A Parisian Education: When Homeschooling is More Than Books

If you ask Miss H where she has wanted to go her whole life (yes, all those 8 years!), she’ll tell you Paris.

It’s interesting, because she’s wanted this before she even fully understood where or what Paris is. Before she ever knew it was the place where her papa got down on one knee and asked me to be his forever, and thus the story of our family began.

Because the cards fell into order, she gets to make her wildest dreams come true and visit the City of Lights (or is it the City of Light?) this summer.

Since we homeschool, this has allowed us to play around with our curriculum and incorporate some learning about Paris, it’s history, and the country as a whole. It’s been a lot of fun as someone with a degree in history to learn new things with my kiddos.

I have learned things about Leonardo da Vinci and his childhood that I was oblivious to. In fact, I actually knew very little about Leonardo da Vinci outside of the very basics.

We wept together as we read about Marie Antoinette’s life, and her tragic end. Mostly we wept for her young children. We wept for a past where a woman was forced to bear children she never wanted to begin with. A past where women had so few rights that Miss H could hardly wrap her brain around such things. Which led to discussions about women’s rights movements, how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go.

Miss H and Mr. B have been excited to learn about the Eiffel Tower, and they’re fantasizing about the foods served in its four restaurants (because lets be honest, they said food and that’s about the only fact I’ve retained).

We mostly do child led schooling. Although there is also a lot of encouragement for doing the the basic three R’s as well. I love when it all comes together and they’re reading books about things they’re interested in and writing me papers with facts, and eagerly doing math as they turn meters into feet and try to decipher how tall the Eiffel Tower is. And they’re learning and doing so much and all they see it as is fun.

Which is was learning should be.

I’m so excited to take this adventure for them off of the page and into the city they’re so enjoying in just a few short weeks.

But it makes me wonder: if a little girl spends her whole life dreaming about Paris and finally sees it; what will she dream about next?

In this family, we read.

We are kind of terrible homeschoolers, I admit it. We spend more time on the beach than we do doing math worksheets, but I make them cook their own pancakes and assume it all evens out. Right?

Although we don’t do sit down workbooks every day (we do do them though), we do read. Every. Single. Day.

So much.

I genuinely, genuinely believe that other than allowing them to be outside and playing most of the day, reading to a kiddo is the most important thing you can do for them.

We read during the day. All sorts of great picture books and graphic novels and non-fiction. And every evening I curl up with the big kids and we read chapter books. Sometimes even Sweet M will curl up on my lap with his bottle of milk (I know, I know) and listen with us.

It ebbs and flow how quickly we read through them. Some books we plow through in just a few days. Other books we sip and savor, reading slowly over a few weeks.

There are books that were my childhood favorites, and books I’ve never heard of but were on one reading list or another that I grazed. Books that came highly recommended by others and books that I picked up on a whim.

We read fairytales and light hearted books. We read books that touch on heavy subjects like World War 2 and bullying (heavy topics on very different levels, obviously).

We read books that have tidy and happy endings. We read books that leave you hanging, thirsty for more, so many questions unanswered.

Although Miss H can read all of these books herself at this point, she is still eager to climb into bed and spend this time with me. I am acutely aware that one day she won’t want me reading to her. She’ll shoo me away, and I’ll be lucky to even get a good night kiss.

But for now, I will savor this time I have with her. With Mr. B. Reading into the night, bringing them into the fictitious literary worlds created by imaginative people who took the time to put pen to paper and bring these stories to life. Worlds that I grew up in; worlds that shaped me into the person I am today, and that I know will help shape them into amazing beings, too.

They may not know what a hanging participle is quite yet, nor can they do long division or recite the periodic table; but they can delve into the world of books and have endless conversations about the stories they’re read.

And for now, that’s really all they need anyway.

Hawaiian Plantation Village

We have a list of things we must see and do while in Oahu.

And then we have a list of things that seems to randomly find us and we didn’t even realize that we needed to see and do it until we are there.

That’s what the Hawaiian Plantation Village was for us. “A happy little accident.”

The place was so interesting and fun that I will even ignore that the employees were wearing stickers that had “HPV” on them. I mean, I get it. But the 12 year old in me was just rolling.

We stopped in because they were having a rice fest, which included “make your own musubi.” And I get that musubi is probably one of the easiest things in the world to make, but I hadn’t yet attempted it and wanted to see it done before I gave it a whirl. So getting to have someone walk is all through it was fantastic and the kids loved it!

