Homeschool Resources We Are Using

Along with many other families, we unexpectedly got thrown into homeschooling this year!

The decision was pretty easy for me, as I had (and have!) no interest in doing a hybrid or virtual approach, and I didn’t want my kids going back in person full-time… basically school wasn’t happening for us this year – so homeschool was the only option for us! (I did feel torn because I didn’t want our public school to lose funding when we withdrew, but I didn’t see any way around that.)

At first I was going to opt out of school altogether. I have a preschooler and a kindergartener, do they really need school?! No, probably not. However, my kids love more structured learning (in small doses) and Clara is an older kindergartner, so I want her to be confident in her knowledge going into first grade next year. Plus, I was pretty excited about the opportunity to teach them at home for a year!

For all of these reasons, I decided to commit to doing some sort of homeschool for the 2020-2021 school year and wanted to share what materials we’re utilizing in case you need some additional resources / inspiration!

Homeschool resources for kindergarten and first grade

Homeschool Resources for Kindergarten & First Grade

+ Overall Approach: Charlotte Mason via AmblesideOnline

+ Math: Lessons For A Living Education

+ Language Arts: The Good and the Beautiful (the content for the younger grades is free via PDF format, but I opted to purchase the bundle for Level 1 instead of printing it myself)

+ Handwriting: Handwriting Without Tears

+ Foreign Language (Spanish): PBS – Salsa

+ Devotional: Leading Little Ones To God

We’re doing a lot of reading from the books recommended through AmblesideOnline for both curriculum and free reading. We also read books suggested by Read-Aloud Revival.

What I’ve learned is that there is sooooo much content and resources out there! I did purchase the workbooks, but AmblesideOnline is free, and we get most of our books from the library.

I also want to mention that we were lucky enough to have the option to send the girls to a fully outdoor school for two days a week, so they’re attending that. I feel like we have the perfect balance of homeschool, nature time, and socialization. Phew! Every once in a while (and this is one of those times!) I hit a spot in parenthood where I truly feel like I’m doing what is absolutely best for my family, and it feels like sweet, sweet relief!

How is school going for your little ones this fall?! Let me know if there are any resources out there I should know about!

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Maximizing Cozy

Once the weather started to get a little colder here in the PNW, I started to panic just a bit. Colder weather in Seattle means there is snow falling in the mountains, which means hiking season is coming to an end. (Although we do hike year round, just on more local hikes!) It also means that we’re about to spend more time at home and indoors – especially in these pandemic times. I am the opposite of a homebody, so this idea doesn’t necessarily fill me with excitement.

But, I decided to embrace the season instead of fight it, and to do that, I determined that I needed to gear up on all the things to ensure I could live my best and coziest life.

Here are the things keeping me cozy:

+ These joggers (especially good for us short people! I’m 5’2″).

+ This sweatshirt which I may just wear every single day from now on. (It’s currently on sale at Anthro!)

+ All of the fall candles. Just any of them. Although I personally love this one for fall/winter.

+ This wool blanket (for outdoors or indoors, but I mainly bought it for outdoors). I’ve used this a bunch of times over the past month and it keeps me cozy! Tim doesn’t like it as an indoor blanket because this particular one is not soft, but I use it for outdoor hangouts and it’s great.

+ Wool socks. I wear these with my Birkenstocks, because I am a true Pacific Northwesterner now. If living here has taught me one thing, it’s the importance of wearing wool underlayers! If my feet are warm, the rest of me will stay warm. This is in sharp contrast to my life in Chicago in my early 20’s when I hobbled around snow drifts in high heels all winter. Live and learn, self.

+ This tea. It’s my all-the-time favorite, but especially cozy in colder weather months. Just make sure you get the decaf version if you plan to drink it at night. I thought I had insomnia for A YEAR because I Tim had unintentionally bought the caffeinated version and we kept re-ordering it… just take it from me that it was a disaster.

+ Lamps. I started turning off our overhead lights and using lamps instead. I love the atmosphere it creates!

+ This weighted blanket. I love our weighted blanket and it is especially nice for our sensory-seeking kids as well!

+ My Kindle. I read every single night before bed with dim lighting, a candle nearby, a blanket over my legs, a mug of tea in my hand, and a Spotify playlist in the background. It’s been the best way to end these fall days, especially if I can hear the rain falling on our roof! I use the Libby app to download books from the library onto my Kindle. Here’s my Goodreads account if you want to see what I’ve been reading.

+ Speaking of Spotify, I’m loving this playlist lately, but there are so many good and moody fall playlists out there!

I hope you’re fall is off to the coziest start possible!

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Hello, October! Coffee Date.

Let’s pretend we’re on a coffee date, shall we? IN PERSON! I know, I know, crazy thought – but this is the internet + imagination and we can do what we want. (Thanks to Ashten for posting her own coffee date post a while ago, reminding me how much I like them!)

If we were on a coffee date…

+ I’d tell you that I can’t believe it’s a week into October. OCTOBER! The last quarter of the year! I love September (generally) but this year it was ruined because of smoke. And October… all of the emojis with heart eyes. It’s just the best. And arguably the last good month of weather in the PNW until the late spring.

