Being a Yes! Mom

I was walking out of Kroger yesterday, and suddenly I was gripped by nostalgia. Years ago when my children were young, there was a little mechanical horse outside of our Kroger, and it only cost a penny to ride it! Well, needless to say, this was an absolute highlight for my kids each time we would go to the grocery store, because I would let each and every one of them ride that little red horse. Sometimes one by one, sometimes with a bigger kid hugging a younger sibling in front of them on the saddle, or two little buddies that wanted to ride together.

A simple thing, but I hadn’t thought of it in ages, and as the memory of that swept upon me through the cold winter air, tears came to my eyes as I thought of it. I texted each of my six kids and asked, “Remember when you kids were little and we’d stop on our way out of Kroger to ride the mechanical horse?” and each one from oldest to the youngest texted back, commenting on how fun that was and how much they loved it.

I tried to imagine myself as I must’ve been back in those days. Grocery shopping with a young brood of children, certainly 2, 3, 4, or more in tow each and every time. And certainly pregnant for many of those years as well. We often had two carts of groceries that we were bringing out, because I only shopped every two weeks, and it felt like a major event in both planning and energy and logistics!

I imagined the patience it must’ve taken to get us through the store, to field the many requests for items, to constantly keep in mind my very modest grocery budget, enduring my hurting back while largely pregnant, and anticipating the awaiting process of unloading and putting away at home.

It would’ve been easy to say no and keep on walking to the van, but that mom said yes. Yes to the penny horse. Yes to the smiles and laughter. Yes to the simple joy of a little ride for small children that were out on errands with their mommy.

I want to encourage you today to be a mom that says YES.

Yes to the penny horse.
Yes to bundling up the whole bunch of kids into winter gear to go sledding for 20 minutes, and then have them all turn around and come back in. (filling the back door with soggy mittens and boots and coats!)
Yes to hot cocoa.
Yes to one more chapter of the book they love.
Yes to making tents and eating popcorn and family movie nights.
Yes to playing board games and working puzzles at the kitchen table.

In fact, my wish would be for you to say YES to as many happy things as you can. Make it your default answer. Save your No’s for the times when it has to be that way. But be a Yes mom, as much as you can. Because when you look back at the years you spent with your kids during their childhood, you are going to love what you see, and so are they.

They get one childhood, and thanks to homeschooling, we get to be a huge part of that. Make it a good one.

Lots of love to you and yours,
Erica



Recommended resources for Daily Art

Daily Art is our super popular done-for-you art appreciation program that comes to you via email.

One of the fun things about this program is that there are some suggested art projects included.  Most are pretty easy to do at home with items you probably already have around, but just in case you need to fill in the gaps, I’ve made up a list of the tools and supplies that we use here and have found worthwhile.

Not being a natural artist myself, it took my until I was an adult to discover the huge difference that having quality materials makes in creating art.  If you have paint colors that are thin and weak, brushes that shed bristles, and paper that falls apart, painting isn’t much fun!  Once I got introduced to The Good Stuff my enjoyment of creating things went way up.  And best of all, these items really aren’t expensive.  It’s more a matter of knowing what’s worth getting.

Here are links to the recommended items for following along with the art projects included in Daily Art: Renaissance.  Amazon affiliate links are used.

watercolor paints:  This set gives vibrant colors that I absolutely love!  SO much better than those weak little trays of blah that most of us have had.  Quality matters so much and these will inspire and delight your kids at a very reasonable price.

watercolor paper:  Yes, you need watercolor paper, not regular paper.  Watercolor paper provides a thickness that can stand up to the wetness of watercolors without tearing, warping, and soaking through.  Having the right materials makes a big difference in how much your children will enjoy art.

paint brushes:  I love this set both for quality and variety.  You get 12 different brushes in this set, so there’s enough for a few kids to share.  Better yet–they are junky and won’t lose bristles left and right like others do.  They hold up nicely to washing after use, and store in their own zip pouch.

acrylic paint set: I like this set of washable paints because you get 18 different colors in 2 ounce bottles, so it’s plenty for kids to share and to cover just about any painting project your little artists will want to do.  I also like the box it comes in, which still serves as storage for my set 4 years after I bought it.

colored pencils:  Invest in one high-quality colored pencils set that’s large enough for your children to share, and stores in it’s own tin box!  These can’t be beat for great saturated color, smoothness going on paper, thick leads so they don’t break every five minutes, and nice ability for shading and blending.  Get as large a set as you can afford.  They are so nice!

brayer/paint roller: Easy to use, easy to clean.  You can get one or two and have the kids share.

clay tools:  For Daily Art: Renaissance, you can get away with using dull pencils, toothpicks, or sticks.  But if you have kids that like to do more precise work, and if you don’t already have some tools for clay or sculpey around, you might enjoy this set.  I like it that they are double sided, so you get 12 tools in one set.  Beware, some are sharp!

regular pencils and paper

crayons

markers

Ivory soap: grocery store pickup

styrofoam plates:  grocery store pickup

permanent markers like sharpie (regular and a thin tip black one)

old toothbrush

paper plates



Speak

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about speaking our truth. Setting current events aside, I want to dive into this more general topic, but as it relates to homeschool moms like us. There seems to be an incredible amount of pressure and forces at work that want to keep people silent. I imagine all people experience this from time to time, but in my experience women seem to feel it the most, and I think homeschool moms have particular truths we hesitate to speak.

