hope with feathers

What Would You Give For True Joy?

faith, familyKristen KillComment

Recently my sweet friend Misha asked me if I'd write about Joy over at her blog- more specifically "What I've learned about joy." I have loved Misha's writing for years and when we transplanted our crew to New York City, her own family's story was a huge encouragement to me! I was flat out honored that she asked me to share with her readers. The pursuit and internal fight for joy in my life has been a major theme for me the past two years and I felt that her invitation was a chance to bring all my thoughts together and spend some time reflecting on What I had actually learned. I knew I'd been in a thick process, but I honestly hadn't taken time to get all my thoughts on paper and form conclusions about the big lessons that had emerged.

I wrote an article and was ready to ship it off to her and then, in our sweet little hometown where we retreat for the summer, crises hit. Wildfires raged are nothing new here, but this year the damage has been beyond what any of us who see "fire season" as the norm have ever experienced. All my thoughts shifted and I started to pour out something new in my journals. Misha was so gracious to let me send her something new, something birthed in the midst of fire that describes my heart so much better than that first draft! I'd love for you to join me at her blog, The Offense of Joy and read my thoughts about joy. Then stick around and explore Misha's writing- it is such a gift!

Here's the direct link to my article: Finding Joy in the Middle of Fire

A Mom's Manifesto for Soaking Up All of Summer {Plus a Giveaway from Miraclesuit to Make it a Little Easier!}

finds, familyKristen KillComment

I've been gloriously absent from the internet for a while, soaking up family time at the lake, enjoying lazy days playing cards, building forts, and watching my babies run through glistening sprinklers in the sunshine. Three weeks of bure bliss. . . . and then, as all things do, it came to an end. My husband had to fly across the country and get back to work, and while the beauty that he had three solid weeks to spend frolicking with us is not lost on me, I have found my self in quite a slump the last few days. 

The thing is? The end of vacation is not the same thing as the end of summer and it has so much glory to share that is ours for the taking! 

I could keep slipping away into long days with little meaning or I can soak them up for all their worth, build into them with intention, and make a plan to enjoy the rest of this season to the hilt! To encourage myself, I wrote a little manifesto. I'd thought I'd share it for any other mamas needing a bit of mid-summer moxi. Plus, using the word manifesto makes me feel serious and professional- there's no messing with a manifesto, you know? Its all about legit goal setting right here. So without further adieu, I give you:

A Mom's Manifesto for Soaking up All of Summer

 1. I Will Not be Afraid to go Slow.

I will not fight, but will instead, savor, the quieter rhythm of these days. I will enjoy my coffee in small sip, and remember that it is a luxury not to have to warm it at least twice in the microwave, whereby it loses a bit of its coffee bean soul each time. I will welcome pajamas and tousled hair and jelly on faces and delight in my children's pleasure of the freedom this season brings.

2. I Will Not Sit on the Sidelines.

I will put on my swimsuit, despite my curvy edges and squishy tummy that make me blush now and then. I will show my children that mothers are strong and courageous, that we are proud of the bodies that bore their them. I will show them that I am fierce and playful and theirs, and that diving for rings and holding my breath in a contest to infinity is much more precious to me than hiding the jiggly parts of myself that I'm not so comfortable with. 

3. I Will Become an Explorer and Lead My Children toward Adventure

In the simplest of moments, I will guide them into wonder. I will hunt for it, for the sake of my own heart and theirs. We will frolic in the cool grass and picnic, we will collect insects and sketch flower petals and spend as many afternoons as we can deciphering the pictures of the clouds. We will howl at the moon and stargaze and build forts and sandcastles and I will be okay with the dirt that will surely cover us because it is the sign of a day well spent.

4. I will Not See the Summer as Half Empty

It may be mid July, but I refuse to dwell on the idea that the summer as nearly over. Instead, I will embrace the mid-summer dream, ala' Shakespeare and see this day as one of the fullest, where the sunshine lingers longer than any other time of year, where whimsy abounds and where I have the opportunity to show my kids that I am ALL in for ALL of summer (not just the first half where I was full of energy and ideas, ahem).

