5 Women Inspiring Our Homeschool

2015-08-12_001 The school year will soon be coming to a close. We're finishing up subjects and planning summer fun!

Reflecting on the past year, it has been one of the most inspirational in terms of influence. I've always been lucky to have a wonderful network of local homeschooling mamas. But this year I've also had the benefit of learning from many other women in the homeschool journey through social media and networking. Blogs, podcasts, and Periscope broadcasts have been both inspirational AND practical. This year--more than any other--the wisdom and creativity of five women specifically has influenced our own day-to-day homeschool.

This post was inspired by Alicia Hutchinson's post by a similar name. Check it out. She has some other women you may want to meet to inspire your homeschool too.

Sarah MacKenzie of The Read-Aloud Revival

I've gushed about Sarah Mackenzie's podcast before, but seriously folks, it it a treasure of reading inspiration! I also loved her book, Teaching from Rest that introduced me to practical tools like loop scheduling (which made a positive difference in how we approach language arts).

Julie Bogart of Brave Writer

I was first introduced to Julie Bogart when she was interviewed for The Read-Aloud Revival. As she discussed teaching children writing everything that she said resonated with me. As a writer myself, I want my kids to communicate clearly, whether they love writing or not. And so many programs I've looked at seem dry and dull--sucking the life out of writing--not infusing it inspiration and joy.

Although I've not purchased any of the Brave Writer curriculum yet, I have loved Julie's Periscopes and Facebook Live videos. She often interacts lives with her following, which is what makes her such a treasure trove of inspirational wisdom. She was the one that convinced me to start doing something called "Morning Time" or "Morning Basket" which is essentially doing all our read-aloud reading first thing in the morning. This has become our favorite part of homeschooling, when we read poetry, history, science, art appreciation, our fictional book-of-the-moment, and practice any memory work (we've been memorizing a preposition song most recently). It can be as simple or elaborate as you like. A good overview of Morning Time would also be this post by Pam Barnhill.

Julie is an advocate for Poetry Teatime and Friday Free Writing, which we've also started to incorporate and will definitely be adding to our schedule in a more permanent way next school year.

Ainsley Arment of Wild+Free

The Wild+Free conference and digital bundles have helped put the beauty back in homeschooling for me. At a time when I'd gotten caught up in getting through our lessons in a way that seemed fast-paced and like drudgery, Wild+Free helped remind me of WHY I was doing it in the first place. It helped me envision how I could incorporate things like art and nature study into our daily life without sacrificing the daily need to do the essentials like reading, writing, and math.

Ainsley's vision for a homeschool community has been hugely beneficial to me!

Bethany Douglass of Cloistered Away

I appreciate Bethany's vision of simplicity in homeschooling and life. Her blog is a beautiful and restful haven of resources for everything from homeschooling to green cleaning to recipes. She approaches life from a posture of thoughtfulness and intentionality that really comes through in her writing. Whether you homeschool your children or not, her Instagram account is a feast for the eyes and soul.

Alicia Hutchinson of Investing Love

Is a newer blog I've been following and I also love her Periscopes. Alicia seems very relatable and her posts are always filled with practical inspiration, booklists, and unit studies.

Who inspired your homeschool this past year? 


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Shakespeare's Birthday Party!

"All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances,

And one man in his time plays many parts . . ."

Last week we partied Elizabethan style! We celebrated Shakespeare's birthday!

It was something I'd wanted to do for a long time. I was so inspired and must first give credit to Ed Snapshots, My Little Poppies, and the Poetry Teatime websites for the wonderful ideas and resources they link to in their posts about Shakespeare.

We invited a bunch of homeschool friends over for a day to celebrate the Bard. First I gave a little introduction about who he was and how he is still influencing the way we speak. Then we watched this video produced by Shakespeare Birthplace Trust so they could get a look into Shakespeare's world.

Then it was time for some activities!


