Homeschooling on Vacation

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How to Homeschool on Vacation

While I’m just setting off on this homeschooling journey of ours I’m jumping in with both feet.  That’s nothing new though.  Since both of my kids have been born though I’ve been talking to them about everything I do, reading to them every chance I get, telling stories when we’re not around books, asking them questions, helping them explore the outdoors around them, and instilling in them the values and manners that are so important to me.  I’m intentional.  Very intentional.  So much so that it’s exhausting some days and then we loosen up and try again.  Life is a constant struggle like that, isn’t it?  Try, try, try, try too hard, don’t try, wait – okay try again, try, try, try.  Balance.  Balance is such a simple word to say and yet it’s the most difficult one to live out.

We’re officially starting school tomorrow and yes, cute stage photos will be coming along shortly.  While I have my lesson plans ready and all my hand picked curriculum laid out in a row I’m going to work at my plans diligently and try to make learning as fun as possible.  Learning should always be fun!  Then a handful of weeks later I’m going to throw it all out the window for a five day break.  Why you ask?  Because we’re going on vacation!!!  I’m very excited about the time away and am just as excited about teaching my kids, especially my daughter about the beach.  We just picked a travel date yesterday and I’ve already got our packing list made and our meal plan ready.  Now I’m starting on what I can teach my kids about the beach before we go.  Just because I like to throw my thoughts out on a page sometimes I’m writing this post.  Additionally, I’m hoping it will be helpful for others who want to combine homeschooling and vacations.  If you’re a seasoned homeschool mom I would love your opinions and ideas so feel free to comment with those below.  Now, onto my plans…

Plan the Trip – I’m hoping to show my daughter the state we’re traveling to on a map of the US.  I also want to show her a detailed maps of roads and highways and show her the different paths we could go and let her highlight the way her mom and dad have already chosen to go.  Maybe we could even put stickers on places that would be great for rest stops.  She’ll also love to watch our gps in the car as it travels along our chosen path.

Read – Because we love reading this is a natural fit for our family.  I’m excited to research fish, sea turtles, other ocean life, and books that include swimming.  For my son the book list will probably look like: Rainbow Fish bath book (bonus points because I can take it to the beach since it’s a plastic book!), Dr. Seuss’ Clam-I-Am (All About the Beach), Over the Ocean (In a Coral Reef), Seashells by the Seashore, and Curious George Goes to The Beach The beginning reading list for my daughter includes: The Berenstain Bears By The Sea, National Geographic Readers: Sea Turtles (I just discovered that National Geographic has early reader books, how exciting!), The Usborne Internet-Linked First Encyclopedia of Seas & Oceans (there are several copies on Amazon now for $0.01 + shipping! I just bought one and thought I’d share.), Secrets of the Seashore Shine-a-Light book, and Seashore beginners book.  I also want to check out the state and area we’re traveling to and see if there is any history that would be appropriate and interesting for young kids.

Audio Books – Maybe we’ll listen to audio books, maybe.  Maybe we’ll just talk and have a blast singing Justin Robert’s tunes at the top of our lungs.  Yea, we’ll probably just do that for the majority of the trip but we’ll have an audio book cd or two packed just in case.  Lamplighter audio books are superb.  We love all of their material that we’ve read or heard.  Adventures in Odyssey is another great choice – check out their The Ultimate Road Trip: Family Vacation Collection.

Plan the Itinerary – I want my daughter to help plan the itinerary of our trip.  She won’t get the last say of course and itineraries are meant to be broken but it will be fun to work together on our plans while building the anticipation of the trip.  We can plan for things like a sea shell hunt, going for ice cream, ordering something we’ve never tried before at a restaurant (maybe a buffet is a good idea to try this at!), playing putt putt, and drawing a picture of the ocean from our balcony.

Busy Bags – Between now and our departure date I plan on making lots and lots of busy bags for our trip.  Some will be simple activities like a Melissa & Doug Water Wow book (no paint, just water – I love these!!), Dover Sticker Activity books (the prices vary but they’re always under $2 shipped from Amazon – these are great for little ones sitting in church too!), lacing cards, Melissa & Doug Scratch Art (I haven’t tried these before but they look fun for kids!), and The Cube (a smaller version of the Rubik’s cube. It’s 2×2 instead of 3×3.  I don’t think I would instruct them on how to use it but let them have fine motor fun with it.).  I also plan on including my own homemade busy bags that may include felt pieces of clothes for the felt doll, or clothes pins that have a number on them that need to be clipped onto the correct paper with that many items, etc.  I’m thinking of randomly rewarding my kids for good behavior on the trip by giving them a small toy.  My daughter would love a small princess doll or anything that came from the dollar store and my son would love any figurine puppy or Thomas the Train Minis (Have you seen these?  They are so tiny and adorable!).

