A Season of Blessing

I finally realized that in order to get this written, I’ll need to take my computer to the kids’ swim workout, which is about the only chance I have to sit down! I really wanted to document our story as to purchasing this home because I want it a part of our family journal, and I’m hoping to answer any questions about the property that have been asked.

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At the beginning of the year, I was in such a good place in my heart with our home. I’ve shared on here how discontentment has crept in and out in the past, having such a quirky, smallish home on top of a hill, and how I’ve had to combat it with gratefulness. It seems that I go through phases, triggered usually by a creative urge or a need to change things.  At that time, I had been setting some money aside to change one of the kids’ bedrooms into our master bed, where we would actually have our own bathroom.  I was super stoked on this plan and was so settled at home that it took me by surprise when Jason text me that he was going to go see his dream home  (I was out of town with the kids at the time).  It was way out of our price range and totally not my style, but we had both always admired the property when we had driven by it. Two weeks prior to it being listed he had told the kids, "Children, your mom likes living in our humble home so that she has the freedom to take you on fun trips and ski and such... if that property ever goes up for sale, though, things will change!" Ha! The Lord has a sense of humor! Just like the time I told Jason that I would never buy a farmhouse because wrap around porches prohibit natural light from coming in (never say never).

After returning home, he urged me to check it out.  The property was incredibly enchanting with its lush flowers and massive trees--the flat space is quite expansive and I immediately saw us hosting families for get togethers and bonfire worship nights. There is a giant 400 year old oak tree that stands in the middle, and the history of the land is so intriguing--we are only the fourth family to inhabit this place and it was built in 1846!  My dream has always been for us to have a creek for the children to spend endless hours of play in, and the property borders a good stretch of a sandy, clean, year-round creek! So much charm and character, however, when walking through the house, it was so hard for me to fall for it.  I am drawn to high ceilings, big windows, natural light, and large open spaces.  The more aesthetically challenging the home, the better in my opinion, because then there's so much room for creative improvement, however this home didn’t need many structural or cosmetic changes.  In all, it’s a traditional historical farmhouse. Some of it can't even be changed because it's a part of the historical society.

But.  Kids are freaking loud.  And after living in a home with tall ceilings and an open floor plan, we swore that we would never do the open floor plan again. Plus, most of our friends have at least 3-7 children, and hosting just one family over results in a lot of noise and chaos. So as I walked through the house, with its bazillion doors and secret rooms, I was intrigued. Three out of five of my children are introverts and knowing they had multiple spaces to retreat to was appealing to me. Also, we have never had a tv, and this place has its own tv room and actually came with a big screen tv. I loved the idea of snuggling up on the sofa for a family movie night without hunching over the laptop!

I kept walking through the home thinking the house is perfect for our family needs and our hospitality dreams, but I just wasn't excited about its overall style--especially knowing the price of it.

 One of the two gardens (and our outdoor kids' kitchen--I had to specify because our actual kitchen is outdoor right now!).  Currently its grape vines are full and the trees are lush. It's a whimsical place to be and Everett has full control over it.  He's already harvested some veggies from it!

One of the two gardens (and our outdoor kids' kitchen--I had to specify because our actual kitchen is outdoor right now!).  Currently its grape vines are full and the trees are lush. It's a whimsical place to be and Everett has full control over it.  He's already harvested some veggies from it!

I called my in-laws to discuss my opinion with them. I basically explained how I was torn as Jason really loved the place, but I didn’t, and the price was a crazy stretch for us.  They were excited about the property and the opportunity for us to have so much flat land for our children and family (it’s rare to be able to have flat acreage where we live).  They wanted to come up and see it--which they did the following morning. After they saw it, they were determined to buy some of the land for themselves with the future plan of building their retirement home on it (as a whole, there are four different parcels included in the sale), which ultimately brought the price for our parcel way down. They loved the property and had been mulling over the idea of retiring up here in the future, so this was a great opportunity for them.

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Somehow, in a whirlwind of 48 hours, we wrote a contract, put our house in escrow, and opened escrow on the farmhouse!  God was woven through every detail. We know this because we’ve tried to buy multiple homes in the past 5 years and nothing had panned out.  Even without being entirely in love with the home, the way he worked out the details assured me that this was a part of his plan. In fact, my mantra through this whole process has been, "Lord you have my heart"... because ultimately I want to be where he plants us and I'm not going to let a lack of natural light get in the way of that. This process went so smoothly; we were brought to tears multiple times.  It became a season of blessing, just sitting in neutral and coasting through as he led this thing. Not to say that it was or currently is easy.  We had so much to do in such little time!

