Homeschool On Purpose

February 11, 2017

Endless Science

I recently shared our experience with the owl pellet that the cats drug in. Funny thing is that when the neighbors realize that you homeschool, surprise science lessons are no longer left to just the cats.

Twice in the last week we have been blessed with really cool items to be cleaned, inspected and possibly saved for future reference.

Rodent – Kangaroo Mouse?

Owl Pellet – Rodent

My parents, which we are fortunate to have two doors down, brought up a skull that their dogs brought in. It is a pretty good size skull but we are not sure what it is yet. The kids have been able to use their skills to identify that it is a prey because the eye sockets are on the sides and that it is an herbivore because it does not have any front incisors. It is so fun to watch them utilize their knowledge to figure things out.

Skunk Skull

Skunk Skull

Then yesterday, some dear friends of ours brought two items for us to inspect. The first is a small, fully intact, skull. He had identified it as a skunk skull. The second item is another owl pellet. The Boy’s owl obsession is growing exponentially with the recent owl pellet dissection opportunities! The skull in the pellet seems to be in line with some sort of common rodent out here on the prairie such as a vole or a kangaroo mouse.

Every homeschool tends to have their thing, ours seems to be biology. It has not been something that we have set out to focus on but there are so many incredible opportunities to enjoy God’s rich world  surrounding us.

February 10, 2017

Homeschool Room Makeover

Have you ever experienced the ups and downs of homeschooling? There are weeks that we are jamming… as if some sort of cosmic happenstance exploded in our midst, placing us all in sync. The momentum grows as we rock and roll through those weeks!

Then we have those days… you know… those days where you feel as though you are pulling teeth just to get kids to crawl out of their beds.

Fortunately for us, those days are few and far between and are only days and not weeks! I have been greatly blessed with kids that enjoy schooling, get along great, contribute around the house (most of the time) and are just basically really good kids.

We seem to change our schooling environment a lot as well. I’m not sure if we are in line with the seasons or the lunar calendar or our general moods but we seem to spend weeks at the kitchen table and then suddenly we migrate to the living room for several weeks! While we actually have a designated schoolroom where we used to do most of our schooling, we really have not done much schooling in there over this last year.

After pondering why other areas work better for us right now, I realized that we simply needed a facelift. Our schoolroom table is too small for our growing kids to spread out their work. We had thought about putting individual desks in the room but decided instead to give each one their own desk in their room, away from household distractions. We have also outgrown the charts hanging on the walls. And then there are the walls. The puke-yellow walls that Bookworm Beauty so eloquently named, which were here when we moved in. Yes, the puke-yellow walls simply had to go.

Our schoolroom  is quickly becoming the happiest place in our home. We have brightened the walls with a new coat of paint. We have upcycled one of the bookshelves into a nice cubby system, freeing up valuable wall space. Lastly, we will be building the schoolroom table that I posted about a few weeks ago.

We are already feeling the gravitational pull of the schoolroom and are anxiously awaiting being able to get back in there.

I will post a reveal as soon as we are done. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, share your schoolroom makeovers…

January 26, 2017

Co-op for the Non Co-op

When it comes to homeschooling co-ops, it seems that homeschoolers either love them or despise them, there’s just no in between. I had often imagined the bliss of being able to team up with others whose strengths align with my weaknesses. In theory it seems to be the perfect set up. In reality it can be anything but a perfect set up.

Once I began homeschooling, I began to see the scheduling burden a co-op could become. I stayed away from them and being so far out of town, in a rural setting, it was easy to accomplish that goal.

I befriended local homeschooling families that shared my same co-op opinions. I imagine all of our children had different ideas about co-ops (with ideas of endless play dates), but it didn’t really matter. We supported each other in our homeschooling endeavors and were available to lean upon for advice.

Then, as innocently as possible, it happened…

It started as an opportunity to get together and do some art with the kids. We had a fabulous time and really enjoyed not just the time spent doing art, but the interaction between everyone was a delight! We continued… meeting weekly on Wednesdays for the bookmobile, lunch and art. By fall, our time was spent working through Astronomy and will soon include the Human Body.

