Thursday, March 1, 2018

A Day in the Life....Homeschool Edition(10, 8, 6, 4,& 2yo)

Our family follows an eclectic approach with mostly a Charlotte Mason based curriculum and feel. I use what works well for us and try to tailor learning to each of my kiddos as they are so amazingly different! We do many of our subjects together as a group with everyone listening in and then different children narrating back, starting with the youngest and then each one going a little deeper into understanding as their age allows.

We love learning together as it gives us all common topics to discuss and helps the kids act and play out what they learned that day. I regularly hear battles being reenacted, speeches being recited, and adventures being taken with multiple kids included and it does a momma's heart good to hear their love for learning being shared with siblings!

If you look back through previous years of my curriculum posts, you will notice that some favorites haven't changed but that in some areas we've really mixed things up. Beautiful Feet is still our favorite core curriculum and no matter which pack we've completed, we've enjoyed every moment of learning and  been sad to see it end. My kids still think Teaching Textbooks is a computer game and I'm happy to allow them to remain under that impression. ;) We still love Simply Charlotte Mason's Resources for nature and science and their method for memorizing Scripture is solid and lasting.

Some new things we have tried this year are Science Shepherd's CD based Introduction to Science and A Year of Playing Skillfully. Both have added another exciting level of learning to our days.

Science Shepherd clearly and concisely presents science from a biblical perspective beginning at Creation and gives a brief survey through many scientific topics. We have learned a lot  and everyone looks forward to this program, but we wish the sound was better on the disks and that the speaker was more engaging in his presentation.

A Year of Playing Skillfully has been everything The Homegrown Preschooler claimed it to be and MORE! I'm not a proponent of formal learning before age 6, but we LOVE to play in our home! While you can easily get overwhelmed by all the options each month, I use it as a idea springboard and pick 5-7 activities for the month. My Littles love the fun play and my Bigs always join in as well! The best part is that no one realizes they are learning but many important skills and concepts are being imparted as they all laugh and giggle together.

So without further delay, here are our 2017-2018 curriculum picks!

Group Learning:

Grant (age 10): 

Grayson(4) & Olivia(2)

What are you using in your learning this year? What have been your new favorites?

Monday, July 24, 2017

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things!

Since I've only been homeschooling for around 10 years, I'm obviously no expert when it comes to all things learning at home. However, there have been a few things that have worked amazingly and consistently well for our family and I think many of these items would serve most homeschoolers well. So, I'd love to share them with you!

  • Shared supply caddy - when we first started our journey into homeschooling, like many families, I tried to copy the government run school system (even though I've never experienced it myself). I bought supplies for each kiddo,  got them their own little pencil boxes, and had them carry them back and forth from the closet to the table where we worked. This was a very futile exercise.  The boxes just became places where random little toys began to hide out, not to mention there were just too many supplies floating around and that was with just 2 kids! I looked into the future and saw 25 boxes of supplies overflowing with junk and knew I needed to find a better alternative.  
    I headed to Hobby Lobby and found this great caddy with 3 divided areas on one side and a large open area on the other side. It holds our crayons, markers, scissors, pens, tape, and glue sticks perfectly!  Toss in a ruler, some permanent markers, some extra erasers and we are ready to go! 3 days a week you will find it plopped right in the middle of our table as we create, explore, and discover new things together!

    Ours looks just like this except it is a dark woven basket. 

    • Twistable crayons - I'm obviously not a fan of clutter and messes, so normal crayons are my nemesis. Sharpening them, the peeling paper, broken bits and pieces......ahhhh! It's enough to make minimalists shudder in fear. ;) Twistable crayons have been such a great choice for our family. They are basically impossible to break in little hands, they obviously twist up instead of needing to be peeled and sharpened, and they don't make a lot of mess on the container they are stored in. Again, this item is something we've used successfully for over 4 years.

      We have 24 colors to choose from!

