This is a collaborative post.
'Tis the season to shop for pencils and paper, new shoes and backpacks. Yep, back-to-school season has begun. Moms everywhere are scrambling to get all the necessities before the big day.... well... every mom but the homeschool Mom. The homeschool Mom is quietly biding her time till the wave of public school Moms subsides, then she will sneak in and rack up... for the next fifty-eleven years. We homeschool moms are notorious for collecting (read as: "hoarding") school supplies, so this post will include nary a pen or notebook.
First on my "must-have" list would definitely be a good laptop or chromebook. I know there are homeschool families that pride themselves on being "tech-free", but we are not one of those families. There are tons of online resources for homeschoolers and not just online games and video content, you can even print free worksheets, spelling lists, handwriting practice pages, etc..
Our days are very eclectic and relaxed. We use a lot of workbooks and online videos and library materials (books, playaways, etc) so having a movable work surface is essential. Micah has a lapdesk that he uses quite often and it even has a little area for his tablet. It's perfect for couch schooling or even car schooling. Yes, car-schooling is totally a thing.
The third item on my list is "memberships". Having a yearly membership to places like your local science and art museums or zoo are great ways to include enrichment into your lessons. Most museums have rotating exhibits; you could even make an entire lesson plan based on each different theme. This is a great thing to put on your kids' birthday or Christmas wish list. Relatives, especially grandparents, love gifting practical, useful gifts.
Fourth on my list is a good, sturdy printer... one that never runs out of ink. Yes, such a device exists. HP Instant Ink has saved my behind more times than I can count. It works on most newer (and some older) HP printers. Instant Ink is a monthly subscription that sends you ink BEFORE you run out. There are several plans based on your personal printing needs, ours is about six bucks a month and I can print 150 (If I remember correctly) pages.
Last, but definitely not least, is a good old fashioned library card. Libraries are not just book repositories any longer. Libraries have gone high tech and most have fast, up to date computers that are free to use. Some libraries even offer specially curated "curriculum kits" based on topics and grade level. It helps a ton around Christmas when lesson planning is the last thing on my mind. Our local library even has special events designed just for homeschoolers. If yours doesn't, talk to the children's librarian about starting some.
To all my fellow homeschool parents starting a new year... may the odds be ever in your favor! See you on the battlefield.
DISCLOSURE: This post is sponsored by Savings.com.
I will spare you the cute anecdotal "frying eggs on the sidewalk" story. It's July in the south, it's like we're entering the fifth circle of hell... the one with the river and the stinky ankle-deep swamp fog muck stuff. There's nothing cute or breezy about it and everyone you come in contact with smells of varying degrees of B.O., sadness, and a longing for Fall.
Being a life-long resident of the south, I have picked up a few tricks along the way to help one stay cool and I am going to share them with you guys, here, today. Grab a pen and paper or open a blank text on your phone to save or screenshot, you will not want to miss this.
Tip 1: STAY INSIDE AND DRINK ICED TEA!!!!! Yep, that's your only option. Don't leave the house unless it is on fire (which might actually cool things down a bit). Having a baby? Deliver that sucker at home. Need groceries? Have them delivered. Basically, anything you need to do, do it before July hits.
Jokes aside, tea is a great source of hydration and is a flavorful alternative for all those "I hate plain water" folks and the new Tea Well line from Celestial Seasonings packs a double punch by combining health and hydration in one.
The new Tea Well line can be found at Walmart stores nationwide and come in five varieties.... honey lemon, lemon chamomile, matcha green, ginger mint, and turmeric spice. Each variety is infused with their daily wellness core blend of herbs and botanicals widely known for their healing and restorative properties.
I'm super stoked to try the ginger mint. It is a flavorful blend of Organic Spearmint, Organic Ginger, and Organic Moringa and would be perfect, poured over ice, garnished with a little mint sprig from the garden.
You can find all these new Tea Well teas (and your old Celestial Seasonings favorites) at your local Walmart store, or you can avoid the heat and jut order online. Click on the coupon below to print, and keep an eye out for another Celestial Seasonings tea coupon in your local Valpak mailer.
A huge "thank you" to the amazing folks at Otherworld Encounter for having us as their guests.
What do you get when you combine art, science, and fantasy. . . Otherworld Encounter . . . an immersive, hands-on, sci-fi art installation that you can experience with every single one of your five senses... and then some.
From the moment you step foot inside the exhibit, you know you are in for an interesting time. Your experience starts with a brief back story of the "project" along with a short presentation to get you in the right frame of mind to get the most out of your experience.