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When we got the keys to the farmhouse, we were utterly exhausted from the rush of a quick escrow, however, that same day we started pulling out carpet, cleaning out closets (the house came fully furnished), and getting rid of some furniture. We haven’t stopped since! Being that this is our, Lord willing, “forever house”, every decision made had to be thought through, as we’d be living with the benefits or consequences for the long term.  That was and is a whole different type of pressure that I haven’t experienced before. Yet, I also didn't want to move twice; we knew all changes & improvements needed to be made up front so we wouldn't have to deal with the chaos again. My hope was and is to be able to start up next school year in a place of peace so that the tone is set for the year.

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Every decision for this home has been filtered through the factors of durability and quality.  Because of that, things are twice or even thrice as expensive as other choices I would have made, causing us to lose our small renovation budget rather quickly. But I'm so glad that we're doing so, because in our last place I tried to do everything on the cheap, disregarding quality or durability and in the end a lot of our hard work ended up damaged or destroyed... I didn't want to do that again.

Between the craze of demolition and rehabilitation, we’ve been able to host friends and family out on the front porch, which is the main heart of why we were so drawn to this place.  Jason rocks on the outdoor rocking chair for his decompression, and I’ve been able to enjoy the most beautiful running route through an apple orchard! The kids have pretty much been self contained (read: neglected), altering between riding bikes, scooters, roller blading, playing at the creek, trampoline time, and just enjoying the property.  We happen to live on a golf course as well, so the older boys have been golfing (in fact, Carter has fallen for the sport and nearly golfs every day).

 We ended up taking three walls down in order to provide a brighter kitchen.  The kitchen is Northeast facing, meaning it gets morning light, but only in the winter as the massive oaks block it in the summer.  I am basically solar powered, so it was important to me to have a bright room to do life in, since this is the space we spend the majority of our time.

We ended up taking three walls down in order to provide a brighter kitchen.  The kitchen is Northeast facing, meaning it gets morning light, but only in the winter as the massive oaks block it in the summer.  I am basically solar powered, so it was important to me to have a bright room to do life in, since this is the space we spend the majority of our time.

I wake up every morning with sore muscles from daily work around here, but a grateful heart.  So grateful. I am blown away over the season of blessing that we’re in. I’m hesitant to even call it that, because the Lord blesses even through the hardest times, and we have been through some hard times! As exhausting as it has been making this house our home, his gift to us is just so fresh and new and intense, that I just hope we never forget the time that he gave us the desires of our hearts so freely and abundantly.

 Mother's Day 2018--probably the cleanest we had been in weeks.

Mother's Day 2018--probably the cleanest we had been in weeks.

Also, latest news... as my in-laws had planned to build eventually on this property, they purchased a new trailer to park on the land as a short term plan.  However, the weekend they brought their trailer up, the house across the creek from us was put up for sale and they decided it would be wiser to purchase a home rather than build!  So now, they're moving full time up here within a few weeks and are just a hop, skip, and jump away.  Yet, we both still have our own spaces. It's really the best of both worlds. Especially since they'll be the ones with a pool. ;) Seriously, God is SO good.  He's done more than we could have ever imagined.

I'll try and do a post on the kids' rooms as those were some of the first spaces to complete so that there was some peace and order while we handled demo and such. What a process. I am so exhausted! (have I said that yet?!) Also, below are some Instagram stories & additional picts that I want on here for memories. :)

 At one point, they convinced me that we should still stick to our Wednesday's "make day".... that lasted a few weeks until the renovation took over.

At one point, they convinced me that we should still stick to our Wednesday's "make day".... that lasted a few weeks until the renovation took over.

 So here's the deal with renovation... you make a giant mess, clean it up, try to set up home, then make another giant mess, clean it up, set it up to be manageable, then make another giant mess.  It's quite the process, but you find out all of the coping mechanisms you have hidden up your sleeves!

So here's the deal with renovation... you make a giant mess, clean it up, try to set up home, then make another giant mess, clean it up, set it up to be manageable, then make another giant mess.  It's quite the process, but you find out all of the coping mechanisms you have hidden up your sleeves!

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A note about the sellers: They were the kindest, sweetest people.  She shared a giant box of the home's history, which was very thorough and organized.  We learned that the home was originally built by an Irish family that immigrated over for the Gold Rush. The next family were potato farmers and farmed most of the land around us. When The Great Depression struck, they were able to feed their family by panning for gold in the creek. Legend has it that there is gold buried on the property somewhere! 