  • Well Planned Day Homeschool Planner - I love to be organized and having a functional planner is a must, but one that is also beautiful is a nice bonus! I've used this particular planner going on 6 years and every year after researching alternatives, I always head right back to and buy my planner for the upcoming year. While the price seems steep to some, the ease of use, great articles, and handy sheets for documenting all those random things you do that count as homeschooling makes this a must for us! From January through March 31st, they always have a wonderful presale with at least 20% off their products, so that helps offset the cost. Planners start shipping mid February!!
  • Mechanical Pencils - Going along with the entire mess thing that traditional crayons bring, many of those same problems rear their head with regular pencils. My kids love getting character or themed pencils, but I cringe. Not only do I greatly dislike character products (Yes, I finally did give in and allow my daughter to have Hello Kitty underwear) but I know I’m going to spend the next hour basically sharpening these inferior products down to little nubbins in order to get the pencil ready to write.  So I bought a pack of mechanical pencils and never looked back!  All three of my big kids know how to load new lead into their mechanical pencils, so this helps in them being able to complete their work as independently as possible. Mechanical pencils also allow you to insert new erasers when one wears down vs traditional pencils that are basically useless once an eraser is gone. I’m sure I may receive some backlash from traditionalists :)  Maybe I’m ruining my kiddos or their hands will be all gnarly and crippled by age 11, but for right now these have worked great for our family!           

  • Lamination Machine - When we first got this machine, it sat in the closet for quite a while before getting any real use. I think it seemed really expensive to use or maybe I wasn't sure what really needed to be preserved from little hands that love to wrinkle things.....I don't know. But it wasn't long before this little machine was making more regular appearances and now I can say in all honesty our Scotch Thermal Laminator gets used every week, sometimes a couple times a week. It's been a great investment! It frequently goes on sale for $18 and has lasted us over 5 years and is still going strong. The refills can be found at most stores like Wal-mart or Meijer and even off brand lamination pockets/sheets work wonderfully in the machine. I use it mostly for unit studies or printable activities that I want multiple kiddos to use down the road.

    • Wireless Printer - I work completely off of a laptop, so my office consists of me sitting on the couch, usually watching an old classic movie holding a sleeping baby while juggling the laptop and the printer sitting in a completely other room on the top of my dresser.....high tech, I know! Anyway, since we got our wireless printer, life has been so much easier. I used to have to work on something, then stand up, walk to the bedroom, plug in my printer, wait for it to connect and then print.  I can now print documents, activities, school projects, and photos all from the comfort of my couch. It's always on and available and I can quickly print off a worksheet that ties in with our lesson or a lesson plan for our Bible or history. It's obviously not a necessity, but it sure is a nice little perk!

  • The Bible - This may be last on my list, but it is definitely not's actually TOP of my list of favorite things! I personally believe that NO homeschool will be successful without this key tool. Not only is it the first ever written parenting help book, but it gives key guidelines on HOW to homeschool your child and EVERY child. No need to sort through different curriculum styles or put your child through rigorous tests to find your child's learning style. Through simple, easy examples it gives parents ALL the tools they need to raise their children to be successful in life!
    Image result for bible

    Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
    Deuteronomy 6:5-9

     For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
    Matthew 16:26

    What are a few of YOUR favorite things that make homeschooling great?

    Thursday, July 20, 2017

    Party Like It's 1999!!! Cheap Party Ideas!!

    Over the years, we have thrown many a shindig! Parties are just plain fun, but if you aren't careful, they can get super expensive! We are in the middle of party season here at The Howard House! With one spring birthday, three the middle week of June, and another one in July, our party season is fast and fabulous!

    All those cute little plates, party favors, invitations, and decorations can make a party look fabulous, but they can also drain your wallet quickly as even small items add up!! And don't even get me started on the cost of gifts!!! So in an effort to keep party cost down, our family tries to follow some helpful guidelines. 

    1. Set a yearly party budget
    This budget should include everything you will need for a birthday party for each person in your family. Our family only throws party for the kiddos, so that helps free up more money for the little one! With five kid's birthdays a year to plan, things can get expensive super quick! Setting a budget is important, but remember, sticking to it is what counts!

    Our family's budget is around $250/year, giving us about $50/child including the cost of their presents! This may seem low but most kids have no idea what you are really spending and their expectations really play off  what we as parents feel is a must!

    2. Make as many things as possible
    Now not all of us are super gifted when it comes to crafts but even the most "creatively challenged" person can find some simple and easy ideas online to help stretch that budget as far as it will go. Many a low budget party has been made possible with the help of the internet, my printer, card stock, and some creative planning!

