Lately, I’ve struggled with keeping our house tidy. Of course, I’m a mom of four, so my typical day involves cleaning like it involves breathing. Now I’m sure you can imagine me in my palace, all shiny and clean, but the reality is, my home is comfortably messy, and occasionally, a disaster, despite my constant fussing.
But I find summer particularly difficult with our living area expanded out of doors. Add in two weeks of travel and some camping, luggage and laundry, a house full of people who are ALWAYS HOME, and we’ve got ourselves a good ole mess.
So on Saturday, I woke up and said “ENOUGH!”
And we went to the fair. Because life it too short to live in a house that is clean and messy and then cleaned up again, and then messy, and then cleaned again before bed only to wake in the morning to find it messy….seriously how does that happen?
We explored the fair grounds, rode some rides, including the giant slide that I never would have set foot upon without Sparrow’s plea for “more more, ya, ya, dis!” as he gestured excitedly to the rickety looking structure. So I complied. What could go wrong?!
Well, I could barely squeeze up the ladder, since it was built to accommodate small children, who are perhaps, underfed. Sparrow sensed my uneasiness. He gave me a good pat on the back as I carried him to the top and kissed me repeatedly. Upon our arrival at the top of Mecca, the other two kiddos hopped immediately into place on their felt mats while I wiggled and squished and swapped my toddler from right arm to left, trying to squeeze my mum sized bum into its rightful place at the top of the slide only to realize that I had somehow managed to entirely miss the felt mat. So while people stared up at us from below, I lifted myself up, all while holding a small human and proceeded to stuff the blanket under my backside with one hand, without slipping down the slide.
When I was finished, it was like I was sitting on a giant raisin. But I rode that slide. I rode it over the two bumps, trying not to let on like I was scared, since my five year old seemed to be rocking it. I tried reducing my death grip on my toddler to a level that allowed him to breathe, and then just as quickly as it began, we arrived at the bottom on our raisin, slid onto the felt mat at the bottom that was meant to stop us, but somehow, the raisin had moved from under the seat of my pants, to somewhere under my upper thighs, and I received some pretty decent carpet burn on my butt. I also had to check to make sure my pants were still intact, which, thankfully (seriously-thank- you- pants!!) they were. Sparrow was overjoyed, so I marked it down as a win-ish.
And then we rode/exploited a camel.
Explored the exhibits
Played a game…and brought home more crap to leave around the house.
But we were tired, and we were happy, and I didn’t really care that we were contributing to consumerism and all of the other things I work hard to avoid on a regular basis.
When we arrived home, the house was still clean. The kids were happy. I was happy. And life was good.
There are three statements I hear most frequently about homeschooling:
I wish I could homeschool my kids, but I don’t have the patience
What about socialization (a whole other post)
We couldn’t afford to homeschool.
For the sake of this post, we’ll let the first remark slide with a simple explanation of, I don’t have patience either, but this is certainly teaching me a lot about how to find them.
As for the third comment, we live on a small, well-earned income . Rather than the privilege of money, there are many skills that we’ve honed over the years that we likely take for granted (doesn’t everyone know how to build a chicken coop or harvest nettles for tea?) Creativity and thriftiness are just examples of gifts both Papa Bear and I possess that have both brought us together and moved us forward. So I thought I’d share the wealth here.
Here are 3 things lifestyle choices we’ve made to save money and live simply…
We Purchase Real Food First
The perimeter of the grocery store contains all of the food we need, while the centre of the store, typically contains our wants. In order for us to save money, to feel good, and to thrive, I try to offer us the best food we can with the dollar that we have. We buy organic when we can and when it counts the most, while the remainder of the time, we simply focus on purchasing real food as much as possible. Healthy meats, such as whole chickens and cuts with a bone in offer the opportunity for more than one meal through means of soup. Veggies can double as both snacks with dip and sides for meals. We garden as well as source items directly from farms and roadside stands to find deals on inexpensive, healthy produce.