Once the curtains open, you are transported to a whooole other world of sights, sounds, smells, colors, shapes, textures....everywhere you look, something new and vibrant catches your eye. You can swing in the trees or skip rope with a friendly space creature! Oh, and make sure you dig through the glitter sand for a clue. (wink wink)
There are 18 total rooms to experience, each one with a different theme. You can skip rocks in a virtual pond, experience an indoor thunderstorm, sans rain, of course, or play music with unconventional instruments, and then, weave your way through an ivy covered forest to meet a very bright beetlebug.
Some rooms are even "play-able". Yes! You can "play" one of the rooms. Think: "full dome Galaga"... with you in the pilot's seat.
Otherworld Encounter invites its guests to become a part of the exhibit by leaving their mark in the form of funky chalk drawings with plenty of room for self expression. If you look closely, you might even see a secret message.
As you wind your way through the maze of different "dreams", you are urged to look for "clues", which are recurring themes and symbols you will see along the way. If you accidentally miss them, no worries, play the game at the end, beat level 10, all the clues will be there for you. Get the code right and you will be granted access to the secret room. There are tons of photo opps along they way and unlike most other artsy places, you are ENCOURAGED to take all the pics and touch all the arts!
After about 10 minutes of trying way too hard to crack the code, and after the kind attendant gave us way too many clues, we finally made access to the secret room. It was as if I was transported back in time to my teen hangout. So many cool things to see and do and experience. Worth every second of feeling "unsmart" whilst figuring out the code.
The boys and I had an amazing afternoon at Otherworld Encounter and encourage you to check it out for yourself if you're in the Nashville area, and if you're not, you can take a virtual field trip via social media postings. The encounter is running now through July 21st, 2019, and is located at the Fairgrounds. You can get more info and grab your tickets here.
A little about the amazing artists behind Nashville's OWN (Otherworld Network) in their own words. . .
"Nashville's OWN (Otherworld Network) formed in August 2018 with the combined passion of creating Nashville's first large scale immersive art experience. Thousands upon thousands of hours of work went into developing, building and operating OTHERWORLD ENCOUNTER.
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Spring Gardening Tips
The temps are finally starting to rise a little bit here in middle Tennessee and my brain is all like... "Get seeds in the ground, now!!!"... While playing in the dirt sounds like a great idea, you can't just go throwing stuff in the ground all willy-nilly.... Welll, I mean, you could, but you might end up with a hot mess on your hands and plants that have no room to grow and other random issues. (Don't ask me how I know this)
Since the "morning glory fiasco of 2015", I have put a lot more thought and planning into my gardening... especially the planning part. It is imperative you know how big a plant (or veggie) will get when fully grown vs how much space you have, as to not have a mammoth plant taking over your garden. (One seed probably would have been plenty)
*Prep Your Bed*
First things first; prepare your garden spot. Start by pulling any weeds that have grown up over the winter and amend your soil with any nutrients you may need to give your plants the best start possible. Different plants have different soil requirements, some prefer compact soil, some prefer loose, loamy soil. Some need a high PH, some a low ph. Try to group plants with others that have the same needs.
Inspect your soil. Over the winter, nasty garden pests might have made their way into your beds. Mine usually have tons of grubs, slugs, and roly-polies. I toss the grubs in the yard for the birds and leave the roly-polies and slugs. ("real gardeners" are cringing right now, I know, but I can't harm the slugs)
*Make a Plan*
Resist the urge to plant things just because they are pretty. I know, I know, it sucks, but having a successful garden requires a little bit of planning. There are lots of things to take into consideration... final height of plant, flowering time, soil needs and water and sun-light requirements. You can't plant a tall plant next to a small, squatty plant, because the tall one will block all the light of the small one... again, don't ask me how I know this.
*Start a Composting Area*
If you don't already have an area for composting, now is a great time to start one. You can use a bin specifically for composting or you could modify an old trash can. There are tons of tutorials on the internet for crafting one at home. When I started composting it was eye-opening to see how much stuff we throw away that could be put to good use. If you live in a rural or suburban area, be mindful of securing your compost, lest you become the "crazy raccoon lady" of the neighborhood.
*Start Those Seeds*
If you're starting your plants from seed you will need to plan this step way ahead of time, depending on the climate zone you live in. There are several different schools of thoughts on how is best to do this, but I like old school paper pots or using recycled egg cartons. (If you do this, make sure they are very clean)
If you're starting your plants from bulbs, you might want to wait another week or so. I know if feels nice out there, but don't trust it... we're not there just yet. (speaking of middle TN)
*Start a New Project*
Now is a great time to start a new project in the garden. A new raised bed, a new planting area or even a new water feature. A few years ago, Micah and I made a cute little raised bed together... I designed it, he helped nail it together. That bed has seen many beautiful flowers, and has held our magic lollipop garden and has been a source of many many amazing memories. Gardening is an amazing way to bond with your kids while imparting an important skill to them.
