Hey there, grab a cup of coffee, enjoy some quiet time, and welcome into our day.
Now that it is winter and the days are darker I wake up around 6:30, a bit later than my ideal, but good for this season. While my mocha heats up I often light a candle, get a blanket, and then settle into my quiet time spot on the couch to have my Bible/Prayer time. Next, I write for 5 minutes. I love this ritual because it allows me to process anything from the day before or what lies ahead, allowing me to clear my mind. If I have time before the kids wake up I go through email and sometimes read a book. The kids are also sleeping later this winter, so I stay in my quiet space until they are up and moving sometime between 7:00 & 8:00.
The kiddos get up at varying times, but they need to be ready for the day and done with chores by 9:00.
At 9:00 we gather at the dining room table for our group morning time, each child brings something to do while I read out loud. (legos, coloring, dolls hair to braid, etc.) We start with prayer, work on a memory verse (we just finished Psalm 1), say our blessing and then I read aloud. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays we read a historical fiction or history book. On Thursdays we have Poetry tea time and Friday is our nature day. We are members of Wild Explorers Club and although we haven't been going through the lessons as quickly as I would have hoped, we are enjoying so many wonderful hikes with good friends on Fridays. And in my book, that totally counts as nature day.
My older two girls are mostly independent with their school. One chooses to get most of her school done before 9:00 and then saves her reading for rest time, and our oldest usually does all of her school after group time. The little two switch back and forth, some mornings they spend the time before 9:00 playing and other times they want to get school done. We go with the flow on this.
We are usually done with our core school by 11:00, we then do a quick pick up of the house, and the older girls finish school, read, or practice the piano. This is their free time. Two days a week my older two make lunch and we typically eat around 12:00 and complete any clean up so we are ready for rest time at 1:00.
Rest time is a key to my sanity. I am an introvert and somewhat of a lower energy person (not type A) so this down time in the middle of the day is a key piece of soul care for me. We have rest time on most days from 1:00-3:00. The kids read, listen to audible, practice instruments, play with Legos, dolls, etc. This is their downtime as well as mine. This is essential in our house and a huge blessing for me. Rest time has needed to be a lot more flexible this year as we have added some extra activities, but we still benefit from the downtime.
Depending on the day, you will find us at music lessons, art class, STEAM class, and horse riding. One of my favorite things about homeschooling is the flexibility we have to pursue and strengthen their passions.
After rest time we have free time, sometimes they play outside, or play games inside, or just hang out with each other.
We eat around 5:30, then we do our night chores and kitchen clean up to get the house in order and then my favorite time of the day - read aloud time. Right now we are reading The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Prisoner's Dilemma, the 3rd book in the Mysterious Benedict's Society.
Everyone is in their rooms between 8:00-8:30, although sometimes this is closer to 7:30 if the younger ones seem extra tired. Each child has a special cuddle night of the week that they get special one-on-one time with me.
I usually practice piano and/or guitar from 8:00-8:45 and then start gearing for bed. If my hubby is home, we hang out and chat or read a book together. If he is gone I usually have an early night of reading in our room.
And then the cycle continues. There are always slight variations to our day, but I thrive on routine so our days typically have a similar flow.
Thanks so much for joining me on our day.
As always, you are enough and can create a beautiful life unique to your family,
Customized Health Plan
There is a loving and gentle way to take care of your body.
It is ok if you aren't eating "perfectly" now.
It is ok if you aren't exercising intensely now.
It is ok if you don't look like you used to look.
It is ok if you take a nap rather than workout.
It's amazing what can happen when we tune into our bodies. What are you craving? What sounds good? Something warm. Something cool? Something comforting? Something lean? A healing workout? A walk in nature? A dance party with your kids? An intense workout?
Your beautiful body birthed a child/children and carries you gracefully and beautifully through each day so let's show her respect by asking her what she needs. And by letting whatever she needs be okay.
Does your body need healing? If so, this season will look very different then when you are in optimal health. It isn't wise to ignore what your body needs and just push through. Instead, it is time to start listening, and know when you do this, you will be on the path to flourishing.
