The Superbowl is just around the corner, and this year, my hometown is hosting it. Whether you’re rooting for the Patriots or the Eagles, or just here for the experience, welcome to Minneapolis!!!! Here in the Twin Cities, we’re known for our hospitality and warm welcomes…and our inability to let you leave without the long, drawn out Minnesota goodbye.

We’re also famous for a few other things…Prince. That giant Mall. And of course, those lakes.

Pick up any guide book to the Twin Cities, and you’ll see some great things for you and your family to do. But if you’re looking for something completely unique and want to live for a few days like the good folks of the Twin Cities do, here’s a list just for you.

IN THE HEART OF DOWNTOWN MINNEAPOLIS

Stone Arch Bridge  

Brave the cold, bundle up, and take a stroll along the iconic Stone Arch Bridge. As you cross over the Mississippi River, you are able to take in beautiful views of the city skyline. Walking around is easy here, and well worth the rosy cheeks.

The Old Spaghetti Factory

233 Park Ave, Minneapolis

While this isn’t a “local” joint, locals love it just the same. Located in the heart of downtown Minneapolis, The Old Spaghetti Factory is a perfect choice if you’re looking for a nice sit-down restaurant with good Italian comfort food to warm yourself up after a day enjoying the Minnesota briskness. To be honest, I haven’t eaten here…but most of my family has and they give it rave reviews. Top menu pick: the calzone. And they have some pretty good gluten-free options as well.

Downtown Dunn Brothers Coffee 

201 3rd Ave So, Minneapolis

Now, I’m a Starbucks girl to the core. (My year living in Seattle was pure joy because of this.) But Dunn Brothers is hands down my favorite local coffee. There are lots of locations throughout the metro area, but a true coffee shop connoisseur will love the vibe of the downtown Dunn Bros located in Downtown Minneapolis. The weathered brick interior is just the start of coziness, and when you walk in, not only are you greeted by the amazing aroma of their locally roasted coffee, but will be surrounded by cozy chairs and beautiful architecture. If you like coffee, make this a must-do on your list.

Visit the Skyway

Keep out of the cold and walk most of downtown Minneapolis in the Skyway. Aimed for weekday warriors, most of the shops and restaurants here are open during your typical workday hours. The skyway has hours as well, depending on the section, but it is open on the weekends and in the evening as well. If you’re able to make it to the skyway during the work week or Saturday, there are two restaurants that make the top of my list. Visit Ginelli’s Pizza in the TCF Bank skyway (121 S 8th St #235) for some awesome pizza pie, or if you’re in the mood for Chinese, Skyway Wok (250 2nd Ave S Ste 245B) is the place to go.

Izzy’s Ice Cream

1100 2nd St. S.

A family favorite in the Twin Cities, Izzy’s Ice Cream is a perfect treat if you’ve got a sweet tooth. The website refreshes it’s current flavors every few minutes, and you’re sure to find something for each person in your family.


If you’re wanting to explore outside the immediate downtown Minneapolis area, there are some great places to stop with your family. These are all close to the hustle and bustle of Minneapolis, but still tucked away in some of the iconic Minneapolis neighborhoods.

Northeast Minneapolis (Or, as the locals call it, “NORDEAST”)

You could spend an entire day in Nordeast and still not do everything, but there are two places that are worth a stop on a quick tour on Minneapolis. Good Carma (614 Lowry Ave. NE) is an auto repair shop, but that’s not why I’m recommending it. The good folks at Good Carma also own Carma Coffee, straight across from their VW repair shop. The atmosphere is great, the coffee superb, and you can see some beautiful VW buses while you sip your coffee. Total win win.

After your cup of coffee, head on over to Kramarczuk’s Deli (215 East Hennepin Avenue) for some authentic and delicious Polish/Eastern European food. My Polish roots are happiest here. There is a great sit down area to grab yourself a pierogi (they are my favorite in the city) and sausage. Be decadent and order one of their tortes…you won’t regret it. The hustle and bustle feel of the deli will remind you of those New York deli’s you see in film.

Linden Hills

Linden Hills has a completely different vibe from Northeast, and located on Lake Harriet, you’ll be surrounded by grand homes of days gone by. The shopping scene is perfect if you’re looking for something family friendly and unique. Wild Rumpus (2720 West 43rd Street) is the cutest Children’s Bookstore I’ve ever seen. Imagine the bookstore from “You’ve Got Mail” and throw in a few shop animals that roam the store. There’s a chinchilla, some rats, and our favorites, a few lovely cats who are the soul of the store. Kids get to use a special door to get in, and the shop is teeming with magic. Summer or winter, Wild Rumpus is a must stop.

