (and need) – don’t get me wrong, I love my family – but quiet isn’t especially happening when one is surrounded and there really isn’t space to go to be by yourself and your thoughts.

Now with everyone locally trying to figure out what they are going to do school, there are so many people asking for homeschool advice. And I want to help (and am as best I can), but at the same time I am trying to balance getting everything set up for our own upcoming year.

Did I mention feeling exhausted?

I am reading through some of my old posts, especially THIS ONE, and reminding myself that this is a new year – new opportunities for learning and growth – and trying to relax.

We have so many exciting things coming up soon:

  • our oldest returning from her (more than) year-long adventure with Mercy Ships
  • McKenna starting her SENIOR YEAR (gulp) and all that entails
  • a GREAT co-op group for Zachary in literature and chemistry
  • the boys swimming – we hope!!

There are a lot of things I can be frustrated about. But I have to choose to focus on the good. It can be a struggle.

Part of my issue (I know) is that there are still so many uncertainties in our schedule – as in our calendar is still WIDE OPEN. That is so foreign to me. It isn’t always busyness for the sake of being busy, but I will admit to breathing a sigh of relief when the boys started back with their evening practices a few weeks ago and the house was just s.i.l.e.n.t.

It was a brief moment of wonderful.

If it’s any consolation to the rest of you, I didn’t pick up any new hobby over our stay-at-home time, I didn’t plant a garden, I gained weight – essentially, I feel as though I was the anti-thesis of productive. On the other hand, I did come up with a fabulous muffin recipe (see weight gain) and conquered some levels of Candy Crush (now deleted from my phone).

Things will ease back into normal (I mean, goodness, Costco had some samples the other day – we must be getting back to normal in some ways, right?) and life will settle back in, I know it will.

So in the meantime, I’ll take a deep breath and keep plugging along.

How are YOU doing?

What I’ve Been Reading Lately

Summer seems like the perfect time to tackle ALL THE BOOKS that have been catching my eye. To inhale fiction like candy, if you will.

Our summer plans to sit and relax by the pool have come to a bit of a halt as our pool decided to close for the summer (I’m not going to cry), so instead we are creating cozy spaces around the house to curl up and enjoy new authors.

One thing that I have been dipping into a bit more over the last few months – audiobooks. I recently discovered Chirp (discounted audiobooks) and Libro.fm (get a free month here) and am still finding my groove with listening/following along with the stories.

Do you find audiobooks or paper/digital books easier to follow?

One of the difficulties I find for myself in listening to audiobooks is the ability to not drift off mentally. Also, having the same “voice” reading a story makes it difficult for me to follow a story line (especially early on) when there are character/view shifts, especially a story with multiple story lines and characters.

When I recently asked how you all felt about audiobooks on my Instagram stories, one thing became very clear to me: those who are visual learners often have a harder time with audiobooks (makes sense, doesn’t it?). There’s something for me personally about having the printed word in my hands.

That doesn’t mean, however, that I’m disliking a new venue to listen to books, especially while exercising or doing work around the house – I just have to make sure I’m paying attention..

I will say – there is one recent audiobook that I would HIGHLY recommend: The Jane Austen Society read by Richard Armitage. If you have ever seen North and South (a BBC drama), he is the perfect narrator for this story and your ears will thank you tremendously.

All that said, I’m sharing some of my top picks below along with a list of other recent reads/listens.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately: My Favorites

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

I started this via audiobook on Libro.fm (and it is fabulously read by Richard Armitage), but had to switch for a bit to the kindle version to fully grasp the many characters.

Although it is a fictionalized tale of how a small community bands together to preserve Jane Austen’s legacy and educate others on her life, the stories of the local people and how they sweetly tie-in to several of Austen’s novels is much fun to untangle. Several have lived in the community where Austen lived and wrote and others come from a distance to form a society intent to protect her home and legacy.

A wonderful read for those who enjoy both historically-based fiction and Austen. (5/5 rating)

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

Absolutely loved this story!

Having grown up hearing of the pre-Castro Cuba her grandmother knew, Marisol travels to see the country her grandmother dreamed of returning to. The books shifts back and forth between past and present day Cuba, seen through the eyes of Marisol and also letters written by her grandmother.

Marisol’s isn’t sure what to expect upon arriving in Cuba, but with the help of old family friends who remained in Cuba over the years, she discovers the heart of what her grandmother left behind once Castro came to power, including things her grandmother never disclosed to her family. (5/5 rating)

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

Historically-based fiction is always a favorite, especially when a story of friendship and love is woven in between it all.