    The cheapest party I've ever thrown turned out to be one of my son's favorites! 
    He didn't know that the cupcake toppers cost me only the price of ink, the cupcakes were from a box, or the cupcake tower wasn't a store bought Bubble Guppy product!

    3. Re-use what you already have
    Of course buying new things is more fun, but many party supplies can be reused, recycled, or re-purposed in a way that no one will ever even know! If you haven't noticed, most party decorations (especially for boys) have primary colors as their main hues, making them easy to mix and match from party to party. We have a small birthday tub that keeps our leftover supplies organized, I always "shop" there first.

    I have a fun primary colored table cloth that has been used over 7 times now between my three boys birthday parties! I also have lots of primary colored napkins, plates, cups, and plastic ware that easily mix and match for a fun looking table. My cupcake tower has been used at a Cars party, a circus party, a Bubble Guppy party and more, just by changing the scrapbook paper on the edges!!

    4. Host parties at free or almost free locations
    Just because your kid is begging you to have their party at Chuck E. Cheese doesn't mean you have to pay $25 for their cake that's the size of a cupcake or dip into your college fund to provide pizza for all your guests. There are many fun and super cheap places to hold your party. While many years we have held parties in our home, now that the kiddos are getting bigger, it's great fun to head out to a fun location. Splash pads, playgrounds, mall play places, McDonalds, and parks are some of our favorite FREE locations to hold a get-together! Even Chuck E. Cheese can be a super cheap option if you plan ahead and think outside the box!

    We just held a super cheap party at Chuck E. Cheese. By holding the party around 2 you didn't have to feed our guests a meal. They allow you to bring in your own cake, ice cream, decorations, and tableware, and by going to their website you can print off different certificates to reward your child with free tokens! 

    5. Rethink gifts 
    As a mom who hates clutter, stuffed animals, and too many toys in the house, birthday season is a frightening time!! ;) My family is really good about asking what the kids want or need and sticking with the list, so most of the time I know what will be coming home to The Howard House! However, the cost of gifts seems to continually be on the rise, so parents have to get more creative about planning what to get their child. I always try to remember that other people will be buying gifts as well, so most of the time we try to stick with 1 nice gift and another small item. 

    The last celebration we had followed this guideline to a "T". We got our son a Bible and cover for his nice gift and then I sewed him a super hero/knight cape and mask and picked up a knight shield and breastplate at Dollar Tree for $2. The material was scraps I had in my sewing basket so that didn't cost me a penny!

    Birthdays are a true reason to celebrate! Rejoicing in the lives of our children and celebrating the person God made them is a wonderful way to show our kids we love them but doesn't have to break the bank. By planning ahead, sticking to a budget, reusing items, choosing smart options, and realizing that our kids expectation aren't always as high as we think, parties can be a fun and enjoyable time for both the kids and the parents!

    Saturday, September 17, 2016

    A Day in the Life 2016 (9, 7, 5, 3, & 11m)

               Last time I shared the curriculum and resources we are using this year, and so far things are going great! We are having a blast continuing on our study of American History and have finally gotten to the "Little House time period" so I'm just loving our read aloud times even more each day. There is always something so peaceful and lovely about reading about Laura's life, Ma's simple routines, and the entire Ingalls family's adventures. It is hard to say no to the "Just one more chapter, pleeeeease?" requests.

              Our three day a week schedule  for formal book work is still working great and really makes our week a joyful process. With 5 kiddos in our home ages 9 and under, including a nursling, having a simplified, gentle, and combined schedule is a must! Our goal is to inspire a love for God and a life long love for learning, so showing our kids that learning doesn't just happen at a set time, with set books, on certain days is a priority. I'd even go as far to say that most discipleship happens at unexpected and inconvenient times. ;)  So we try to keep margin and free time readily available, so that we are available for to listen, learn, and grow right alongside our kiddos.

             For those of you who might be curious about how our schedule looks like in real time, here is a picture of what a week at the Howard House might look like (if God has taken mercy on me) during an average week:

    Days start around 10am, sometimes 9:30am
    Formal bookwork school days: 3
    Field trip/errands/swim lesson days: 1
    Handicraft/lifeskills/habit days: 1

    Monday: Monday is usually our biggest day of school during our week. I like to try and accomplish as much as we can this first day of the week because it really sets the tone for the rest of the week. My husband also works Sunday night at 7pm until 11a on Monday, so we try to get a lot of work knocked out of the way before he gets home. We usually have Manner's Tea Time after lunch today as well once the littles lay down for quiet time.