Another big hit for kiddos is Heartfelt (4306 Upton Avenue S), and within walking distance of Wild Rumpus, it’s another sure stop. Step into the doors of Heartfelt, and you’ll be surrounding by warmth and the joyous sound of kids crafting at the little tables in the middle of the store. Definitely Waldorf-inspired, Heartfelt encourages creativity and is full of amazing art and craft supplies, as well as Waldorf inspired toys and books for kids and adults. Our kids’ favorite part? The giant tree in the back they could play in.

After all that play and fun at Wild Rumpus and Heartfelt, fill your empty bellies over at Great Harvest Bread . It is located right by Heartfelt, and their selection of bread will warm your soul. Great Harvest Bread is not a local company, but is well loved in the Twin Cities. In fact, I grew up for 19 years in Great Falls, Montana, where the original Great Harvest Bread is located. Imagine my joy when their bread shops started popping up in the Twin Cities…it was a bit of my Montana home that I could enjoy. Great Harvest is always a good idea, especially on cold winter days when you walk into their warm shop.


Winter in Minneapolis can be brutal sometimes, but locals survive by enjoying the simple things in life. If you have time, be sure to walk down to Minnehaha Falls to check out the frozen waterfalls, stop in the yellow room at the Gutherie Theater, walk through the (free) Minneapolis Institute of Art, and catch a show at one of the many beautiful small theaters in the theater district downtown. (The Pantages is my personal favorite.)

If you’re from Minneapolis, and your favorite winter spot isn’t on here, add it down below in the comments! And if you’re not from Minneapolis and are going to be here for a few days in the winter, I hope you enjoy your time here!

I’m not affiliated with ANY of these businesses…they are some of our favorite places to stop at in Minneapolis.

 

After an unplanned sabbatical (due to settling in after our move, the holidays, and a fun bout with influenza,) I’m back to share how we are incorporating each style of learning that we love into the perfect formula for us currently. As with most homeschoolers, I think it is safe to say that our teaching style is ever evolving…what works for us in this stage of life might be totally different from what works for us in another stage of life.

As a refresher, we found things we loved in Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Waldorf, and Unschooling. However, we were never comfortable fully following any of those specific methods. Not because they weren’t each amazing in their own way, but because they didn’t fit our kids completely.

While we dove more and more into each schooling method, we found out what we really wanted to use in our homeschool. And during the small sabbatical I took, I slowly pieced each ideal together, to get to a place where we were truly comfortable.

To start out with, the key to figuring out a homeschool method that truly works is to understand that you don’t have to follow ALL the rules. For us, that meant realizing that while we loved the idea of unschooling, we knew that it didn’t fit because deep down, Explorer Cub was not intrinsically motivated to learn new things. But we also knew that unschooling fit perfect for the days when life just got busy and crazy.

What are we incorporating from each homeschool methodology? Here is our list:

From Charlotte Mason:

  • Living books. We really do love that Charlotte Mason relies on living books to teach…we just don’t rely on it completely now.
  • Nature study. We are focusing on a different topic each week for our nature study. The topics will be seasonally based and specific to our region.
  • Art and Music study. We are excited to be not only focusing on specific artists and music styles like the Charlotte Mason method suggests, but on the composition of art…such as lines and how they are used in every method of fine art.

From Montessori:

  • Early Childhood.We are applying more of the Montessori Principles to Tiny Timber as he goes through his toddler and preschool years.
  • Atmosphere. A huge goal of our parenting style is to incorporate the ideals of Montessori learning. Having the home promote independence and exploration, creativity and play.
  • Wooden toys. While we still have plastic toys in the house, but we make sure that there are quality, educational wood toys for Tiny Timber to play with.

From Waldorf:

  • Atmosphere. Again with the atmosphere. We try to incorporate a very natural, calming atmosphere in our home. Making sure that there are comforting smells in the house. And focusing on nourishing all the senses in our home.
  • Festivals and celebrations. Sometimes this one overwhelms me, but we are working on really focusing on the beautiful festivals and celebrations throughout the year.
  • Natural emphasis with a touch of magic. Nature tables. Gnomes. Window stars to brighten those winter days. Stories that connect to nature. And using nature to teach.
  • Slow learning. We have to intention of pushing Tiny Timber to learn how to read before he’s ready. And we fully believe that the Waldorf ideal of waiting until the child is a little older to learn works well. That being said, if Tiny Timber chooses to learn to read, we won’t stop him either.
  • Main Lesson Books. I think main lesson books are a wonderful way for Explorer Cub to describe what he is learning…he can draw. He can write. It’s his choice.

From Unschooling:

  • If life gets crazy, we trust those days that unschooling is needed. We know first hand that Explorer Cub learns a lot on his own. We just weren’t seeing the long term goal with him. But on a short term basis, we know that he learns what he needs to.
  • After “regular” school is done, Explorer Cub is encouraged to find out things that interest him and run with it. Currently, he is working on improving his YouTube channel and learning ways to produce great videos. We support him on that and take steps to help him get the things he needs to keep learning.