The kids took turns at various "activity stations." There were Shakespeare word searches and coloring pages, a rousing game of Blind Man's Bluff, and a game of "pin the head on Bottom."



Then it was time to watch this animated summary of Romeo and Juliet to give the kids a taste for one of Shakespeare's most famous play. After this final video it was time for lunch! Everyone brought their own packed lunches and afterwards we ate Elizabethan-inspired honey cakes and sang Happy Birthday! While the kids were munching on their cakes I read a few sonnets from Shakespeare's Seasons.

2016-05-02_0032016-05-02_004This party was a lot of fun for me and I hope the kids enjoyed it too! It served as an introduction to Shakespeare for my kids and we are going to start reading this lovely Usborne Shakespeare Collection next year as part of our morning reading routine.

Have you introduced your kids to Shakespeare yet? If so, how did you go about doing it?


Poetry Teatime

2016-04-11_008I pour steaming water over tea bags in our favorite mugs and tea cups. Earl Grey in a blue willow china tea cup for me. Sophia chooses the Tom Kitten tea cup and the boys pick out the mugs they painted in an abstract expression-like style a few years ago. The kids all select Constant Comment as their tea of choice. We've spent some time in the wind-blown spring air checking to see what new flowers have pushed their way through the soggy earth. The daffodils are beginning to die away but the tulips are just starting to unfurl. The boys played soccer and Sophia road through puddles on her bike. But now we've stomped back inside to warm up to tea, cookies, fruit, and poetry.

I was first introduced to the concept of Poetry Teatime by Julie Bogart on the Read Aloud Revival podcast. And now Julie and her team have rolled out a new website with resources to inspire families everywhere to start their own poetry reading traditions. I thought the idea was fabulous! Creating a language-rich environment with poetry and treats. And what kid will say no to treats?

Since then, we've been attempting to have poetry teatime about once a week. I'm stocking a few extra boxes of goodies, like Fig Newtons or Milano cookies in the pantry, and it's been a fun new tradition. Although these pictures look quiet and proper, poetry teatime is actually loud and messy. Kids interrupt and tea spills. The baby throws food on the floor and the dog gobbles up. But we're having fun and the kids are actually enjoying and asking for more! Owen even asked me, "So how do you write a poem, anyway?" It doesn't have to be particularly fussy. No need to always have tea either. Juice or lemonade works great too.


Since beginning poetry teatime we've discovered some favorite poetry themed books we'd like to share with you. Some are collections of poetry. But I also like to include picture books about the lives of poets. Being someone who loves history and biography, it's wonderful to read the story about a poet's life and then go on to enjoy their work.

*This post contains affiliate links.

Our Favorite Poetry Collections:

Julie Andrews’ Treasure for All Seasons: Poems and Songs to Celebrate the Year

A Stick Is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play By Marilyn Singer This is such a fun-filled book with poems about Hopscotch and Hide-and-Seek and of course, sticks!

National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry, Edited by J. Patrick Lewis Our current favorite, many classic poem juxtaposed next to National Geographic's wonderful photography.

A Brighter Garden by Emily Dickinson Illustrated by the late Tasha Tudor, this was one of the first book of poems I ever owned.

The Poetry for Young People series


Picture Book Biographies about Poets:

Enormous Smallness: A Story of E. E. Cummings by Matthew Burgess e.e. cummings' poetry has always enamored me. I love how he paints pictures with not just language but the actual visual organization of words. I love this poem and this one too. But I didn't know anything about his life until I read this picture book. It contains his poetry too.

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jen Bryant Famous for "The Red Wheelbarrow" this book tells the life of doctor who is now best known for his poetry. Illustrated by Melissa Sweet, I love how she incorporated typography into the pictures.

Emily by Michael Bedard Emily Dickinson--mysterious and dressed in all white--has always captured my imagination. This book illustrated by Barbara Cooney sees her through a child's eyes.

Emily and Carlo by Marty Rhodes Filey A heart-warming story about Emily Dickinson and her dog, Carlo.

Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People by Monica Brown This story of Chile's beloved poet shows how poetry can speak to activism and influence social change.

Papa is a Poet: A Story About Robert Frost by Natalie S. Bober Robert Frost's story is told from the point of view of his daughter.




Do you enjoy poetry? Who is your favorite poet?

Published in Flourish

FlourishMag-2 As my friends know, I'm a huge fan of The Read-Aloud Revival Podcast. I interviewed the host, Sarah Mackenzie earlier this year and was also I was also super excited to hear her speak when I went to the Wild+Free Homeschool conference last month. Her talk was encouraging and inspiring.

So I was very excited to be asked to contribute photographs and an essay to Flourish, Sarah Mackenzie's e-magazine.

The theme of the December issue was gratitude, and you can read what I shared here.

Also, you might want to check out the Flourish archive. Packed with good stuff!


How to Stay Connected to Your Kids as They Grow Up

“Mom, pleeaasse read just one more chapter! Com’on, please,” I begged. And Mom would usually smile and read ten—or twenty minutes longer.

One of the most treasured and important memories from my childhood is my Mom reading to my siblings and me after lunch. Everyday I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next to my favorite character, while I’d be transported to another time or place by the power of Mom’s voice, as it became that character. When the chapter or time was up for the day, my siblings and I would often beg for more.

We read the childhood classics. The Little House books were a family staple, and the Secret Garden was my first gothic suspense novel. Cheaper by the Dozen had us laughing until our sides ached, and The Yearling—with its lush descriptions and heart-wrenching story—made us cry. These books were dubbed “family books,” and we continued to read aloud together even long after I was old enough to read on my own. Mom believed it was important to experience different language styles, even if it sometimes was a little challenging to comprehend. The power of the audible voice captured any wanderings of my mind, making the stories dance off the page and into my imagination.

The benefits from those cozy days curled up on the couch did not just result in better reading skills, lively imaginations, and a love literature and art. It also resulted in connected relationships.

Continue reading over at iBelieve.com

(Image Credit: iBelieve.com)

3 Sanity Savers for the School Year

It’s September and a new school year has begun. Every autumn I have mixed feelings about the close of summer’s picnics and late nights on the deck, but am excited for the routine of a new school year!

Around this time I also look at my calendar and see what I can streamline to make everyday tasks run smoother and take less time. Days are filled with school, work, and several evenings out during the week for soccer practice. Here’s some ways I’ve made tasks that are constantly on repeat a little easier for our family.

Join me over at For the Family to read more.

The First Day of School

2015-08-31_0012015-08-31_0022015-08-31_003 A new school year began yesterday! I'm so excited to begin a new year of learning and growing alongside my kids. I thought I'd share our curriculum choices for this year, because I've enjoyed other people's posts along those lines (I'm a geek like that). I usually discover something I've never heard of before, and through such lists I actually came upon the science curriculum we're using this year.

But first, my new desk area. My old desk was literally falling apart, so I got this very simple white desk from IKEA, kept the old green chair that went with the former desk, and spray painted a desktop organizer a glossy black. Tada! A lovely work area that is aesthetically pleasing--because after all--that's pretty much the most important thing for me outside of storage.

And can I draw your attention to the most adorable book bunting? You can order it custom and mine is Pride and Prejudice. I ordered and gave Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre book bunting earlier this year to both of my sisters. It's is such a fun and unique gift for the book enthusiast!

If you're interested in any of the resources I will link to them below:

Desk: Linnmon/Adils from Ikea Corkboard: Vaggis Noticeboards from Ikea Mama print: Melissa Lyon West Jane Austen print: PrintableDesignHouse on Etsy (similar) Book Bunting: Rosealind Ashberrys on Etsy


Now onto more homeschooler-ish things.