I recall a time about 16 years ago when I was absolutely drowning with the realities of my life, and I was so depleted I had almost no internal resources to try to help myself. When sharing about my situation in an online group I was in at the time, I was cautioned by a woman in the group that whatever I did, I must not tell my husband how I was struggling. If he knew, she told me, he might want us to not have any more babies. He might say that we should put the children in school. In short, knowing the reality of my suffering and despair might upset the ideological apple cart, and for some reason it was more important to uphold those ideals than to make sure I was healthy, whole, and happy.

(Thankfully, that poisonous advice was enough to wake me up. And I told my husband. And we did make some changes in our life. And know what? It was the right thing.)

Why do we do this? Why do we send messages that if others speak up about their truth that steps on someone else’s toes, they must be silenced? Why do we allow others to try to shame us into a box and stay there alone, unsupported, and afraid?

How often have you had thoughts like these?

I feel like I’m failing.

I’m lonely.

The pressure of homeschooling feels like too much.

There isn’t enough of me to go around.

My husband is not supportive.

My children are so far behind, I don’t think we will ever catch up.

I’m not happy with my life.

And how often have you felt you had nowhere to go, nowhere to turn, no right to voice these things, because there might be people that say things like, “HEY! If you didn’t want to deal with all this, why’d ya have so many kids in the first place? Why did you decide to be a stay at home mom? Why did you think you could homeschool in the first place? Weren’t YOU a dope to not pursue a career?”

Just like every other type of cold blame, we are often told we did this to ourselves. “So now sit there and suffer the fate that you picked.” No room for our truth. No room to voice our experience. No room to spare for empathy, or to honor the paths we’ve chosen, though every path comes with its own set of challenges and difficulties.

Sister, I want to tell you something. You have one beautiful, precious life to live. And believe it or not, you matter. Your well-being matters. Your happiness matters. Your health matters. It’s true.

You and I are not born to be upholders of ideologies. We are more than ambassadors for our beliefs and practices or educational philosophies. We are meant to travel through this life in the best ways we know how, and to love and be loved for who we truly are.

When we stay hidden, and when our truth stays hidden, we are not fully known, and we prevent people from fully loving us. If we are hidden, how can we be known or found?

If we push others into hiding and silence with our rejection and blame, we let them know that the biggest thing that matters about them is their compliance. We don’t want their humanity.

Instead of being agents of silence and shame, let’s work to each be a conduit for truth. Let’s be a safe place for friends to tell us what’s really going on. And let’s be willing to be vulnerable and take a chance on telling someone else what truths are going on within us. This is the path forward for ourselves, and for our children, and our children’s children.

I don’t know how to change the world, except to start with myself. You can, too. Even as a busy homeschool mom at home with her children.

What do you think?



Take Time for Art: History+Art Projects for Homeschool Families

One of the very best ways to help our kids get excited about history and remember what they’ve learned is by making meaningful connections.  Take Time for Art does an awesome job of doing just that, by bringing together audio, video, visuals, and really cool art projects into one fabulous program that makes history study so exciting and accessible!

About a year ago I got to meet Take Time for Art founder Penny Mayes, and I was so excited to hear about the way she has combined art and history into a program that I know other homeschool families will love.

My teenage sons and I got to work through the Ancient Greece program at Take Time for Art.  (They also offer Ancient Egypt and Ancient Rome)  In this program we got to watch 15 different well-done streaming videos that taught us about various aspects of Ancient Greece, such as the ancient Minoans, the Mycenean civilization, the dark ages, Athens, the Hellenistic period, and several forms of art such as metal tooling, fresco paintings,  pottery, wartime clothing, and more.  Each section of history is followed by an art project that’s inspired by that era.  The video walks you through each step of the process of creating the art, and the convenient art supplies pack contained all the materials we needed in order to complete the projects.  (except for a few basic items that you would be sure to have on hand)

For the Ancient Greece program we got to make the following projects:


  • a color wheel (which is referred back to in later projects–a great starting point for understanding the relationships between colors!)

  • a watercolor fresco painting of an octopus 

  • a metal tooling landscape project  (the other option was to make a Mask of Agamemnon, which was also super cool.  But we fell in love with these textures and all selected the landscape project.  They are so pretty in person!)



