Monday, March 3, 2014

Where is this going?

me- taken by David.

I have missed this blog a lot. I have loved every minute of writing and chronicling our lives here over the last six years. My writing has ebbed and flowed as life has sped up, slowed down, shifted and turned. I've had times when writing has been therapeutic, and times when I've wanted to keep things to myself.

My three little ones and my photography business have stolen my heart and my time, for now. I've found that my blog is currently usurping mental energy away from these things, while not actually manifesting any writing. This has led me to write this little post to say that if you'd like to follow along with what I'm up to on a regular basis, follow my photo blog here:

and like my photography Facebook page:

I will occasionally post house projects, and homeschool updates here, but day to day life will mainly be in visual form. I would love for you to keep up with me. I really love and miss my blog friends. Until next time...

Friday, January 10, 2014

Introducing my Photography Site

I am incredibly excited to finally make public what I have been working on (A LOT) lately...

My photography website!


It's been in the works for quite some time. Really, a very, very long time. Years. But, I feel the timing is finally right to take this passion for my camera and the photos it takes to the next level.

I'd love feedback.

It's a pretty exciting way to start of the 2014. And if you are in Athens or the surrounding areas, I would LOVE to photograph you.

Friday, January 3, 2014

A New Year. Resolutions. Looking back and forward.

2013 will be a year that I will never forget.

While many people are choosing words to describe their year, I must say that this year was an Ecclesiastes 3 year for our family.

We celebrated new life.
We mourned a life that was taken too soon.
We have been blessed.
And taken away from.
There have been a lot of laughter, and many, many tears.
A lot of the year, I have felt very lost.
Many, many times I have held tightly to the words, "It is well, with my soul."

I am fearful of letting go of all that this year has been, but anxious for new beginnings. The most painful times push us to grow the most, and that has been 2013 for me.

Today, I feel more confident in who I am and what I want that I have ever been before. I know that I am enough. Here's to 2014. Please be easier than last year.

It would not be a New Year's post without some lists! (My favorite.)

Looking back at last year, I set the following goals for 2013:

1. Read more! 
My goal was 13 books - I think I read 5. An improvement that could still be improved upon.

2. Finish an unfinished project.
Yes. I finished a project of two, I am sure.

3. Knit a hat
I knit several hats! And I am no longer intimidated by knitting in the round. Accomplishment!

4. Practice photography

I have had over 12 photoshoots this year with people other than my family AND I have built a portfolio and website. I'm so excited to launch it.

5. Decide on/invent a "homeschool" preschool plan for the year. 

I decided to use Sonlight and I talk about that here.  I am getting ready to revamp for the New Year and will be getting ready to start Kindergarten with Dmitri this year! Wow.

Of course, I had a baby (hooray for Eleanor). David started his Ph.D, which is like a fourth child in itself.

In 2014, I hope to:

1. Sleep more.
2. Build my photography business.
3. Choose contentment.
4. Love myself and others more.
5. Write.

What are your goals for the new year?

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy Holidays

Well, it's been a while! I have sat down to write many times, and either have run out of time or decided to keep some of my thoughts to myself. David's first semester of graduate school was rough on all of us, and I am dreading him starting back next week. We've enjoyed the much-needed holiday break, and I am trying to be hopeful for the new year. Most of all, I am incredibly excited to be launching my photography website (hopefully this week)! And I look forward to sharing that with you.


My hope is for love, peace, contentment, and more writing in 2014.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Homeschool Curriculum

Many of you have asked about what homeschool curriculum we are using. Two months in, and I really love what we are doing right now. It took me a little while to find my way amongst the all of the vastly different homeschool curriculums and education philosophies. I can't say it's right for everyone, but it's really working for us for now. I'm sure we will evolve as life continues to change.

My educational philosophy is a buffet that offers a little of everything - un-schooling, literature-based, classical, Waldorf, Montessori, and probably others too. I had a love-hate relationship with school, and I really want to pass on the good parts of my educational experience and withhold the negatives for my own children, while morphing my curriculum to meet each child's individual interests and learning styles at their level. I'd like to skip the boredom, repetition, compartmentalization, in-applicability, and lack of self-direction that can be present in compulsory education. And I want my children to love to learn. I want to foster creativity, independence, self-motivation, exploration and a passion for life and learning. I want them to feel challenged and for them to feel like there is always room for growth and expansion.

And I want my children to be happy, care-free, and enjoy life, while still being prepared for whatever dreams they want to pursue.

As an over-thinking, introspective, perfectionist, I have spent a great deal of time thinking and searching for how to practically turn my vision into every-day life. After obsessing about homeschooling a little too much, I finally found peace when I started following my children's lead: looking at what they love to do and what they get excited about.