We avoid purchasing ready-made sauces, cookies, and sugary snacks that keep us coming back for more. We are not perfect, but really, I find the less sugar we consume, the less we have empty cravings to fill. When we eat real food, we fill our bodies all of its vitamin requirements, and in return, we feel satisfied. The bottom line is, sometimes we spend a bit more on our food because it gives us more now and saves us later.
We Thrift 90% of Our Needs
By purchasing our clothing secondhand, I’m able to buy beautiful brandname items at affordable prices. I select only items that my children will wear, since purchasing things that only I like would be a waste of our money, not to mention, hinder the relationships with my children. I only choose items that are in pristine condition, though I do recognize the I’m lucky enough to have some basic sewing skills which allows me to alter items to fit and flatter.
I’ve recently stopped storing clothes for the future, since I can easily outfit our family for a small amount of money at a variety of local thrift shops as the seasons change, and the sanity I was losing over keeping clothes in a home without closets just wasn’t worth it. Anything we are finished with is then donated to continue the cycle of being re-loved and to avoid being added to the unimaginable amounts of textile waste being sent to landfills every year.
Of course, not only do we buy clothing second hand, but we also drive second hand vehicles, purchase previously enjoyed dishes, snowsuits, furniture ( mostly antiques)…the possibilities are endless.
We Keep Homeschool Purchases Minimal
If someone were to ask me about our homeschooling budget, I’d have to be honest and say that we don’t have one. I don’t purchase curriculum, but rather, piece together my own using free printables, text books I’ve thrifted, and real living books from our library. There are surprising resources everywhere, allowing us a jumpstart on topics we may be interested in, or perhaps had no idea about. The bank sometimes has activity books about finances and budgeting for kids, the vet had an animal care booklet that lead to research projects, and most recently we used a hydro dam safety activity book to jumpstart our learning about electricity.
Occasionally, we’ll subscribe to specific services for a short period of time to fill a need, but ultimately, the joy of learning comes from all around us, and I’d rather avoid recreating school at home. I have many friends who are excellent curriculum educators, but this has never been my forte, so I felt that it would cost us unnecessary money for what we would get out of it.
Today we fled from here as quickly as possible. I’ve been at home with the children for many days while PapaBear is working some extra seasonal work, and I’ve grown weary of being the only ‘at home’ parent. The messes are constant and always the same, and the daily meals are less interesting without his company around the table at night. Sometimes, it takes leaving our home to appreciate its order upon our return.
The old adage, absence makes the heart grow fonder, really sits with me these days. This isn’t my first rodeo/ orchard season; in fact, it’s about my sixth. Yes, parenting alone is difficult (single mothers, I salute you), but it’s really just being without my other half that makes life seem less colourful.
I was raised in the age of gurrlpower! I heard the shouts of the Spice Girls, and I took the mandatory self-defence course in high school, which entailed a sweaty man, twice my age, pinning me to the ground, so that I could fight my way out from under him. Although the intentions were decent, I received many mixed messages about being female. I should look hot.I should do all things alone,and I should be careful in doing both of those together, or I’d be sorry. And lastly, needing a man would make me weak.
So it seems strange to me that I ended up here, in a place where I have a husband who I lean on openly, and who I can admit to ‘needing’. We’ve grown together as partners. We’ve created this life together…one that reflects parts of each of us, but ultimately encompasses the us we’ve become together. After all, I was born from the same dirt, rather than from his rib.
Unlike the cultural teachings of my youth, I don’t do it all myself ‘just in case it doesn’t work out’, and I like it this way. I’m no less of a powerful woman because I feel better having him by my side, because I require his help (yep, I said it), or because I have changed while standing beside him. In turn, we learn to communicate, to trust, to respect,to nurture…
beautiful things can happen in partnership…and I’ll tell you….“it’s what I want, what I really really want”
We began homeschooling when our daughter was born, almost nine years ago.