Based in the mountains of Kentucky, the book follows the Packhorse Librarians, a group of women that brought books and other reading material to rural inhabitants. The women who volunteered for this endeavor were a random lot from varying backgrounds, eclectic at best, who quickly grew to be each other’s friends and support, especially as they were accused of many things.

When a local man is found dead, and one of the librarians accused of his murder, the town is divided in their beliefs of guilty vs. not guilty; but the librarians gather around in support, looking for any bit that will help their friend.

A story depicting the difficulties faced by women in an era where men were the undisputed heads of the family, The Giver of Stars is a hard yet redeeming look at a small town and the beauty of friendships and love. (5/5 rating)

The Paris Orphan by Natasha Lester

This is a book, that once finished, makes you want to immediately devour all books by the author. The story is heartbreaking on so many levels, but absolutely heartwarming on so many others. A definite must read. (5/5 rating)

Other Recent Reads

The Letter by Kathryn Hughes (listened via Chirp audiobooks) – 4/5 rating

The Honest Enneagram by Sarajane Case (via Libro.fm) – 3/5 rating

Stealing Home by Sherryl Woods – 4/5 rating

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins – 4/5 rating

What Once Was True by Jean Grainger – 4/5 rating

A Million Dreams by Dani Atkins (audiobook via Chirp) – 4.5/5 rating

Don’t Give Up by Kyle Idleman – 4/5 rating

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides – 3/5 rating

Five Presidents by Clint Hill via library audiobook – 4/5 rating

Current Book Pile

Thou Shalt Not Be a Jerk by Eugene Cho

Uneasy Lies the Crown by Tasha Alexander

A Slice of Heaven by Sherryl Woods

Love That Lasts by Jefferson & Alyssa Bethke

The Persian Gamble by Joel C. Rosenberg

So – what all are you reading these days?

Wrapping Up the 2019-2020 Homeschool Year

Well, this year certainly didn’t end quite as we expected. At the start of this year I had different ideas in place for how things would wrap up, especially since our ending last year went completely off the rails as well.

Different expectations for our kids and especially myself.

And then it all went haywire again.

While schools around us assigned grades after their third quarter ended, we kept at our classes and are finishing them up, much to the dismay of some kids. (Yeah, I’m mean like that.)

It has meant later mornings. More relaxed days (as in, my kids ate CAKE for breakfast one morning). But with that relaxing, the structure of our days fell apart with everyone home (including my hubby to work). Pretty much as life for everyone around us.

All that said, we are pretty much wrapped up with our school year. Zoom calls were set up to work on group classes (science and personal finance).

One child has only science to finish up (Kaleb), another has geometry and Latin (Zachary), and the last has a dissection and an exam (McKenna). Hopefully, all will be completed by the end of this week – yay!!

Meanwhile we are trying to figure out all the rest of it. The boys have been out of the water for 10 weeks now and outdoor pools are starting to warm up. Restrictions are still pretty tight in our state, but this week we were able to get the boys back in the pool and start back with some practicing using a swim tether (the kiddo in the top of the picture has it around his waist and is tethered to the diving board). While it isn’t perfect, it’s so much more than they’ve had, so we will take it until they are able to practice as a team again.

Things haven’t been ideal or how I may have envisioned, but we have still pushed on and gotten things done. Perhaps not the strongest finish, but we did it.

There are SO many more things to celebrate from our year – truly. Things that far outweigh all the “not-as-planned” and unexpected detours.

And I’m clinging to all the “good” stuff that has happened (and there is much more than this):

  • One kiddo took responsibility for incomplete work last year, restarted the subject and knocked out two years of math this year.
  • Kaleb finished All About Reading Level 4, has been working through additional books in a book bingo we set up for him, and made HUGE progress in his reading and independent work this year.
  • The joy of SHARED learning – I am so thankful we get to learn alongside our kids! Biology labs are truly the best!

And for those of you who have been asking, our oldest, Laurianna, is still serving with Mercy Ships. Her return date of end of May has already passed, and with everything happening with COVID-19, she is still on board the Africa Mercy and docked in the Canary Islands as they come up with a game plan for the upcoming year.

So – how has YOUR year been and ended?

Enjoy Your Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Grateful Verse

This year is a bit different for our family with one of our girls far away across the ocean and in Africa! Our typical Thanksgiving day feels a bit off, but I have a feeling we are on the cusp of an entirely *new* season. Different yes. And a good thing too.

