last day of school (2018)

Well… we did it! We made it! We’ve successfully completed a full school year of “official” homeschool. I have a lot of thoughts and emotions about how the year went and what we all learned in the process, but I’m hoping to make that another post, and just keep this one focused on the girls.

They looked so little at the beginning of the year. It doesn’t seem fair that time goes by so quickly. We kicked off our last day with donuts to celebrate (of course), and then headed out for a few “last day” photos.
I thought it’d be fun to do a little year-end interview with each of them. I based my questions off of this list.Kaya’s favorite things:

Subject: “Doing our green book and doing our zoo path!” (Language Arts/learning to read)
Color: “All the colors except black and brown, but my most favorite colors are indigo and turquoise and violet!”
Food: Spaghetti
Book: “That Jesus one, where you can open the little thingies…” (Lift-the-Flap Bible)
Toy: Bootsie (the cat)
Game: Mario Kart and Blokus
TV Show: Blue’s Clues
Indoor activity: “Playing with my cat, and playing with my sisters.”
Outdoor activity: “Getting the pool, put water in it, and then slide down the red slide!”
Best friends: “Mia, Kaelyn, Nella…” (and everyone in her primary class)
When I grow up, I want to be: “A cowgirl because I want to ride horses!”
What makes me happy: “That you guys are my parents!”
What makes me sad: “When we want to play Mario and Daddy says, ‘no’.”
I am really good at: “Drawing. I always stay in the lines. I don’t even go on top of the lines sometimes.”
I love: “Cats! Dogs! Cows! Pigs! Donkeys! Sheep!” (all animals!)

Kaelyn’s favorite things:

Subject: “Doing the color to color in the tiger book!” (color-by-number)
Color: “Pink and Purple!”
Food: Pizza
Book: “The Paw Patrol book!”
Toy: “My toy Skye!” (with the helicopter from Paw Patrol)
Game: Mario Kart
TV Show: Daniel Tiger
Indoor activity: “Play!”
Outdoor activity: “Play with the water table on the deck!”
Best friends:  “Kaya and Nella and new baby!”
When I grow up, I want to be: “A mommy!”
What makes me happy: “Playing with my sisters and mommy!”
What makes me sad: “When Daddy says we can’t play Mario.”
I am really good at: “Writing stuff! But I’m still practicing.”
I love: “Helping mommy feel better.”

And, I absolutely love this picture, because it’s completely real. All while I was taking the older girls’ photos, Nella was walking/crawling around in the grass next to us (you can see the dirt stains on her knees!). She stepped up next to her sisters, made her “cheese” face, and then went off to get even messier. I just feel like this photo completely sums up how it’s been to balance homeschooling with her this year- sometimes she was crazy and in the middle of everything, and other times she was just off doing her own thing.
I’m so proud of Kaya and Kaelyn and all that they’ve accomplished this year. They’ve both reached major milestones: learning to read, add, and subtract (Kaya), and recognizing the alphabet, writing letters and numbers, and practicing counting (Kaelyn). I’m so grateful that we’ve had this opportunity to learn and grow together.

On to first grade for Kaya, and a final year of preschool for Kaelyn! But for now, Happy Summer!

five favorites (04/28)

I feel like I’m always saying this, but it’s been a crazy week, so I missed doing my “Five” yesterday! We’ve been having as relaxing a Saturday as possible, so I’m happy to have a little time to catch up on here.