If the thought of taking a little space to allow for healing makes you nervous, take me for example. Physical fitness and nutrition have always been an integral part of my life because that is how I am wired. I have always loved reading about exercise and nutrition and have always been in pretty good shape as a result. But, after baby number 4, I pushed myself too hard with exercise and was trying to do too much too soon. I wasn't in tune with my body, I was impatient, and had the tendency to just plow through. I pushed myself during this time because I was "disciplined", but in hindsight, it would have been better if I had been committed to listening to my body and giving her the extra time she needed to heal. Life in that stage threw me many curve balls: a new city, starting to homeschool, a 2 year old boy :), and a husband that was travelling all-the-time for work! Discipline got completely replaced by exhaustion and I had to learn a whole new way of taking care of my health. At the time, it was emotionally and physically challenging. Now, I am so grateful that I had to learn a new kind of self-care. Six years later I am healthy and continue to grow stronger. My body has done an amazing job of healing itself and is on the path towards vitality. It just needed some time, space, and love.
What would it look like to take 5 seconds before you eat and ask yourself what you want, what does your body need? Do you want comfort food? Food that will give you energy? Something light? And then instead of eating at the counter, or in the car, make the space to sit, light a candle, give thanks, and savor. It is totally ok if it is on a paper plate or if it is takeout, but be present and really taste the food.
You can do the same thing with exercise. How are you feeling today? Did you sleep well? Do you have any aches and pains? Are you well rested and full of energy? It is totally ok and even beneficial to shift your exercise based on your body and the season. Some days it might be more healing to take a walk. Others a good workout with a DVD or online is what your body needs. Maybe some free weights one day. The key is to start listening and paying attention to the needs of your body.
It wasn't until I let go of the shoulds and guilt that I was able to do what was best for any given season. When my kids were little and my energy was low, I just didn't have it in me to cook + do dishes, and I now know that is totally ok. But I constantly compared myself to others, either in real life or in blogland, and more importantly the "ideal mom in my head" left no space for grace. My body, my abilities, my family, my health, and my needs are not the same as anyone else and I needed to learn to embrace this truth. When you are able to let go and set aside those ideals for a later season, because yes, that later season will come, you will gain the freedom to live your life and health will naturally follow.
The more I learn to listen to what my body needs, the more my life flourishes.
Whether with food or exercise try to make the experience lovely and meaningful. For exercise, listen to your favorite play list. If you love being outside, take 5-10minutes and get outside. I recently bought a disco light and we have a hula hoop party after the evening chores are done. Not only is this a great time to bond with my kids, its great exercise to boot, especially with a weighted hoop. Exercise should be a joy to add into your life, get curious about what that looks like for you.
With eating, I love to light candles and turn on instrumental music. Figure out what makes the experience beautiful to you, sippy cups on the floor and all!
Create a beautiful space for yourself and your sweet family.
Everyone has different energy levels, different life experiences, so I really just want to encourage you to pay attention to your life, your personality and what works for you! I highly value eating together as a family, so it doesn't matter as much if it is homecooked (although that is my ideal) or on paper plates, for me it is all about gathering together.
With exercise, some days it is more important for me to nap then exercise. I tend to want to push more in the Spring and Summer when I naturally have more energy, and so I am learning to follow this natural rhythm.
And now that I am out of that season - where we ate more takeout and used more paper plates than the ideal mom in my head- I can see that we still created so many beautiful memories and I wish I wouldn't have been so hard on myself. We instilled good table manners and set the stage for the bonding that can happen around family meals. And now we eat several homecooked meals around the tables and it is one my favorite times of the day.
I encourage you to set aside 10 minutes this week and ask yourself what you want from food/meals? What is the experience you long for? What habits do you want for your kiddos? What are you exercise/fitness goals? What season are you in now? Do you need to get your hormones looked at before you exercise hard? I will be posting soon about diastasis recti and prolapse, these physical injuries need to be addressed and healed before you push yourself. After you make this list take the rest of the time to see what is realistic for this season, keeping in mind the great importance of maintaining your health and then choose one thing to implement in this season.