We also are aware that we live in a digital age, and incorporate online learning for his Spanish lessons. Tablet apps specifically targeted for what he’s learning in certain subjects. And word processing for parts of his language arts lessons.

We use a few workbooks, dive deep into beautifully illustrated reference books, and some days spend our day learning from documentaries on Amazon Prime.

We are truly eclectic in our learning…and for the first time as my children’s teacher, I’m good with that. I always felt that I needed to have a specific style. That I needed to follow one method wholeheartedly. I’m finally at a place in our homeschooling that I know that being eclectic is perfectly fine, and that there are lots of families out there like ours.

Going forward, I’m going to be blogging regularly about our weekly homeschool activities, sharing what we use, what works, and what hasn’t, and giving a glimpse into our homeschool “style.”

I look forward to hearing from you…what homeschool style does your family use? Do you stick with one, or do you dabble in multiple styles? Have you found a comfort rhythm in your style, or are you still searching? Leave a comment down below!

This week, I’m diving into our homeschool methodology. For the past few months, we’ve been following a mostly unschooling philosophy, but through the years, we have dabbled in multiple methods of learning. As we close on 2017 and begin a new year, I’ve been evaluating our daily rhythm and our goals for the year, and have decided that we need to begin leaning towards a more eclectic version of what we’ve done over the years.

As a result, we made a list of the 4 homeschool methods we agree most with: Charlotte MasonMontessori, Waldorf, and Unschooling. Each of these methods share slight similarities, but if we’re being honest, following one completely renders the others as completely opposite. By making a list of what we love and don’t, we are forming our own version of homeschool, full of the things we love about each method, despite their differences.

If you want to go back and read the first entry of this series, click here.

Today: Unschooling

What we love about Unschooling:

  • Encourages individual interests. We value what Explorer Cub is interested in. And we fully believe that if encouraged and supported, he can achieve whatever he sets his mind to. In unschooling, Explorer Cub is free to explore his interests. He is able to dictate what he learns and how he applies it.
  • Flexibility. We aren’t attached to a curriculum following unschooling, so if we are in the middle of learning about Ancient Rome and get sidetracked by currency, we can follow that path and learn even more.
  • Life is learning. We love that unschooling promotes life as the greatest education of all. During unschooling, we have the ability to learn alongside our kiddos, at their pace, and even inspire them. We teach economy skills while he asks questions about our etsy shops. We talk about politics. We talk about history. Life becomes school in unschooling.
  • They learn at their own pace. We tried for years to teach Explorer Cub to read. As he got older, we worried more and more, pushed every reading program we could on him…and the only thing it got us was a kid who hated reading any books, and still couldn’t read a single word at age 6. We were unsure what to do. So, we chose to back off. We trusted that he would learn when he was ready. And, it worked. Within weeks, he was reading chapter books on his own. How did he learn? He simply realized that we weren’t always around to read to him what the Minecraft screens said. After that, he just learned and learned and now has no problem reading.

What we’re not so fond of about Unschooling:

  • Dependency on Intrinsic Motivation. Sometimes, Explorer Cub just isn’t intrinsically motivated. Actually, a lot of times. Which means that we spend more time guiding him to learn, which feels anti-unschooling to us. We love unschooling philosophies, but I really feel that intrinsic motivation is harder to cultivate in some kids.
  • Lack of structure. While this is the main point of unschooling, the lack of structure for a kid on the spectrum can be an issue. Explorer Cub loves that unschooling gives him the freedom to follow his interests, but he also is aware that he sometimes abuses that freedom. His interests quickly become obsessions.
  • What does the future hold? I trust the process of unschooling…most of the time. But sometimes, especially now that we live in a state that requires annual testing, I get nervous about whether or not he’s learning. We’ve seen first hand that he learns what he needs to when he’s ready, but sometimes as home educating parents, it can be nerve wracking to know that his future rests on our shoulders. If we mess up…well, we can’t take that back!

Unschooling has helped us get through moments in our life when more structured schooling was counter productive. When I was pregnant with Tiny Timber, and dealing with horrible morning sickness well into my second trimester, unschooling was the answer. When we were moving to Minnesota (and I was still pregnant) from Washington, we leaned on unschooling heavily. And most recently, while we were preparing for our move to Wisconsin and the holiday chaos was in full swing, unschooling was our best friend. But we’re learning that unschooling has it’s place in our lives.

Please keep in mind that these are only my opinion, and in no way meant to convince you of how to teach your kiddos! As I dive into each method that we feel is part of our homeschooling, I’m learning even more than I knew before. These points are only some aspects of each method…there are even more parts that didn’t make the list. Those things live in the “gray area.” Some of them we use, some of them, we don’t. That’s the beauty of homeschooling…we find exactly what we need to teach of our very unique and exceptional children in the way that helps them learn best. Both of my boys are completely different, and I know that the way I approach schooling with Explorer Cub will be different from the way that Tiny Timber learns! 