And there are talks… talks about adding a music component to our weekly gatherings… come to find out, between us 3 adults there is talent and knowledge in piano, guitar, violin and flute… well, ok… truth be told, the knowledge is between 2 of the 3 and I’m not one of them. I guess I can teach music theory…

Co-ops come in all styles and we have just happened to find a way to create one that works well for us.

If you participate in any sort of homeschool co-op, tell us about it… what works? What doesn’t?

 

January 26, 2017

2016: Top Reviews

2016 was an outstanding homeschool year for us and our partnership with The Schoolhouse Review Crew made it an even greater success! We had the ability to review several homeschooling resources that we probably would not have had in our home otherwise.

A tremendous benefit of being a reviewer is that we often receive a whole curriculum or subscription in exchange for our time and effort in using the product and providing an honest review. Some products, although fantastic, may end up being shelved or become out-of-sight-out-of-mind. For us, these were typically set aside simply because they did not fit into our educational needs at the particular time. Several, however are incredible products that replaced previous curriculum altering our homeschool experience for the better.

Here are some of our top favorites – in no particular order:

Here to Help Learning (read my review)

I can not say enough about Here to Help Learning. This has been our primary writing program for both The Boy and Sweetness as well as one of two programs that we are now using for Bookworm Beauty. We are on our final assignment for Flight 1. We were blessed with a 1-year subscription as part of the review and it is coming to an end this month. The kids are so thrilled with this program that we will be purchasing the monthly subscription to continue working through Flight 2 and 3! Fortunately, it is a tremendously budget-friendly program providing access to the entire site for only $6.99 per month. It is a one-stop-writing-shop for a whole family, even at different writing levels! I have a feeling this is going to be a mainstay for us. Mrs. Mora is a tremendous teacher. Her and her hound dog, Captain Knucklehead, have basically become a part of our family.

Poetry Book – Owl Museum by The Boy

Poetry Book – Sports by Bookworm Beauty

Poetry Book – Adventures by Sweetness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Math-U-See – Pre Algebra, Gamma & Beta

 

Demme Learning’s Math-U-See Pre-Algebra Digital Packs (read my review)
Every homeschool needs a math program and without a doubt, this is the best program I have seen! Bookworm Beauty is only a few lessons away from completing Pre-Algebra and we will definitely be investing in Algebra I in the coming weeks. Math is made simple and concepts are quickly grasped. We were so impressed with Bookworm Beauty’s success that we switched both Sweetness and The Boy to Math-U-See’s Beta and Gamma programs.

One of the excellent activities – relative distance from the sun…

 

Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition (Read my Review)

What can be better than completing an amazing science curriculum? Completing it with friends of course! We have thoroughly enjoyed studying astronomy and fortunately for us, our dear friends already had the same curriculum ready to begin in August (during our review period). I purchased the additional student workbook (the review pack provided 2 of the 3 that I needed) and we have been steadily working through this program together. Apologia is topnotch in my book. We have even already acquired the Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology to commence as soon as we are done with Astronomy.

 

HEROES OF HISTORY Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Storybook Life (read my review)

This was one of those reviews that we were able to actually complete during our review period. Bookworm Beauty nearly devoured this, as well as all things Laura. She read and watched everything Laura Ingalls Wilder in 2016. Laura became such a huge part of our household that we actually planned a pioneer road trip as a result of her interest in the topic. I simply had to include this in our top reviews for 2016 because, well, it was about Laura Ingalls Wilder… and Bookworm Beauty loved studying about her through another person’s eyes.

 

Apologia Educational Ministries Writers in Residence Volume 1 (Apprentice) (read my review)

When I first started with The Schoolhouse Review Crew, I was struggling with teaching writing to the kids. It was a daily struggle. Here to Help Learning was one of our first reviews and we had wonderful success, immediately (as noted above). Shortly after, we received Writers in Residence. I was hesitant. I finally found a writing curriculum that was working for us and I really didn’t want to interrupt our momentum. I am so glad that I did! We continue to use both products with Bookworm Beauty. Volume 2 is supposed to be released in the near future… and we fully anticipate investing in it.