  • a Greek warrior helmet (we had the option to make it with or without a crest and other adornments.  It is really cool, and yes, you can even wear your finished helmet!)

  • a terra cotta tile art project that I really enjoyed!  I have never worked with terra cotta tiles, and I liked the surface and the way the marker color sinks into the surface.  We could have chosen a horse image for the tile as well.  Bonus fun was that we were able to heat this in our oven for 30 minutes, which makes the artwork on it longer-lasting!

 

One of the things I really like about this program is the variety of projects available.  Within this one program we got to learn a lot of history while also trying out several completely different types of art that we would not have thought up on our own.  Even better, within each project there are choices, sometimes an either-or option, sometimes an easier/more difficult option.  I love it that this gives the kids options and allows them to choose the thing they are most excited about.  This is also great because the program will work for the typical homeschool family that has many different ages of children represented in their family.  Middle elementary kids could certainly do these projects with some assistance, but there is definitely enough challenge for high schoolers and parents to participate as well!  I personally enjoyed doing some of the projects myself, and got to learn about art materials that I had never worked with before.

The other thing I love about this is that the projects are guided.  Sure, total creativity is exciting and cool, but not everybody’s mind works like that.  Participating in a guided art activity gives us the opportunity to work with materials and techniques that we may not be familiar with, and offers a jumping off point for future creative endeavors.  I am solidly in the camp of believing that BOTH guided art experiences AND free time to create art are valuable.  (for parents and kids alike!)

These are not fluff projects.  Each one is meaty, involved, takes several hours to complete (some are done over the course of more than one day), and produces a very nice piece of finished work for you to enjoy.  Your kids will be proud of their art work!

 

Budget-conscious moms may be tempted to wonder if they really need a separate art supply pack for each child.  You will definitely want to get one per person.  Sure, there are a couple items included that could possibly be shared between kids, but for the most part each person will need all the supplies provided, and it will be less confusing and complicated when everybody has all the materials they need.  I really appreciated how organized the art supplies kit was, how carefully the bendable items were packaged and protected, and that having all of it together made it possible for us to actually do these projects.  If I had needed to track down all the materials from the store, or worry about dividing them up between several children, that would probably have been enough of a barrier to make me not get it done.  Take Time for Art has made it about a simple as possible to watch the streaming videos and complete the projects!  Perfect for busy homeschool families.

I can see Take Time for Art being a wonderful addition to your more formal studies about the coordinating time period.  I think it would work well as a once-a-week or twice a month supplement and reinforcement where you would watch one of the history videos, and then work on the next art project.  Your kids will love the change of pace, plus they’ll have some really cool finished projects to display in their bedrooms or in your home that will also help them recall the time period and historical information related to the piece.

 

Click here to visit Take Time for Art and check out their programs!

 



Letters from Afar

Imagine how excited your children would be to receive a beautiful, hand-illustrated letter from a far-away land each month!  This is what the wonderful program at Letters from Afar offers, and it is perfect for homeschool families.  My kids and I have been subscribers to this engaging program for about a year, and each time one of these cool envelopes shows up in our mailbox, we get excited to see what’s inside.  I’m so happy to have the opportunity today to tell you about it, thanks to our sponsor, Letters from Afar!

Each Letter from Afar arrives in an air mail envelope adorned with cool vintage stamps, so the excitement is immediate when you see it!  The letters are written on parchment-type paper, and are penned by Isabelle, a world traveler.  Each personally hand-written message tells about her recent explorations in exotic destinations like Morocco, Thailand, or Germany, and Isabelle shares about the sights, sounds, unique experiences, and history of the place.  Also included is some really terrific watercolor illustrations that typically include a map of the area or some scenes from the place.  It’s like getting a peek inside Isabelle’s travel/nature journal.  Really cool, and it’s inspiring for those of us that want to create journals of our own adventures, too.

Letters from Afar is one of those wonderful opportunities to infuse a spark of joy and excitement into your home while also offering a natural jumping off point for digging deeper and learning about something that you are now curious about.  Just imagine–the mail arrives and one of the kids brings it in.  There’s a Letter from Afar!  Your children gather round and you read the letter together, taking time to examine the illustrations and ooh and aah at the interesting things mentioned and shown.  The kids run to the globe to try to locate the place they just read about, and that naturally leads to a mention of what continent it’s on, what bodies of water are nearby, what else is near, and how far is it from where we are?  You never know which places will get the kids interested in learning more about the geography, culture, religions, politics, animals, or ways of life in other places.  The possibilities for learning are limitless!

Plus, I love it that these letters are keepsakes that can go right into a Letters from Afar notebook so your children can continue to revisit the places and people of lands far away, and draw connections between the places you’re learning about in history, geography, and literature and the letters you’ve received.

Priced at a modest $6 a month, this is a learning treat that is easy on the wallet and offers a lot of possibilities!  Click here to visit them and learn more.



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