Then we walked about the grounds where the real museum/village is.

They had a plethora of dwellings and structures created to be replicates authentic to the time period of the mid 1800s-early 1900s when the plantations were pretty much the biggest industry on the island. That was the time when so many people from other countries began migrating to Hawaii.

The kids all indulged me while I read to them about each dwelling and the purpose it served and the histories of the people who it represented. So many people. It was beautiful and a little daunting to think of people leaving their homes to come Hawaii 150+ years ago.

If I ever feel like it’s hard to stay in touch with friends and family while hear, I will just remind myself of all those people left their homes, knowing full well they’d likely never see any of the loved ones they were leaving ever again.

Sweet M kept me on my toes as he picked all the foliage and vegetation and I kept reading all the little signs to be sure he wouldn’t die from something poisonous.

It was a such a beautiful historical plantation village and I am so glad we happened upon it.

What a lovely Hawaiian day!

Discovering Pearl Harbor with American Girl’s Nanea

One of my favorite parts about homeschooling is how customizable it is. Miss H and Mr. B can learn about the things that interest them and in a timeframe that is most convenient for us.

When we moved to Oahu, this history-loving Momma knew Hawaiian history would be a subject of great interest to us that I couldn’t wait to dip into as I knew next to nothing about it (and still have so much to learn!).

Being so close to where the attacks of Pearl Harbor occurred, I knew we needed to delve into an important part of our past.

Although I expose my kiddos to many world truths and subjects that are not in fact all roses and sunshine, I prefer easing them into it when possible. If it’s hard for me, as a very well-rounded and educated adult to stomach some things, I know it must be difficult for them to fully grasp the significance of some events.

I was so excited when American Girl came out with a new historical character this year: Nanea. She’s half haole (white) and half Hawaiian (which my kids love because they have one haole parent and one brown parent, too), and her story begins a month before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The kids and I have learned so much about Hawaiian culture through the Nanea books. We’ve learned new words and how some customs on the island came to be (you’d never wear your shoes into someone’s house – even our cable guy removed his shoes before walking through our house! That’s a custom that originated with our Japanese friends.).

We visited the Pearl Harbor museum and the U.S.S Arizona, which are chilling sites to be seen. The history of it all is so surreal.

One thing I learned was that all the bases were bombed, not just Pearl Harbor, which is also mentioned in the American Girl books. Nanea can hear the planes over Wheeler air base.

Miss H and Mr. B were so excited to visit the Pearl Harbor museum to help them understand the time in which Nanea lived. And Nanea helped them to understand what it was like for the civilians who were present that day, and for all the days to follow in the aftermath. It was a bit heartbreaking for me, as a momma, to read it all through an innocent child’s eyes. But also there is so much hope. Kids truly are the future, and simply through understanding our history we can see how each generation of children gets a little bit better.

Both of my big kids have been totally captivated and eager to participate in this unit study for homeschooling. They love reading and learning through Nanea’s eyes. We’ve all cried a few times, too. Okay, okay, mostly I’ve cried a lot. Miss H stops me and says “Mom, are you crying again?” Which makes me laugh and we keep reading.

I so cannot wait to delve into our next American Girl’s set of books to aid in our learning of American history. I love how engaged my kids become with the stories they love!

Nanenea’s books are beautiful and her storyline exciting. I want to to tell you all my favorite parts, but I don’t want to give it all away either. But I will just leave with you this fun snippet: H and B have decided that when they get a dog some day, it should be named Mele. So go read the books to find out why!

***This post is sponsored by American Girl, but all thoughts and opinions are mine.

Getting Ready for a New Homeschool Year

Homeschooling in Hawaii is a bit different than homeschooling in Indiana where we have…oh…no real requirements. 

In Hawaii you have to send a letter of intent to your districted school. You have to keep records that prove your kiddos are getting – at minimum – an equivalent education to their peers in P. S. 

Records. Portfolios. Oy! 

But it’s still worth the hassle to be with these crazy-inducing little people and know that they get to spend their childhoods playing and learning what they need/want. 

I know homeschooling isn’t for everyone, and that’s cool. We aren’t anti-school either. We toured our local public school. We assessed our family’s needs for right now and decided that this is the path we are currently being called to and that works for this season of life. We are always open to the fact that things can and may change. That’s just life.