5. I will Not be Afraid to Let Fun Reign

I will let the popsicles drip, let my kids stay in their swimsuit all day long, let a sprinkler count for bath time occasionally and be perfectly ok with only serving chips and salsa for dinner every once in a while. I will recognize that the blessing of these days comes in the form of something other- in a rhythm that is loose and in the bug eyed looks of amazement from my children when their mama says "yes, let's do that!" more often than any other time of the year.

6. I Will End These Days Well

I will close out our days with a blessing- with song and beautiful books and back rubs, with soft sheets and cuddles and words of delight. Even when I am drained, I will let the last thing they see before closing their eyes, be a smile from me and a whisper for an invitation to play again tomorrow. Because, I only have one summer with these little people at these little ages in my home. This is it and I'm going to choose to love every moment.

Miraclesuit Giveaway- Valued at Up to $200!

 

As we talk about soaking up all of summer, I have to be honest about one thing that has held me back in recent years- putting on a swimsuit. I'm fighting hard to be strong and restore wellness in my life (and the life of my family), but in the place I have found myself in recent years has left me feeling self conscious at the pool or the beach.

Recently I had the chance to meet the amazing PR team at Miracle Suit. It only took knowing them for about 30 minutes to bring me to tears. These women were so encouraging, so life giving and ALL about empowering women to feel beautiful. I was chosen to model a suit at the MomTrends Trendy Travel Event in Manhattan and was a little nervous about the idea of wearing a swimsuit in front of fellow bloggers and the press! I was given several suits to try on and, truly, I couldn't believe what I saw when I looked in the mirror. I couldn't believe how great I felt. I had to touch up my makeup before pictures because I cried hugging the Miraclesuit team. I knew in that moment that I could soak up this summer with my kiddos with confidence- and I really hadn't recognized how much that mattered to me until that moment.

Miraclesuit is known for making swimsuits that make you "look 10 pounds lighter in 10 seconds," and that its a magical moment when you see that happen for you in one of their suits. What I was more impressed with though? The amazing quality and structure. I absolutely love their styles- they are fashion forward and always on trend, but these suits stay put. I can literally run all day, hit the watersides and dive in the pool again and again with my kiddos without worrying about any slipping or sliding or adjustments to be made in order to preserve my modesty! And these suites will last- no more buying a suit here and there every year and hoping it will get me through the season- these pieces are really  a great investment that I can pull out for many summers to come.

I am beyond thrilled to be partnering with Miraclesuit today to offer one of their suits to one of you! Squee!!! I don't know if I've ever been this excited to share something with you. Its a big kiss to my readers from the middle of summer sunshine. You can enter using the rafflecopter below until Friday at midnight EST. You can even enter multiple days in a row by sharing on social media or get multiple entries by commenting. The winner will be connected with the lovely team at Miraclesuit (the sweet ladies that brought me to tears) and able to have the suit they love best delivered straight to their home next week! 

Good luck friends!

Reality, Math and the Homeschool

family, homeschoolHope With FeathersComment

{From the Archives, but too good not to share on a day when I feel flattened by helping my daughter with quadratic equations}

Ever heard stories about kids in high school coming down with panic attacks and cold sweats before geometry? Or who crammed for weeks upon weeks to meet college math requirements for graduation? That was me.

Last month, a well meaning teller gave me a sweet little hand pat along with a pamphlet about women learning how to be in control of their finances. This was after I responded to her question about one of our accounts with, “Oh, I have no idea. My husband handles all of that. Should I call him?” Lovely.

Dayton Art Institute

Dayton Art Institute

Being the self-analyzing person that I am, I have determined that this all stems from numbers not meaning much to me in general. In my education, as beautiful as it was, I honestly lacked a context of understanding real world problems. I also missed out on the beauty of mathematics in every day life, how it was nestled into things that I cherished like the rhythm and measure of classical music (or more likely for me in those days, Nirvana), the pretty spiral of a shell on the beach or the symmetry of a pinecone’s perfect decent from its tip, not to mention the proportions necessary for making perfect whip cream. 