I have had a lot of questions as to why the home was furnished when we purchased it. They went to live in a tiny home in Hawaii where their son lives.  We wanted the move to be as easy as possible for them, so we offered to let them leave everything in the home as a part of negotiations.  I'm so grateful for this because we've acquired some really neat pieces of furniture and some meaningful collections such as a large, international coin collection and a box of local topographic maps (oh, and not to forget their prepper stash of emergency food, SCORE).  

We were able to pray with them before leaving and I am just so blessed to reside in the home of a family this special. I will always remember a conversation I had with her on the final day that we did our walkthrough. I had commented on the outdoor rocking chairs and she said, "this porch has the ability to mend and soothe." And it's so true!  People just randomly stop by--it's been a great opportunity to learn to slow down (when you're task oriented, this is very difficult).  

Shortly after moving in, I was able to spend some time with my friend and mentor, Rea Berg.  She had shared the following poem and I found it so timely as I know this is one of the reasons God ordained this transaction:

The House by the Side of the Road

by Sam Walter Foss

There are hermit
souls that live withdrawn
In the peace of their self-content;
There are souls, like stars, that dwell apart,
In a fellowless firmament;
There are pioneer souls that blaze their paths
Where highways never ran;-
But let me live by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

Let me live in a house
by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by-
The men who are good and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner’s seat,
Or hurl the cynic’s ban;-
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I see from my house
by the side of the road,
By the side of the highway of life,
The men who press with the ardor of hope,
The men who are faint with the strife.
But I turn not away from their smiles nor their tears-
Both parts of an infinite plan;-
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I know there are brook-gladdened
meadows ahead
And mountains of wearisome height;
That the road passes on through the long afternoon
And stretches away to the night.
But still I rejoice when the travelers rejoice,
And weep with the strangers that moan,
Nor live in my house by the side of the road
Like a man who dwells alone.

Let me live in my
house by the side of the road
Where the race of men go by-
They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
Wise, foolish- so am I.
Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat
Or hurl the cynic’s ban?-
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.


Planning, History, and Legalities, Oh My!

Hi friends!  I wanted to write a follow-up post to my manuals.  While I spent a lot of time and effort trying to cover everything I would have wanted to know at the beginning of our homeschooling journey, I am afraid I did not.  That’s okay, though, because this post will act as a bonus. :)
If this post does not cover any additional questions that you may have had after reading both manuals, please ask in the comments below and I will add in the information accordingly. 

Also, these images have nothing to do with schooling, but I have some iphone snaps from our annual Kennedy Meadows trip, and they need to be put somewhere!

HISTORY:

Some homeschooling methods encourage chronological history, so that the student has an idea of a correct timeline, matching the beginning of history to the beginning of their educational journey. We actually started homeschooling with ancient history, and after yawns and complaints (from both the children and myself!), we moved on to something more developmentally applicable. Since young children have basic knowledge of what country they live in and the culture they’re apart of, it’s a good idea to start with what is familiar to them…potentially stories from the Bible and/or American history. We used an adapted version of  Beautiful Feet’s Early American History to accomplish learning history through appealing stories and literature.

Throughout the past years, our literature choices have bounced all around from covering Biblical times to the Depression, the Sudanese Civil War to the American Civil War, and from westward expansion to World War II, just to loop around and learn a little bit about the French Revolution!  It seems confusing, doesn’t it?  It can be, but when children are caught up in story, they're not always thinking about timelines, specifically if they're not developmentally ready to do so.

I would encourage you to read about what is of interest to both you and your children.  They will figure out the timeline at their own developmental pace, and when they do, it will be theirs to own because it wasn’t introduced to them in a formal matter.  

I was second-guessing our “shooting from the hip” philosophy when my oldest started creating an exclusive timeline without my prompting.  He had been asking where the heroes and heroines that we were reading about fell into place, and wanted a visual of the time span between wars and events we had learned about.  He was then able to research the dates on his own and write up a timeline to quench his curiosity.

I don’t believe every child will do this, but those that are interested in history will naturally want a greater understanding and those that are interested in other subjects will seek knowledge with such fervor in different areas. When they own their research process, the information is further retained and therefore useful in the future.

PLANNING:

I didn’t cover school planning in the Getting Started Manual, because not a lot of planning goes on.  You can still plan and adopt a literature based, “unschooling” philosophy!  Some people need a plan. I get it!