Games – In the evenings before bed I think it would be fun to spend time relaxing together playing a board game.  My son is just now at the age where he can comprehend the basic rules of games.  I think the game Cootie would be a great game for us as a family.  We can talk about the colors, count the pieces, and of course the counting on the die.

Observation – I’m hoping to try and observe as much as possible and point out things to my kids.  Sure, sometimes I’ll just be exhausted, hot, and ready to put the kids down for a nap but most of the time I’m hoping to be a fun mom.  Observing which toy makes the biggest splash in the water is still fun.  I don’t plan on finding a butterfly and waxing on about metamorphosis.  Just taking opportunities to observe and talk about the things we see is an incredible way to bond as a family.  Learning is a bonus!

I think that’s all I have.  As I said earlier, if you have any other ideas to share please let me know.  I want to have a fun, relaxing, and educational vacation without having to go to museums all day and I think that’s possible!

5 Ways to Avoid Being Overwhelmed at Homeschool Convention + a Giveaway!

This is a partnered post with the Thrive Convention.

How to Avoid Being Overwhelmed at a HomeSchool Convention

If you are a homeschooling parent, you probably fall into one of these categories: 1.You are reluctantly attending convention, but not so sure if it’s really the right thing for you 2. You’ve never been to convention, mainly because you think it will be too overwhelming for you or 3. You’re totally going to convention, been there, done that, have a plan and can’t wait!

I am writing this as I head into one next weekend and I’m hoping these tips will help a few of you out there who are also headed that way.  It IS overwhelming, as some people warn you that it can be, but part of that problem is us. I believe that a good majority of homeschooling parents are planners. We like to be in charge and know what’s coming, what we can do to tackle it and have a good feeling that we’ve got it covered when it does happen. Or maybe that’s just me…..

For those of us who like to know the issues that “may” come up, heading into a huge event like a convention, for the first time, does not sound appealing at all, because we have only heard other people’s stories (and let’s face it, most stories people like to share are the negative, dramatic type!) and we don’t actually know firsthand what it will be like, so therefore, we don’t know firsthand what we will need to prepare for. The fear of the unknown can be huge thing that keeps many people from ever stepping out in faith and taking the first step.

Now, I do have some mom friends who are the opposite of me, and they are laid back, just seeming to go with the flow and ride the wave where it takes them. But I will say that most of them are not attending convention for other reasons than I mentioned and they just seem to handle it all as it comes and don’t get all nervous-Nellie. If that is you, and you actually are planning to attend convention, I would advise at least a little planning so you aren’t overwhelmed either, although I am just certain that your level of freaking out is not even close to what mine would be if it indeed, happened.

So how can you plan for this and come out refreshed, relaxed and totally planning to go again next year?

1.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.
You’ve heard this before, but it’s true. There will be things that will happen that will rattle you. It’s inevitable. Like, after being there a whole day already and walking what feels like 5 miles, you still haven’t found the one booth you had planned from the beginning that you absolutely had to get to first. Or, you had your schedule all planned out, hour by hour, so that you wouldn’t miss a lecture or lunch, for that matter, and the next thing you know, it’s 3:15 and you’ve been talking to someone at a booth who is amazingly helpful and you really couldn’t help it, but now you’ve not only still not eaten, but you missed that 3:00 lecture.  This stuff will likely happen. But, going into this knowing what you have in mind to do, but also knowing you may not get to it all and that’s totally o.k. makes a world of difference.

2.  Do some research ahead of time.
If you know already what curriculum you want to use and you basically need to just get to those booths and really get your hands on it, then that’s awesome, but if you’re like me, you know a few things you for sure are wanting, and then there’s a gray area there with a few others where you want to see what your options are. Well, you will get to see a lot of options there for sure, but you may not see every brand of writing curriculum you thought you would, and you may not even realize that until it’s all over, so spend a little time googling it before you go, so you can narrow it down some, and then make a few notes so that when you’re there, you’ll see that booth and the little light bulb will go off and ding! “I need to talk to those people!” will happen in your brain. Ask around in your Facebook community or co-op too, and see what your fellow homeschoolers use and how they feel about it. It can be very helpful.  Somehow, when you are there in person, it ALL looks good, and they have a great speech that makes it sound even better, and the thing is, they MEAN it, they believe in it, so then you believe it too….so you have to know at least somewhat if 1. Yes, that booth is for me or 2. No, I know I’m not interested in that and keep walking on.

