wild + free conference

I had such an amazing time at the Wild + Free conference. Inspiration, learning, feeling connected, and basically just that feeling of “these are my people.”

If you haven’t discovered the Wild + Free community yet, take a sec to peek at their website and see what this homeschool community is all about. 

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(I fell in love with the melodic harmonies of the band Branches, who admittedly were playing their first gig at a homeschool conference and thought we were probably the “nicest” crowed (being moms) that they’d ever played for.) 🙂

I had never been to the Queen Mary after all these years (even after going to school and working in Long Beach for three years), and stepping onto the ship was a bit of a step back into time. There was lots of wood, beautiful ornate design, and nautical details that in a modern setting might seem kitsch-y but that here nostalgically represented a by-gone era.  The conference went by in a flash, and I only wish I’d had more time to explore the setting.

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As for the conference itself, it was really unlike anything I’d every experienced in my homeschooling career. I felt encouraged, and my vision was renewed in a way that gave me strength to finish the school year strong, and get excited for the year(s) to come.

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By and large, I took two main takeaways from the conference. As I looked at my notes from the various sessions, I realized I wrote down the same things multiple times, as I listened to speakers Lynsey Kramer, Sarah Mackenzie, Bethany Douglass, Jodi Mockabee, Emily Waechtler and Toni Weber, and Stephanie Beaty.

First, I was reminded to know why I’m doing this {strange, counter-cultural, crazy} way of education for my kids. Having a vision and a purpose behind what we’re doing will help me push through the hard days and take risks.

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And secondly, I was encouraged to get back the heart, literally. To focus on relationship-building in our family, and on character, and not let the curriculum and the checklist whip me into a frenzy. This is where being part of a charter school can actually be a bit of a hindrance, because I have standards, lessons, and a calendar laid out for me. While those can be a help and a blessing at times (and there is certainly blessing in the two school days my kids get to go to each week #praise hands), it does mean I have to fight to little harder to maintain that peaceful, “wild and free” atmosphere that I want so much for my kids in our home.

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Practical things I want to implement in the coming year:

-prioritizing our time around the table and helpers in the kitchen more

-speaking blessings over my children –Bethany Douglass was a big inspiration in this and the whole ‘life-around-the-table’ realm

-teaching and singing The Doxology with my kids– Sarah Mackenzie led us all in singing this a capella and it was beautiful

-chuck it all and have occasional “Just Because We Can Days”

-incorporate letters of affirmation between siblings into our discipline and reconciliation (building up what was lost in conflict)– this was an idea shared by Jodi Mockabee

-making home a priority and establishing a good rhythm

-nurturing the kids in what they love

-Treasuring the “doing” more than the “getting it done” — this was based on a quote by Anna Quindlen as shared by Stephanie Beatty

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As with the blog conferences I have been to in the past, there was lots of joy here in connecting Instagram avatars to real faces and sharing hugs with mamas with whom I had already connected  and been inspired by online, and mixing that with quality time with real-life friends (some of whom thought this whole meeting-people-from-the-internet was a bit funny) was a wonderful blend.

And now that I have connected with a local Wild + Free group, I am excited to continue the mutual encouragement and inspiration as we explore the outdoors with our kids together, geek out over school stuff, and grow closer together as mama friends. Contact me if you are a local mama who is interested in joining us!

Thank you, Ainsley and the W+F crew for such an amazing time of respite and rejuvenation. <3




adventure packs for wild explorers

(This photo is by my brother. Oh, and Hallee eventually took the tag of her pack. 😉 )

Last year for Christmas, as we struggled through the age-old debate of what can we give them that won’t clutter up our house or be broken or forgotten in no time, we decided to go uber-practical. The bonus, was it ended up also being super fun.

David’s parents prefer to give our kids experiences rather than stuff (which we love), so we decided to partner with them. They gave our kids a year-long membership to the Wild Explorers Club, and we gave them the adventure packs that kicked off the first club “assignment” and would give them the gear they could use for exploring.

inside the adventure pack

We are way behind on club assignments– getting back into it is one of my goals for this summer– but in the meantime we have all loved receiving the club magazine each month. The have been read and flipped-through multiple times, and will be a collection worth saving.

We had a ton of fun putting these packs together, and over the last six months, they have loved them and the independence that their little adventure pack gives them (it’s amazing how special carrying one’s own snack can feel 🙂 ).

exploring botanical gardens

From our local botanical gardens, to the hill behind my parents’ house, to taking a jaunt on the Pacific Crest Trail, these packs have given my kids what they need as we’ve ventured out into the wild.

Now that they’ve been enjoying them for a while, I wanted to share what our kids’ adventure packs include in case you’re interested in putting together a similar one. I’m sharing my Amazon affiliate links here because that’s where I bought everything– talk about easy. When the boxes started arriving at Christmastime I had the best time ever putting these together.

elements of an adventure pack

  1. Fjallraven Kanken Mini Daypack. The best (and cutest) pack for adventuring, which I first saw on Instagram and feel in love with. Amazon has great deals on some colors. Look online for videos on using the straps if you need help adjusting them.
  2. Eco-friendly collapsible water bottles. Normally my kids use stainless steel, but I wanted something light. They think these are super awesome.
  3. Pocket folding magnifying glass. These are like magic to my kids.
  4. Sketch pad for nature journaling on the go, or back at home. Gigi and I have watercolor pages but my littles tend to do lots of rough sketches of things they see so they just have regular sketch pads for now.
  5. Carson AdventurePak. This was a great find and makes up the bulk of their exploring tools. This fairly inexpensive kit comes with decent binoculars + case, compass, flashlight (not pictured), and whistle/thermometer.
  6. We add to all this snacks, a pack of kleenex, a pencil or two, chapstick, and whatever else they want to bring along.