Pinecone by hulihoo

Pinecone by hulihoo

And right in the middle of my own weakness, I am questioning, as I always do, “Can I teach my children…with this gapping hole in my own knowledge?” Do I delegate, do I refer them to someone else? Maybe. Probably.

My plight with math has been a long one, and although I don’t see a natural end in sight, I am beginning to see the beauty of its nature and the logic of things all around me. I think, in many ways, being unsure is equipping me to teach this subject with greater gusto. I am more determined to prepare my children well for a world where numbers are inevitable, and to bring a sense of wonder to their math studies. I am more apt to teach this subject from a place of humility and am pricked by the sense that I need to have the same heart approaching all our other studies.

2534002173_3f8e3d3c1b.jpg

I’m on the prowl for life-giving resources and experiences that go beyond equations on paper and I am discovering  and learning because of my duty to teach. Along with my children, I am finding with new eyes the way math infiltrates life around us and my own educational ‘hump’ is becoming smaller in the process, and a little less daunting day after day.

What areas are daunting to you as a teacher of your children? How do you combat them and carry on?

Our favorite Math resources:

Teaching Textbooks

Family Math

Living Math

Chicago University Press Math Classes at The Potter's School

Celebrating New York in Film with The Amazing Spiderman 2

Kristen KillComment

Sometimes New York just feels magical.

Being invited to join the press line on the Red Carpet for The Amazing Spider Man 2  Premiere was definitely one of those magical moments!  I love that the Amazing Spiderman series is quintessential New York. This story was born here, and watching the film at the premiere, my girls and I were just as giddy to see scenes from our city on the big screen as we were the stars of the movie in person.

Giddy was basically just how we approached heading to the Red Carpet in general. Evidence below:

When we arrived, we were given our VIP passes and seated in the bleachers with other bloggers and fans. There were T-shirts and masks being passed out, cotton candy and Spiderman water bottles- Sony did an amazing job taking care of everyone and  getting us all excited for the show to come! 

We sat next to family that was there with the Make a Wish Foundation, whose son's dream was to meet Spiderman. He was dressed as the superhero himself and was so full of energy and excitement! We were so honored to be able to talk with them and see how their family story and son's wish were all wrapped up in the story of this movie. 

Giving back to the community seemed to be a common theme of this premiere- Andrew Garfield arrived in a school bus packed with students from a school on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. These kids had devoted hours volunteering in the city, and as a reward the actor had surprised them at school and accompanied them to the red carpet. How cool is that? 

spiderman 2.JPG

We ended up being whisked away so we wouldn't miss the show before the big names came down the carpet, and it was worth every moment of waiting!  Views of our city's skyline from Spiderman's vantage point brought magic to the screen, the special effects, particularly of the scene where Jamie Foxx's villain emerges in Times square were incredible! The characters in this franchise are particularly endearing- and the ending left us all reeling. This installment is really not to be missed because it is so pivotal in the tale of Peter Parker.

We left with a renewed love Spidey, for New York, and especially New York celebrated in film. There is nothing quite like recognizing your neighborhood, or favorite haunts as the backdrop for your favorite superhero to swing through or save the world. This story, like our own, was made in this city.

The Amazing Spiderman 2 opens this weekend, don't miss it! 

Thirteen Years A Mother

familyKristen KillComment

So, my baby turns thirteen today. 

Thirteen. I have been a mother for thirteen years.

Apart from occasionally choking up over her beauty, intellect, wit and general independence, I think I'm doing ok. Spending these years with my girl, witnessing and nurturing every aspect of her life and development, bearing burdens, sharing experiences, adventuring, laughing, struggling. . . . its about the sweetest thing ever. Our children really do grow and become our best friends and confidants, and to be for this girl, to be privileged to launch her into the journey before her? Overwhelming grace.