ONE. We all missed our favorite guy this week, because he was in Chicago at the GOTO Conference! It was a little rough without him, even though he gets serious credit for helping me with as much as he could before he left. I was super sick the night before he had to go, so he did a lot, including grocery shopping and cleaning up the guinea pigs. He really is the best.A couple of photos from his trip… Of course, he gave a talk on Docker (what else?), so Molly and Moby (the whales) had to tag along with him. Michael had some fun sending pictures of them adventuring around Chicago to Kaya and Kaelyn!TWO. While Daddy was gone, we tried to enjoy being outside as much as we could. I was a little too optimistic about the first 60-degree day, so I filled up the water table (with warm water) for the girls. The water cooled off a little too fast, and the girls got a little too wet, so everyone ended up cold. They still loved it, though!
This was Nella’s first time really playing with it, now that she’s good at walking and standing for long periods of time. I think this will be one of her favorite summertime activities.We had some fun at the playground. Don’t let her sad puppy-dog eyes fool you, Scout loves walks (and always tries to tangle herself up around the picnic table…)I enjoyed some time reading out in the hammock! I love that Nella walked over to me and asked to come up in it too. (Also, check out her bedhead! She seriously has the wildest hair!)THREE. Our homeschool mornings have been pretty relaxed here lately, and honestly, I’m okay with that. It’s kind of a combination of parenting on my own for a week/pregnancy sickness/spring fever/being done with all our kindergarten work besides spelling that has had us taking our time and just doing what we can.

I was so happy to see these girls snuggle and start reading as soon as they woke up one morning. They are obsessed with the American Girl books right now, and although I typically use them as read-alouds, Kaya can actually read a little of them on her own. I’m so grateful that they love learning, and that we all get extra time to spend together because of our choice to homeschool.FOUR. I guess the girls have been doing too much yoga with me lately, because Kaya wanted to make her own workout video (she even told me to “put it on Facebook”)! She came up with all her own exercises, and the theme of the video became “Exercises You Can Do with Your Cat”. Haha! I love her creativity.She wrote out every move before we could start recording…Some moves included planks/pushups with your cat on your back (I definitely would not recommend doing this with a real cat. Ouch!)……and lifting your cat high above your head while doing squats. Yup, pretty sure a real cat would have nothing to do with any of this…I didn’t post the whole video, but hearing her say “Namaste” at the end was just too dang cute, so here’s that.

FIVE. If you tell Nella to “say CHEESE!”, this is the face she makes now. Cutest little smile ever!Seriously, what’s more adorable than a smiling Dalmatian puppy?

Happy weekend!

Linking up here and here today!

five on friday (04/06)

Happy Friday!!! It’s been a low-key week, but we still had some fun and sweet moments.

ONE. Happy (belated) Easter from these little bunnies! I saw these Easter hat printables and just knew Kaya and Kaelyn would love to make them. Of course, Kaya made hers a rainbow!Kaelyn has been hopping absolutely everywhere this week!Scout was a little too interested in licking this pretend bunny…They’ve been wearing their hats to do almost everything: helping with vacuuming, doing schoolwork, and playing out on the deck!TWO. The most exciting part of the week was our kid-free DATE!!! You know we love our kids, but we really don’t go out enough as just the two of us. My in-laws were here, so they watched the girls. I had looked forward to this all week long!We tried a new Greek place (my favorite type of food), which was amazing. Seriously though, I can’t wait until I can take this guy to Greece for real and show him what the rest of Greek cuisine is like.We walked around Target for a little bit, which weirdly felt so fun with just us. Somehow he convinced me to go to Coldstone, too. I’ve been trying to reduce/almost eliminate ice cream from my diet because it seems like it messes with my stomach too much during pregnancy… but this was WORTH IT!THREE. I’ve been sick a lot this week, and when Kaya and Kaelyn see me lying on the couch, they like to make me these special little notes. I’m so grateful for their thoughtfulness; these mean so much to me. (Also, please notice the beautiful blanket my mom-in-law made me for my birthday!)(by Kaya)FOUR. Nellbells turned 18 months on Wednesday, and I can’t believe it, but she’s still not walking solo! She will take up to 6 steps on her own before she crashes to the floor, otherwise she needs to be holding onto someone or something. This little smile though… melt my heart!FIVE. Every afternoon before nap time, Kaya loves to read her sisters a book… and she’s really reading! She gathers everyone together and will read as many books as time allows. I love seeing her use the knowledge we’ve worked so hard for this past year.And just because I’m a super-proud parent, here’s a video of her reading. I know at least her Grandmas will love this!

Happy weekend!

Linking up here and here today!

five favorites (01/29)

I’m always a little behind… but what can you do? These three keep me on my toes. Most of my pictures are just from my phone this past week, which made me a little sad at first, but then I realized that maybe it’s good, because that means we actually got out of the house and did things!