Duncan and Owen are entering their 3rd grade year. So hard to believe! Here's what we'll be using this year:

Reading: We love the All About Reading resources and it has worked great for the boys. We started out trying to use The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading and after the first year it did not go well. I love how much more simply All About Reading is broken down and that it comes with its own readers! We will be finishing All About Reading Level 2.

Language Arts Loop (for more info on loop scheduling read this):

Spelling: For spelling we use the Spelling City website and I plug in words from their All About Reading lessons.

Grammar/Writing:  We will be finishing First Language Lessons Level 2  and then I think we will be switching to English Lessons Through Literature. It is very similar to First Language Lessons in approach but is more integrated, a fact I love. It uses full-length books (instead of selections from literature) and also incorporates writing and spelling into the lessons. I will also be using this rather new program with Sophia in the future as well.

Penmanship: Zaner Bloser handwriting textbook for penmanship. Nothing fancy. It's just penmanship and it works.

Math: We use Singapore Math and it's been great for my kids, although I will be looking for something less "teacher intensive" once they are reading more fluently. Any suggestions?

History 2x weekly: We will be daily listening to the Classical Conversation audio CD and learning the history sentences and continue learning the timeline song. We also will be reading The Story of the World Vol. 1 along with a TON of library book reading. I will be incorporating geography and art study into history.

Science 2x weekly: My friend Nicole introduced me to Biology for the Grammar Stage from Elemental Science and I'm very excited to use it this year. Last year we were part of a Science co-op and this year we are not, so I'm excited to try something new. The kids will be learning about animals, plants, and the human body.

Sketchbooking: I'm going to be using sketchbooking as a way to incorporate writing, history, science, and drawing with the kids this year. Inspired by Kirsten Rickert (and since my kids love to draw) we will be using the Strathmore Kids Drawing Story Book to capture what we learn in short sentences, diagrams, and pictures. I love that it comes with space for drawing and is pre-lined for writing!

Physical Education: Soccer (fall) and PE once a week at our homeschool co-op.

Art: We will be studying art in the context of history and be sketchbooking but they also will have an applied art class each week at co-op.

Music: Co-op music class!

Sophia will be joining us as a Kindergartener this year and she's is super enthusiastic about it! She will be tagging along for all of our studies as she has interest but for her we will be concentrating on reading, penmanship, and beginning math. She will be using All About Reading, Zaner Bloser handwriting, and Singapore math just like her brothers but at the Kindergarten level. She also will have a geography unit study, P.E., art, and music class at co-op every week.


I also thought I'd share some of the online resources and blogs I find inspiring as it pertains to homeschooling. Some of them I've talked about before and have interviewed their founders. Here's some of my favorites!

Online Resources:

Wild & Free Conference, Bundles, and other resources  (Interviewed founder Ainsley Arment here.)

Read-Aloud Revival podcast and membership site (Interviewed podcast founder and host Sarah Mackenzie here.)

Home | School | Life  Magazine, blog, or newsletter, this is a great resource!

Simple Homeschool A practical site by various authors full of posts from the practical to the encouraging.


Mt. Hope Chronicles  I've been following this blog by Heidi Scovel for years, maybe even before I had children? I love her blog, especially her booklists! And she has three boys so I find her perspective valuable when it comes to resources for boys.

Ed Snapshots A very practical blog which also has a podcast attached to it.

Cloistered Away I love Bethany's blog. I heard her speak about Intention at last year's Wild + Free conference. She's a writer, photographer, blogger, and homeschooler so I am inspired by her and our interests are similar.

Kirsten Rickert Another inspirational mama who is a photographer and writer with heavy emphasis on the environment, I love subscribing to her blog and reading her thoughtful posts.

If you homeschool (or even if you don't) what educational resources or sites do you love for your kids? That inspire you?

Creating in the Midst

I can't remember how exactly I came across Corinne's blog. I think I may have met her in the comment section of The Habit of Being's blog. I enjoy Corinne's thoughtful writing and following her lovely Instagram feed. Corinne has been doing an interview series called Creating in the Midst, where she features various women who homeschool but also pursue creativity in some way. It's been interesting to find out how other homeschool moms seek to find time to be creative themselves in the midst of educating their children.

