Halloween 2018

We don’t “celebrate” halloween but we do let the kids dress up and give/get candy.

This year was fun because we joined the three other families in our stairwell for a chili dinner while we sat and handed out candy in front of our building.

We really are blessed with the families in our stairwell and thank God for them! Parker teamed up with an upstairs friend to be the Mario Brothers. In the chaos of the night, neither mom got a picture of this duo!

Months ago we met a new family and we fell into step with them very easily. They are another “soccer-loving, large family, teens-to-tot” and, to top it off, they’re also another family by adoption. Their youngest made a wonderful Maui and so we couldn’t resist having Anna be Moana.

You’re welcome:

IMG_4802 (1)

Oh, and this little Maui’s hair is naturally stick-straight, long, healthy, and gorgeous. The curls were done with overnight sponge rollers! HOW ADORABLE?!?!?



Posted in family | 4 Comments

Public Transportation: Stuttgart

We have a great duty bus that runs in the area, allowing our kids the ability to get from our kaserne to any of the others for free. It’s pretty reliable and runs from early morning until evening, though I think it needs one more evening run. Soccer practice ran 30 minutes after the last bus, so during that season Matt stayed at work really late, or ran back out to get them.

The duty bus does a great job of getting the boys around to the different kasernes and we are thankful for it, but we knew that they would need a bit more freedom than it could provide. I have now taken public transit here in Stuttgart a few times and have found it to be worth learning. It’s complicated to read and try to understand, but once you take it it gets easier.

The first time I had to take it was to go to the airport to pick up a rental car. My van was in the shop and the nearest rental place was the airport. I can literally see the airport from Kelley Kaserne, and if you take the transit, you travel in two different zones. I needed a one-way ticket for two zones.  I only had one misadventure: When I got off the first bus to transfer to the second, I saw the second passing before I could even get to the other stop. I had to wait 20 minutes for the next one. I listened to my podcast and enjoyed being on an adventure.

I arrived at the airport, picked up my rental car, and felt very accomplished. I grew up in a community where everyone has cars and few people use transit daily. My experience with it has been while traveling in foreign cities. I guess this is a foreign city, so I don’t really know why I was so intimidated by it.

The next phase of this was to teach the boys how to make use of the public transportation system: Bailey was up first. He picked a location he wants to know how to navigate to/from and we were off. We grabbed a snack at a local bakery and then headed back home.

IMG_4625 (1)

Phase two was to teach Hayden. One night when the other brothers were still at soccer, Hayden, Anna, and I make a split second decision to take the train downtown to a record store he saw one day as we were driving through town.


This picture of Anna with her passy is the last one we have. We genuinely thought we dropped it on the bus that night and so we broke her of her “van passy.” A week later we went cold turkey… no more passys.  {I ended up finding this passy later so I’ll save it in her baby box.}
On this trip, we went a fun record store and then back home.

I still need to take Carson on a training trip…

Hayden has since used the system on his own twice. The first time he and a friend went to a concert and it was on this adventure that they had a misadventure. I got permission to tell this fun story! First, on exiting the kaserne, Hayden got stuck in the box, and the MPs and Ponds guards had to come rescue him. Once at the bus stop he and his friend got help from one of Hayden’s regular customers at Subway. They got to the concert in time, had a blast, and on the way home, accidentally got on the train going the wrong direction. They figured it out in time to get back to our nearest train station, about 4 miles away. However, the next bus that was to come was 4 hours… the buses had quit running by then.
I could have gone to rescue them, but, since I knew they were safe and together, I let them figure it out. (They didn’t ask me to come to the rescue… they had this under control, but were keeping me informed of their progress.) They ended up calling an Uber to get them back to Kelley.
Such good lessons! I asked if he had any pictures from his travel adventures and his response was, “No! Too busy trying to find where to go!”

My purpose in having my kids learn this system is so they can have freedom to go and do what they want, when they want. If they were in the states, they’d have drivers licenses; here they have public transportation.

Mel from “Living in Stuttgart” wrote a fantastic blog post that helped me figure everything out. Check out her Guide to the Public Transport in Stuttgart




Posted in brothers/boys, family, germany, travel | 1 Comment

Meet, the Family Truckster!

Our family has grown by twelve!

Seats, that is.

After years of wanting a 12-seater van we are finally the proud owners of a blue Nissan NV 3500.