+ I’d talk about homeschooling and how well it’s going. I truly love it. Granted, I’m only homeschooling preschool and kindergarten for my older two girls, but it’s just so fun and the flexibility really fits in with my general life perspective and lack-of-scheduling. I’ll do another mini-post about homeschool… maybe. (Lisa, if you read this post in the future, this is a reminder to write the dang post!)

+ I’d ask you what your plans are for this fall. I, for one, have zero plans. I mean… maybe we’ll go to a pumpkin patch? If we don’t have anything else to do, maybe we’ll go several times. (HA!) Other than that, I plan on watching football and going on a few hikes and spending time outside as much as possible… but no big plans over here – yet!

+ Speaking of football, I’d ask what you think of the ‘fake’ crowd noise they play during the games. Surprisingly, I like it! I mean, it’s a little weird, but a completely silent stadium would be way weirder.

+ I’d say that we went camping last weekend and we had a blast. We bought a travel trailer a few months ago and I love it way more than I thought I would. This past weekend we went to Battle Ground Lake State Park. The campground / park was so much fun that we didn’t even leave for 3 days! We played in the lake. We paddleboarded. We roasted s’mores. We ate a lot. We rode bikes on trails and roads. It was as relaxing as a camping trip with kids can be! We went with friends, and it was nice to just hang out in a ‘normal’ way for a bit.

+ I’d roll my eyes thinking about how awful those few weeks of smoke were for us on the west coast – acknowledging that we didn’t even have the worst of it up here in Seattle! I’d probably end up on a tangent about climate change, but mainly I’d share that I don’t think moms in other parts of the country understand what it’s been like on the west coast – where we’ve been largely shut down because of Covid, and then were also trapped inside our houses for weeks because of wildfire smoke. It is a new level of anxiety to not be able to breathe the air in your neighborhood, and a lot of my mom-friends have shared that they were on the brink of losing their freakin’ minds & sanity with everything going on. September was HARD.

+ I’d perk up when sharing that Phoebe is 18 months old and just the cutest and sweetest little nugget… still! I’m loving the time I get to spend with her lately. The girls + Tim went on a backpacking trip a few weekends ago and Phoebe and I were on our own back at the house, which I loved! I realized that big kids make WAY bigger messes than toddlers (at least at my house) and that toddlers are pretty boring one-on-one. How many times can I read the same book over and over without going crazy was pretty much the game we played for days on end.

+ I’d acknowledge that although I do truly love our life’s rhythm/routine right now, I miss having a bit more margin in my life to get some ‘extra’ things done. Like write blog posts! Edit pictures! Print photos for picture frames! Create Phoebe’s one-year book! All of the things. I work part-time and have the kids full time, and with the activities thrown in (homeschool, gymnastics, outdoor school), I am BUSY like never before. There is nonstop action in our house and my to-do list only gets longer. I’m going back to bullet journaling for the first time since March, which I think will help.

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Adventuring with Kids: The Oregon Coast

Earlier this summer we finally made it down to the Oregon Coast, and it was everything I expected and more. The last time Tim and I had been to the coast was in 2015 when Clara was an itty-bitty baby.  Ah, such fond memories. That trip is actually what convinced us to move to the PNW – but I digress. The point is, I couldn’t wait to return to the Oregon Coast, and it turns out exploring the Oregon Coast with kids was even more fun than when it was just Tim and I + a baby.

Visiting the Oregon Coast With Kids

Here’s What We Did:

+ Stayed near the beach in Manzanita. We used Airbnb to find a rental (use my referral code for $35 off your first trip!) and were not disappointed. We found Manzanita to be a more affordable area to stay in than Cannon Beach. However, I think if you’re willing to stay a bit outside a town, you can find even cheaper places to stay. Especially since we went during a time of social distancing, it wasn’t necessary for us to be near any restaurants!

Visiting the Oregon Coast With Kids

+ Enjoyed the wiiiiiide open beaches near Manzanita. There is so much space on the Oregon Coast and it was really easy to ‘socially distance’ ourselves from others.

+ Took pictures near Cannon Beach – because how could we not stop there on our way down?! It is a breathtaking place. One of my favorite memories of the entire trip was watching the girls run into the water near Haystack Rock.

Visiting the Oregon Coast With Kids

+ Hiked to Short Sands Beach (in Oswald West State Park). The girls were able to do this easily and we shared the trail with a lot of surfers carrying their boards – which was fun! The hike itself isn’t anything too special, but the beach was wonderful. We watched surfers, we played in the sand, we saw a waterfall and played on rocks (during low tide)… it was everything we could want in a beach! Getting there was also super-easy as it is right off highway 101 and only minutes away from Manzanita.

Visiting the Oregon Coast With Kids

+ Played in the sand at Cape Kiwanda. It was an overcast day when we went to Cape Kiwanda, and honestly we ended up there because our original destinations were all closed because of Covid! However, we did love the beach and the haystack rocks that were there. Fun fact: one is actually taller than the rock at Cannon Beach, but it doesn’t look that way because it’s so much further from shore. If the girls were a little older (or maybe if the day was clearer) we would have climbed the dunes. We ordered lunch nearby at Ben & Jeff’s Burgers and Tacos and ate on the beach, which was fun!