Choosing curriculum is alway stress-inducing. And I wanted to do as much as I could the same for both of them, with small adjustments, as possible. So they’re doing the same history and science curriculum.

We super love Bookshark around here. Their reading with history curriculum cannot be outdone. It’s rich in literature and interactive and gets their little brains really churning. And it’s easy to do one level for various ages/grades. There is no doubt that Bookshark will be the history curriculum we use year after year because it really is that amazing and I feel just that great about it. 

Last year we tried out Math U See but it wasn’t the love I had hoped for. So we decided to go out on a limb and try Singapore Math this year. I’ll report back once we’ve been using it for a while. 

All Mr. B really cares about is science! It makes sense since he plans to be a paleontologist chemist who will take 8 years off to be the president and will also be working as an FBI agent when not in office. Science was the hardest choice for me to make because I want them to love it and it’s not really my forte. Plus, everything secular I found seemed to have so many conflicting reviews. So I went out on a limb and ordered The Building Blocks of Science to use with both of them. We shall see how it goes. 

Miss H is deep in the throes of All About Reading and we had minimally began All About Spelling before we moved. Mr. B desperately wants to read, but AAR wasn’t clicking for him yet so I decided to try out Phonics Pathways with him and see how it goes. It does reading and spelling together, which I have mixed feelings on, but I won’t judge it until we’ve tried it. I assume that ultimately he will do AAR as well, but we shall see. The beauty of home education is getting to try different methods that work for different kids instead of a one-size-fits-all method (and let’s be honest, one size never fits all). 

I figured it’s time Miss H do some grammar and I’ve always liked some aspect of classical education, although in true practice it’s far too rigid for our tastes. But throughout my many late night perusings I did come to see value on their grammar approach and figures we might as well spice things up here and give it a try with First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind. I’m one of those people who thinks it’s pretty important to know proper grammar. Once you do, then you can break the rules (I do all the time. Have you seen how many times I’ve started a sentence with the word “and” or ended one with a preposition!?). 

Miss H and Mr. B also each have some Fun-schooling books from Thinking Tree to work through at their leisure. They’re more open and allow them to follow their interests and learn things in a much less-dictating way. Granted they’re not on complete overload, I plan on snagging a few more of these books over time for them to have for more on their own downtime. 

I also have a bunch of kids story books from different countries and cultures throughout the world that I plan to include as part of our curriculum. I think it’s oh-so important to know about the world around us, both past and present. And they’re such insightful and bright little nuggets, I don’t want them to miss out!

Of course, homeschooling isn’t all about workbooks. I plan to incorporate some STEAM activities for them; they’re signed up for a few monthly co-ops, and they each have one extracurricular: Miss H gymnastics and Mr. B karate. Ideally I’d like them both back in music lessons, as would they, but we have to find something affordable for that to happen.  

Plus, you know, lots of hiking and beach time and playing and cooking! And likely more episodes of The Magic School Bus than I want to admit to allowing, but hey! I’m about to have a newborn again (in tandem with a very active toddler). Momma needs some grace at times, too. I’m not Super Woman.

Fun Schooling!

We are fairly relaxed homeschoolers. Learning should be natural and authentic. And fun!

There are some things you simply will never be able to convince me are necessary to learn outside of needing to pass a standardized test; unless of course it actually will be a part of your future career. That’s why child led education is really what inspires us around here.

Miss H and Mr. B both really enjoy learning. They get excited about it! And that’s how it should be. They also enjoy workbooks and some more “traditional” work at times. I follow their lead.

They also like to wake up really early and want to get a move on doing school stuff and I’m usually like, “I haven’t had a cup of coffee or opened my eyes yet, loves.” So I like to have things they can do all on their own as well.

When I came across Fun Schooling with Thinking Tree books I knew this was exactly the sort of work/fun my creative little free-thinkers would enjoy.

Math, reading, spelling, you name it; they’ve got it! Fun Schooling journals where the kiddos get to take initiative and decide what exactly they want to learn and research about all on their own. Mr. B and Miss H were sold!

They were eager to get up in the morning and color and doodle and do “work” while Momma tried to climb out of bed. I’d find them under their covers at night with lights working on their books. When kids enjoy what they’re learning about, they’re eager to keep going and the information sticks!

Miss H loved her comic and Minecraft-inspired math book and was even excited about spelling!

Mr. B loved that there was a Fun Schooling journal completely appropriate for him.

I think their favorite by far at the moment is their Yum-Schooling book. They both love to be in the kitchen, and they love to be independent.