This is my dream car.
No. Really.
There is no other car on the planet I’d rather drive. Sure, a newer, souped-up version would be welcome, but I can honestly tell you that feel certain I will be 100% content with our used version.

A few weeks ago Matt was driving his Volvo and the hood flew up into the windshield. Fortunately, Matt wasn’t on the autobahn, the glass didn’t crack, and he didn’t wreck. But, USAA totalled the vehicle out because the cost of the repairs outweighed the value of the car. We are currently a one-car family, until the NV gets here.

Matt has sacrificed once again to allow our family to move up in vehicle. He’s going to be driving the Silver Surfer indefinitely. When I first started seeing these vans while we were in Texas I knew that they would be a big hit with moms of large families. Apparently, Nissan had no idea what kind of gold mine they had so they made the bulk of them in commercial-friendly white! Fun fact: only about 15% of Ford’s passenger vans are sold to families as compared to 88% of Nissan’s*. The NV is the only passenger van with a sliding door, as opposed do the barn-type doors. If you know me, I LOVE having a sliding door so that I don’t have to worry if my kids are going to hit the car we park beside.  There are other mom-friendly features that made this decision an easy one for me, but the last one that I’ll mention for now is that each seat is made for a full-grown person with its own headrest.

When we left Texas packed 7-tight in our Town and Country, we were uncomfortable but we made do. Just 10 months later we packed the Silver Surfer up again to travel to Poland and Berlin. This was not the longest trip we’ve made but I’d dare say it was the most uncomfortable. The reason? Our teens have GROWN! They’re huge!

We knew we needed to increase the size of our vehicle, not so much because we needed the extra seats (though this is a benefit I’m thrilled to have) but because our boys have grown so tall and would benefit from more space around them.  We looked at a ton of 9-seaters here in Germany only to find that they were not going to afford us much more space. Trips were going to be just as uncomfortable as before and, while I can drive a manual, doing that daily in Stuttgart traffic does not sound fun.

Enter the Family Truckster.

We found one in Virginia only 15 miles away from some friends. The husband took our van for a test drive, took pictures of its knicks, dents, dings, and scratches (which are plentiful) and gave us his assessment. Based on his information we prayerfully decided to move forward with the purchase. A week after we bought it, the shipping company picked it up from the dealership where it waits to load a ship to Germany.

We couldn’t be more excited!

Big families tend to make friends with other big families. Big families who take up all seven seats in their van can’t take any friends anywhere. We will soon be able to tote around friends and travel in a bit more comfort.

So, please, meet the Family Truckster.
(Extra credit if you know where its name comes from.)

These pictures are from the dealer. I’ll be sure to update when we have pictures of our own to share. (Until then, prayers that the shipping goes well, it arrives here in Stuttgart sooner than expected, and that we have many miles of blessed, safe travel in it.)


Oh, and as I shared in Hayden’s College plan blog post, this decision was made easier in that he’s going to be around for the next few years. Having him here in Europe to travel with us adds to the joy of having a 12-seater.

*The statistic is from memory and I can’t find the site I originally read that on. I will update if I find the exact percentage.

Posted in Discussing debt, family, germany | 3 Comments

Hayden’s Senior Year and College Plans

I’m shocked to see myself type the word “college” in reference to my own child. I’m excited and proud, and, for good reason, relieved.

I’m relieved because he’s decided to stay with us and knock out the first two years online, giving this mama’s heart a little delay in the inevitable. {The inevitable being that these precious treasures will be leaving the nest sooner than I’d like to admit.}

B02A1384Hayden’s senior year is turning out to be a doozy. It’s intended that the junior year be the hardest with the senior year being left to sort out colleges, scholarships, and making future plans. With our crazy transition from Texas to Germany, some of his classes got delayed and he’s working hard on classes we had hoped to finish last year.

B02A1551He’s currently taking Chemistry, Pre-calculus, Literature, History, Film Analysis, and then some, all while working 20 hours at Subway.

He applied to Central Texas College, was accepted, and is registered to earn an Associate of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies. Basically, this two-year degree will allow him to slide into just about any 4-year Texas school with his basic classes completed. Matt and I are thrilled at his plans and are incredibly proud of him and how hard he’s working to pay for school himself and with no loans.

B02A1347He isn’t sure what kind of degree he wants to get, nor what kind of job he ultimately wants. He’s a creative but the thought of monetizing his creativity doesn’t sound like fun to him. He loves music; not just the music itself, but the industry. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up working to design band art, doing photography during concerts, or designing band merch.