There is, not surprisingly though, some reflection and mama soul-searching going on over here too. I have no regrets. Who I am now as a mother and all my deep convictions were forged little by little along the way. But, when I look back at my 22 year-old new mom self in this photo? I wish I could hug her and let her know a few things. The wisdom of years from where I sit now would have made life so much easier for her- and maybe more meaningful in the long days that consumed her. So, for all my friends at the beginning of this road (or anywhere along the way, really), I offer a veritable passing of the torch: thirteen things I wish I'd known about being a mom right from the start.

1. The time your children are little goes by too fast.

No really. Its not just something your grandmother said all the time. They fly by. These years pile up and in no time at all you really are sniffling over the fact that you aren't helping anyone to take a bath or go to the bathroom. The small moments are the big moments. Don't miss them. There will be a day when your child doesn't want you to color beside them, when there are no more imaginary tea parties, when they would rather text a friend than snuggle close to read a story with you and even...when they will just walk into their room and go to sleep without giving notice. Its beautiful and weird, but mostly just gone too quick.

2. No amount of advice will ever replace your gut. 

We read the books, we talked to friends....everyone swore by a method, and so we decided to play the let-her-cry-it-out game. The thing is, I hated every single second of it. It worked for nearly everyone around us at the time, but it didn't work for me. It certainly got the job done, we had a baby who slept like a dream, but I didn't feel right, I didn't feel like me. I fought my own instincts hard on many issues like this. I wish I'd leaned in and just trusted what felt right for my personality and my family. It takes a while to gain courage as a mom, to get in the habit of how to choose what works for you, which is probably different than what is working for your best friend or sister. I can promise you though, its worth fighting for and its glorious when you realize that diversity rocks, and that your difference of opinion on child-rearing is what makes life sweet.

3. As tired as you are with babies and toddlers underfoot, enjoy it. It is nothing compared to the exhaustion that is coming.

I know you don't want to hear that, but its true. When your children are little, you have a certain ability to control their schedules, keep everyone together, catch some zzzzzzzs or get things done while they take a nap. All that goes away as they get into school, begin playing sports, take dance classes, and you then you are shuffling them between all that and hang time with their friends. You will wake early and make lunches and get everyone out the door, or prepare your home for the day of learning ahead and desperately want to fall asleep by 9pm. You will collapse right at the precise moment your tween needs you to listen to their heart with rapt attention, and you will stay awake to soak it all in night after night. You will literally have to fight for self-care and margin and sleep. Somehow you will still love and adore it all.

4. You are stronger than you think you are.

You can do more, do it faster and do it on less sleep than you ever thought possible. You will grow into your mama skin. You will build muscle in mind and body and spirit that will sustain the work that will fill your days.  

5. Establishing habits and rhythms early will save you later.

This job gets sweeter, but also crazier. More and and more gets added in. Take time now to refine the grooves of your days as a family so you have a sure foundation. The same goes with those little foxes that catch us up- the eye rolling, the shoulder shrugging, the little things that are borderline endearing and yet totally diva like in a young child? Those things don't go away, they just get bigger. Deal with them now while they are small. Lead your child in the way she should go. Such care and attention is a gift to her, and to you.

6. Every child is different. Don't let comparison into your heart or home. It will crush you.

From first words, to baby sign language, crawling, walking, reading, riding a bike . . . . every single child is different, even amongst your own. Stop comparing right now. Look your child fresh in the face, really see them for who they are, recognize the glory of this little person and be okay with their pace. Every child will learn to eat with a fork, will eventually write their name and master their multiplication tables. You will never regret making a choice to focus on helping them enjoy the process, and not just reach the goal.

7. You can't do this alone, and your children will be better off if you don't try to.

My 10 year old used to ride her two wheeler like a champ. She was 6 when we moved and had only been at this big kid skill for a few months before transitioning to life in NYC. Our move shook her up, and as much as my husband and I encouraged her and offered rewards, she stubbornly refused to ride again. She believed she didn't know how and wouldn't let us tell her any different. 