Do you use unschooling in your homeschooling? What is your family’s favorite part of homeschooling this way? Let me know in the comments!

This week, I’m diving into our homeschool methodology. For the past few months, we’ve been following a mostly unschooling philosophy, but through the years, we have dabbled in multiple methods of learning. As we close on 2017 and begin a new year, I’ve been evaluating our daily rhythm and our goals for the year, and have decided that we need to begin leaning towards a more eclectic version of what we’ve done over the years.

As a result, we made a list of the 4 homeschool methods we agree most with: Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Waldorf, and Unschooling. Each of these methods share slight similarities, but if we’re being honest, following one completely renders the others as completely opposite. By making a list of what we love and don’t, we are forming our own version of homeschool, full of the things we love about each method, despite their differences.

If you want to go back and read the first entry of this series, click here.

Today: The Waldorf Method

What we love about Waldorf:

  • Atmosphere. Of all the methods we like, I feel like Waldorf lines up most with how we want our home life to feel. We love the comfort of Waldorf…the natural elements, warm colors, and even the smells. There’s just something about Waldorf’s atmosphere that brings us innate joy.
  • Rhythm. I’m weird. And I get that. But whenever someone mentions the idea of structured school days and schedules, I cringe inside. But rhythm? That makes a world of difference. And we’ve seen the positive effects of rhythm on our oldest son (who is on the spectrum.) Too much schedule and structure gets him frustrated, but having a natural rhythm gives him peace. To be honest, over the months with all the crazy going on, we’ve deviated a lot from our rhythm. 2018 will be the year we refocus.
  • Festivals and seasonal celebrations. This goes hand in hand with rhythm. By celebrating the small, little known to most holidays like Michaelmas and Mayday, we instill an awareness of seasonality and the earth’s rhythm. I feel that paying attention to the coming and going of the seasons is crucial in healthy development and life for any person.
  • Natural connection. I love that Waldorf rhythms align to colors for parts of the day. I love that each day has a grain to focus on. And I love that the stories are all connected to the natural world. There is such beauty in childhood play that is connected to nature.
  • Early childhood emphasis. I talked about this yesterday in the Montessori post. But I love Waldorf’s approach to early childhood even more. I love that slowness is encouraged. Gentleness is priority. And letting them be children is pivotal.
  • The materials. Beeswax modeling wax and coloring blocks. Watercolors. Wool. Wood toys. Waldorf toys and art supplies make me giddy, and we’ve seen the effect they have on our kiddos, as well.
  • Main lesson books. There is great pride when a child is directly involved in documenting their learning process. And even more so when they can look back over the years and see their progress.
  • Unique approaches to teaching the basics. Waldorf education approaches a lot of the basic parts of education in unique and beautiful ways. From Math Gnomes and stories to teach mathematics, to using stories to teach letters, Waldorf engages the child’s senses.
  • The art. Every aspect of Waldorf is immersed in beauty. Even chalkboards are works of art. Explorer Cub adores art, and responds well to this aspect of Waldorf education.

What we’re not so fond of about Waldorf:

  • Anthrosophy. After doing a lot of reading on anthrosophy, I know that there are a lot of Waldorf homeschool families, and even some curriculums, that do not incorporate Steiner’s philosophy into their education. And there are a lot of homeschool families that do incorporate this into their education. While I wouldn’t ever try to convince anyone that a certain belief is wrong, I do know that for my family, personally, we can’t adopt anthrosophy. This has always been one of the few things that I have been unsure of in regards to Waldorf education, but I also know that a good quality Waldorf education can be achieved with out it. Anthrosophy is a big topic…and there’s no way I could comfortably explain it here on my blog.
  • Discouraged use of electronics. I believe there has to be a moderation here. I also believe that electronics are a pivotal part of the future. And if you’ve read our About page, you know that Explorer Cub loves his video games and has his own YouTube channel. It would be hypocritical to say that we fully adopt Waldorf principles, because we feel for our family that electronics are a part of our modern life, and we embrace that. We know that every family is different, and have even gone a good long time with no electronics in the house ourselves, but we do enjoy a good bit of video game nights as a family and YouTube. 😀 I think moderation is key, here.

Waldorf education is our favorite, hands down. Aside from the two thing we don’t like, we could totally dive ourselves into this method of education exclusively. In fact, I’ve said multiple times to my husband that if I ever sent our boys to school outside the home, I would try very hard to figure out a way to get them into a Waldorf school. (Although cost would definitely be an issue.) We find so much beauty in Waldorf methods…and we love that it truly is a way of life and not just an education.