I took a picture of him holding his acceptance letter but he did not give me permission to share it, so it’s mine to treasure. In lieu of a photo of him holding that, here are his senior photos that we had taken last month.


This “little bit” may have played a big role in his decision to stick around a little longer.


The Photography was done by Rebecca Cantrelle! She was amazing.

Posted in brothers/boys, family, homeschooling | 3 Comments

Bye, bye, Passy

It’s been our practice to take passys away from the baby at one-year-old. With most of the kids, that worked beautifully. With Parker, he started sucking his thumb as a result. He showed us!

With Anna, there were a number of reasons we didn’t take the passy away at one. Parker’s reaction being the main reason. We figured that if there was a chance she could start sucking her thumb, it’d be easier to just let her keep the passy until we were really ready to break her of the habit than to have to break her of the thumb some day. With Parker, we got lucky, some might say.

While we were on our big trip to Italy he spent a lot of time sucking his thumb because he was in strollers and being carried on our backs. Not nearly enough time down running around, playing. He sucked his thumb so much he literally sucked a sore into his thumb and one night, walking through the streets of Venice, blood started trickling down his wrist.


Notice the bandage on his thumb.

We had nothing with us but we were heading back to the apartment so we took care of it when we got back. We put a bandaid on the blister, which, naturally, kept him from being able to suck his thumb. Seeing that we had a way to break him of this habit (he was a few months before he was to turn three) we just kept replacing the bandaid every few days. This bandaid ritual went on for a few weeks with him crying each time we took it off, afraid it was going to start bleeding again. Bless him.

When we finally quit replacing the bandaid he was broken of the habit.

Knowing that something so natural was not likely to happen should Anna need to be broken of sucking her thumb, we opted to allow her the passy longer than we had allowed the others.

When she was turning two, we were facing an overseas move. Not the time.
Then we had broken bones and surgeries. Not the time.
Then we had guests come. Not the time.
Then we potty trained. Not the time.
Then we traveled to Poland and Berlin. Not the time.
Then we had more guests. Not the time.

In October Anna had her first dentist visit and she did great letting the hygienist “count” her teeth. The dentist mentioned that she could tell Anna used a passy and then told Anna that she’d soon need to stop using it.

The next day “the Roomba ate Anna’s passy” and clipped the tip off. Things were pretty hard for Anna the first two weeks during nap-times but betimes were surprisingly easy. I sat with her during nap time for about a week, just to be a comfort to her.

A less-than-pleasant result has been that, most days, Anna can’t get still enough during nap-time to actually fall asleep. That passy had a soothing effect that helped her fall asleep quickly.

If I had to do it over again, I’d let her keep the passy longer. I even tried to give it back to her about a week in when I “found one in the toy box” but she actually refused it. Urg. So we’re stuck with a toddler who needs a three-hour daily nap but can’t get one because she can’t make her body be still enough to fall asleep. She’s sweet enough in her room during that rest time that I’m able to get household or teacher-chores done, but I know that she needs the sleep she’s missing.

So, all of that to say that the passy is a thing of the past and we are moving with great things. It’s fall, Christmas is around the corner, and we have a fun surprise to share soon-ish. (No new Hamricks are joining the family, so it’s not that great of a surprise…)

Stay tuned… {Or click here… the reveal has been posted.}

Posted in family, Probably only interesting to the boys' grandparents. | 2 Comments

Fall, 2018

Happy Fall!

We are finally feeling at home and settled in. We have friends, a great ChapelNext Stuttgart Community, school is in full swing, and no one is injured or sick at the  moment.


I was really looking forward to a burst of color this fall, but the severe heat and drought conditions from this summer messed with our trees. We had individual trees turn gorgeous colors, but not simultaneously and many went straight from green to brown.
I stole joy from each colorful leaf I saw.