 

Second Grade Literature Guide Set by Memoria Press (read my review)

Sweetness is one of those kids that rises in the morning ready to absorb all that the day offers. It doesn’t matter what we are doing for the day, she is always positive and completes her work without complaint. It is a tremendous joy to have a child (and student) like this. I don’t always know for sure whether or not she really enjoys a particular subject because she greets them all with a willingness and excitement to learn. However, I know that she loves working through this literature program because I find her working through it on her own during non-school times! We have completed Little House in the Big Woods and are almost done with The Courage of Sarah Noble. We will be ordering student guides for The Boy next year.

 

Zonderkidz Faith Builders Bible (read my review)

The sign of a well-loved bible, according to The Boy, is duct tape… but when duct tape can not be found, any tape will suffice. This bible has definitely been well loved as it is held together by tape!  The Boy seems to always have it within an arms reach. I find him up late at night, wearing his head lamp under his blankets, reading. I see him carrying it to the table to work through Awanas verses. I watch him avidly duplicate pictures in the bible with his own Lego blocks. Nothing melts the heart faster than witnessing a child love the Word of God.

SchoolhouseTeachers.com (read my review)

This is by far the best one-stop-homeschool-resource-shop! There are hundreds of online classes available that can be browsed by grade or by subject. Whenever we discover a hole in our homeschooling boat, this is the first place we turn to locate a resource. I am amazed at how much this site has grown and changed in just the last year… and it keeps on growing. Schoolhouseteachers.com is a definite must-have tool in your homeschool toolbox!

There are more, these were just our top favorites. We love the enrichment that ArtAchieve (read my review), Zeezok Publishing LLC‘s Music Appreciation Book 1: for the Elementary Grades (read my review),  and High School Spanish II by Middlebury Interactive Languages (read my review)  has provided us. These have not become daily staples in our homeschool repertoire but we still use each of them periodically.

We also have to note that there were several review items that are not part of an on-going routine for us because they were short and sweet supplemental studies that we were able to actually complete during our review periods. These definitely need to be mentioned because each of these products were not only completed but enjoyed and appreciated. These include Many Nations a 4-week micro study on Native American nations by Homeschool Legacy (read my review), Mr. Popper’s Penguins E-Guide by Progeny Press (read my review), Book 1 of The 13 Series: The Glass Castle by Trisha White Priebe and Jerry B. Jenkins (read my review), Times Tales from The Trigger Memory Co. (read my review), Home School in the WoodsHistory Through the Ages Hands-On History Lap-Pak: U.S. Elections (read my review) and the Appalachian Trail Unit Study (read my review).

Wow… after reviewing our reviews I am feeling accomplished. I just went through a year’s worth of memories. These products were each fantastic and we are thankful that they were part of our homeschool journey during 2016. We are well into the 2017 review race and are excited to see what we will get an opportunity to review this year. Stay tuned… better yet… start sharing your own homeschooling journey and come join the Schoolhouse Review Crew!

 

January 21, 2017

Look What the Cat Drug in!

I once heard a story told by my brother in law about a time that a fish fell out of the sky. Literally… fell out of the sky. We chuckled as he shared about how they thanked the Lord for the “manna” and cooked it up for dinner. God is the master provider and while it can be surmised that a bird lost its grip on the fish overhead they still give thanks to the Lord for His provision for dinner that night!

Late Monday night, we were unloading the groceries into the house when we noticed an odd shaped clump of dirt in the middle of the living room floor. We have animals… lots of animals… and I was hesitant to inspect the little pile for fear of what it just might consist of. Holding my breath (in case it was odorous) I cautiously inspected it. I even had to get a bit closer.

Woah! No way! It took a minute to fully register but lo and behold, that was not a clump of dirt but of an owl pellet! I had to withhold my laughter as I exclaimed “look what the cat drug in!”

After a thorough explanation of the humor in being able to give a literal meaning to the expression, I shared the pellet with the children.

The Boy, whom is currently obsessed with owls, was delighted at the realization that an owl pellet being found somewhere nearby indicates that there are owls in our midst.