Please keep in mind that these are only my opinion, and in no way meant to convince you of how to teach your kiddos! As I dive into each method that we feel is part of our homeschooling, I’m learning even more than I knew before. These points are only some aspects of each method…there are even more parts that didn’t make the list. Those things live in the “gray area.” Some of them we use, some of them, we don’t. That’s the beauty of homeschooling…we find exactly what we need to teach of our very unique and exceptional children in the way that helps them learn best. Both of my boys are completely different, and I know that the way I approach schooling with Explorer Cub will be different from the way that Tiny Timber learns! 

Do you use Waldorf methods in your homeschooling? What is your family’s favorite part of homeschooling this way? Let me know in the comments!

This week, I’m diving into our homeschool methodology. For the past few months, we’ve been following a mostly unschooling philosophy, but through the years, we have dabbled in multiple methods of learning. As we close on 2017 and begin a new year, I’ve been evaluating our daily rhythm and our goals for the year, and have decided that we need to begin leaning towards a more eclectic version of what we’ve done over the years.

As a result, we made a list of the 4 homeschool methods we agree most with: Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Waldorf, and Unschooling. Each of these methods share slight similarities, but if we’re being honest, following one completely renders the others as completely opposite. By making a list of what we love and don’t, we are forming our own version of homeschool, full of the things we love about each method, despite their differences.

If you want to go back and read the first entry of this series, click here.

Today: The Montessori Method

What we love about Montessori:

  • Atmosphere. Again! We’re finding that this is a recurring theme in the homeschool methods we prefer. I love that in Montessori methodology, a huge value is placed on the philosophy that children learn from their environment and the adults in their environment. I also love that Montessori puts a lot of worth into order in the environment. I strive daily to make sure our home is child-friendly…meaning that it encourages them to read, explore, play, and create.
  • Giving children a choice. Letting them choose what snack they eat, what order they do their lessons in, and so on give kids a greater sense of responsibility. It helps them understand the consequences of their own decisions, good or bad. And it builds independence.
  • Following their interests. I love that the Montessori method is pivotal on working with the interest of the child. We have learned that the simple act of taking into consideration what Explorer Cub is interested in yields exponential results in his learning.
  • Unit studies. Hand in hand with the last point, unit studies can be worked around interests, and concrete what children learn.
  • Early childhood emphasis. We do like aspects of Montessori’s early childhood approaches. With a toddler in the house, we are in no rush to start “formal” school with him and won’t be for a long time, but we value the importance of building his confidence, independence, and understanding of the world around him. Montessori principles do amazing in this aspect.
  • The materials. I’ve always been fond of Montessori materials…and my boys have been, as well. I love that wood toys are encouraged, especially wood toys that challenge the mind.

What we’re not so fond of about Montessori:

  • No reward system. I’m going to be honest here, there are definitely parts of our school day and even daily rhythm that Explorer Cub is rewarded for. He’s a big fan of Komodo Math, for the fact that even when he has a tough time with a lesson, he knows that he might get a message from his family and can work towards earning rewards from his loved ones.

There aren’t a lot of dislikes that we have for Montessori principles. However, this is just personal impression from over the years, but we feel that while Montessori does a wonderful job of building independence and self-confidence, it has the potential to create a more scientific/scholastic impact on our kids’ childhood. And while that’s not a bad thing at all, we feel that it’s important to mix it with a little bit of the magic of childhood for balance. That being said, that is our own personal opinion of the method. I know that Montessori encourages imagination and play, and that’s wonderful no matter how you approach it.

Please keep in mind that these are only my opinion, and in no way meant to convince you of how to teach your kiddos! As I dive into each method that we feel is part of our homeschooling, I’m learning even more than I knew before. These points are only some aspects of each method…there are even more parts that didn’t make the list. Those things live in the “gray area.” Some of them we use, some of them, we don’t. That’s the beauty of homeschooling…we find exactly what we need to teach of our very unique and exceptional children in the way that helps them learn best. Both of my boys are completely different, and I know that the way I approach schooling with Explorer Cub will be different from the way that Tiny Timber learns! 

Do you use Montessori methods in your homeschooling? What is your family’s favorite part of homeschooling this way? Let me know in the comments!

Our homeschool style could only be described as eclectic. Our homeschool days ebb and flow with the rhythms of life. But, now that we live in a state where testing is required annually, it’s made me sit down and really evaluate how we approach our children’s education.

We’re a mix of Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Waldorf, and even unschooling. All those on their own definitely do not achieve the same thing, but we take a little of each thing and are rebuilding our approach. Thankfully, over the years, we’ve dabbled fully in each one, so we can confidently choose what to use and what not to use.

Over the next few days, I’m going to talk about what we love about each style of homeschool, and what we don’t. And then next week, I’ll share how we incorporate all of these very different learning methods into our homeschool and life.

young mother sewing

Young Mother Sewing by Mary Cassat, image courtesy Met Museum (public domain)

First up: Charlotte Mason.