ONE. We had a gloriously warm day in the 50s, with the sun just peeking through the overcast sky, so we of course just had to get outside. Running is my all-time favorite, but sometimes, I really look forward to our walks, just because I get to go a little slower and take in my surroundings.

These ladies love the swings the most… And Kaya loves “climbing” trees (which really means that I help boost her up there, and then she attempts to go up higher but can’t quite do it yet)!They also love hiding behind rocks! Muddy puppy!!! She will, without fail, always find a way to get dirty.TWO. We had a family dinner out for the first time in almost 2 months! It felt special to take the girls and see them really enjoy the experience of dining out. Of course, we kept it simple and only went to Red Robin, but it’s a favorite for everyone! Plus, it was relatively empty on a Tuesday night, which meant that we got the biggest booth to contain our messy, crazy children.

Everyone begged Daddy for his strawberry lemonade… the entire time that we were there.Nella has been so into coloring lately; we’re just still working on the logistics of holding the crayon! Love this one Michael snapped of me helping her.Grandpa Skip should be proud, this girl loves French Fries!Pizza is always her favorite, anytime, anyplace.THREE. We also had a family trip to the library one night after picking Daddy up from work! I love bringing Michael to the library, because then I have two extra hands to carry our massive pile of books! Plus, I can sneak away for a few minutes and peruse the shelves alone.

These three choose about 20 books in the space of two minutes and then immediately run to play with the blocks and puzzles!
FOUR. We’ve been doing some arts and crafts projects around here (really low-key stuff, mostly just from the Dollar Store), and I just love seeing their creativity come to life! Painting and drawing are their favorite art media.
Kaya was very excited about her elephant coin bank!We’ve also done some coloring on our dot-to-dot math pages. These are Kaya’s favorite, and she always gasps, “Ooooo a dot-to-dot!” every time one comes up in the lesson.Kaelyn titled this, “The Sharks and Me”. She’s been really interested in sharks ever since our last trip to Myrtle Beach!This is Daddy (yes, with the white hair!), and Kaya, created by the latter.FIVE. Just because she’s so dang cute, and I feel so lucky I get to sit next to her for lunch every day. (Also, she loves her Hokie shirt!)Happy Monday!

five on friday (01/12)

This was our first week back in our regular routine after the holidays, so I think I speak for everyone in my house when I say that going back to reality is exhausting! We really accomplished a lot this week though, so it feels good to know we worked hard.

ONE. The biggest news of the year so far… Kaelyn is a SUNBEAM! At church, when the new year rolls around, all the three-year-olds get to go to the main children’s class, called Primary, instead of staying in the more play-oriented class, called Nursery. I am not exaggerating when I say that Kaelyn has been talking about going to Primary for about a year now. She was counting down the days until she could go with Kaya to the primary room, and this past Sunday, all her dreams came true.
I snapped these pictures in the five seconds before we had to rush out the door for church. Also, Kaelyn found my old foam rollers and has been asking to wear them to bed, so I put them in her hair on Saturday night after her bath. She was so excited to have special, curly pigtails for her first day as a Sunbeam.And Kaya is in CTR 5 now! I feel like she was in Nursery just yesterday. She also wanted foam rollers, but I just put a couple on top, since her natural curls were looking good already. I can’t look at those adorably puffy curls atop her head without instantly being transported back to the 90s though!Everyone was still smiling after church……for the most part, anyway. Kaya takes a little longer to adjust to changes, like having new teachers, but it didn’t take long for her to feel like herself again once we got home.TWO. I was really looking forward to taking a nap after church, but then I found a pile of silly people snuggling in my bed! Seriously. I love these happy goofballs.THREE. We’re back to school now, but I’ve realized how important it was that we took a break over the holidays. It’s easy for me to forget that we started our schooling all the way back in early July, without taking any significant time off. We kept pushing through right up until about a week and a half before Christmas, and I’m surprised to see how much we’re getting done now that we are feeling rested and refreshed.