    Tuesday: This is usually our second formal learning day. Tuesday evenings the boys have Trail Life USA with Tom, so they work on lifeskills and handicrafts this day too. (If there is a field trip that falls on this day or another "formal" day during the week, we either flip flop days or break the work up into two really short days either before or after the outing.)

    Wednesday: Hubs works this day 3pm to Thursday morning at 7am, so we try to spend the morning hanging out with daddy, doing laundry, working on some projects, doing some baking, cleaning, or other habit training. So this is usually our official Handicraft/lifeskill/habit day. :) This week we have built wooden model boats and completed some quilling as well.

    Thursday: This is usually our third formal book work day. Things do change based on each week's events.

    Friday: This is our errand/field trip/library/swim lesson day. It is also our family pizza movie night, so after we are out and about most of the day, we crash in front of the TV and eat yummy pizza that evening. A great finish to the week!

    *** Here is approximately what our three formal days look like:

    *Bible(30 mins):
    • Read from Taylors (1 day), or Read from Bible (1 day), or Character lesson (1 day)
    • Verse memorization (3 days)
    • Sing hymn (3 days)
    *Copywork/Handwriting(5 mins):
    • Either writing out our Bible verse, a passage from history reading, or from Reason's Handwriting.
    • 5yo works with me on basics and I read aloud to her from nature reader and Bible story book.
    • 7yo completes math lesson(15) on computer. Reads to me(5)
          • Nature Reader - Monday
          • Character reading - Tuesday
          • Independent topic - Thursday
    • 9yo works on grammar on his own
    • Read aloud a chapter from 2 chapter books
    • Read aloud a picture book about topic
    • Kiddos narrate back and we discuss
    • 5yo works on cutting and pasting, read about community helpers and catechism
    • 7yo works on phonics on his own
    • 9yo completes math lesson(15) on computer. Reads to me.(5)
          • Nature Reader -Monday
          • Character reading - Tuesday
          • Independent topic - Thursday
    *Extras(20 mins):
    • Sign language(1 day), OR
    • Art(1day), OR
    • Geography(1 day)
    *Passive subjects:
    • Classical Music - Once a quarter, I read aloud a short biography of a classical composer and then we will listen to that composer's music throughout the quarter while doing other work. I will passively mention their name or the name of a piece music as we are going about our day.
    • Art History - Once a quarter, I will read aloud a short biography of a classical artist and show some pictures of their work. We will study it and talk about the piece. I will display a few pieces of their work and the kids look at the pictures at their leisure.

    As you can see I've given approximate times next to each subject, this can fluctuate greatly. Somedays, Bible discussion can go on for up to an hour if it is something we really need to work on or if the kiddos have more questions. Because our set plans are short, it allows us to linger longer or delve deeper as interests demand. Some days, we have character issues that need to be worked on exclusively and books get put aside as we focus our attention on Eternal goals.

    We have free afternoons, so that work can be continued if needed, much needed resting can happen, and/or everyone can work on a project that interests them. This may include sewing, needlepoint, race track drawing, lego building, painting, baking, reading, clay model making, quilling, bike racing, running, guinea pig photography, or so many other possibilities. :)  There is also plenty of time for cooking, cleaning, laundry, home maintenance, and other important but often overlooked courses of study. My ultimate goal is to train myself out of my job; not just to lighten my load, but to prepare well rounded children to be responsible adults that can care and provide for their families!

    I hope this give you a basic idea of how our days flow. Does it always look like this? No. Do we always get everything checked off on the "right" day? No. But by Friday at noon, we try to have everything "formal" for the week wrapped up, so that we can continue to learn by spending time together as a family. This teaches our kiddos that in life there are deadlines that have to be met, however; we truly believe that we may make our plans; but God ultimately directs our steps, so if a sick neighbor needs some cards to cheer them up, a Christian organization needs a hot meal made and served to underprivileged kids, or a family needs prayers and help in their home due to a crisis; we are ready, available, and free to be the hands and feet of Jesus, just as He planned. ;)

    Monday, August 8, 2016

    Curriculum 2016-2017

    Even though our family learns 365 days a year, I always try to take time sometime during the year to document what we are using that year as far as curriculum goes. This year I have three kiddos actively learning and two tiny tots learning by osmosis! ;)

    I try to combine as many subjects together and do as much as a group as possible to keep our days short and engaging. Our goal it to focus on structured learning three days a week, devote day a week to lifeskills and handicrafts, and then use one day for field trips, trips to the library, errands, swim lessons, or other extra curricular activities. Our days usually run from 9:30am to noon, with our afternoons free for individual pursuits, exploration, nature walks/studies, and quiet time.