Here’s a brief summary of the past few months:

  • School:  Tomorrow we start week 11! I’ve never spent more time learning the material ahead of my child, but this year I’ve done every Chemistry and Pre-calc lesson ahead of Hayden so that I could help him if/when he needed it. These are two classes I never had so it’s taking a LOT of my time. I’ll be ready the next four times around, so this is time well spent!
  • Toddlering: Anna is potty trained and in the process of weaning from the passy. We went cold turkey, and is a story I’ll tell someday. (Click here for that story.) Bless her heart.
  • Soccer: We had fun adventures and NO injuries, so I will call this a fantastic season!
  • College: Um, I wrote that word. On my blog. In regards to one of my own children. Hayden has applied and been accepted. I’ll write soon about his plans and share his senior photos here. They turned out so amazing.
  • Church: FUN! We are really loving our ChapelNext community! This has been such a huge factor in making us finally feel settled here. Matt and I are leading our first session of Financial Peace University with a major change: we have the new 9-week course! So far we’re really liking it.
  • Germany: Stuttgart isn’t anything like Wiesbaden. It’s taking some serious getting used to. We’ve done some traveling in the past few months and bought pottery in Poland, seen concerts in MANY cities.
  • Public Transportation: We’ve never needed this on a regular basis before, but we are teaching the boys how to use it so they will be more independent. So far, Hayden has used it to get himself and a friend to a concert that Matt didn’t really want to go to. They did great and had a few misadventures along the way. I’ll have to get permission before I share them.
  • Reading: Oh my word. I’m reading so many good books that I’m bogged down. On top of that, I’ve listened to about 10 podcast episodes that each highlighted a new book I want to read. ACK. This is so hard because I want to read all the books but right now, all of my free time has me in a chemistry book or on Teaching Textbooks…
  • Halloween: No, we don’t “celebrate” halloween but we do dress up and give/get candy. And I think my kid won the prize for cutest ever, and she did it with a partner.
  • Cars: Oh, what stories. I’ll share later, but for now, if you happen to run across a Nissan NV3500 for sale, under $17,000 and would like to test drive it for me, just let me know. We’re hoping to buy one by the new year and have it shipped here in January. If it’s blue, I’ll give you a $25 Starbucks card. If it’s blue and has a back up camera, I’ll give you a $50 Starbucks card!
    UPDATE!  As it turned out, we ended up buying the one in the picture belowScreenshot 2018-11-04 09.05.20

I think that’s about what sums up my life at the moment. I have every intention of coming back to this to journal details about each of the above, not because you’re sitting there waiting for me to do so, but because this blog is our family journal, documenting our adventures and, sometimes, misadventures. I will regret not doing so.

In the meantime, today’s my birthday and I get to eat cake and have Frogmore stew with great friends that God provided. Friends who match our love for Christ, and both of them have big families with kids ranging from teens to tots. God knew who we’d need in our lives for this season. Now, if He’d just keep us all here in Germany until the exact same time…


Posted in family, friends, germany | Leave a comment

School year, 2018-2019

I’m sitting here writing this on a Sunday afternoon, and we have completed 10 days of school. This may have been my favorite start to a school year, ever. Things have gone smoothly and I’ve enjoyed my job so much! I do not take for granted that it is the last year I’ll have five students… at this time next year Hayden will be a college freshman.

Be. Still. My.  Heart.

Here we are on our first day of school this year. I am sorry to say I didn’t get individual shots of everyone. It’s a bit anticlimactic for homeschoolers since we don’t have to “get ready” for school. And, on this particular first day of school, Hayden had a killer 24-hour bug but he pressed on and got through a good deal of his work.


Hayden sleeping on the couch and Parker making himself breakfast:


Anna has gone to her class from 8-12 every day so far, giving her a chance to play with other little kids and us a chance to power through some intense subjects. Our mornings have been sweet. I am reading aloud to the boys each morning because I truly believe it’s valuable educationally and relationally. After I read to them, I send Parker to the office to to do his independent work while I teach Film Analysis and Writing (The Elegant Essay). I’m having a blast with those two subjects! (If I were to go back to the classroom, I may consider high school!)

After we finish with those classes I move into the office with Parker. He’s doing AMAZING and actually surprising me with the fact that writing is his favorite subject (can you say teacher’s pet?). On the first day of school Parker had used pretty horrible handwriting during his writing lesson. As I was trying to correct him, he literally teared up: I had hurt his feelings. We pulled out our Handwriting Without Tears book and simply set it out, open to the page that has the alphabet written twice; once capitals, once lower case. His handwriting improved instantly and he was incredibly proud of himself. I bragged on him and had him show everyone just what an improvement he had made in an instant.

Something happened that made my eyes leak a little on Thursday. He had been using his amazing handwriting every day since and making the key word outlines with less and less assistance from me each day. On Thursday he did the entire assignment alone. Bailey came in toward the end of our lesson and so I suggested Parker read his “story” to Bailey. Parker did so, and then Bailey complimented his work and handwriting. Parker beamed. I sat there and watched the interaction and inside I was screaming, “This is why I do what I do!”