Kaya is still crazy for math. She would probably sit down and finish the rest of her math book in one day if I let her! We just started doing word problems, and I love that she gets reading practice through that as well.
Kaelyn has suddenly started trying to write real letters! I printed some out for her to work on tracing, although she was more interested in just coloring them. That’s okay, too!We also started something new this week- The Good and the Beautiful’s Language Arts curriculum! I had looked into these books before, but while we were at Michael’s cousin Jenny’s house for the family Christmas party, she showed me hers, and after leafing through them, I felt that this was what we needed to do next.

I wasn’t really sure where to go after completing Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and we had tried Phonics Pathways again, but we just weren’t loving it. Kaya is excited about these books and looks forward to doing them, so hopefully that continues. Although her reading is above grade level, I still started her in the Kindergarten books so that we could work on spelling and fluency.FOUR. I moved all the dress-up clothes to the girls’ closet, and now they are using them everyday! I am always surprised to see what kind of outfits they come up with, and I love when they excitedly come to show me what they’re wearing. Seriously… What is cuter than kids in costumes?Please notice that Kaya’s “pet” cat, Bootsie, is also dressed up with leopard ears. Haha!FIVE. We’re finally out of the polar vortex, so we definitely needed some outdoor playtime! Forty degrees felt like spring (although we probably still should have had gloves on). The swing is one of Nella’s all-time favorite things.Kaya also took her on the slide for the first time! They both loved it.Happy Friday!!!

five favorites (12/02)

Happy December! Long time, no blog. Between traveling for Thanksgiving and then Michael being away on business, there just hasn’t been much free time. I’m glad to be writing again!

ONE. Michael had a week-long trip to Las Vegas for the Amazon Web Services re:Invent conference. He left town on Sunday morning, before the crack of dawn, and came home on Friday night, just in time to meet us all at the town Christmas parade! This was the first week that the girls and I have ever spent completely solo, and we actually did better than I expected. Kaya was a big helper, and we didn’t have any meltdowns or tantrums until the very end of the week. We are so happy to have Daddy home with us again. 
TWO. She did it! She did it! Kaya completed the entire Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons book! To say I’m proud seems like an understatement- it’s been absolutely amazing to see how far she’s come in the past 8 months or so. I had promised her that when the book was done, she could choose to get a surprise or go out for a treat. She picked a surprise, so I’ve had these Calico Critters koalas hiding in my closet for a while, just waiting.

This week, she knew she was so close to finishing that she wanted to double-up on lessons for a couple of days. I’m so impressed with her motivation. This puts her at a second-grade reading level, and I’m excited to watch her learn and discover so much more through books.Kaelyn was so excited for her sister, and she’s feeling more motivated to do her phonics lessons, too. For now, she looks just so adorable flipping through the pictures of one of her favorite books about penguins.THREE. In the summer, it takes forever to get everyone outside to play because you have to sunscreen every inch of exposed skin, but in the winter, it takes just as long because you have to bundle everyone up! I can’t resist these babies in cute winter hats, puffy coats, and fleece footie pajamas (for Nella)!There’s something so refreshing about going outside, even when it’s chilly. FOUR. This little lady has had it rough ever since we left on our trip for Thanksgiving. Being away from home completely threw off her routine, which was to be expected, but we’ve had a little bit of a hard time getting back on track. She wants to wake up multiple times each night to nurse… so we’re working on sleeping through the night again. Add in a new tooth, and well, she’s been a bit cranky.But who can resist a baby in fluffy pink bear jammies? I also love how much she adores her Beagle. He is her absolute favorite!FIVE. We have been taking our sweet time with getting all our Christmas decor up. We actually started two weeks ago, and just keep adding little things here and there. Nella was surprised to see these singing snowmen when we brought them out, and wanted to play with them ALL! My mom has bought us one of these from Hallmark nearly every year since we got married, so we now have quite a few. We also got some light-up animals that are really meant for the yard, but Kaya and Kaelyn are so in love with them that they may just end up staying inside. They can’t forget to “feed” their unicorn and husky puppy every morning!