Meanwhile we have rolls fresh out of the oven, a turkey creating an amazing aroma, and we are waiting for friends and family to come hang out and enjoy a bit of a feast. 

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

I’ll be back this Friday to share some GREAT Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals with you all (who says homeschoolers can’t take part in all the sales and specials?), so be sure to subscribe by email and get all the coupon codes delivered to your inbox.

Until then – ENJOY your time with your family. Cuddle up with those kids. Take a nap or two.

Relish in the many blessings that we have – and give thanks for it all!

Happy Thanksgiving!

{Giveaway #4} Home Science Tools: Magic Penny Magnet Kit and SomeBody Game


Day four of the science giveaways from Home Science Tools  is here! We still have one more BIG giveaway coming, so stay tuned and check back Monday for that one. 

If you are just joining us, be sure to check out the end of the post for links to the past giveaways and take a moment to enter before they end. Over the next several days, I will be sharing some MORE giveaways from Home Science Tools to both get your family thinking of science-related gifts for Christmas and to put some tools in your hands that will make science even more enjoyable!

Today’s giveaway features TWO products and both are described a bit below, but I’d encourage you to visit the Home Science Tools website and check out their science gift guide as you begin your second semester planning and holiday shopping.

Magic Penny Magnet Kit

Have fun learning about the properties of magnetism with the Magic Penny Magnet Kit ($24.95). Perform 32 amazing magnetic experiments with the two powerful bar magnets and 24 British pennies in this kit. Create arches, “airplane wings,” bridges, balancing shapes, and even a levitating pyramid of pennies!

The Magic Penny Magnet Kit comes with:

  • 2 extra-strong magnets encased in stainless steel
  • 24 newly-minted British pennies
  • 1 US penny
  • activity guide

——–> Learn more about the Magic Penny Magnet Kit <———-


SomeBody Game

Working on a human body unit? Be sure to check out the SomeBody Game ($28.95). Children will enjoy learning the major organs, muscles, and bones of their bodies and how these parts fit and work together as they play this game, collecting colorful body part stickers and attaching them in the right places on their game boards. Includes reusable stickers, game boards, cards, and more. Ages 6-10, 2-4 players. 

——–> Learn more about the SomeBody Game <———-


Download the 21 Winter Science Experiments Ebook

Home Science Tools is offering my readers a FREE ebook: 21 Winter Science Experiments, which includes some great projects to work on in the upcoming months, including DIY Hand Warmers, Poinsettia PH Paper, and so many others! Download it HERE


Enter the Giveaway!

Ready to enter? All you need to do is follow the directions in the Rafflecopter widget below. Giveaway is open to those with a US mailing address only. Giveaway ends on Thursday, November 21, 2019 at 11:59pm.  

a Rafflecopter giveaway



A Little Homeschool and Life Update

Let’s face it – I’ve been a bit remiss sharing anything a bit more personal over the last few weeks. Life has been busy with shuttling kids back and forth all over kingdom come, we had a big swim meet, and then trying to stay on top of school and do it well – that can suck the life right out of you. 

So, I tried to do a quick video sum-up here, but below you’ll find the SUPER bulleted version of what’s happening with each of the kids. 

  • Laurianna – We are still waiting to figure out what in the world is going to happen with Mercy Ships. She has been accepted and at this point we are anticipating a July departure once she is “plugged into” her position, but there is a possibility she may be leaving earlier based on a need they have to fill another spot. So…we wait. (I am trying not to think too hard about this because it will mean she could be gone for over year to a place VERY FAR AWAY). 

  • McKenna – This past weekend, McKenna passed her driving test and is now officially able to be behind the wheel all by her lonesome! She is working three mornings a week and balancing school with her social life (ha!) and newfound freedom. Work = car and gas money.
  • Zachary – In the fall we told Zachary that if he qualified for the Florida meet, he could go (mind you, we assumed he wouldn’t qualify – cough). I promise, we weren’t trying to underestimate him. This past weekend, he qualified with AAA times in not only 1, but FIVE events. We are now making hotel reservations and eating our words.
  • Kaleb – We are scaling back in some subject areas and really pushing our reading and spelling time together hard. Over the last several weeks we have also been working on Beyond Five in a Row books with one of our friends (currently Homer Price) and having fun learning about so many different things as well as reading a lot together. 
  • The Parents – This weekend our church is launching a new campus, closer to our house, and we are helping with various aspects (Rick is heading up the sound team on both of our campuses). It’s exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. I’m also preparing for the upcoming Teach Them Diligently convention in Nashville at the end of March. 

That’s the sum-up for us – how are YOU doing?