It took a visit from grandma and grandpa to get her cycling again.  Without mom and dad, she got to take in a special date with her grandparents in the park, regaining her confidence and overcoming her fear. My in-laws were able to communicate with my daughter in a way her mommy and daddy could not. They have a bond with her, and share a love and and wealth of experiences with her (and all my children), of which I am not a part.

In my early years, I wanted to be up in every single aspect of my children's lives. I wanted to observe, approve and micro-manage them every moment. I struggled to trust anyone else with their care, or with their hearts.

The thing I've learned after all these years is that I can't do it all. I can't be everything. My children need other adults who are invested in them, who love them, who are on their team. They need trusted community to turn to when they have questions, they need other adults who pour into their lives in ways that my husband and I just can not. I need them too. I need to pick up the phone and have help. I need wisdom. Sometimes I just need to know there is a safe place for my kids to go so I can get a breath. 

It is worthwhile to cultivate their relationships with a bevy of relatives and friends who can bolster their hearts and come along side your family. I wish I had done it much, much sooner.

8. There is no "right" way to do this mothering thing.

I homeschool. I'm home all day with my crew. It works for me. It works for my kids. I am beyond thankful for our days and love teaching them at home, but I know its not for everyone. Some of my dearest friends send their kids to school. Others work with incredible diligence and skill, bringing their gifts to the marketplace. Some have nannies and friends who pitch in and friends who help with the sweetest love and abandon. Some of us reading here are classical educators, others montessori, some still, love their kids something fierce and yet have zero opinion about what they are doing in the classroom with their teachers each day. Some of us use time outs, others count to three, some eat organic, gluten-free, sugar-free, dye-free, free-free. None of us are right, or wrong in these gray areas. We are all doing the best we can.

There is wisdom, and there are principles that we must build our lives around and nurture our families within; there are wise choices to be made and consequences when they are rejected, but there is also great freedom. There is no such thing as perfection. Your puzzle is unique and one of the greatest (and craziest) parts of being a mom is learning how to make it fit together each day. Don't be afraid to re-jigger and change. There is no "right," perfect, or best way to do this job.

9. You don't need to be so serious all the time to be serious about motherhood.

Your children want you to laugh. They want you to be silly and twirl and sing at the top of your lungs; they want you to giggle so much your sides hurt, to play and run and do cartwheels and get dirty. They want to see you enter their world with lightness of heart. They will learn how to do this themselves from watching you.

10. Your children are not perfect. They will mess up. A lot. You will do well to be really comfortable with that.

Its not a reflection on you. Its a sign that they are human. Give them grace. Give yourself grace. Remember the patience and love offered to you by God when you struggle and rest in his promises for your kids. This is the long game, the epic story of a beautiful life lived. No life will go by without heaps of mistakes. Don't be shocked by their sin. The times when they struggle are the times they will need you to believe in the very best of them more than ever. They will need you to remind them of their true selves. You must.

11. Little things really are little things. Let them go.

Messy bathrooms, untidy closets, the mayhem that is your kitchen every night after dinner- don't let it get to you. Sibling tiffs, bristly attitudes after little sleep or worn down immune systems, the lists you likely have in your mind this very moment of small tasks that need your attention- don't let them consume you. There are bristly, uncomfortable moments in every family, little things that we all wish we could change, and by God's grace, day by day, some of those things will change! But some of the things you think are a big deal? They're not. Bust out like Ilse and just Let. It. Go. Really.

12. Your relationship with your children is going to look really different than your husband's relationship with them- Lucky you!