What we love about Charlotte Mason:

  • Living Books: We love the beauty of curling up on the couch, grabbing a book specifically on the subject we’re learning about, and diving in. Charlotte Mason was very specific on what to look for in a living book. We’re a little more loose with our requirements, but we still prefer to choose books written either from first hand account of by someone who is passionate about the subject, books that are beautifully illustrated, and books that don’t dumb down the subject matter.
  • Nature Study: We got our boys immersed in nature at an early age. We love being out in the woods, exploring and observing the world around us. When they are little, we spend less time explaining specifically what each thing is, but more of a broad spectrum. With Explorer Cub now, we always make sure to have some version of field guide that is appropriate for where we are. We dive deeper into what we’re seeing.
  • The Three Prong Approach: I can totally agree that Atmosphere, Discipline, and Life are what make up a child’s education. We easily focus on Atmosphere…I strive to have a cozy, relaxed home for the boys. Some days we fail miserably, but we try.  As parents, we work really hard to create a loving atmosphere for our boys…one where they know they are allowed to fail, succeed, and be themselves.
  • Art and Music Studies: We immerse the boys in art and music…and have since birth. We love trips to the art museum, always have some music playing in the background, and find poetry that will inspire them. We talk about natural beauty and man made beauty, art in buildings and art in everyday objects. Art in gilded frames and art taped to the wall.
  • Copywork: Admittedly, we don’t push this one. But we do find that Explorer Cub is much more apt to practice writing when he’s doing copywork with Bible verses or lines from poetry. So even though we don’t do this one often, it’s still a handy tool to have in our homeschool toolbox.

What we’re not so fond of about Charlotte Mason:

  • There’s a lot of reading. And I mean A LOT. If you have a kiddo who loves to read…it’s great. But if you have a kiddo like Explorer Cub who seems to have an automatic eye roll response programming to the words “Let’s sit down and read for a little bit,” Charlotte Mason style learning can get a tad daunting.
  • Shakespeare. Look, I love The Bard. I’ve read so many of his plays and sonnets and watch on stage productions whenever I can. And honestly, because of that, I personally don’t feel like Shakespeare is age appropriate for my 8 year old. I may be guilty of shielding him from the subject matter that most of Shakespearean plays approach, but I know my 8 year old. And I know he’d either totally not get it, or dive way too deep into it. Someday, he’ll be ready. But today is not that day.
  • Short lesson blocks. I understand the reasoning behind 15 minute blocks of learning. However, I think there is more value for my kids to let them go as long as they need to when they are working on something. And to always let them take a break and come back to it when they are getting overwhelmed.
  • Narration/dictation. As with all Charlotte Mason ideology, I understand the reason behind narration and dictation. We even incorporate narration naturally. But I wouldn’t say we rely on it for Explorer Cub’s education. He absorbs things easily, but when you ask him to share his thoughts, he freezes. I have learned that I have to trust that he’s absorbed it and understands.

There are definitely more aspects of Charlotte Mason schooling than what I covered today. These are just the ones that make our list of either love or dislike…the rest live in the gray area and we dabble in them if needed.

Do you use Charlotte Mason homeschooling? What is your family’s favorite part of homeschooling this way? Let me know in the comments!

And now I can make a list of things I can do with all my spare time.

I get it…you don’t save that much time. After all, you still have to get the ingredients out. Prepare them. Dump them in the pot. Set a few settings. And walk away. You can walk away dramatically with that extra time. Walk away stealthily.

You are, after all, a ninja in the kitchen now.

If you’re a great chef who adores being in the kitchen, this may not apply. But for a person like me, who begrudgingly wishes her husband would either start making waaaayyy more money to afford takeout every morning, noon, and night or wishes that someone would really work on those meals in the capsules like the Jetsons had, the Instant Pot is a life saver.

My husband never gets home at the same time each night. And that really started taking it’s toll on my whole cooking mojo. Not only was I dealing with a big kid who was cranky because he misses Dad and a toddler who was close to his bedtime, but I had no idea when to start dinner each night. Add in the fact that I’m a dreamer by nature and if it’s not on my radar, it’s not going to get done.

Enter: the Instant Pot. I got the food in the pot today around 5. Sometimes my hubby is homes at 6. Sometimes 7. Rarely 5. So I threw it in to give time to come to pressure, cook, and depressurize. And then, I let it sit on the warm setting until my husband walked in the door.

Our nights were so chaotic before. And now? Peace. Pure, blissful peace. Minus the toddler. The only time there is peace from him, it’s when he’s asleep.

So…thank you Instant Pot. (Seriously, no paid sponsorship here. They don’t even know I exist. 😀 )

Here’s my list of things I could do now that I have a little bit of extra time each day:

  • I could actually bake. Something. Anything.
  • I could organize that kitchen junk drawer.
  • I could do one more macrame plant hanger for my etsy shop.
  • I could read a book with my kiddos.
  • I could pet the cat.
  • I could do absolutely nothing. I never get to do nothing. What does doing nothing feel like? I don’t even know anymore.