I carefully wrapped the owl pellet in some tissue and put it away for an opportune time. The time came today when our dear friends came over for an astronomy-turned biology-lesson. Remembering the pellet we gathered all of the children around the kitchen island for a closer inspection. There was a few “ewws” but mostly the kids were simply fascinated!

I was fortunate to have some activity sheets saved for such an occasion that my mother in law used when she taught elementary school. One of these worksheets is a bone identification sheet. Set up with the sheet handy, we proceeded to dissect the pellet.

It’s always a pleasure to watch the personalities unfold before you when faced with unique things… such as non-digested owl vomit.

Bookworm Beauty was a little hesitant and quite expressionate as she pretended to hold back her own vomit, while Sweetness dug right in and dismantled the pellet, peeling back the dirt and fur to unveil the tiny little bones.

We sorted the bones the best we could and came to the conclusion that this pellet housed the remains of a bird.

Life on the prairie provides us with ample opportunity to learn about the world about us. We have been blessed with the ability to study many things and biology has become one of our favorite subjects simple for the opportunity to dissect and closely study nature.

While your cat may never drag in an owl pellet for you to dissect with your children, you can still enjoy a similar experience. There is a company out of Washington where owl pellets can be ordered, along with several educational resources and even a classroom owl pellet kit. I have a feeling we will be ordering pellets and enjoying this activity once again in the near future. Let me know if you anticipate the same… I’d love to hear what you discover in your pellet!

January 12, 2017

I Just Gotta…

It happens to me all of the time. I get a random thought and will talk myself out of doing it. I then ignore the same recurring thought (that’s no longer random) until I find myself doing it.

It never seems to be something simple either… like bake cookies. Nope. Never. If it has to do with baking, it is a desire to bake a homemade angel food cake or try my hand at macaroons.

I got the inkling last year to separate the girls’ bunk beds and make them into two separate loft beds – a task that took almost 9 months to fully complete – but it’s complete.

Bookworm Beauty’s loft bed

Sweetness’s loft bed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I got the inkling when I wanted to start a lasagna style garden. Yep, built that too.

For the record, not everything I decide to do starts with a random thought… there are many things that I am more purposeful about – like homeschooling – which we take pretty seriously.

My new random thought will however have an impact on our homeschooling and I just can’t shake it. Seriously, I gotta have this.

Are you ready???

I

just

gotta

have

this!

Wait for it…

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http://www.infarrantlycreative.net/large-craft-table/

I just gotta build this table. I can already feel the space. I have already mentally organized  and set up the shelves with the kids’ school items. I almost have to walk around it when I walk through the room because I can see it in there!

I will keep you posted… I have a feeling this one will come to fruition a bit quicker than the loft beds did…

December 28, 2016

In the Spirit of Giving During the Holidays

I had no idea how blessed I was when Handsome entered my life. He brought out the best in me from the moment I met him. He loved and accepted my four daughters – 2 teens, 1 preteen and a toddler; he made sure broken things were fixed in my home (like when he replaced my dryer while we were still dating); he even got down on his knee and serenaded my mother at her work! What was not to love about this man!?

Over the years, more goodness has been revealed. I simply love his heart and how he desires to serve others and be a great provider. Good men are not made by some cosmic happenstance, rather they are built… by good parents… and good parents do not raise just one great child but all are usually pretty great kids. That is definitely true for my in-law family. I am thankful and tremendously blessed with a wonderful mother in law. My father in law is pretty special too but Mom really fills that mother in law void that I had. My two sisters and brother in law are also spectacular people that have accepted me from the very beginning nine years ago.

One of the greatest treasures about this family is their love of people and their desire to reach out and bless others. Although they have done this in many ways, one of my favorites is their Christmas giving spirit! That first Christmas I had with them while Handsome and I were engaged, they invited my girls to participate in their 3rd Annual Christmas Dinner Theater. They had all of their kids, 9 under the age of 9 at the time, put on a simple Christmas production in the living room while serving a spaghetti dinner to friends and family that attended. They took up a donation and blessed a local family in need with the proceeds.

It was simple. It was precious. It taught the children to do something to give to others.