Happy weekend!

five favorites (11/12)

ONE. My little kindergartner is officially doing addition! We spent a couple of weeks practicing hard and meticulously going through the lesson unit, and I am so proud of her for mastering such a big concept. It definitely helps that math is her favorite subject! There are times that I worry I’m not doing enough with this whole homeschooling endeavor, but to see her succeeding and feeling confident gives me a sense of accomplishment, too.TWO. I peeked into the bathroom when Kaya and Kaelyn were getting ready for bed one night this week, and I saw them hugging while brushing their teeth, saying “Toothbrush buddies!” I love how anything can be a bonding moment for them. This picture kind of reminds me of the Brad Paisley song, “Toothbrush”. One of my favorites!

I’m not saying they never fight, because they sometimes do, just like all kids, but more often than not, they are very best buddies. And what’s better than freshly bathed kids in their jammies?THREE. This little baby… is not so little anymore! She is monkeying around, accomplishing all sorts of physical feats that I wouldn’t have imagined a month ago. I was surprised to see her STANDING, playing with the toy kitchen! It still looks so strange to me when I see those little legs holding her up. Where is my baby?She’s also made it her own personal mission to never lie down on the changing pad for more than .001 seconds. It’s getting impossible to change her when all she wants to do is sit up, roll over, crawl, and act completely crazy!

FOUR. After a few weeks of rain, our yard was needing some serious TLC. Michael went out to mow the lawn and rake all the leaves, and thankfully, it isn’t looking quite so much like a jungle anymore. He came inside, and with a concerned look on his face, told the girls, “I have a problem. There is a big pile of leaves out there, with no one to jump in them!” They immediately ran for their coats, hats, and boots. I love these crazies. FIVE. Just because she looks so dang cute in Daddy’s headphones…Happy Sunday!

five favorites (10/16)

I’ve somewhat accidentally turned my Five on Fridays into Monday Favorites lately, just because it always seems like the end of the week has been too hectic to squeeze in any computer time. Better late than never, although I would really like to be ready to do it on Friday next time! Here are some favorites from last week:

ONE. On Labor Day weekend, we went couch shopping, and ended up ordering a sectional sofa, which Michael had been dreaming about doing for a long time. It was delivered this week (a whole month early!), and we’ve been enjoying it. Now that we have a family of five (I still can’t believe that sometimes!), we really didn’t have enough seating, especially when people came over, so this has been perfect. We broke it in with a family movie night! And I love this picture of Michael and the girls. TWO. These girls and these guinea pigs! Be still my heart. I love that they love animals and want to spend time snuggling with and feeding carrots to Freyja and Claire. THREE. Who is this big kid working on math all by herself? Kaya is far enough into her math curriculum where I can give her a few questions to work on and then leave her to figure them out on her own. We just finished doing number bonds, and now we’ve started addition. Math is her very favorite subject, and I’m so proud of all her progress! FOUR. Kaelyn loves dressing and accessorizing herself, and her big eyes completely melt me. She’s also obsessed with her little wind-up chicken, and asked me to take a picture of her with it. She’s also been loving playing with kinetic sand. She uses my cookie scoop to make little balls of “dough” over and over, and then asks us which cookie we want. FIVE. When your pediatrician has a Hokie Bird painted in the exam room, you have to take a picture with it! 🙂 Kaelyn was so excited to see this big guy. Taking all three of them in for shots is no joke, though- we had almost a full hour of crying, but everyone is healthy and now we’ve had our first round of flu shots for the season. Pony band-aids for everyone (and oh Nella’s chubby thighs)!

Happy Monday!

five favorites (09/11)

I really meant to write this on Friday… but it just seems like it’s getting harder to find time to get on the computer these days. Better late than never, as I always say!

ONE. Baking with my little ladies on Sunday mornings is one of my favorite things… ever! Now that the weather has cooled off and it’s basically autumn, my penchant for whipping up homemade jam… bread… muffins… brownies… or really anything, is strong! Getting these two involved in making strawberry freezer jam was super simple, and they loved having the leftover strawberries as smoothies afterward.