3.  Make some lists and budget. This may not sound fun, but doing some of the work ahead of time will alleviate a lot more work while you are there.
Make a list of what curriculum you know for sure you will need before starting the next semester, and if you end up finding it while you’re there, whether you buy it, or just find “the one”, check it off the list! It feels good to do that and it justifies the WHY of the reason you’re there to begin with. Making a budget is another great thing to do. If you are bad about spending money you don’t have, then take cash in envelopes for certain subjects or for meals, or fun money. When that cash is gone, you’re done. You can still spend plenty of time doing research and checking out curriculum or supplies and write it down to purchase later. These two things alone can make the experience much better for you.

4.  Take time for yourself in the middle of the day, each day. Step Back and Enjoy!
You work hard and you deserve for this experience to be a good one. There are so many really sweet people there who enjoy doing what they do, and they are there to help you. This is a needed paycheck for them to help them make it through their year and they want to talk to you, and in return, you’re helping their families. So, try to take it slow, be a light for people that get sent in your path, and don’t feel guilty if you don’t make every lecture, or get to see each and every booth. If you need to stop mid-day and go take a nap or even a swim, by all means, do it!

5.  If you see a friend, take a break and grab a coffee with them.
Just be sure to keep in mind that everything will not go as planned and truly, this is normal and totally fine. Leave the guilt behind and go have a great time!

If you’re planning on attending the Thrive Convention in Winston-Salem, NC on June 2-4, 2016 let me know and we can try to look out for each other!


I have two tickets to the Thrive Convention to giveaway!  If you want to win tickets to the convention leave a comment letting me know what grades you’ll be teaching this year (and if you have a favorite curriculum already I’d love to hear it!).

If you don’t want to wait to enter to win, you can pre-register for the convention now.  Don’t forget that May 26, 2016 is the last day to get pre-registration pricing.

NCHE Thrive Homeschool Conference

Thrive Conference

NCHE’s annual homeschool conference, Thrive, is right around the corner.  If you’re a homeschooler and anywhere near Winston-Salem, NC you’ll want to make plans to join in on June 2-4, 2016.  You can see the full schedule here.

I’m planning on attending and if you’ll be there too I hope we can meet up!

Go here to pre-register for the convention and get a discount!  Pre-registration ends on May 26, 2016.

There is a list of great speakers lined up and workshops that sound great.  If you’re looking for a little encouragement, are even thinking about homeschooling, or what to find a new curriculum, you should check out this conference!

I’ll be hosting a giveaway later on in the year with free tickets too so be on the look out for that.

If you’ve been to a homeschool conference (sometimes called convention – I don’t know the difference?), what’s your favorite tip for having a successful time?


UPSTART Online Preschool Program

This is a sponsored post written on behalf of UPSTART but my opinions are my own.

A lot of time, detail, and effort go into education as I’m sure all of our teacher-readers can tell you. Am I right, teach? There’s a reason they only have to “work” 10 months out of the year. You guys all know how essential education is at an early development too. Often times preschoolers don’t get the developmental attention they need because (honestly we’re too busy just trying to chase them down to clothe and feed them) not many of us have time to prep new things to do each day.

There’s a new program out called UPSTART, which is an online preschool program to use at home. And. it. is. free. (Those are my favorite words.) It’s designed for the year right before kindergarten to make sure children are ready for school.  This is very nice for me because I currently have a little one prepping for kindergarten.

Okay, I have to pause and show you a little bit of my daughter’s recent work. 🙂

Preschool DrawingShe does love to play outside!

Christmas Tree Craft

Homemade Christmas ornament!

Preschool Tanagram

Tanagrams are so much fun!

Crayola Pastels

Oil pastels are the best!

The UPSTART curriculum is impressive – It uses an award-winning software from Waterford Institute. Within the software you’ll find thousands of educational songs, books, and lessons in the fundamental subjects: reading, science, and math. Wait for it – each child is given unique, individualized lessons on their skill level and learning style. This is so great. Individualized lesson plans are few and far between. Having this at home, for free, at your fingertips is basically unheard of. And all the homeschool families rejoice.

It works too. In 2013, a study showed that kids using UPSTART have 2-3 times higher learning rates than those who didn’t use the program.  This study is done by an outside source too, not in-house.

If you’re interested you can register for the program at I think this is definitely worth investigating on your own!

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