There are bound to be days that don’t go as smoothly as the first ten days have gone, but I want to savor both the good and bad days. I am amazed that I have been blessed to do this job for going-on 13 years. I didn’t intend to homeschool all the way through and I remember looking at women who had done so as if they were superheroes. I’m definitely not a superhero. I just love my job and every summer, when we’ve evaluated the previous year and looked toward the next, we’ve known without any doubt that homeschooling was right for us in that season. I expect it to continue to be right for us, but that is up to God and the plans He has for me and our kids in the next 16 years. (If I homeschool Anna, that will be a consecutive 28 years.)

Enough of the sentimental. Here are the facts about this school year:

Hayden –
Core 500: World History and Worldview Studies
Apologia Chemistry (we didn’t finish it last year so he’s retaking it)
PreCalc Teaching Textbooks
Film Analysis
The Elegant Essay
German Rosetta Stone
Working part-time at Subway

Carson –
Core 300: 20th Century World History
Apologia Chemistry
Apologia Biology (we didn’t finish it last year so he’s retaking it)
Algebra 2 Teaching Textbooks (Disks)
Film Analysis
The Elegant Essay
German Rosetta Stone
Soccer – CYS

Bailey –
Core 200: History of the Christian Church
Apologia Biology
Geometry Teaching Textbooks (Disks)
Film Analysis
The Elegant Essay
German Rosetta Stone
Soccer – CYS
Parker –
Continuing Core B/C: World History until he finishes it, probably by December, and then he’ll start Core D/E: American History, which we’ll spread out over the next year and a half. {B/C and D/E are two year cores they have combined into one year each. Had I purchased these Cores new, I would have bought them individually and spent two full years on each World and American histories. However, I bought these used from a friend so we’re making it work, supplementing to make each last a year and a half.

Anna –
Colors, letters, animal sounds, etc. (We don’t do school with our littles until they’re at least five.  We just PLAY! We read a lot of books and Anna does ‘ballet’ along with Felicie, the character from Leap. Today during our school day she and I went for a run and picked flowers from a self-pick field and and we each at an apple we picked from a tree. Science, people!)


Posted in family, homeschooling | 4 Comments

Potty training: Part 5

I have made it abundantly clear that potty training is my least favorite part of parenting.

I just read through Parker’s potty training post… so precious! Now that Anna’s journey is largely complete, I can relax and enjoy the story she just wrote.

If you want to go back and see some adorable pictures of Parker when he was two and three years old, go read Potty training: Part 4, take 3.

Because homeschooling requires so much of my time I knew that I had to get Anna’s potty training done during the summer or wait until Christmas break. A few weeks ago on a Saturday morning Anna was sleeping late. As in, still asleep at 10:00. At 9:00 I was still thoroughly enjoying the quiet house, getting caught up on all the things I had been neglecting while pushing through planning for the next school year.  Suddenly, something in me realized that the time was upon us… it was now or much later. We had two weeks before school was to start and that meant I could give Anna my undivided attention. (Do you ever take your kids to get their vaccinations but don’t tell them what’s coming so they don’t have to spend time dreading it? I think I did that to myself… Part of me knew this was coming and the other part of me pretended not to notice.)

Let me just say. I’ve successfully potty trained four boys. They were not particularly difficult to potty train. Anna was quite easy and I’d say Anna had fewer accidents but was way more scared to poop than any of the boys were.

Here’s her amazing progress!

Saturday ~ Day 1:
Woke at 10:30 with totally soaked diaper, her last ever.

We were stocked up on M&Ms and ready for the experience.

By 12:15 Matt had texted to ask how the day had gone. At that point, she had had two accidents and zero successes. I was determined to give it at least a 12 hour shot.

First success was at 1:25 pm (Oh, we skipped nap so we could just practice pottying).
Second success was at 2:55 pm.
Third success at 3:35, and at this point she figured it out. She was pretty much able to make herself go any time she sat down!  BIG DEAL!

And she pooped before bed!


Sunday ~ Day 2:
3:30 am – she wet the bed but the amazing part is that she woke up… she noticed it.