TWO. We’re pretty excited, because we just replaced the roof on our house! Between that and the new shutters, it looks so drastically different. The girls loved going outside and watching “the roof guys” working and seeing all their progress. (Also, can I just point out here that Kaelyn is totally Michael’s mini-me? They are so much alike in so many ways!)

THREE. With all the noisy hammering going on, we had some fun getting out of the house. We visited with friends and spent some time at the library. These girls love books, so they always want to bring home more than we could possibly carry. It’s also been fun helping Kaya to try reading some actual stories, instead of just the super silly ones in her phonics book. We also really love the library’s Lego table.

FOUR. I’m so proud of Kaya, because only about a month and a half into our kindergarten year, she’s already finished with half of her math program. Book A is complete! She absolutely loves doing math- she’d probably do these workbook pages all morning if I let her, but I try to slow her down a little to be sure she really understands the concepts. We’re on to Book B, and she’s so excited!FIVE. The other awesome thing about homeschool- being able to take all three of my girls outdoors any time we want for some cool, fresh fall air. I love seeing these babies together (and hey, having the playground to ourselves isn’t bad either)!Happy Monday!

first day of school (and why we’re homeschooling)

To be completely honest, I somehow feel a little nervous about writing this post. I didn’t want it to seem like I am against public schools, or teachers, or anyone who sends their child to school. I admire teachers so much for everything that they do, and I know their jobs are definitely challenging. Deciding to keep Kaya at home for kindergarten was not a conclusion I reached easily, but I know in my heart it is the right thing for her right now.

When she was just over 2 years old, I came across some information on homeschooling, and after that, it constantly weighed on my mind. It was an intense (and at times, all-consuming) thought that would never would go away, no matter how hard I tried to let it go. So, I started to do my research and learn about all the different homeschooling philosophies, the various curriculum, and what would be required to keep her at home. I talked to and asked a million questions of any other homeschooling families I met. I pondered and prayed and waited and listened to feel confirmation that this would be the right choice. Many days and nights of fearing my own inadequacies and doubting my ability to teach her finally culminated in a true sense of peace, and knowing that I was made to teach my own children best.

There are so many reasons I have for homeschooling, but if I had to summarize the majority of them in one word, it would come down to this:


We get our kindergarten work done in about 1.5 to 2 hours each day, as opposed to the 8 hours she would spend away from home at public school. At this young age, I want her to still spend the majority of her day with her family. I want us to be her greatest influence. 

I want to teach her math while we’re baking, tell her about nature as we take walks, and answer all her hard questions. I want to have TIME to do all those things with her, and having her home will make those teaching opportunities more readily available.

I want her to learn life skills, not just school smarts. I want her to have more opportunities for service and helping others, and to see how important that is.

With her home, we can have lunch together everyday. We can have dance parties in the afternoon and go on more family trips. She can choose what she wants to learn about, and I can help fuel her interests. I want to be there to hear about her dreams and listen to her imagination. I want to have a strong bond with my daughters, and for them to form strong bonds with their sisters, too. I’m just not sure that could really be done in just the two or three rushed hours we’d have together after she’d get off the bus.

Even with all that conviction in my heart, I still felt emotional when I saw that big yellow bus roll through our neighborhood on the first day of school, knowing Kaya wasn’t getting on it. The day your first baby goes to kindergarten is a big milestone, and in a way, “skipping” that made my choice to homeschool feel a hundred times more real and monumental. I can only hope that when my daughters look back one day, they won’t feel as if I took something away from them by not putting them on that school bus, but that I gave them the gift of a different kind of learning, and a little more time to still be just kids.

One of the most common questions I’ve been asked is, “Are you going to do homeschool forever, or just for kindergarten?”, and the only answer I can give so far is that we’ll be taking it one year at a time to see how it goes.

Kaelyn will be doing preschool this year, just the way I did with Kaya for the past two years. She’s already interested in Kaya’s books, so she’s been quick to learn. I’m happy to have her home with us, too.Here’s to our first “official” year of learning!

“I promise you: the calling to be a parent includes the gift to teach in the ways that are right for you and for your children.” – Robert D. Hales, “Come, Follow Me” by Practicing Christian Love and Service