When she was just a fresh, squishy faced little babe, I naively imagined shaping her into a marvellous young woman who would possess all of the traits necessary for success.
What I didn’t realize was that she was already a whole, tiny human…a complete package just waiting to burst, if we were there to help her unfold into adulthood.
I had always held a simplistic take on raising children. When faced with issues such as food, clothing, toys, childcare any beyond, I knew that less or in the case of food, the simplest, would be more, but I hadn’t realized the extent to which this was true.
When Wildflower was just ten weeks old, she turned to my mother, her own grandmother, and collided with her cheek, open-mouthed. Stunned, we both spoke out loud “did she just kiss?!”, and with that, she open- mouth smacked her again, right on the cheek. She proceeded to repeat this action ten times (which is how I remember that she was, in fact, just ten weeks). Each time the action was prompted by the word ‘kiss’ and only ‘kiss’. It sounds bizarre even as I type it, but she knew what she was doing, and she knew that this action had a specific name.
Now, we could easily have chalked this miraculous event up to foolishness. We could have agreed that she was simply ‘too young’, but we witnessed that moment, and it was beautiful.
In the months that followed, Wildflower learned to speak simple words, sit up, crawl, walk, dance, and sing. These are simple, yet valuable milestones in the typical development of a healthy child, that I didn’t teach her. I merely carried on in my everyday life, involved her, earned her trust, and she followed in my steps (which is how she also has my tone of voice at times).
This was the beginning of the most important lesson I’ve learned during our homeschool experience…the value of mentorship, and the beauty of learning to lead and follow…something one may have thought I would have learned through my first love of dancing, but something that could only truly be understood by witnessing my own heart beating outside of my body.
This summer was like no other. With the chance to explore new territory, old and new family relationships, and opportunities to pour a bit deeper into ourselves, I find myself wondering where the summer went!
Sure the proof is in my garden, as usual. The season truly has passed by while I barely took the time to care for the essentials here at home. Yes, I can feel the changes stirring within, plans for the future, for our home, for our family, for my own self-development, yet I find myself stunned to hear others speaking of this supposed ‘back-to-school’ season that is upon public school families.
Here at home we are still riffling through seashells and sea-glass pieces, harvesting a beautiful bounty of tomatoes, and seeking out that last bit of dill for my yearly arsenal of pickles before this season has, too, passed me by.
Quite suddenly, we find ourselves playing catch up from our adventures on the coast, time with family, days spent camping in the woods, and the latest moments when company filled our home with purpose, once again.
Below are just a few unedited snippets of moments shared together on our East Coast journey to warm this space back up…
If the decision were mine, I’d wake in the morning, leaving myself a few quiet moments in bed before rising. This is typically my most productive time for pondering. My thoughts are unscathed by the coming day that I’ll barely keep up with, and my intentions are fresh and simple. Maybe I can teach Moonchild about the ‘Sh’ sound today? Maybe we’ll watch that documentary about the dinosaurs, and Wildflower and I will plant some lupins. I really want to weed the small flower bed and hem those pants. And, if I’m lucky, I may sneak in a quick meditation while Sparrow naps.
And then, if I’m feeling particularly calm, answers to deeper questions will surface without my even summoning them….Wildflower is feeling left out. Big brother wasn’t telling the whole story about math class yesterday…make a note to check in and see what’s really bothering him… This was the inspiration that lead to living in our home. The image was in my mind long before we ended up here.
Lately, Sparrow, our youngest, has other plans for my mornings. A Papa’s boy from the get-go, he quickly belly-slides from our bed until his toes tickle the floor, and before I can comprehend what has occurred, he’s making his way to the landing at the top of the stairs to seek out the company of his best buddy. Of course, daddy is typically tied up with work at this time of day, so before my thoughts creep out of my soul and into my forefront, my feet slam to the ground and I’m running like a cyclops, one eye opened, the other squinting its solar protest. I arrive in time to scoop him up our boy, and together we head for breakfast.