For summer, we’re reworking the adventure packs for toting their own beach gear (praise hands for the mama who is retiring from carrying all the stuff), and keeping the tools we don’t need for the beach handy to put back in for day hikes or camping trips.

These packs make my kids feel super “official” and adventure-ish and getting their packs ready to go is a fun part of getting ready to go out and explore.

Be sure to check out the Wild Explorers Club (and #wildexplorersclub on IG) for more inspiration for getting kids out exploring. (This isn’t a sponsored post or anything, just sharing a tip about something we love.)

kids exploring pacific crest trail

To the wild!

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this is my home, this is my school

Just taking a quick minute to tell you guys about a good book, This is My Home, This is My School by Jonathan Bean.

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I found this book at the library and it’s such a sweet look at the author’s childhood in a homeschooling family. The artwork is unique and really nicely done as well.  It even includes some photographs at the end of his family’s homeschooling life. I just loved it!

reading books

I like it when my kids get to hear about grownups’ or other kids’ experience homeschooling– it feels validating and reminds them why this journey is so special.

Check your library for this book or you can grab it on Amazon.

I might try to make this into a little ongoing series, Book Minute, where I share a quick look at a book we like. 🙂

Affiliate links included; thanks for reading and for your support.


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lots of school on the go (coffee shops and the library are my fave)

a new school for Gigi and feeling challenged to get into a new routine

Hallee (4) decided to pick up reading lessons again and is loving it

handmade valentines for friends

dogsitting for my parents

exploring a new park (with trails!) and working on Bobcat level of Wild Explorers Club

reading lessons (and running free) at the beach

sewing class for Gigi where she made a felt teddy bear

lots of fights over schoolwork, and hopefully even more grace and reconciliation

a new softball season (baseball starts this week!) means the best kind of P.E.


This month, we started Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which has been super fun, and we just finished Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone which completely enchanted our kids. The littles got new handwriting books this month finally, and Brody is on the verge of finishing Math U See‘s Primer and beginning Alpha.

Brody has discovered graphic novels — Pokemon and Geronimo Stilton (these come in funky little novel-form and entertaining audiobooks, too) are faves.

Hallee and I have less one-on-one time together but we are still slowly working through the cheeky Stuart Little‘s adventures.

Gigi seems to have rekindled her love of American Girl books, discovering Maryellen Larkin’s books (who she shares a birthday with!), and also a newly found series about Liberty Porter, First Daughter (about the 9-year old daughter of the president, which seems like a timely read in an election year). Gigi asked me if I’d like to read the first Libery book, which I thought was cute, so I just started it. 🙂

We did a unit on the Revolutionary War, which included reading a book we enjoyed called Liberty!: How the Revolutionary War began. Since the kids had already seen most of Liberty’s Kids, they were familiar with many of the names and events.


It hasn’t been an easy transition, having two kids and two different charter schools. We are struggling to adjust and I find myself with my eyes set on the hope of having a more regular schedule next year. My hope is to have all three in class on the same two full days (please, Lord, may it be!) so that we have three full days at home to enjoy homeschooling and feel like we are running less ragged. But in the meantime, a little more driving does have its benefits, namely more time for podcasts and listening to my Bible reading plan, and accidental naps for the littles. 😉


This post was inspired by Bethany at Cloistered Away, (and includes affiliate links).



Realities must trump ideals

February 22, 2016

I have a lot of ideals about homeschooling. But as it turns out, we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in reality. So this year, I’ve made a few changes that while maybe not ideal in my own eyes, have made our homeschool a bit more realistic for where we are right now. […]

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January 27, 2016

Something fun that we did in the fall was take part in a swap called Nature Pal Exchange. Through Instagram I discovered this fun way to see and experience a bit of nature in another part of the country. We were paired with a family in Alabama who sent us some amazing treasures that they […]

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Pre-K & Kinder in 2015-2016: Curriculum

September 23, 2015

Brody is thrilled to be starting kindergarten, and at just fourteen months behind him, Hallee is officially a pre-k-er this year! After watching Brody and Hallee interact, observe and participate in the homeschooling we’ve done to this point, I’ve decided to begin teaching both of them the same material this year. I’m primarily focusing on […]

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3rd grade in 2015-2016: Curriculum

August 28, 2015

It’s hard to believe that we are going into our fourth year of homeschooling and that Gigi will be in 3rd grade! Here’s what curriculum we are planning to use this year (which could always change, of course, but this is what we’ll be starting with). For language arts and social studies we’ll be looping […]

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How I’m preparing for a new school rhythm & routine

August 15, 2015

On one hand, I’m ready for the new school year, but on the other hand, I feel like this year, and this summer have flown by. Does anyone else feel this way? I love summer so much that it’s hard to see it fade away, and yet, every year by mid-August I find myself itching […]

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Our simple plan for science: nature journaling

August 11, 2015

Gigi and I recently decided to back out of the science part of our co-op and just focus on the history part– that’s the part we really love, and science was feeling a little overwhelming. She’s pretty young still and a lot of the stuff they were doing was on her level, but not really […]

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