DISCLOSURE: A huge "thank you" to Campaign Monitor for supplying the infographic used in today's post.
If you're a blogger, you know you have to stay on top of all the new trends in marketing, because not only do you have to create interesting content, you also have to make sure people are reading it! Blogging as a business is a numbers game. You can create all the beautiful pictures of roast leg of (insert random foul or mammal here) you want, but if no one is reading it, you're pretty much out of luck if you want to monetize your blog.
There are lots of ways to get more readers if you're willing to put in a little effort in the marketing department. There is tons of info out there, free for the taking if you just do a little research... or let me do it for you. (wink wink) First, let's look at email marketing campaigns. This is a good way to get the most bang for your advertising buck! So, what makes for a winning email campaign? Several factors come into play... design, audience, length of the campaign, lots of stuff. Since I'm a writer, and not necessarily an email marketer, I leave that stuff up to the pros. Using a service like Campaign Monitor takes all the guesswork out of crafting a successful email marketing campaign. Here are a few interesting stats I gleaned from their site that show email marketing is NOT dead!
Experiencing the holidays as an adult does not feel the same as experiencing the holidays as a child. Remember when you were a kid and Christmas was still magical? When the biggest worry on your mind was if you could make it to the big day without busting at the seams with excitement. When gifts were thoughtful, not car-payment-expensive. When you stayed up as late as you could, just to see if you could catch a glimpse of "the big guy" leaving your goodies. Those were the days, huh? Well, they don't have to be in the past. You can create those same feelings today. That magic is not gone, you just need to find it.
In order to find your magic, you have to find what brings you joy, then, do it. Sounds easy enough, right? What makes you smile? What makes you feel like the kid you used to be? For some it might be spending time, laughing with their favorite people (or animals). For others, it might be their alone time they spend curled up with a fuzzy blanket and a good book. No matter what your joy is, find it and do it often. There is no right or wrong answer here.
Think back to when you were a child; the sights and sounds and smells of the holiday season enchanted you with their magic simply by existing. The shiny bows, the smell of evergreen in the air, the twinkling lights, the holiday tunes on the radio, the scent of freshly baked (or burnt) cookies, weaving their spell as they waft through the air... THAT is the magic!
All the extra stuff is so unnecessary. All the stress of buying and wrapping and visiting and baking and shopping and being on time and remembering and rushing and hurrying... and for what? To come to the end of the holiday season broke, out of energy (physically and emotionally), sad and disappointed with lots of regret and hurt feelings? Yeah, no thanks!
Life is hard enough, don't make it worse by setting unrealistic benchmarks you know you can never meet. If you have three kids and a two hundred dollar budget, each kid will not be getting the newest Game Station 360... or whatever the new thing is. And that's OK! There are zero confirmed instances of a child dying or suffering permanent damage because they did not get the newest, bestest, most shiniest whatever on the market. Do what you can with what you have and it will all be OK. Read that again. IT WILL ALL BE OK. It always is.
No one should have to go in debt to prove to their loved ones that they are loved. I promise you, your grandmother is not keeping a list of who gave what and how much it cost... but if your tail isn't in that chair for Christmas dinner, you can best believe she will remember that! Let your presence be your presents.
Most of the holiday stress we all complain about is self-imposed. Think about it. Other than being on time to parties and gatherings, there are NO RULES. No one says you even have to buy gifts. Maybe, instead of physical gifts, you give of your time. Give from your heart, not your wallet. I would bet my last dollar your girlfriend would appreciate your offer to sit with her kids while she got a few minutes of peace to herself wayyy more than that pumpkin spice candle you were about to give her.
The holidays do not have to suck the life right out of you. With a few ideas and a whole lot of letting-go of your preconceived notions about how the holidays are supposed to go, I can show you how the holidays can suck the life right back into you..... wait.... what the hell did I just say? Whatever. Work with me... Just do a few of these things I am going to list below, hold a door open for an old lady at the store, smile at a stranger (or two, but not for long, then it gets weird), pay off someone's fines at the library... go out and make the magic that you so want to believe in. It is all around you, everywhere, if you just look for it.
Here are a few ideas that you can implement starting today, right now, from the comfort of your own (insert place where you currently are here), and a few more that may require you to wear pants and leave the house.
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