I’m so excited for the positive impact that this one little thing will have on our family. I know there are moms out there who have no problem planning meals and actually following through with them (I plan like crazy, and do a great job, but I’ve lost the spring in my step in the kitchen. I still cook, but it’s always last minute and there’s no love in it.) I know some moms love to cook and are great at it. But it seemed that the more my plate of life filled, the less I focused on the plates of food around me. I’m thrilled to be able to take a step in the right direction in the kitchen!

Do you have an Instant Pot? If so, please share your favorite recipes!!!!

I Failed at Christmas

Well, not all of Christmas.

As Christians, our family holds the miracle of this day in our hearts, but it’s such a part of our faith, that it comes as naturally as breathing in and out. We know the story of Christ’s birth to be true, and because of that, Christmas lives in our hearts year round.

But…I failed at all the other Christmas stuff this year. Big time.

I bust out a batch of peanut butter blossoms on Christmas Eve Day. Our tree had 5 ornaments on it and stood 4 feet tall (I’m transferring the blame to the fact that we have a toddler in the house this year.) And our Elves on the Shelf…well, they weren’t as exciting as every other year.

We missed the Christmas train (literally.) Only looked at 2 houses’ Christmas lights. Didn’t go downtown to see the lights in the skyscrapers. And if I’m being honest, I didn’t put any Christmas music on until Christmas Eve weekend.

It’s not like I was just enjoying the season…because we were so busy with moving and everything that goes with that, that the Christmas books went unread, the Christmas movies went unwatched (except National Lampoon and Polar Express), and the boys’ advent calendar still has more than half of the chocolate in it.

It. Was. Dismal.

I realize that I have two options at this point. I could wallow in self-pity, frustration, and general disappointment. Or I could give myself grace. I can remember the reason for the season. And know that despite the tiny tree, lack of festive music, and decline in our annual traditional activities, my family and I still ended Christmas knowing the reason we celebrate.

On Christmas, we were finishing up our celebration at my parents’ house. We played this awesomely fun game that involves a saran wrap ball, oven mitts, and lots of fun little prizes. You unwrap the saran wrap and the person next to you keeps trying to roll doubles. And whatever prizes you unwrap while it’s your turn, you keep.

What seemed odd to me was that after the saran wrap ball was unwrapped, and the game was over, Explorer Cub was trading all his tasty candy he won…for tealight candles. Curious as to what his motivations were, I asked him why he would want to trade all his favorite candy for tealight candles…his response melted my heart:

“Candles signify faith, so I want as many as I can get.”

Let me change the title of this blog to “I Failed at Christmas. Mostly.” Because clearly, I didn’t fail at Christmas. I failed at all the things that go with Christmas, but I didn’t fail at Christmas itself.

“Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection.” – Winston Churchill

Next Christmas, I want to do better. I want to have regular sized tree. Put our favorite ornaments on. Buy the silly ugly sweaters. Sing the songs. Decorate the cookies. Come up with some kick butt Elf ideas. And go to as many darn Christmas activities that we can.

But this year, I am giving myself grace. Because my kid gets it, and that’s what matters to me.

I hope your Christmas was magical and beautiful, just as it should be when we celebrate Christ’s birth. But just in case it wasn’t, I hope you are giving yourself grace to know that it’s the littlest moments that matter. The ones everyone else might not have even noticed. I pray that you give yourself the grace to embrace the imperfections while looking forward to the next year. God bless!

I give myself very good advice 
But I very seldom follow it 
That explains the trouble that I’m always in 

–Alice in Wonderland

Just a few days ago, I wrote this.

For the record, I’m famously indecisive. Some might even use the word “flaky” or “wishy washy.” I’m aware of that personality flaw. I acknowledge it. I accept it. Also, for the record, this is not one of those times. 😀

The dream to be a full time rv family has been something we’ve been dreaming of for years, and more so recently. We walked through travel trailers. We’ve been working our way towards achieving that dream. Drawing up plans and all that stuff. This has been a good 6 months of focused dreaming. We knew that actually achieving it would take a lot of work, sacrifice, and a good few years to get financially ready.

But.

That’s not to say that while we were dreaming, we weren’t having a few…doubts. But each doubt, Zack and I could meet with compromise. Finally, those doubts added up, and then tonight, I read something in a facebook group (I’m not going into details to protect privacy and all), and I realized…

This isn’t what we need. Not right now. Not in this season of our lives.

Do we still want to travel? More than ever. I have this insatiable need to see different places. And with a little hard work, we can still achieve the goal of travel on a regular basis…while staying where we are.