    Group Learning:
    Grant (age 9): 

    Monday, January 25, 2016

    Curriculum 2015-2016

    Happy January!

    This school year has been a blur and change has been the name of the game! We've bought a house to flip, lost a job, added two new jobs, had a baby, and are just about to move into our newly refurbished house! (That alone was enough learning for all of us!)

    I went back and read my curriculum post from 2014-2015 and seriously, I could have copied and pasted most of it directly into this post. No matter what our family has planned for the year God always brings more excitement and adventure than we ever thought possible!

    I know this post is horribly late, but again this year we are loving most of our curriculum picks, so I want to take time to document what we have been up to!

    Group Learning:
    Grant (age 8): 
    Paige (age 4): 
    We are STILL loving learning as a family and the Beautiful Feet core has worked great for everyone. This year we picked up in the 1800's and have moved into the Civil War period. We enjoy cuddling together every day on the couch as we read great classic books, adventure stories, and other great read alouds as we journey through early American history.

    Most of the other items we are using in a group setting tie in with our history core. It has taken our learning to such a practical level that allows us to apply what we've learned in our every day lives!

    We will be finishing up our Horizon's Math this year, but I believe we will be moving on to something new when our workbooks are full. We have enjoyed learning the basics with Horizon's but as we progress along, I'm beginning to see gaps and areas where we weren't clearly taught the why but only the how and with more advanced concepts coming up, we really need to review the why. If all goes as planned at least Grant will be using Teaching Textbooks next year and possibly Morgan as well.

    While plans may change, we hope to continue using many of these resources next year and continue learning in such a relaxed and easy format. I hope to review more of what we are using this year and share some things we hope to adventure into in the future! 

    Friday, January 22, 2016

    Pre-sale Time!

    It's time for the Well Planned Day annual Pre-sale!! Save 20% on all their 2016-2017 planners!

    Click on the affiliate links above for great savings and to bless my family! 

    Thursday, October 8, 2015

    Baby Basics

            As soon as the line on the test shows a positive, most first time parents run out to their nearest baby retail store and start a registry for their new bundle of joy. Unsure of what is a true necessity and after hearing so many conflicting stories from friends and family, these overwhelmed rookies turn to baby websites and online articles searching for hints on what to scan as they spend the entire day scouring the isles of "product pushers r us".

              Naive that these large retailers would ever steer them wrong, their 17 page registry is printed by numerous well wishers and they find themselves the proud owners of 20 bottle scrubbers, a highchair, and some weird sheep that simultaneously shines stars on the nursery ceiling, warms bottles, and dispenses teething tablets. They look around their once spacious dwelling and see what now looks like a distribution center for Graco, Fisher Price, and Baby Bjorn all rolled into one.

              I can look back and write this while laughing now because as a first time mother, my registry was loaded with the "hottest" baby items of the season and practically nothing, well....practical. Since more than 8 years have passed since having our first little blessing, our family's outlook of needs for our entire family has changed and we have now adopted a minimalist and purposeful lifestyle in everything that we do.

              Now that I'm in the closing weeks of my 6th pregnancy, time, trial and error have taught me that babies need really quite little to keep them happy and healthy! While your list of basics may be a little different than mine, here is what we feel is what our 6th little one truly needs on hand!