And as far as being prepared for life beyond childhood, I realized that if you can read, write, and reason well, then you can be successful at anything. So, I think that sums up a lot of the theoretical that I have been thinking about. Here are the specifics...

The Specifics


Sonlight makes up the core of our curriculum. It is a literature based curriculum that focuses on reading classic literature. By reading books, we are covering history, reading, and science. Right now, we are finishing up P 3/4 and are starting P 4/5  While I love that Sonlight does all the planning and scheduling for me, and I can fall back on it if I need to, we are currently moving at our own pace and I am letting the boys direct what and how much we read. (Hence, why we are finishing up our year of curriculum after only two months...they really love reading)

We ARE editing some of the curriculum. I'm not using a few books, and I'm adding to it in areas that are lacking. For instance, Dmitri is very interested in the earth, dirt, bugs, worms, etc. So I have added 6-8 books on those specific topics. (Like this cool Beetle Book!)

We use math every day. When they help me bake, when we count, when we look at the clock or read the page numbers of our books. They like to play with money. Right now, I feel that is more than enough.

When Dmitri has learned to write his numbers, we plan to start Life of Fred. I wish I had this when I was in school! (Maybe I wouldn't have hated math.) It makes math applicable and humorous, and avoids laborious homework assignments. Seriously, I am in love with this math curriculum.

Dmitri has a Handwriting Without Tears workbook that he works in when he wants to. He enjoys using it, as if it were a coloring book.

Sonlight is not very hands-on/project oriented, and this is something that my boys and I really enjoy. So we add in fun activities that we come up with together. Last week, we traced and cut out the boys bodies, and then taped on all of the body parts (which I had printed) that we had learned about in the human body book that we had just read.

Field Trips
I try to find field trips that are related to something we are learning about. A few weeks ago, we drove to Atlanta for a Peter Rabbit Puppet show (we just finished reading "The Complete Tales of Peter Rabbit"). They loved it, and so did I!

The boys go to an open gymnastics once a week, which they absolutely love. Once they outgrow this weekly event, I think they will want to take gymnastics classes. It's such a great way for them to get out some energy and test their physical limits.

In the Spring, we plan to do a wilderness program once a week (where they hike in the woods for 3 hours). I adore the idea of a forest kindergarten, and I think this will be a great addition to our week.

All of that say, homeschooling is really just laid back and fun as I follow my littles' natural interests and pace, and we are learning so much. And there is just enough structure that this planner doesn't go crazy.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Finally, 4 Months

Eleanor turned 4 months old this past week. And finally, I feel adjusted to this new life with three. After all of those moments of saying, "This too shall pass." It has. I think I'm finally on the other side. For now. The ever-changing tides of parenthood seem to recede just when you are sure that you cannot take anymore.

One beautiful and random day last week, Eleanor decided that the Ergo is quite a cozy mode of transportation. It's completely changed my daily life. This is how I imagined life with three would be- a high-energy adventure with my two boys, just with a baby in the pouch. And four months in, that's what it's become. I'm really starting to love it.

I've enjoyed every minute of holding and snuggling this extra sweet baby girl. But now, my bathroom is swept, the dishes are washed, and the laundry is folded. And that makes life a lot easier to enjoy. Not perfect, but much better.

Homeschooling is going well. We read, we draw, we paint, we listen to music, we pretend. We play a lot - with friends, at the park, on the floor. And last week, after reading "The Complete Works of Peter Rabbit," we attended a "Peter Rabbit" puppet show at The Center for Puppetry Arts. I'm not sure who is having more fun - me or them.

Not only is life a bit easier now that Eleanor enjoys the Ergo, but she is fascinated by her constantly whirling brothers. This entertainment keeps her content long enough for me to run to the bathroom, take a bath, or grab something to eat. It's marvelous. And they think so too. They absolutely adore her. Experiencing the precious interactions between all three of them melts what's left of my horcrux-ed heart. We have our moments, but the happiness always outweighs the challenges.

And now, when all three little ones are fast asleep, I am whole-heartedly pursuing photography. Reading, learning, practicing, editing, website building, scheduling...I'm making it happen.

More to come soon.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

My Journey to Homeschooling

We have spent the last month, still floating along in newborn land. Eleanor keeps growing. She has stolen my heart. We have all been sick on and off. The littles and I attended my grandfather's surprise 80th birthday party in Memphis. David started his Ph.D. We are handling some major house repairs. And now we are "starting homeschooling". And here is the story of how that came to be...