Oh, tidbit here. Because we go cold-turkey on diapers of any sort, no pull-ups or anything, I prepare the bed in a special way. In order to speed night-time accident bedding-changes I have several layers of pee-sheets and sheets so I can simply remove the top two layers (the top sheet and the pee-sheet right under it) and put the sleepy kid back to bed. I wash the wet sheets the next day.

Back to the 3:30 wake-up. I was very encouraged by the fact that she woke up when she wet the bed.

Trying to encourage the poop… wrong fruit for that activity, I suppose.

7:00 am – woke up dry
She pottied before church, stayed dry during her first car-ride sans diaper, and I was her nursery teacher so I was able to take her potty often.
12:30 – wet panties at Food Court
Stayed dry on the way home
NOTE: By the second day she had gotten independent enough that she initiated all the potty breaks. If I put her on the potty when I wanted her to potty, she didn’t go. If she put herself there, she was able to.
2:15 – poopoo accident during nap.
Three more peepee successes before the end of Day 2!
I was very pleased and yet still not having a great deal of fun.

Monday ~ Day 3:
4:45 – woke her to potty, success (except she couldn’t go back to sleep so she slept on our floor the rest of the night)
7:30 – woke up dry!
Stayed dry at preschool!
Wet her panties during nap but woke up!
Half-accident in the afternoon – started in her panties but finished in the potty! She still got an M&M.
Didn’t poop today.

Tuesday ~ Day 4:
1:30 am – peed in the bed but woke herself up; was able to go back to bed!
6:45 am – woke up dry
7:00 am – peed before school
8:05 am – took herself to potty at school!
12:00 pm – pooped on the potty at school! (Bailey was there to pick her up; the teacher said, “Anna, brother is here to pick you up” and she got off the potty… she needed to be cleaned up but she had done her business where it was supposed to be done.
Stayed dry at nap!
Picnic at the park and we took her potty with us. Used it twice outside!

Wednesday ~ Day 5:
Woke up dry!
Ran errands (bowling alley, USO (pottied there), PX) and stayed dry!
Used her potty that we have set on a towel during her nap.
Hasn’t pooped in days.

Thursday ~ Day 6:
Woke up dry! Pottied at school.
We went to the creek and took potty; used it there.
FINALLY pooped in her potty. It freaked her out but she has to feel better!
10:45 pm – I went in to see if I could get her to potty before I went to bed and she did.

Friday ~ Day 7:|
She is now able to empty her bladder any time she’s put on the potty (if we’re heading out the door for a long trip she can make herself ‘go.’ I feel that’s a big corner to turn. It allows me to feel fairly confident that there won’t be any accidents on the drive between home and our destination.

I can confidently say that Anna got the idea in just a few days and was sufficiently trained within a week.

We traveled to Garmisch at three weeks into this journey and she was accident free the whole time.  I have been able to focus on school without having to worry about potty accidents.

We have been at this for almost a month and I trust her to tell me when she has to go, often forgetting to make her “try” before we leave the house.

The only thing that keeps me from saying she’s fully potty trained is that I can’t trust her in the bathroom alone!  If I do, she’ll use all the soap, gallons of water, and may or may not put toys or other non-flushables in the toilet.  We still have to move the gate to let her in and we have to keep an eye on her while in there… but that’s just because she’s a curious toddler!

We’re very proud of her and know that we are blessed that our potty training journeys, all five of them, have been fairly uneventful.










Posted in family, Probably only interesting to the boys' grandparents. | 3 Comments

A Teacher’s Summer

We finished school Friday, June 15th, just before Stephanie and Hannah came to visit. I use the word finish loosely. We got enough done to call it quits and not have too many regrets.

Last year was our most challenging year ever. To name a few major challenges:

The combined effect of that left us behind in a few subjects which we decided we’d just cover the following year. We have that flexibility!!  (For the record, homeschooling the 2nd grader didn’t make it on the challenge-list probably because that’s my wheelhouse. My degree is in elementary education so we were rocking it!!)

So when we closed out the 2017-2018 year we were all happy to say farewell to it.

It didn’t hurt that just a weekend passed before our guests arrived and we spent a lovely two-weeks not thinking about school.

However, the very day they headed home I began an intense month of packing-up last year and preparing-for the next. I began by gathering all the Teaching Textbooks disks that were not in their cases so I could purchase replacements for those we’ve lost. (I have since ordered the replacements and, of course, found the originals.)

I then used my gathering skills to find as much of the boys’ work as I could and organized it into bundles. I’m a minimalist when it comes to saving work: each child gets a single tote to contain all of their completed work from Kindergarten to 12th grade.