The following year we realized that we had outgrown the humble living room and would need a larger area to serve and perform for the regular attendees so we used Mom’s church. Our numbers grew as a result and we continued to perform an annual Christmas Dinner Theater for seven more years. Every year we chose a different recipient of our proceeds and our humble performances allowed us to bless others with several thousand dollars over those years.

Two years ago, three of the four siblings moved away, each in different directions. We suddenly found the Christmas Dinner Theater a larger feat to accomplish. 2015 we held our 10th Annual and final event. It was magnificent. The attendees shared their sadness over our finality as they had watched the children literally grow up on the stage over the years.

This year, knowing that we would not be hosting the Christmas Dinner Theater, we needed to find another way to give back to others. It was not the performing that brought so much joy to us all (although it was a joy to perform) it was the ability to give to others.

We decided to find another way.

We all met at Mom’s/Grandma’s on Sunday night so that the kiddos (which are not so little anymore) could bake sugar cookies. The following morning we took those cookies and the supplies needed to decorate them to the local nursing home. We gathered together and sang a beautiful lineup of Christmas carols and the kids gathered around the residents and helped them decorate their cookies.

It’s another chapter for us as a family to continue to find ways to bless others during the Christmas season. Although it blesses others, we are the ones left with the greatest blessing. I am thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this family and their desire to teach their children that Christmas is not about ourselves… its about the gift of Jesus… His birth, His life, His death and His resurrection as the greatest gift to us all. Our giving to others could not even begin to compare to His gift but it is a way to share His love for others through us.

How do you give to others during this season? We need ideas of other things we can do for the years to come.

December 28, 2016

Hardworking Kids

https://img.clipartfest.com/0c2d4ca175d2d427edb5a53556a1d6f3_education-family-chore-clipart-family-doing-household-chores-clipart_2000-2000.pngI have heard many debates over the years about kids doing chores. Should they be given chores? Should they not be given chores? Should they be paid? Should they be chores or just expectations?

Having raised kids for almost a quarter century, I have had strong opinions on this very subject and I have not swayed much over the years. I think there should be definite expectations for kids around the house – that are not chores. I think kids should have chores. I also think they should get some sort of compensation based on their age, the chore and the household finances.

I am not one to think that my way is the best way, it is just what works for us.

First off, I believe kids need expectations. When should that start? At about a year. A year!? Yes, a year. If a child is old enough to take a toy or book off of a shelf or out of a basket, then that child is old enough to put it away. If a child can undress herself, then she is old enough to put the dirty clothes in the laundry basket. My children had a lot of small expectations when they were very young. I taught them to pull their blankets up to “make the bed” in the morning and after naps. I expected them to bring their dirty dishes to the sink or counter once they were walking. They put their dirty clothes in the hamper and helped me put their clean clothes away. They are capable of many things at that age and still so eager to help.

Once they were a little older, around 2, I began to give them jobs. They could bring the bathroom garbage to the kitchen and dump it into the kitchen garbage can (with minimal help). They were able to feed the dog. They could even change the toilet paper roll.

As they grew, their chores grew. It was not until around age 5 that I actually gave the kids any sort of weekly chore expectations. At first they were simple chores and as they grew they began to take on bigger chores. Any time a new chore was given, it often felt that it was harder for me to give them the chore than it was to just do it myself. I realized that there was a definite learning curve with all of the individual jobs and it was important to endure the 1-2 weeks of teaching and monitoring the job being done before expecting it to be done right. There were many times that I just wanted to do the job myself or have one of the older kids do it, but it was always worth it to hang in there and let the next child learn the task.

When the children were fairly young, I did not give any financial compensation for their hard work. Sometimes I’d give them a candy or even just a high five. At times I would take a minute when we passed by a Dollar Store and talk to the child about how well she has been helping out at home and let her pick out a toy. But I did not actually give money for chores until around 5 years old. This was my magic age and partly because school had started by then and it gave me an opportunity to teach the children how to count coins.