I always try to spend a little time prior to the new school year in prayer and anticipation for what is to come.  I will ask the Lord for a word that may represent the upcoming school year.  Words in the past have been “Grace”, “Discipline”, “Bold”, and this year, he gave me the word “Time”.  Originally I thought he was going to really work on time management with me (which is going to be a challenge), but I have a feeling this word will manifest in many ways that I can’t even predict. I’m excited to see what’s to come of it.

During my planning for the year, I make a list for each child.  I try to keep the list as simple as possible, because I like to be able to cross off an entire list! Under each name includes about 3-4 academic or personal goals that I would like them to accomplish, along with a few subjects or book ideas that I know they would enjoy or that will stretch their typical reading genre.  Keep in mind; this list is a foundation for their year of learning, not a scope and sequence.  There will be many other additional books to read and activities to participate in.

The following are examples for this year:

Carter (Grade 6):

-Online Algebra I class, HSLDA

-Keyboarding mastery (we are trying Edutyping this year)

-Personal Vocabulary Log (in addition to our Morning Collective log)

-Literature: Around the World in 80 Days, To Kill a Mockingbird, A Wrinkle in Time, The Hiding Place

-Piano and Violin


Everett (Grade 4):

-Math Mammoth Grade 4

-Daily Independent Keyboarding

-Sequential Spelling, in small blocks

-Literature: Swiss Family Robinson (audio), The Big Wave, On to Oregon

-Research and implement Acrylic-painting techniques

-Piano and Ukele


Scarlett (Grade 2):

-Math Mammoth Grade 2, introduce multiplication & division concepts

-Cursive practice

-Gentle introduction to Sequential Spelling, if needed

-Literature: Thornton Burgess Adventure Series, The Secret Garden and Heidi (audio)

-Horse riding


August & Elias (Kinder):

-Basic Math Concepts, addition & subtraction, measurement, analysis (all through play)

-Phonogram memorization – beginning reading (if ready)

-Handwriting

-Audio Books: The Boxcar Children, The Fairchild Series, Little House Series

-Form drawing

Aside from my yearly planning, I get together with a few moms every Sunday afternoon at a nearby Starbucks to “plan” for the week. Some of them are planners and actually fill their calendar, and then others aren’t but gather together to discuss books and ideas. This is where I usually pick out a verse for the week to memorize as well as plan future field trips or peruse the internets for some hands-on learning that works with our current subject of interest. I will often tweak our rhythm if needed or make notes on individual children’s needs. Those few hours have been the sweetest gift for me as a homeschooling mother. It’s so nice to take a few hours out of the week away from my children and become refreshed and inspired for the week to come. 

NATURE DAYS/ FIELD TRIPS:

I talk about experiences in the Getting Started Manual, but I don’t mention nature all that much. I guess I assumed that it’s pretty evident how important nature appreciation and awareness is in our family.  Being in nature is a big part of our family culture and now it’s just a much a part of our day and week as brushing teeth or resting.  I know it started with a simple plan, ten years ago, to get my kids outside every single day. Now the goal seems so simple, but as a young mom, especially when it was raining or cold, getting outside everyday was not an easy task.  The kids are the fruit of that commitment now.  They don’t care about weather (well, most of them don’t!), but they do care about being outdoors and exploring.  

Years ago, I had purchased a few field guides for our area because I had noticed how in tune the children were with the surrounding birds, plants, bugs, etc… having those available at all times caused a spark in their interest and they took off with their own nature study.  We now have a collection of field guides, survival books, foraging books, and local animal guides.  There is no formal study of the nature around us, but they take it upon themselves to be aware of their surroundings.  They’re still learning (Everett almost ate poisonous berries the other day, gasp), but they’re doing it on their own.  I love that.  

For nature journaling, we take our notebooking technique and apply it to nature experiences.  When we are out and about, the children will pick a plant that they are unfamiliar with, or some sort of acorn or mushroom.  If they can’t identify it at the location, they will bring it home, research, illustrate, and write about it and our experience.  No nature journal, just nature experiences.  This keeps things simple for me and for storage.  Plus, in the beginning we tried the nature journals and they would get so filthy out in the woods and the children would not give their best work because they wanted to explore and play.

If you are in a city and don’t have a lot of opportunities for getting out in nature, I encourage you to check out the feed of @maandpamodern.  She has really embraced getting out and making it a priority to have her kids in nature, even if it entails sitting in traffic for a few hours. She’s amazing!

 I want to remember this moment forever!  This was about mile 12 of an 18 mile hike we had done with these four kids.  They've been hiking long distances for a few years now, but this was the longest we took them.  Two of the miles were water and marsh, all through a field in the high-elevation sun.  Here they are taking a break, washing their feet and putting back on their wet and muddy shoes.  Troopers. They inspire me!