Yesterday, she featured my own thoughts on creating in the midst. Read my thoughts over at Corrine's blog.

A Day in the Life


Back at the end of March I thought it would be fun to do a little "day in the life" post. I used to use my full frame DSLR to capture daily life so much more than I do now. I love my iphone and the ease of taking pictures and sharing them on social media, but this year I'd like to make an effort to use my camera a bit more. So, I kept my camera out all day to capture the daily moments of a run-of-the-mill day at home. Finally--almost a month and a half later--I'm sharing them with all of you.

First breakfast. Usually oatmeal or yogurt with fruit and granola. Ava hangs out in her bouncer while we eat and I read a chapter from Thoughts to Make Your Heart Singone of my favorite devotional books for children, ever.


After breakfast it's time for school. Reading, writing, math, grammarspelling and memory work fill our mornings. The school room is bright and cheerful and one of my favorite rooms in the house.


Sophia plays or hangs with us in the school room doing her own "school work" while we do ours. She draws, plays with her wiki stix alphabet, plays with her kitchen set, or practices writing numbers in her notebook. She joins in with memory work (songs to memorize history and science facts, among other things) and practices each weeks' presentation for our weekly class time at Classical Conversations.


I can't get over how much bigger Ava has gotten since I've taken these pictures! In just a month and a half she looks so different already!


I also can't get over how GREEN it's gotten over the month of April. Wow, what a difference a month makes. Winter hats and jackets are definitely packed away now! After a morning doing lessons we usually have lunch and head outside on days we're home. Time for fresh air and some exercise! Then after an hour or so it's back inside. That's when I read aloud to the kids. We read chapter books and picture books on all sorts of subjects: history, science, and fun stories.


Then it's time for some quiet down. The kids go to their rooms for one hour of quiet play while the baby naps and I do my work. This is the time I write, blog, edit photos, and the like. The day I took these pictures it was very unexciting. I worked on backing up all the pictures from 2014 both onto my external hard drive and on cds and cleaned off the hard drive of my laptop. Necessary maintenance that just needed to get done.


Before I know it everyone is up and the hustle of dinner time is upon me. Cheesy Tex-Mex Roll-Ups was on the menu, yum!


So this is pretty much a normal school day when we're home for the whole day, which is actually only a couple of days a week. We have Classical Conversations once a week during the school year, and for two years we also had a science co-op once a week as well. Not to mention errands, playdates, field trips, and sports in different seasons.

But these unassuming days at home are some of my favorite times. I soak them up and they are just as worthy of documentation as the more exciting days.

Inspire: Women Who Create | Ainsley Arment Interview

InspireLogo Last September I had the opportunity to go with good friends to the Wild + Free Conference. It was a refreshing and inspiring time. I wrote about my experience here. I met the founder of Wild + Free, Ainsley Arment while we were there and started following her on Instagram. It's been amazing to watch the Wild + Free community grow through Instagram. It is a community largely made up of homeschoolers, although that is not a necessity and not every participant homeschools. Ainsley came to mind when thinking about Women Who Create because she is cultivating a community through Instagram, conferences, and digital media that is quite inspiring to me. I hope you will find her inspiring too!


Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and introduce us to your family?

I was born on the campus of West Point in New York and graduated from college in Greensboro, NC followed by a few years outside of D.C. and Atlanta. Other than that, I’ve lived in Virginia Beach, Virginia for all my life. I don’t feel like I’m home unless I’ve got sand between my toes and saltwater on my lips. I live here with my husband Ben, our four children Wyatt (10), Dylan (8), Cody (5) and Annie (2), along with a Pomeranian named Clementine we rescued from the highway. We’re expecting our fifth child, another little girl, this August.

What influenced you to begin your homeschooling journey?