To be fair, there have been many times over the years that our finances were pretty humble. We simply did not have the ability to give the kids several dollars per week for their chores. This was particularly the case when we had three teenage daughters and three kids under the age of 5 at the same time. Because things were so tight, we did not pay the kids for their chores, instead we allowed them the opportunity to earn money for going above and beyond. This made it possible for them to do additional jobs to earn money to go to the movies or something with their friends.

http://www.kars4kids.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/shutterstock_177925643.jpgRegardless of what we were doing at any point in time, I have often found that it all hinges on me. I am the one that needs to decide who is expected to what and then police the expectations. And this is my downfall… I have had almost 25 years of having children and I have had many different ways of managing chores. Some have been effective. Some have been ineffective. Some have been way too confusing. Once again, I am rethinking the chore charts… I think this is the third time this year. What better time to start a new chart than the new year?

I am on the way to creating another chart. This will be a hybrid of our favorite chart to date that I created a few months ago. The only significant change is that I am going to a monthly system instead of weekly. I believe it will make my job policing the chores a little easier.

While on the search for monthly chore chart ideas I came upon this fantastic website – https://www.chorecharts.net –   with several free chore chart templates as well as chore bucks. I’m kind of excited because I have not really thought about doing chore bucks before… hmmmm… now the wheels are really turning.

December 11, 2016

Cash Christmas on a Budget

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… or so we sing… yet many people approach Christmas with nothing but stress. I know, I have been there.

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From stressed Christmas…

Everywhere I go I hear people talk about how Christmas does not need to be all about presents and spending money but let’s face the facts… most of us do at least some of that. And more often than not, people would like to be able to do even more than their budget allows. For years, December rolled around and my bank account had nothing more than enough money for a tank of gas. We always made the most of it… making gifts… finding creative ways to spend time together. Those were humble Christmas’s and although filled with wonderful memories, I was always sad that I could not do more.

… to stress-free Christmas!

Then along came Handsome… who swept me and my four daughters off of our feet!

Marrying a wonderful man did not automatically bring better Christmas’s… we still had a tight budget… but he had a plan. I just have to take this opportunity to publicly praise Handsome and  thank him for literally making my Christmas’s stress free so that I can better focus on the true meaning of Christmas.

I am hoping that by sharing this, there just may be someone else that will experience less stressful Christmas’s for years to come.

His plan is simple… yet makes a tremendous difference and enables us to approach Christmas without going into debt. There is always the opportunity to set up a separate savings account, but when times are difficult through the year it is easy to make those funds accessible. Instead, Handsome pays a little bit extra each month on all of our bills throughout the year so that  when December rolls around, there is nothing due. He basically takes all of our on-going basic monthly bills… cell phone, internet, utilities, insurance… and divides their average annual costs by 11 and then begins paying that amount each month.

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Giving to others makes Christmas even better!

It is simple. It is only a little bit more each month but it adds up. It is always fun beginning in March to see the amount due is less than the usage for the month and then watching that grow. When December arrives, there is nothing due… and less bills for the month=less stress!

There does not appear to be a way to apply this plan to revolving accounts or loans such as our car and house payments, so those bills still roll in for the month, but all of the other bills add up quite a bit.

We are able to plan our Christmas to not only bless our children with some gifts under the tree, but also be able to do some special things for families in need around us. Doing something for others is what makes our Christmas even more blessed.

Thank you Handsome!

 

December 11, 2016

The 2016 Great Road Field Trip – Day 1

We had the great idea of having all of the girls sleep over at Melissa’s to make our departure time of 5 a.m. a true possibility. We made sure that the girls were all bathed because we really did not know how long it could be before they got a real bath again. As they settled in and actually fell asleep, Melissa and I were busy assembling breakfast burritos and packing the coolers… at 10 pm!

It was after midnight before we were done in the kitchen and began to seriously assess the plethora of back packs, pillows and sleeping bags, amongst the other necessary items to be packed. Wow… time to go to work… after midnight.