As always, you are enough and can create a beautiful life unique to your family
So here's to my sweet friends who weren't able to join us for Wild + Free this year. As I am sure you know my recap of the conference is from the lens of my current season and I took notes based on what impacted my heart the most, but I hope this will be helpful and encouraging to you as well.
I am by nature a girl that loves routine and a rule follower who likes a clear plan. I knew from my early homeschool days that I am not naturally drawn towards planning our curriculum on my own and often times don't feel very wild + free. But within my heart, there has been a growing desire to change course. I look at our homeschool days and although they are good, they aren't flourishing and they don’t align with the ideals in my head. We are great at plowing through to get our work done, but have lost the childlike savoring and enjoyment of learning. I have slowly been making changes, but I feel so inspired after this conference to lean fully into a different way of schooling - one that aligns with the vision in my heart. I don't know exactly what that looks like, but I will keep you posted as I travel this journey. After each conference I make little tweaks to our routine and move a little more towards living wild + free. I could write more about my journey, but that is not the purpose of this post so on to the conference recap. If you are interested in this journey I'm on, please email me or leave a comment on IG and let me know. I would love to answer any questions or chat about this further.
Sarah McKenzie opened Friday evening, and as always she was amazing. I appreciate her authenticity and as with all things Sarah, we were encouraged to read aloud. :) We have been reading aloud almost every night we are home for the past year. It has been fabulous and I love it, but after the conference I will be adding more reading into our morning. Right now I am doing that by allowing some deviation from our "plan" to read books that relate to our current activities and interests as well as being intentional with reading an extra 15min. or so. I am also going to be intentional about creating a more inviting environment while we read. Maybe that looks like cuddling on the couch, going outside, or at the table, but I will be increasing the time we spend reading. I want our reading in the morning to more closely resemble our reading at night with us all snuggled on the couch. I want it to feel less like school and more like a sweet time to connect and gather around with each other. Reading out loud is hands down one of my favorite things to do with my kids, so I love the encouragement to continue down that path!
Lynsey Kramer spoke on leading our kids down a path that teaches them to have grit. Grit being passion, courage, resolve, and strength of character. She was honest that grit does not come easily to her and I relate, but I wholeheartedly think it is a worthy endeavor to pursue. I am not quite sure how I am going to start adding grit into our lives, but I appreciate her encouragement in this and trust it will come around in time as we start shifting our routine. She also talked about focusing on the process/progress and not just performance. Such a great reminder to acknowledge our children's hard work and diligence, not just the end product.
Jodi Mockabee's message was perfect timing for my current season on this homeschool journey, so this will be the longest recap. :) The Lord laid the word Bold on her heart this year and as she processed what this meant she felt that boldness for her family is meant to cut out most activities and extra school work from their schedule, ultimately stripping down to the bare minimum. She painted a beautiful picture of how this has impacted their home. (You'll need to head over to wild + free and buy the audio for more details. :) ) During this year she began to fully embrace the idea that children are learning all the time and that we need to trust them for the right timing. This is such a shift in perspective for my task oriented, check-the-boxes personality, but it is the direction I know in my heart we should be going towards. She also talked about the increased impact of learning that takes place when we are studying/learning things we are interested in. We release more dopamine and our brains then store that info in an easier-to-access spot in our brain. That's why some of us feel like we remember nothing from school, yet we have no problem remembering things which we are passionate about. In my heart I have known this to be true and yet it is really hard for me to trust in that process. She talked about honoring our kids' readiness and when we do that, they honor our time. Again, letting go of control and expectations, tuning into the hearts of our children. A beautiful thing she does to implement this is she studies her children and keeps a journal with what they are learning, what they show interest in, what books they are reading, behavior, etc. Becoming a student of our own children. She also talked about how when you give your kids the freedom to learn at their own pace they become aware of their responsibility in learning.