For so long, I thought that being a team with my man in this parenting thing meant that we were going to do everything together. That led to a lot of conflictMy days with my kids and the type of care and nurture that is a part of my relationship with them is distinctly different than my husband's. We work in sync, we pray for one another, we communicate and connect and have a shared vision for life in our home, but our roles are really different. There is great beauty in that. He will never fully 'get' the balance and swing of my homeschooling and housekeeping days, the juggling and transporting that goes on. Its not his job. Thankfully, that means he is freed up to enter into the evening routine here with a freshness I happen to lack at 6pm each day! He is able to focus on areas of development that I am not, see things I don't see, and care for them in ways that don't come naturally to me. The gifts and talents your husband will impart to your kids are going to be different than the ones you pass on, and the way he relates, jokes, questions and encourages them, is probably going to be completely different than the way you would do it. Lucky everyone!  Because remember? You can't do this alone, or be everything to your children . . . . and that's a good thing. 

13. To everything there is a season.

You don't have to cram everything you've ever wished for in your life into one small stretch of time. Its okay to put some things on hold and focus on the season of life with children in your home. Pace yourself and don't miss the gifts right in front of you. 

Because just like that? Your baby will be a teenager too.

What would you add, mamas? What have you learned along the way? Drop your wisdom on us in the comments!

 

On Learning to Read {All About Reading Levels}

homeschoolKristen KillComment

"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free."

- Fredrick Douglass

No matter where we find ourselves, when homeschooling moms gather in one place, you can count on a couple of things. First, we can not stop talking about curriculum and sharing ideas, curriculum catalogs and the talking about all we are learning! And second, it becomes obvious rather quickly that we each have something knawing at us that we long to have relieved by conversation with our "colleagues."

Homeschooling can truly be isolating.

The farther I walk down this path, the more I see that this choice requires a certain courage to keep going. We will all inevitably question whether we are doing enough, whether we are doing it right (coincidentally, there isn't just one right way, but that's a story for another blog post!)  We question whether the work we put our hands to each day is producing good fruit, if our children will learn what they need to and cultivate a strong character; if the daily distractions and diversions that are inevitable will overtake us, or if the beautiful mess of learning and home all mingled together will become the sweetest of memories. This journey is so full of wonderful, but those fears seem to lurk.

We are each so hungry for tips and tricks and wisdom- we drink up how life is going in the homes of others, we entrust our own stories to one another and we embrace bonds where others can see those fears in us and combat them with truth. Those big hugs from others in the trenches and words from moms who have gone before us? Priceless. I hope that wherever you are in teaching your children to read, and whether you homeschool or not, that this can be an encouragement to you! Its my big hug to you as I share a little of what we've learned along the way.

So onto what I'm learning about reading levels.....

When our children are reading fluently and independently, everything else about homeschooling changes because we can set them on the path to educational freedom. 

Charlotte Mason said, "there is no education, but self- education," and when a beautiful relationship with books is forged, the real learning has only just begun! 

I think teaching our children to read is equally the most delightful and one of the most stressful aspects of homeschooling. The pressure's on because it is so foundational. There are, of course, a million ideas about how this is done best and we've tried at least 9,999,999 of them over here.

 Under my own roof, I have had an early reader who was enjoying Charlotte's Web by the end of Kindergarten, a severely dyslexic child who would run to the bathroom and throw up after reading one paragraph of Dick and Jane because it was so disorienting, a wily and quite typical boy who struggled to sit still for any formal instruction for a while longer than I was comfortable with, and the baby of the bunch who was taught to read mostly by older siblings while I was freaking out about whether they were doing all right (update: they were!) 

In my moments of worry, I talked to other wiser women. One of my friends had a son who didn't want to read independently until he was nearly 12 and at then at age 14 was a national merit scholar. Another encouraged me to remember to keep the love of learning and reading paramount and for goodness sakes, just relax. And yet another reminded me that in some educational philosophies  (Waldorf, most notably) formal reading instruction didn't begin until age 8.  Do you see the trend here? Everyone who had gone before me kept saying, "its going to be all right." And now I'm telling you : It is. Its going to be all right.

Ultimately, what I see in my own home is that no two children are the same, and that my approach needed to change to suit the beautiful design and personality held by each of them.

I'm going to share all week long about what tools and ideas we have implemented for different learning styles, my favorite picks for programs we have used and how I kept myself from having a heart attack in the process, but today- I want to share one of my favorite tools with you!