They cracked open their Yum-Schooling book and told me to step away.

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I obliged.

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Y’all, in one easy morning they worked on fractions, reading, team work and collaboration, and learned a bit about chemistry when they forgot the baking soda, ha.

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I am so very excited to see where their Fun Schooling takes them and all the things they decide to pursue learning and exploring. They’re all ready such inquisitive little thinkers, I know they’ll go far in this world!

 

 

 

 

***Full disclosure: I was given Fun Schooling books in exchange for this post. All thoughts and opinions are genuine and solely mine.

Whoopie Pies and Math

All my tiny humans love being in the kitchen. They love cooking and they love eating!

Let’s be real; they come by it honestly. Their papa is an amazing cook and their momma is an amazing eater!

I try not to let them watch television when we’re at home. I save it for long travels that way it’s a bit more enticing. But sometimes, we do have movie nights, or when Sweet M is napping B and I will turn on PBS and watch cooking shows. (And yes, some days they just watch tv all day because, well, those days do happen.) 

Last week Mr. B and I are watching Martha Stewart on Create makie whoopie pies and other desserts. It was no surprise that Mr. be honed in on those whoopie pies and decided that he, too, must create such masterpieces. I mean, chocolate and icing? What isn’t there to love?

Our week has been busy though, cleaning and purging for our trans-Pacific move (more on that another day), and sweet M has been very clingy. We just haven’t found the time to get in the kitchen and make some dessert.

So I told J that Saturday morning was for me and B to finally bake. He entertained M while B and I winged our own whoopie pie recipe. 


We try to avoid gluten and dairy, and I really didn’t want to have to buy any extra ingredients when we are trying to eat through our pantry, not add to it, so we came up with our own, yummy recipe! 

I also had a lot of fun watching Mr. B count and add fractions as he added ingredients. Instead of giving him a one cup measuring cup, I gave him a half cup, so he had to put those 5-year-old math skills to the test when he needed 2 cups of GF flour, etc. 

He learned how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon, and had to count some pretty big numbers when we needed 6 tablespoons. 

Not every moment has to be a learning moment, but gosh darn it, you can bet that I will try, ha. 

The end result was surprisingly yummy. Well, I guess it wasn’t much of a surprise. I mean, chocolate. Need I say more?


So if you’re looking to add some fun math to your life, or just eat some yummy desserts, enjoy Mr. B’s whoopie pie recipe!

Mr. B’s Gluten and Dairy Free Whoopie Pies

Cake Ingredients

  • 2 cups GF flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup almond milk (or other milk substitute)
  • 6 tblsps shortening 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1 egg
  • Pinch of kosher salt

Icing ingredients 

  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 2 cups powdered sugar 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease muffin pans.
  2. Mix all of the cake ingredients into a large bowl and beat until mixed thoroughly.
  3. Place a heaping tablespoon into each muffin slot. Shouldn’t be more than about 1/3 full. 
  4. Bake for 12 minutes – toothpick should come out clean.
  5. Move into wire rack to cool.
  6. Beat icing ingredients in large bowl.
  7. Put icing on the tops of half the whoopie pies – be generous! Then too with another cake piece. 
  8. Voila! Enjoy your creation!


I will admit that I’ve never had a “real” whoopie pie, so our method and ingredients may be blasphemous. I apologize. But they’re delicious! 

Batgirl at Super Hero High

Another 12+ hour drive with three little darlings under my belt. I wish I could say it was a breeze, but…10 month old. 

He hates the car. We only made it an hour before our first stop. I was tempted to turn around then and call it a day. 

But I didn’t.

Instead I put in an audiobook for the big kids and let the baby have the DVD player for a bit. 

I know. I know. 

But 12 hours in the car.

The big kids were more than happy to listen to “Batgirl at Super Hero High” by Lisa Yee. And I was pleasantly surprised myself! 

The audiobook was read by Mae Whitman which was a treat for this Parenthood aficionado. 

The story of Barbara Gordon who becomes Batgirl is fun, complex, and has just enough high tech super villain drama to keep you on your toes. 

Despite being a bit younger than the target audience at 5 and 6, Mr.B and Miss H were intrigued and captivated throughout.

I truly appreciated the parent/child storyline between Batgirl and her father, and the complexities of emotions a parent must go through when they so desperately want to keep their child safe, but also know they must let them soar to their dreams and they cannot, in fact, protect them.