After a few days of packing away past work I finally got to dig into my favorite part: new stuff! Ask any homeschool mom and they’ll probably tell you that there is nothing more fun than sorting through fresh, new books for the upcoming school year!

I began by going through The Elegant Essay lesson by lesson. It is not set up in a way that works for my brain or my students’ learning styles so I had to create PowerPoint slideshows for every lesson. {We have currently finished a week of our new school year and I’m very happy to state that these slides are helping us move through the material very smoothly!!}

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This process took literally two weeks. I don’t know how many total hours I put in, but any time I had that was not being used for my real job (mom) I put into adapting this curriculum to suit my needs. The content is profoundly helpful; the format is not… and so, I felt that every minute I spent on it would be well worth it in the end.

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After I finished that job I turned to opening up all the other stuff we had, including Hayden’s Sonlight box, new science stuff, and researching the new format Teaching Textbooks has released. (Hayden is doing Pre-Calculus online this year rather than using the disk format.)

I put in the up-front work to get the lesson plans for Hayden’s Sonlight Core 500 inserted into Homeschool Planet – when we get to that core for subsequent students I can just “apply” the lesson to their schedule and it populates the lesson plans automatically! With that one completed, I had all of our Sonlight cores inserted into the Homeschool Planet! I should be able to simply assign lesson plans that I’ve already inserted each year from here on out!

The last major task I had for the summer was to create a Fine Arts curriculum in Film Analysis. I have one high-schooler very interested in this kind of course and I couldn’t easily find one I was happy with that didn’t cost over $200. I found a few fantastic resources that, when combined, met all the criteria I was looking for. I was happy to find a basically-free curriculum that is the spine of what we’re doing (it creates the scope and sequence of the course) and I am supplementing with other mostly-free resources to fill out the rest of the curriculum.

We’ll be analyzing real movies throughout the year, and though we are only five days into the course, they’re already pointing out certain elements in shows they’re watching!  We haven’t even gotten to the good stuff!

Eventually I got all the boys’ school work prepared and organized and I did my best to enjoy the last few weeks of summer as a mom, setting my “teacher” hat aside.

Stay tuned. I’ll share how our school year is going… eventually!

Posted in family, germany, homeschooling | 6 Comments

Sonlight Box Day 2018

This year’s box days is vastly different from years past because I only have one student receiving a box. We now have everything we need {for the most part} to homeschool the rest of the kids throughout. This is Hayden’s senior year and all we needed was Core 500.

I never intended to homeschool all the way through. I can’t believe we’ve been at it twelve years and that a year from now he will have graduated from high school.


It is a little sad that there is only one student taking our “Box Day” pictures.


I love Sonlight! Look at all of these books!


If you are interested in purchasing Sonlight items, clicking through this link will get you a reward of some kind.  Not sure of the details.

This year the kids are doing the following:

Hayden – Core 500: World History and Worldview Studies

Carson – Core 300: 20th Century World History

Bailey – Core 200: History of the Christian Church

Parker – continuing Core B/C: World History until he finishes it, probably by December, and then he’ll start Core D/E: American History, which we’ll spread out over the next year and a half. {B/C and D/E are two year cores they have combined into one year each. Had I purchased these Cores new, I would have bought them individually and spent two full years on each World and American histories. However, I bought these used from a friend so we’re making it work, supplementing to make each last a year and a half.

Anna – colors, letters, animal sounds, etc. (We don’t do school with our littles until they’re at least five.  We just PLAY! We read a lot of books and Anna does ‘ballet’ along with Felicie, the character from Leap.)

We are joining a new co-op and I can say I’m incredibly thankful there is a Chemistry class!  I’ll be teaching Foundations in Financial Peace, the high school curriculum by Dave Ramsey.

We start our school semester on Monday… I would love to tell you that they’re thrilled about getting started, hitting the books, waking up early and working hard on their educations, but we are real people and they’ve really been enjoying their summer… I can tell you that come September/October when we travel and welcome Nana and Papa, we’ll have some kids who were really glad they got a head-start so they could take a break from school!

Previous Box Days:

Box Day 2015

Box Day 2016 – Apparently I forgot to write a Blog Post about that… so here are a few pictures from that grand opening of the boxes:


Box Day 2017



Posted in brothers/boys, family, homeschooling | 1 Comment