Ever wonder what grade level the book your child is reading actually falls into? There's a chart for that! 

There is such a wide range of development and reading levels in each grade, but it has really helped me to take a deep breath and keep moving forward to be able to plot how my children are doing for their assigned grade levels. Its simply another tool we can use to be excellent in this role and equip ourselves as our children's teacher. 

When you determine the level of any book, the key component you are looking for is the Lexile Score. That score corresponds to a particular grade level nationally, regardless of what system of letters or colors your own region or school district may implement. Its a handy device because not only can it help you assess what level your kiddos are reading at, it can help you pick books that will fit their level or just above to challenge them.

To determine the  Lexile Score, google is your friend! For Charlotte's Web for instance, simply enter this into your  search bar:  Charlotte's Web lexile score 

The score?  680L

For The Cat In The Hat?  150L

The Lexile Score is not only available online, but also in your local bookstores and libraries. I've actually found Barnes and Noble's website to be so helpful! Ask those sweet ladies behind the counter to help you find the Lexile Score on the covers or copyright pages of the books you check out as well, then compare it with this grid to correspond to grade level.

Voila! Look how smart you are, mama!

The Lexile Score and grade level correspondence chart

The Lexile Score and grade level correspondence chart

Living Room Idea Board

family, findsKristen KillComment
Ikea is wooing me (as always) with their fab small space solutions. I love the look of those glass door, wall mounted shelves and the industrial feel of the mint green hutch. The wood and metal accents feel almost country cozy, with just enough edge to make it in Manhattan.

Ikea is wooing me (as always) with their fab small space solutions. I love the look of those glass door, wall mounted shelves and the industrial feel of the mint green hutch. The wood and metal accents feel almost country cozy, with just enough edge to make it in Manhattan.

One thing about life in an apartment is that its always giving me reasons to re-evaluate the way we use our space. Most of our things have followed us since our early married days- they're a little tattered and in need of some updating. Small space living keeps me intentional about how we live, what items we use in our day to day life and how we store it all. I'm finding I'm drawn more and more to neutrals (and gasp! White walls!) that allow me to change the look of my space in small ways in various seasons and also enlarge the room by keeping the palate fresh and clean. Here's some of my favorite inspirations right now.

Apartment Therapy blends the cozy and modern vibe so well here! I love the soft textures and floral curtains paired with the sleek tv console and coffee table.

Apartment Therapy blends the cozy and modern vibe so well here! I love the soft textures and floral curtains paired with the sleek tv console and coffee table.

Refinery 29 knows how to pull off orange! I love how livable and (large?) this space looks. The height of the plant, the dreamy chaise for space saving seating- so pretty! 

Refinery 29 knows how to pull off orange! I love how livable and (large?) this space looks. The height of the plant, the dreamy chaise for space saving seating- so pretty! 

Smitten Studios Online has won me over completely. I am absolutely drooling over her living room. Be sure to click over and check it out!

Smitten Studios Online has won me over completely. I am absolutely drooling over her living room. Be sure to click over and check it out!

Design Sponge has inspired me that I can make any size space look amazing with the photos of this little studio! Wow.

Design Sponge has inspired me that I can make any size space look amazing with the photos of this little studio! Wow.

I can't escape my love of emerald couches like this one from Melisa Mercier. And that coffee table? Perfection.

I can't escape my love of emerald couches like this one from Melisa Mercier. And that coffee table? Perfection.

My love of grayscale couches continues with these great finds via Design Sponge

The textures here are like...whoa.

The textures here are like...whoa.

Are you on Pinterest? I'd love to go follow you and check out your own inspiration! Leave your username in the comments? And tell me what you're digging here...I need help! 

Awakening Wonder

faith, family, homeschoolKristen KillComment
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Mornings here....