    • Blankets
      • 3 muslin blankets (these easily work for swaddling, trips out in the car seat, and can be used as a nursing cover as well)
      • 1 knit blanket (This time around, we are having a late fall baby in MI, so something heavier for out and about is nice to have. My sweet grandmother always crochets a beautiful blanket for our newbies!)
    • Breasts/bottle
      • Baby has to eat, right? :) I've nursed all our babies to at least a year and only our first baby ever took a bottle of pumped milk. Again, pier pressure led me to believe that babies NEEDED this pump and bottles have sat in the closet for the next 4 babies.
      • Nursing tops and pads are a nice thing to have one hand as your supply is getting established.
      • A nursing pillow is a lovely addition when breast feeding but any pillow will work to raise baby up to a higher position so your back doesn't get sore while nursing.
    • Burp Cloths
      • Babies do spit up quite a lot, but that doesn't mean you need dozens of expensive cloths. Flannel wipes, blankets, or washrags can be used very inexpensively.

    • Baby Diapers/Wipes
      • From baby number one, we have used Bumgenius cloth diapers. We would use up the disposable stash that the hospital sent home with us and then we've always switched to cloth until our little ones were potty trained. They have saved us a fortune over the years, even when we needed to replace them after 3 babies.
      • We also use flannel cloth wipes with a homemade witch hazel spray on our kiddos' bums. If you are going to be washing diapers you might as well save money and wash wipes as well too!
    • Bed 
      • Opinion on where baby should sleep differ a lot between families, but for us we have always kept our little one in a pack n' play next to our bed until they were ready to sleep through the night(usually around 6+ months) and then moved them to a crib in either the boy or girl's room - depending on their gender. A mini crib or pack n' play can easily work for baby up until they are ready to move to a big kid bed. 
      • 2 sheets are always nice to have layered with a waterproof pad under each layer. If baby has an accident at night, just pull off the top sheet and pad for a clean layer.
    • Baby Clothes
      • 4 footed sleepers, 2 sleep gowns, 4 onesies, 3 pairs of socks. This is approximately what we will have on hand for the newborn-6 month period. A few extra cute outfits will be added in once baby is sitting up and moving about. 
      • Since this baby is a sweet gal (we have 4 boys and 1 girl already) a pretty headband seems like a necessity. ;) (See you can splurge every now and then!
    • Baby Seat
      • You can't leave the hospital without one!

        - BONUS ITEMS -
    • Baby Transportation
      • Stroller - I'm a huge fan of strollers, and with 5 kids and counting we have baggage with us where ever we go, so it is nice to have a place to stow our things and an extra seat for little ones to rotate through while we are out. 
      • Baby Sling - I've also used a sling carrier with all my little ones. It is nice to be able to be hands free if needed and keep baby close, especially if they are fussy.

    • Baby Swing
      • To many this might seem like a splurge, but as a mom of 2 fussy babies, 1 early riser, and 1 baby with colic for almost 6 months, a swing has been a sanity saver. It allowed me to sleep past 4am with our first baby, kept the cranky babies happy long enough for me to shower and eat something, and gave me a safe place to lay our poor baby with colic while I took a short break while he screamed non-stop from 8pm to 3am every night.

            So this is our family's list for our new little baby. We already owned the stroller, swing, pack n' play, car seat, diapers, wipes, and baby sling from our last 3 babies, but since there is a 4+ year gap between girls we had given most everything else away. Since we purchase so few clothing items for our babies, usually they are all used up by the time they have been washed so frequently and those that aren't, get passed on to someone else. For under $40 we have purchased all the remaining items.

             When I think about how many things we had for our first few children and how overwhelming it was to store, move, and clean those items, how much money was wasted, and how many items just sat in our nursery unused......well it is embarrassing and heartbreaking to think of how many other little ones could have been clothed and cared for with those items and money.

             Providing for a little one doesn't cost the thousands of dollars most magazines portray. If you are expecting your first baby, family and friends are usually more than happy to buy or give you the items you need. Just make sure you are specific on your registry about what items you really need and borrow what you can first. If your baby really likes an item, down the road it might be worth it to spend the money on that bigger item. 

    What would you add? What is your must have baby item?

    Wednesday, July 29, 2015

    On The Road Again: 5 Ways to Make Traveling Fun

    Traveling with children is always an exciting experience,  but it can also be a stressful time if you aren't armed with necessities of the road! Here are some things we never leave home without when heading on vacation! 

    Snack Tubs
    Our family of 6, soon to be 7, are spread out over three rows in our SUV and while I'm very thankful for all the leg room this vehicle provides, it makes it very hard to pass items around or get items back to the kids in the 3rd row. In an effort to minimize the amount of times people have to unbuckle, climb over seats, or spill items on people behind them, we now use snack tubs on trips.