As Dmitri could officially start Pre-K, I've been soul-searching, researching, and grappling with all of our educational options as the time for school draws nearer. My thoughts have chased each other into circles and down rabbit trails as I've tried to figure out the best option for all of us.

We aren't in a "good" public school district (actually quite terrible, really), but some people have had good experiences with it. And yet, the more public school teachers I meet and talk to that won't put their children in the public schools here, the more uncomfortable I feel putting my own child in. I worry about what he might learn, especially socially and emotionally. And educationally, I worry about taking away my child's "childhood" - the pressure that comes from testing and homework, the waking up at 6:30 AM to get to school on time, the 8 hours away from home. I just didn't feel at peace about it.

I have hoped that we could send him to Montessori school. I like the Montessori educational philosophy, and I think Dmitri would thrive in that environment. I would not have to worry quite as much about the negative socialization (not that it is non-existent), and there would be smaller class sizes and lower student/teacher ratios. Considering how reserved Dmitri is, I think these things are important. The day starts at 9 AM instead of 7:30 AM, which seems to just make more sense for young children. But, financially, a graduate student income was not intended for a family of five, and especially does not allow for Montessori school tuition. While I think it's worth every single penny, it does not change the fact that we do not have those pennies.

And so I've felt disappointed and frustrated by my lack of options.

There is always homeschooling.

I was homeschooled from kindergarten to graduation. It's not a foreign concept to me. I've been to curriculum fairs. I've worked at curriculum fairs. I've read Charlotte Mason. I've read John Holt. I've known hundreds of homeschoolers. I've seen unschooling, relaxed schooling, textbook homeschooling, classical homeschooling, literature-based homeschooling, Waldorf homeschooling, homeschool co-ops, homeschool "schools," etc. I know what HSLDA stands for.

But the older my children have gotten, the less I've been interested in homeschooling. I think I ultimately have felt that I cannot be the mom that I want to be - a patient, calm, loving, playful, interactive mom, if I am with my children all day long, every single day. Especially since Eleanor's arrival has thrown me for a loop and my house is in varying states of chaos, and for the first time in my adult life I have not bathed daily (sorry, friends). I dream of having a half-clean house, dinner waiting in the crock-pot, having clean clothes folded and put away, and being able to ENJOY my children when I am with them without stressing about mundane things that don't really matter in the long-term (but I just can't help it that they bother me!)

I felt like homeschooling would poop on my dream, and then stomp it into dust. And laugh. And say, "Poo, poo!" in a Madeline-voice.

I've felt inadequate. And I am terribly afraid of becoming "one of those homeschool moms". I can name at least 15 homeschool moms that seem literally crazy. Were they always that way or did their children make them that way? Nobody knows...I could go on about my fears of homeschooling and homeschoolers and homeschool moms. But what they really are are just fears about myself.

And that very realization led me to think, "Maybe I should give homeschooling a try." Because I believe in pushing the boundaries of oneself, growing, and being scared to death of it all. (Or maybe I'm just as crazy as I fear).

So, I started doing a little more research - delving into the world of homeschooling philosophies and curriculum. Re-familiarizing myself with all that is out there. And I became just a little bit excited. And when I found the perfect curriculum, I became just a bit more excited. And when I started planning projects and field trips and ordering books, I became pee-my-pants excited.

It's taken time. Over the course of severals months, I've been metamorphosing. Acknowledging who I am, embracing that "I am enough" (which I have had hanging on my fridge), re-centering myself with what's important, and letting go.

But a conversation with Dmitri took away any smidgen of doubt that may have remained.

I had borrowed some books from my aunt that were a part of our school curriculum. As I was tucking Dmitri into bed, I said, "Aren't you excited about the books that we got from Aunt Stacy for school?" Since Dmitri loves to read, I expected an enthusiastic response. But instead, in a belligerent tone, he nearly yelled back, "NO! I don't want to do school." Taken aback, I cautiously said, "Oh, well I thought that you would be excited about reading the books." He again yelled, more flustered, "NO! I'm not doing it." I questioned him, trying to figure out what triggered this outburst. And what he meant became clear when he threw his arms around my neck and said, "I'm not going to school! You can't leave me, because I LOVE YOU TOO MUCH."

And that little misunderstanding brought tears to my eyes, and solidified my decision. Because I love him too much too.

And here we are. Today, we attended a homeschoolers beginning-of-the-school-year bash. Dmitri was trying to understand which of his friends would be there and which would not. I explained to him that "...homeschoolers will be there." And he exclaimed, "HEY! I'M A HOMESCHOOLER!"

Yes, Dmitri, yes you are.

I don't really know where we are going, what this journey will hold, or how long this will last, but right now, we are homeschooling. I'm scared, but I am enough.