Throughout the story we follow Batgirl as she becomes an official scholar at Super Hero High; as she navigates the rigors of schoolwork, the highs and lows of friendships, and ultimately learns what everyone’s strongest super power is (their brain), and must test hers to its limits to defeat The Calculator. 

We enjoyed this audiobook so much and are eager to pick up another DC Super Hero Girls book and see what adventures await us!

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

The Schooling Path

I love all my children fiercely. But it’s my eldest, my poor, sweet guinea pig, that challenges me as a human and as a mother on a daily basis.

It is because of her that my parenting is constantly evolving. She is paving the way, and helping to create a better, more flexible, insightful, and compassionate mother for her little brothers. And for herself. 

What a big task for such a little girl.

After returning to school from Thanksgiving break Miss H has just been off. 

I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something was changing. 

She was more weepy. She’d cry at the drop of a hat over things that didn’t make sense (a friend at Girl Scouts agreed to let her go first after she asked and she immediately lost it). She was being unusually unkind to B. She was purposefully testing boundaries and choosing not to listen; moreso than typical things. 

My sweet, happy girl was transforming into someone I wasn’t fond of. 

And before I could put my finger on it the meltdowns began. 

Good golly. Meltdowns that gave 3 year old Miss H a run for her money. 

And then, finally, the words.

I miss you! She would sob to me in a complete heap on my lap. I miss you every day! I hate being away from you! I miss my brothers! I miss Papa! I don’t want to be gone from you all day!

Rinse and repeat this for the past two weeks. It’s been an emotional roller coaster.

I’ve always been totally supportive of her desires and aspirations; including school. No one will ever rally and champion  behind that girl the way her momma will. 

So when she cries in the morning, begging me not to take her to school, I remind her of all the things she loves about school.

And when I pick her up and ask her what the best part of her school day was and she quips with “you coming to pick me up” I re-ask the question so she gives me something school related.

But for how long do I push? When is it safe to retreat? Why in the world did she not come with a guide book? 

There is only a week and a half left until winter break. Maybe that break will be what she needs to return excitedly and re-invigorated. 

Or maybe it’s what she needs to be certain that as much as she loves her friends and teachers and work, school, no matter how liberal, just isn’t her cup of tea and she’d prefer to homeschool with her brother.

Whatever the path, one can be sure, she’s making it easier for her brothers (and her momma!) to navigate this messy path to education.  

Little Passports

We’ve been Little Passports fans over here for nearly a year. Last Christmas my mom purchased Miss H and Mr. B a subscription for Christmas – a great and fun way of spreading the cheer all year long. 

The kids love receiving mail (who doesn’t!? Unless it’s bills. You can keep those.), and they are ever-curious about the world as we instilled travel bug ls into them early on. 


Little Passports offers three different programs: Early Explorers, geared for ages 3-5; World Edition, targeted for ages 6-10, and USA Edition, for ages 7-12.

H and B have a subscription to World Edition and its oodles of fun. I always tecieve an email before their monthly package mails out, telling me which country it is about. This is great because it gives me time to grab books at the library or google supplementary recipes and crafts to go along with their Little Passports. I primarily use the extra resources with Mr. B whom I’m currently homeschooling. The info and activities provided are more than sufficient on their own though. 

We were given the opportunity to sample the Early Explorers and USA Edition, and the kids absolutely loved those as well. 

Mr. B enjoyed the large continent map he recieved in his Early Explorers package, as well as the ocean cards full of fun facts and a little wooden fishing game. He was thrilled to have a letter from Max and Mia telling him all about the things he would learn about. (He picked up the fishing game and returned it to its nice cloth pouch so he wouldn’t lose any pieces – unprompted. He definitely likes it!)



Miss H was very excited to recieve the USA Edition with its more “grown up” filing folder and small journaling notebook. She’s big stuff now that she’s a first grader and she was definitely pleased that her box lived up to her expectations. She read me her letter from Sam and Sofia and then immediately got to work in her USA scratch book.




As we dive into the holiday season, if you’re searching for a fun, interactive gift that will keep on giving month after month for your or someone else’s kiddo, be sure to check out Little Passports! Or if you’re just looking for a fun and engaging way to include some geography into your kids’ everyday lives in a super fun way, look no further! 

Little Passports is a well-loved subscription box in this house that I foresee bringing my babes entertainment and delight for many years to come: and they’re learning geography in such an exiting way!