See, we moved last weekend. And God put us right where we needed to be to realize what we needed in our life right now. (He’s pretty clever that way.)

“Find a compromise.” —My 3rd suggestion in the post “Embracing Your Nomadic Soul”

So, I’m taking my own advice. Which, honestly, never happens. We’re going to fine tune a compromise…a way to appease our gypsy souls (because they are there, and I embrace that quirk about ourselves) while making the right choice for our family. Stay tuned for more of that.

My blog will still be full of great tips on our version of minimalism. Small space living. Eclectic homeschool. And of course, travel. The only thing that is changing is our “big goal.” We are forging our own path in life, and sometimes, you have to change the way it’s going.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Every year, I see loads of people buy gifts for themselves. TVs, jewelry, the latest phone. And every year, I never give myself a gift.

This year, though, that changes. Because this year, I’m giving myself the gift of self care.

I am notoriously awful at taking care of myself. I eat too little, drink too much soda (even though I had kicked the habit for a month), and go to bed way too late. I run ragged getting housework done, creating for my etsy shop, curating our vintage shop, and thinking up blog posts. That’s not even including the time I spend doing school with my kiddos, helping Explorer Cub with his YouTube channel, and loosing loads of sleep to our littlest co-sleeper.

And I don’t mind doing all that one bit. In fact, those things bring me joy. But they also wear me out, and I rarely take time to even grab a bite to eat.

So, this Christmas, I’m making a list of 8 things I need to start doing to take time for myself, to instill a little self-care into my day of taking care of everything else.

the giftself care

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1 ) Drink more water. I am horrible at this. And considering the fact that my dad is famous for reminding everyone in the family to “hydrate, hydrate, hydrate,” there’s no excuse for the constant state of dehydration I’m in. Throw in a soda habit that I desperately need to kick (for good, this time), and I know that this one thing would change how I feel each day.

2 ) Go to bed. Moms out there, you get it. You spend all day corralling those beautiful blessings you have, swearing that the moment their sweet little noggins hit the pillow, you won’t be far behind. And then they fall asleep, and. It’s. Glorious. It’s quiet! You can move without someone pulling on you! There’s no fighting! And you stay up…way later than you should, doing things that really are fun but nowhere near as important as catching up in dreamland.

And co-sleeping moms…that’s another story! We co-sleep, and while I could go on and on about the benefits of a family bed, there is one glaring negative. Co-sleeping with little ones is like inviting an awkward elephant into bed with you. Somehow that petite little thing takes up more room than your spouse and you combined. Our oldest sleeps on his own now, and our youngest starts out in his own bed. But every night, around 2 am, we have a little 3 foot tall visitor, and sleep definitely gets impacted.

Because of that, it’s ever so vital to go to bed…and not at midnight! I’ve got to work my way towards an earlier bedtime.

3 ) Pray or meditate. Or heck, do both. As a Christian, I know the importance and value of prayer. And as the day goes on, I pray regularly. But to sit and take a specific amount of time to pray…that’s something I need to work on.

I also believe in the power of meditation. Sometimes it is so easy to get wrapped up in your own mind. There’s so much input, and something as short as 10 minutes of meditation a day can have dramatic effects on your positive well being. I started using an app called “Headspace” on my phone (no affiliation and not a paid sponsor, I just really enjoy it.) Look it up in the app store or on Google Play. It has great meditation options, and even ones just for kids!

4 ) Take a bubble bath. I’m definitely on board with this one…I splurge occasionally and buy a nice bath bomb at Whole Foods. Or just use some of my favorite bubble bath (conveniently, also my shampoo and body wash.) Even if just a short while, a bath once a week soothes my soul.

5 ) Do some yoga. I do yoga intermittently, and when I do, I feel great. For some reason, despite knowing how good it makes me feel, I always put it off. My goal is to spend 15 minutes a day doing yoga…even if it’s just a few simple poses.

6 ) Learn a new skill. I love learning new things, so this one comes easy to me. The next thing on my list: learn Spanish. With us wanting to travel full time in the next few years, a good grasp on a second language is definitely going to help!

7 ) Call a friend. In this day of instant communication with anyone...it’s really easy to lose touch with the people who matter. Taking a few minutes now and then to call up a friend and actually talk to them can brighten not only your day, but their’s as well.

8 ) Read a joke book. Or do a mad lib. Preferably, with someone you love. Even better if that someone you love is under 5 feet and still thinks Goldfish crackers are the epitome of good snack food. I want to make sure I’m laughing more with my kiddos…I want them to hear the sound of my laugh more than the sound of me correcting them. And if I am able to benefit from it as well, that’s even better.


There you have it…the 8 things I am going to start implementing into my life to make myself happier and healthier. Someday soon, after I have these mastered, I’ll make a new list. Until then, what are some things you would put on your self-care list?

The Measure of Us

one family | one bus | big on adventure | small on stuff

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