Look quiet and cozy lately. We are all waking just a bit later, going just a bit slower. Its a bit of a fog really, this is the time of year that always finds me questioning if what we are doing in our homeschool is enough. The days feel a bit lazy, we've settled into our rhythm enough to know how to bend and break the rules, and then we begin to lose our sense of routine altogether.  We've been plugging away at learning goals long enough to see the gaps (right along side the progress, but the gaps tend to stick out most to the isolated mothers teaching at home, don't they?) After the sparkle of the holidays fade, I can even find myself feeling a little stuck. I know my children feel it too. We reach a place each winter where wonder has faded and we are just going through the motions.

When I feel like this, I tend to freak out that we might not meet our yearly goals and its really easy for me to think we need to do more workbooks, toughen up our load of the fundamentals and in every way make our lessons even more dull. After a week of torture, I'm typically ready to quit, I'm researching charter schools on the internet and then...and then.... I circle back to where I should have began in the first place- in quiet prayer.

Inevitably, the quieting of my own heart is the game changer. Renewal in those moments always comes when I ask one question: Why are we doing  this, why are we really, pouring ourselves into days schooling at home? Why did we get into this in the first place? And, is it central to how we are living out our present? Our yesterday and tomorrow? The answer that follows, usually poured out among the pages of my journal, becomes the vision and sustaining force for the rest of our school year. 

Maybe this is what January is for? To shake us up and settle us down into something true, to traumatize us as we reach the end of our own wills and to give us cause to fight for lasting vision.

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So why are you doing this? Have you asked yourself lately? 

To connect with hearts. To inspire. To live beautifully. To let learning spill over and mingle with real life. To avoid the stodgy classroom. To experience flexibility and adventure together. To watch eyes brighten right in front of you. To reclaim your own education. To meet out of the box needs. To be together. To embrace home.

My reasons might be very similar or very different from your own, but  I'm guessing we could all use a reminder of them. I'm often asked what books inspire me, and I keep coming back to the same old few. Like true friends they remind me, year after year, about the "why" of homeschooling. Spending time in their pages refreshes and awakens wonder in my heart to keep me going. In no way an exhaustive list, here they are. I pray they can awaken the same wonder in you and help you kindle your mid winter spark. 

For the Children's Sake 

Transformative for our family.  Susan Schaeffer Macauley is the daughter of Francis and Edith Schaeffer, whose theological and practical writings have greatly impacted us as well. She shares her own family's journey toward finding an educational philosophy that embraced Biblical discipleship and dignified children. A must read.

Educating the Whole Hearted Child

Written by our dear friends and mentors, no other book has changed the course of our family's life (save the Bible) like this one. It is life-giving, casting a vision for home and learning that has literally steered the course for us. Intelligent, practical and wise, it is the book we visit again and again.

Charlotte Mason Companion

This book nurtures my heart as a mom. I feel inspired and cared for every time I visit its pages. Poetic and gentle, reading it at once gives practical wisdom you can implement right away, and leaves you feeling as if you've just had coffee with a dear friend. Highly recommended. 

When Children Love to Learn

A wonderful follow- up to Schaeffer-Macauley's book, this is written by the celebrated educators and founders of Ambleside International Schools. It offers a practical curriculum approach using Charlotte Mason's methods for children learning in school or at home. Also wonderful for traditional educators and parents!

A Home Start in Reading

So often in the little years, the task of teaching reading feels monumental. This book simplifies and gives a practical step by step approach you can implement right away (at any stage of teaching a child to read). This year, as I teach two older children, the task of teaching reading to my younger two, who need a very intentional and watchful eye, is overwhelming to me- this book is worth its weight in gold. So thankful for Beechick's frank and common sense style. Like having a mentor or reading specialist right along with you.

Read for the Heart

My friend Sarah is a brilliant storyteller. After a childhood grounded in delightful literature, there is no one I trust more to help me pick a title for my own children. She has compiled the loveliest collection of books for every topic and area of study here in Read for the Heart. If your children are longing for inspiration through story this winter, you'll find titles to share with them here. A must have for every family library.

So what would you add to the list? What are your go-to's that nourish you along this road? What do you pull out again and again?