I want to remember this moment forever!  This was about mile 12 of an 18 mile hike we had done with these four kids.  They've been hiking long distances for a few years now, but this was the longest we took them.  Two of the miles were water and marsh, all through a field in the high-elevation sun.  Here they are taking a break, washing their feet and putting back on their wet and muddy shoes.  Troopers. They inspire me!


  • LEGAL STUFF:

There are different options for homeschooling, and this is a very personal decision for families to make on their own.  We have been under a private umbrella for the past three years and it’s been the sweetest experience.  They were hands-off as far as requirements, but incredibly supportive when needed. An umbrella school is a private school set up that typically keeps records and handles group activities and opportunities so that you are not isolated as a homeschooler. If you shy away from too much activity and requirements, but still want community, finding an umbrella school is a fantastic idea.

A lot of people do charters because of the funds available and the expectations. It can be kind of scary starting homeschooling, knowing you are in charge of your children’s education.  Being under a charter allows you to have your very own teacher-mentor (Educational Specialist is the technical term) who can guide you with curriculum choices and advise you on your children’s educational needs.  Some offer large sums of money, which is incredibly beneficial, especially when you offer your children expensive, high quality art materials. 

However, you are responsible to the state, some charters require a lot of record keeping and preparation, and some states require testing. Every year I visit the idea of doing a charter because of the funds, but I consider the loss of freedom we would experience in our home and usually shy away.  I have heard of amazing charter schools that allow a lot of freedom and require little planning or records, but in our area we do not have such options, unfortunately! 

This year, we are having a go at being our own private affidavit.  This means we will be signing up as our own private school.  The effort to register is super minimal and the requirements for academics are up to the parents’ discretion. If filing for a private affidavit, make sure to enroll under legal council.  The Home School Legal Defense Association charges $120 per year and covers all of your legal needs, should one arise. Believe it or not, people do call on families whose children are climbing trees rather than sitting in a classroom (!). Having a legal advisor a phone call away protects you from having to deal with any of that—not to mention, there are a ton of other resources they provide, such as transcript help and accreditation solutions for those high school years.


SAVING MONEY: 

I would like to make it clear that I do not budget for our homeschooling (just in case you were under the impression that I'm some amazing thrifty homeschool mom--I am not). While our family lives on a very tight budget for our primary needs (thank you Jason for your stewardship), our homeschooling funds come from my own work. There are seasons where income is limited and we rely on the library for all of our literary needs, and there are seasons where we can travel somewhere fun, buy books when we need them, and purchase nice art supplies and manipulatives.  Even when we are in a prosperous season, basic educational needs are never fun to pay for (ie: paper, pencils, and printer ink).  I wanted to share with you a few ways that we cut a few corners financially:

- HP Instant Ink Program: For $10/ month, we get 300 pages of color or black and white printing.  The ink is not charged by amount of ink used but by pages.  Since color is included in this, you can technically print out 300 pages of full color images and still be charged $10.  This program is perfect if you notebook often and print google images in full color.  It also works well for printing those full-color digital manuals that some people put out. ;) You do have to own a relatively new HP printer, though. Be sure to check on that.

-Notebooking Storage: This is mentioned in the Notebooking Manual, but rather than having multiple folders for different subjects, we've simplified our notebooking down to two folders: Verses & Hymns (1/2") and then an "everything else" folder (2"), which is labeled by the child's name and school year.  Those folders, if buying the beautiful recycled ones, add up quickly and this strategy cuts some cost and space.

-Library: This may be a given, but not until last year was I able to frequent the library comfortably; mostly due to the chaos of bringing five children into a place where they were supposed to be quiet and still. There were times when I didn't have any funds but needed a handful of books because of a special interest the children had and the library was a lifesaver.  You can usually go online and save them (once you have a library card) so that your library chaos exposure is limited.  I know this is widely known, but if you're a mom of little ones, and you avoid the library, this information may be helpful to you. :)

When the time comes that the library is enjoyable (and it will come!), teach your older children how to work the call number system so that they can look up their favorite subjects and pick out their own books.  Have them partner up with your younger children to do the same and you will be surprised at how much they learn and come to love the library.  Eventually they will build a relationship with certain librarians, and after due time (no pun intended!), the librarians will set specific books aside or keep a running list of recommended literature for your children. What a special dynamic!

I will try to add more ideas as they come to me, but those three were game changers for me. :)


 As for any additional questions (that were not covered in the manuals!), please leave them in the comments (and check back!).  I really hope you have a wonderful and exciting year!