My moment is up. I’ll continue to run through my deficit of morning insight until the time comes ’round when I, at last, sleep though the night, allowing,perhaps, a few moments of morning before little toes are off running.
Parenthood has welcomed me into a rhythm that circles ’round year after year rather than an endless meridian stretching farther than the eye can see. There are some rituals that are inevitable. We’ll celebrate birthdays and we’ll call in the new year, but thankfully, I’ve chosen a partner who agrees that doing things the seem way, year after year is just plain ole boring.
I’ve never been one for routine, but I melted quickly into rhythm, which, I suppose does make sense, being a dancer. I like the predictability that choreography brings, while I also enjoy forms of dance that allow for fluidity and interpretation. Although ballet has always whispered to me, I’ve never been excellent at listening in return to all of her rules. Instead I’m all eye rolls and whatevers….I’m a contemporary girl. I live my life in the same footless tights. I like fluidity and ease.
So as spring is unfolding before our eyes, once again we find ourselves venturing out of doors, seeking the smallest signs that it’s really on its way. As in years past, we’ve begun to seek more opportunities to fill our days with breaths of fresh air, doors open wide while the fire roars away, and talk of nature journals is bubbling in our home. A sure sign that the season is upon us.
This is me, welcoming the traditions of spring without following the same schedule we followed last year. As our family has grown, we’ve let go of traditional Easter demands, and we’ve floated into our own celebration of new life. Some may take the time to call it Ostara, but we’re less focused on its name. This year’s seasonal change was kicked off by Moonchild’s birthday…He turned 5 this past March, and we kicked off his party with a bunny celebration by request.The ears are curtesy of his sister.
We’ve been finding joy in treasures left from last year…
and in being in the sunshine together…and the snow…again…still..
continuing our yearly bird study…a little more in depth each timeand tea parties…they’re a staple…
Ultimately, we’re following what sparks life in us…Easter at it’s core.
Yesterday I celebrated my 34th trip around the sun.
This past trip has been one of deep thought, of growth and change.
I’m grateful for this year I get to add to my age.
At 59 years old my father took his last breath, lying in a hospital bed, with his hand in mine. His body, weary from the treatment that ultimately ended his life. He resembled an old man, rather than a person approaching retirement. I watched him slip away, the last bit of life circulating through him, until it slid away in his final exhale. Still filled with hope, stones left unturned, animals left unnamed, a cabin left in a pile of milled beams. He didn’t die feeling peace. There was no magical moment when I knew he believed he had lived a full life, no romance. That single moment changed the path of my entire life.
At 34 my dad had already lived more than half of his life, and so I look at birthdays differently than most thirty-somethings. My fears don’t lie in growing older. White hair, I welcome you. Fine lines around my eyes, I’ve inherited you from my ancestors and wear you proudly like a map of the places I have been. I’ve grown weary of not liking myself.
I’ve discovered my inner rebel in my thirties. She wears clothes that don’t fit the design laid out for adult women. She speaks words that have been hidden away for three decades, and she has given up caring about changing people’s minds. She no longer desires to wear underclothes that spend the majority of their time wedged in uncomfortable places. She doesn’t pine after curves and slender figures displayed upon billboards featuring girls who are meant to represent women. It’s liberating.
I once envisioned my life as a basket containing a treasure for every year I lived. I now know that my basket becomes lighter as the years pass. With each passing year, I toss away another inhibition, and I glow a little bit brighter.
Where I once lived each day by the voices of criticism in my head, voices of those different from my own, I now quiet them in support of a smaller voice whose power is growing. Where I once worried about fitting in busy days to prove my self worth, I now aim to enjoy a slow-paced week, without proclaiming “I’m busy!” to those I meet. Where I once feared what was coming for me around the next corner, I’ve begun to learn the skill of relaxing into this journey that life is spilling out before me.
It’s good now. It can still be good tomorrow. For the most part, it’s up to me.