We organized as we loaded the van. Everyone had their own backpack under their seat as well as their pillow in preparation for the hopeful hours of quiet nap times. Our snack box – which literally looked like the honor system vending boxes you see in commercial offices- was purposefully placed up front where it could receive adult monitoring.

and the journey begins…

We were so wound up from the packing and loading, that we seriously considered just leaving when we were loaded… at 3 a.m. I had to convince Melissa that it would be best to get at least 3 hours of sleep before our journey which meant we would be leaving later than planned. Breathe… it’s ok to start this journey off-schedule… this is a vacation field trip…

Bright and early, the girls were cheerfully climbing into the van and settling in. We made our way down to Debra’s place to pick up her and Katrina. Ohhh myyy, there are more bags… I had to laugh at the thought of forgetting that we needed to deliver some left behind belongings to her college son… at the end of the trip! We found room. We settled in. We began pulling out of the driveway. Then we quickly had to turn around… we needed pencils… we are going on a homeschooling field trip and we forgot pencils…?

It is always funny to me that kids are eager to dive into their “to-do” bag immediately upon starting a road trip. All five of the girls were busily working on their Pioneer Field Trip education packets before we were even off of the dirt road.

The sun was rising as our journey finally began. This is going to be fun…. or at least a test of friendships… six days… five girls (7-11)… one infant… three women. We can do this… we can do this.

Our schedule for the day was to leave early enough to drive almost across Kansas and then head north into Beatrice, Nebraska to arrive at the National Homestead Monument. 483 miles… just under 8 hours. We would be there by 3 pm and be able to spend an hour or so at the monument, then head to Grand Island and set up camp late in the evening. This was our longest scheduled day with the most miles planned. We can do it… just focus... the rest of the trip will be a breeze.

Kansas welcomes us!

The breeze came. Shortly after crossing into Kansas, our beautiful sunny sky turned into a wall of darkness. Traveling speeds slowed a bit as the wipers sped up. Toes began tapping as the minutes seemed to pass by like seconds on a wall clock.

Debra was at the wheel during the heavy rainfall when suddenly a large work truck veered right into our lane as if our large 12-passenger van didn’t exist. We were immediately praising the Lord for her quick reflexes as she carefully swerved out of the way. It is unsettling to be faced with the reality of how quickly and easily our lives could be altered. The driver, completely unaware that he put anyone’s life in danger, swerved back into his own lane and continued his texting. Little did we know at the time that this was only the first example of God’s hand during our trip.

With senses heightened, I made the call to the KOA campground that was prepaid to inform them that we would not be making it there tonight as we have spent hours in dusk-like darkness as we traveled through Kansas. Thoughts of the whole Midwest being under a blanket of rain were put to ease as she informed me of the beautiful clear skies there just outside of Grand Island, Nebraska.

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Welcome to Nebraska- the good life!

We debated on a plan B as the miles slowly passed. It was evident that we could make it to the Homestead National Monument before they closed but we would have mere minutes for our visit. This simply was not going to be acceptable as the whole trip was centered on our first stop. We would need to search for a place to stay but unfortunately – we were still in Kansas – and neither of us seemed to have decent cell coverage while we were traveling. If only I could click my heels… there’s no place like home…

We stopped at a McD’s for a bathroom break and free wi-fi and made the decision to attempt a hotel room… hoping we could sneak the kids in…?

Plan B fell into place better than expected. Within a couple of hours we were in Beatrice and quickly settling into a nice-sized hotel room (we didn’t have to sneak the kids in as the clerk felt sorry for the three ladies with all of those girls in tow). We were happily enjoying dinner when we began to pay attention to the eeriness of the hotel that we were staying at. As the sun descended into the horizon the hotel guests residents began to come out… literally. Grills and beer coolers were being rolled out of rooms and the outdoor party began. We began sensing several eerie eyes watching our moves… counting the girls… uhmmmm, I think it’s time we come inside… and pray.

Us mommas exchanged the knowingly-yet unsaid-looks as the happy-go-lucky girls settled in for the night. I couldn’t help but have flashbacks of Children of the Corn flow through my mind. I know… I know… but I’m from Nebraska, I can say that…

As the morning came and the party ceased we loaded up and made our five mile journey to the monument. We eagerly greeted the day with absolutely no clue of what obstacles we may face… and you’ll have to wait for the next posts to hear all about the hand of God and His protection on our trip…