    Each child has their own tub, customized to their own personal likes with snacks, drinks, and sometimes even special treats just for our time on the road. We don't snack a lot at home, so this is a super special occasion for all of us! 

    I have run the gamut on what I have filled them with on different trips. From things like apples, granola bars, bottled water, and cheese sticks to cookies, gummy bears, juice boxes, and mini donuts. :) No matter what is in them, it really makes our trips go more smoothly when each person has their own tub to pull from right next to their seat. 

    I personally love these tubs with the latches on both ends as they keeps everything snug and sound even if the tub gets dropped or we make a sharp turn and they slip onto the floor.

    Audio Books & Dramas
    There is nothing like a quiet vehicle when traveling down the road and nothing grabs my kid's attention more than a fun story on CD. Some of our favorites are:

    • Adventures in Odyssey's Truth Chronicles
    • Adventures in Odyssey's Bible Eyewitness Set
    • Adventures in Odyssey's For God and Country History Set
    • Your Story Hour CDs
    • Lamplighter Series
    • Audio Classics on LibriVox
    •  Books on CD:
      • Beginner's Bible on CD
      • Madeline
      • Curious George
      • Blueberries for Sal
      • If you Give a Mouse a Cookie
      • Jonah and the Big Whale
    There's nothing like a heated game of I Spy, Twenty Questions, or The Alphabet Game to make time fly by while in the car. We also have Travel Bingo cards and dry erase crayons or markers in the car, that are a family favorite.

    The license plate game is always fun and we also have magnetic tic-tac-toe and a fun Melissa and Doug wooden matching game that the kids enjoy.

    Reading Material & Activity Books
    I know that this may not be an option for all as reading in the car makes some people sick; however, my kids don't have this problem, so we love to bring along books, magazines, circle the words, sticker and coloring books.

    My daughter can color for hours and can't get enough of stickers so time just flies when she is in her own little world. One of my boys loves anything WW2 or Nascar, so he will obsessively read a race program or a tank book for hours on end. My rambunctious fellow loves hidden pictures hunts, knock knock jokes, and to read Bible stories so his go to is his Clubhouse Jr Magazine. Invest in what your kids enjoy and you will have a peaceful car trip.

    Videos and Movies
    This last one is always one I'm on the fence about. I grew up in a time where you kept yourself busy in the car with some of the above items or looked out the window and enjoyed the scenery and happily lived to tell about it, so I hesitantly add this last one. This is one we rarely pull out but on longer trips I have to admit it has been a nice perk.

    We have a double screen set of DVD players that attach to our headrests and can reach all the way back to the 3rd row so no one misses out on the fun! It's nice to pop in a Veggie Tale movie, let the zombie stares ensue, and hubs and I get our own quiet date in the front row!

    There are many ways to make a car trip more fun, what are your family's favorites?

    Thursday, February 5, 2015

    No, I'm not.

    I saw a post on FB the other day to blog post asking, "Are you a fun mom?" I didn't need to click on the link to know the answer to this question. Every once in a while? Yes. Regularly? No.

    It's such a shame too, because I used to be a really fun gal, but after I got sick, I turned into the "lets-get-things-checked-off-and-if-at-6pm-mom-isn't-dead-on-the-couch-I-will-let-you-get-something-out-that-doesn't-make-a-mess-I-will-have-to-clean-up-and-I-will-WATCH-you-have-fun" mom. Disappointing I know. 

    We even got our school work done ahead this week, due to a co-op snow day, and still the thought of the effort and time it would take to have that extra fun, seemed overwhelming. My hubby said yesterday, "We will get everything cleaned up and our school work finished for the week and tomorrow you will be free to have fun with mom!" They looked at me and I looked at them. I think we were both aware of the disappointment that phrase held.

    It's easy to get sidelined with the "have to do's" and not be able to get to the "need to do's". Sometimes we just need to stop our work, enjoy life, love our kids in a tangible, hands on way, and have fun! Good clean fun, and if you are really brave, maybe some dirty fun too!!!

    I highly encourage you to stop today and be the FUN MOM!!!

    Here's what is happening at the Howard House today!!!! 
    What are you doing today to enjoy, love, and have fun with your children?