A coupon code follows this post, which is brought to you in partnership with myself and Smartick Method
Pulling through the winter months with a one-year-old can prove trying at times. Throw in two homeschooled kids, a sleep-deprived mama, and you’ve got yourself a family in survival mode. I’ve been here before, and I know that thriving mode will come, but for now we’re in the phase of getting by. Sleep happens when the opportunity presents itself, which is frequently in sequences of 90 minutes at a time, day or night. But whether this Mama sleeps or not, by 8am, if I’m lucky, there are three kids, ready to start their days. While we tend to learn together, following each of our varied interests deep into books, magazines and documentaries, we also work through our language and math studies using various methods.
This time last year, while our babe was new and fresh, I let myself slip into a napping schedule which coincided with the older kids watching far too many movies. At first it was fun for everyone, but as things progressed, I had irritable kids and a whole lotta guilt. So we’ve been reevaluating how we use media in our home. Even I know, if I spend too long sitting, staring at a screen, I begin to feel anxious and sluggish, so I can see how our kids could feel that way too. We’ve talked about it as a family and here is what we’ve implemented. Media with intent.
So when Smartick reached out to me to try out their math program at a time that we were hungry for change, I jumped at the well-timed opportunity. Lucky for me, it turned to be just what we needed. So we joined the other 10000 students online and committed to a 15 minute math session, daily for at least 5 days a week. My kids were instantly enthralled with the tick system, and they enjoyed watching their number of ticks add up until they could cash them in for virtual pets and lightsabers.
Smartick recommends that in order for our children to benefit from the Artificial Intelligence Technology, it’s important that we don’t help the kids with their responses. This way, the program predicts the most relevant lessons for the student. Since my kids average about 1/2 hour daily on the program, that makes for 1 hour of mama-time, guilt-free. We implement the lesson time with just one device; that makes for some quiet reading for the child who isn’t online. Half of their time is spent completing math- based ‘work’ using the 15 minute lesson that is laid out for them, while the second half of their time is spent playing various games, purchasing food for their virtual pet, and watching tutorials. Once their time is complete, an email is delivered to my inbox, informing me of their progress. Fun for the kids (tick!) Guilt-free for Mama (tick!) Completing some school work (tick!) It’s a win X 3!
The program is intended to replace after-school tutoring programs, but since we are homeschoolers, completing our learning outside of traditional brick and mortar school, Smartick has proven to work well alongside our daily math games and lessons. In fact, we’ve even begun to take cues from the work during their online math, to structure our math learning in our home. If we’re working on patterns in our online math, why not work on patterns while we’re chopping red and green peppers for supper? Or maybe Wildflower is tackling place value online, so we start a bean counter with three different corresponding cups and begin to master this skill set. We like that each short lesson contains a handful of varied questions to solve, so it keeps the kids interested yet challenged. We also love that it allows our kids to progress at their own rate, rather than at grade level. Why would we only work at a grade 3 level, if we are capable of moving beyond?
I’m also aware that there is a full team of educators available to both parents and kids, if needed, which as homeschoolers, we may eventually take advantage of. We have yet to reach out to them, since our work is still quite simple for me to decode, but it helps to create a feeling of security, in case we should require some help.
SO…what, are you wondering, have I spent my mama- hour working on? Sometimes it’s an hour of laundry folding, while simultaneously indulging in some of my own media with intent…the intent of relaxing, which we also recognize as valuable! Sometimes, if there’s a sleeping baby, I’ll shower! And sometimes, most of the time, I’ll take some time to catch up on some reading. Most importantly, I’m trying to fill my own cup, an hour a day, during the greyest months of the year.
This post is presented to you in partnership with Smartick Method, but the opinions are based upon my own experiences. If this program is something you think your family could benefit from, click here to receive 25% off of your subscription.
Mother of four, partner to one, lover of all things uniquely beautiful, follower of the peaceful parenting movement, inspired enough to think outside the box, hopeful enough that you might stick around