Some tips to help encourage self-led learning include placing books and art supplies around the house. Not just pulling new books/supplies out of an Amazon box and showing them, but placing the items around the house so they can discover it. She talked about the importance of exposing them to the real world; mentors, internships, relationships, and serving. Something that was mentioned by Jodi and several others, was having morning time, usually lasting from 1.5-2hrs and then letting your kids play outside for hours. She observed that it took about a half an hour of being outside to get in their groove and start exploring and building. Before that 1/2 hr mark they didn't quite engage with the outside creatively. This is such a small and imperfect representation of Jodi's session, so I encourage you to buy the audio if this resonates with you.
Teri Woods painted a beautiful picture of laying a feast for our children of truth, beauty, and goodness; placing them in the midst of abundant food; training their affections and igniting a love and passion for truth and beauty. She also broke down their morning time which was very helpful and something I will keep in my back pocket as we aren't quite ready for Shakespeare. ;) Their morning routine includes, hymns, Bible memorization, Shakespeare, living science, arts and composer studies, as well as great history books. She emphasized breaking these all down into small chunks of time. In true Teri style she had us laughing and engaged the whole time, and I appreciate her lighthearted outlook. Another great tip from Teri was to keep a running list of things we want to introduce to our children: books, places, inventors, art, etc. That way we have a clear vision for the direction we want to head.
Greta Eskridge talked about true learning being unforgettable and made up of the things that we want to learn about. She also talked about how much learning takes place through play. There was such a solid theme of children learning through play, having morning time, harnessing what our kids love, and teaching them based on their passions. I love Greta's perspective and since she was homeschooled herself, it adds such a unique dynamic.
I needed to hear Jen Pepito's message. She talked about how her training was different with her older kids than it was with her younger kids. She gave her younger two too much freedom and was starting to see the repercussions of their lack of training and self-control. This was a motivating wake up call for me as I find myself in a similar situation with my younger two. Her tips to get refocused and weed out distractions were right on. One example she mentioned is that they have their morning time and then when her kids move on to independent work she hopped on IG or checked email. This distracted her from self-control and training issues that need to be dealt with. Oh how I could relate, I do the same thing!! She painted a beautiful picture of setting aside time each day to be completely present with your child and removing distractions from our lives. How often we go about our homeschooling days, never fully gazing into our sweet littles one's eyes, never really being present when they are sharing about their creations or things from their heart. As we all know the time is passing quickly and the reminder to be fully present and cherish this season was refreshing.
We love Beautiful Feet Books, so it was a pleasure to hear Rea Berg speak. It was great to be reminded of the power and impact that story and great books can have on our lives as well as our children's. She gave several examples from books of great heroes whom have had an impact on our society and world. This is what we want to be feeding our children, great books that build heroes and encourage virtue and creativity. So lovely.
I gleaned so many wonderful things from the conference. We have already implemented a more structured environment when it comes to behavior, to encourage self-control and minimize distractions. At the same time, I am paring down our activities and schooling and will be changing our schedule quite a bit starting in Jan. That is our next step. I think it is vital to paint the bigger picture of what you want your life to look like, or in this case our learning, but to then look to see what the next step is and just take one step at a time trusting the process. In my heart/gut it feels right to spend this year and maybe next, training my kids toward self-control, having plenty of snuggle time, slowing down, having more play, letting go of so many great things to make space, and letting learning happen more organically. Since I tend to be task driven and like a clear plan to follow, this has been a journey and will continue to be something that I journey towards. This isn't natural per se, but it is the desire of my heart so I am so excited to see how it unfolds. This journey started last year at my first Wild + Free conference in Virginia and it is fun to see the changes since then even though they have seemed achingly slow and not very impactful at the time.
I think our first several years of using a boxed, albeit living books curriculum was essential for me during that season, so I don't regret that decision. But, I am now ready to spread my wings and fly towards something new.
Thanks to all of the amazing people who make this conference such a joy to attend. You inspire me to love my kids well, to embrace this season with grace and beauty and to pursue the longing in my heart! Until next year.
Hey, I'm Julie. I love books, coffee shops, traveling, and exploring. Homeschooling Mama to 4, wife of 15 years. Enjoying the journey and learning to add a bit more of summer into my everyday life.