I put my oldest two boys in the public school system when they were in kindergarten and first grade and they did great. But after having them gone for most of the day, I realized I was missing out on the most formative moments of their lives. I wanted to be a bigger part of it. Plus, I started seeing their dispositions change, and it wasn't always good. I didn't feel the need to protect them from other people per se. I wanted to preserve their sense of wonder, their innocence and their uninhibited view of themselves.

How did you become inspired to create a conference for homeschool moms? How does the Wild + Free Conference differ from most of the other conferences out there for homeschoolers?

Wild + Free has been an unexpected journey. I started posting my own homeschool photos on Instagram and quickly saw there was huge resonance among other mothers out there. The conference was our first attempt to gather this community, and it was a great time. I’ve never attended another homeschool conference, so I’m not sure how it differs. I suspect our community is more focused on what we call intentional parenting and raising free-range children. Plus, we just have some really great women in this community. =)


You’ve mentioned that Instagram was influential in igniting the idea of the Wild + Free conference; can you tell us some more about that?

Everything we do comes out of the community we’re building on Instagram. It’s a place where homeschool mothers from all over the world can connect and encourage each other. The conference is an important but very, very small part of what we’re all about.

How did the quote, “All good things are wild and free” become the quote to inspire the Wild + Free community?

I’ve always loved this quote from Henry David Thoreau. He said it many times in a lecture called “Walking,” which contends that our experience in the civilized world needs to be balanced with the wild. We believe this to be true of our children. So much is lost in their character and experience when they’re confined to sterile classroom environments.

What do you hope women who attend the conference walk away with when they leave?

We certainly want them to walk away with practical homeschool insights and favorite practices. But most of all, we went them to come away with deep friendships. Homeschooling is often a lonely endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be. There is a flourishing community of women who are eager to support and encourage each other.

Putting together a conference seems like a big task! Did you have experience in organizing events prior to Wild + Free? What have been the biggest challenges and joys in putting together this conference?

No way! I’m just a mother of four, soon to be five, who is trying to figure it out as I go along. On top of that, I’m an extreme introvert who gets worn out quickly by social interaction. But now that we’ve organized one conference, I know what NOT to do. =) I couldn’t pull this off without the help of so many wonderful friends and supporters, and that’s the best part of it – the friendships I’ve made. We’re not experts, but we’re in this together. The experiences are going to get better and better the more we do.


You also put out Wild + Free monthly bundles. I’ve bought two and they are beautifully photographed with great interviews, recipes, ideas for book clubs, and nature journal inspiration. Why did you decide to create bundles on top of putting together an annual conference?

I’m not good at a lot of things, but one thing I love to do is collect, research and curate things. The Content Bundles are a wonderful way for me to serve the homeschool community with my own gifts. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t write or photograph many of the pieces at all. I leave that to the women out there who are so gifted with words and images. But I love bringing it all together into a beautiful collection each month.

What hopes do you have for the future of the Wild + Free conference?

We’re taking this one step at a time. It’s all I can do to homeschool, curate the Content Bundles and care for my own family. But we do have some big plans for the conference. You’ll find out more on the Wild + Free Instagram feed soon.

When you’re not busy homeschooling or working on Wild + Free, what do you like to do in your free time? What inspires you personally right now?

I don’t have much time outside of homeschooling and Wild + Free, but when it comes to love languages, I’m a quality timer, so I love spending time with my husband and kids. We go to the beach a lot in the summertime and play lots of games by the fireplace in the winter. I’m a voracious reader, so I read novels every chance I get. But I also keep a garden in the backyard where I’m learning to grow our own food.

Thank you Ainsley for sharing with us today!

Ainsley would like to offer any of my readers your own FREE Wild + Free content bundle to check out! You can download it here.

For more information, you can follow Ainsley and discover more about the Wild + Free Community online in the following places:

Wild + Free Website Wild & Free Instagram Ainsley Arment's Instagram