+ Hiked Cape Falcon (in Oswald West State Park). Tim and I did this 5-mile hike as a day date. It was an easy hike and the views were wonderful, especially since we went on a sunny day! The parking lot is the same you can park in to get to Short Sands Beach and the hike actually overlooks the beach at a lot of viewpoints. It was neat to see the beach from up above!

Visiting the Oregon Coast With Kids

+ Ate pizza from Marzano’s Pizza in Manzanita. We brought most of our food to the trip because 1) we wanted to avoid eating at restaurants and interacting with too many people and 2) we have kids so #1 applies whether we are in a pandemic or not! But we did order pizza one night and it was delicious and fun to eat on the beach! (Or, it should have been fun. Really, it was chaos because it was windy and the kids were too cold (even though I told them to wear pants and not shorts!) and the sand was everywhere… I mean, if it was just adults, eating on the beach would have been fun! I still recommend trying the experience). While we were in Manzanita (in June) most things were closed during the week, I’m assuming because of the pandemic, so if you’re traveling there in the next few weeks/months, maybe be prepared to make your own food.

Visiting the Oregon Coast With Kids

+ Drank coffee from Manzanita Coffee Co. It was delicious, and they had a lot of bagel options, too! Full disclosure: I wanted to try Bread and Ocean (the reviews are great!) but it was closed during our trip. When we go back I’m going to get coffee from all of theplaces – for some reason, coffee in Oregon just tastes better. (Shhhh don’t tell Seattle I said that!)

There are so many places to explore on the Oregon Coast, I highly suggest a trip down there! I may make it an annual tradition for us! I wish we could have gone further south, but the 4 hour car ride was long enough for my crew this year. There’s always next time!

I know I shouldn’t have to say this, but if you’re traveling during the pandemic, be responsible and follow the local guidelines so you can limit exposure to yourself and others. I think it’s really easy to visit the beach and not interact with others at all, but be prepared for more closures than normal, potentially even of state parks. It’s best to check the Oregon State Parks website ahead of time to avoid any frustrations. I didn’t check the website and we drove for quite a few minutes out of the way only to find a closed park.

Happy Adventuring!

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Kid-Friendly Hikes Near Seattle: Whatcom Lake & Whatcom Falls

There is truly nothing I love more in the summer than hiking – and this year is especially fun because the girls are getting older and can do a bit more miles with a little less complaining… sometimes.

Last week we did two new (to us!) hikes. Both of the hikes were in the same area, near Bellingham. It was a little over an hour from Seattle, but the change of scenery was very worth it and we easily spent a few hours at each place. We did them on separate days, although it’d be easy to make a long day and explore both areas.

Lake Whatcom Park

Our first adventure was at Lake Whatcom Park, where we took the Hertz Trail along Lake Whatcom. If you’re familiar with Seattle, picture the Green Lake trail but much less crowded and even more scenic! Also, Lake Whatcom is much bigger and this trail doesn’t even come close to getting all the way around the lake. According to the WTA, this trail is 6.2 miles round trip, which is an out-and-back trail. We turned around at a little over a mile, because the girls were much more interested in finding a spot to swim than they were in ‘hiking’. The great thing was, there were tons of places that the girls could get in the water from the trail! Of course it was a whole ordeal getting them into swimsuits… but that’s another story. Even within a mile, though, we were able to see a covered bridge and a fairly impressive waterfall and just enjoy the gorgeous scenery across the lake. We parked in the parking lot and had to look at the map to find the correct trail which we took to meet-up with the actual Hertz trail. There is probably a more straight-forward way to get on it, but from where we parked there were a few different trailheads, so just make sure you get on the right one! We even brought a stroller (so we could easily haul the swim stuff + Phoebe) and it was a bit rough on the initial trail but was absolutely fine on the Hertz Trail.

Whatcom Falls Park

On the other side of Lake Whatcom is Whatcom Falls Park, which is a great place to stretch your legs if you’re just passing through the area (it’s pretty near the expressway), or for a nice little day trip. Apparently there are 3.5 miles of trails through this park, but we got stopped very quickly when the girls saw the main attraction: a large stone bridge just a few yards from the parking lot, followed by the falls! The best part was that there were calm swimming areas between waterfalls, and older kids were even jumping from the falls into the swimming area. (It was maybe 6 feet high?) So fun! The water was shallow enough for the girls to easily play in, but next time I’ll bring their life jackets so they can jump off the falls. The only caveat I have for this place is that it got crowded on a Thursday afternoon, so if you go, go in the morning. When we originally arrived we had plenty of space to ourselves, but then some large groups came and keeping distance from strangers became difficult, so we had to leave – womp. Still, it was worth the trip and if the swimming area is too crowded, head on to the hiking trails! As soon as we left the girls asked when we could go back.

Both of these adventures convinced me that I need to spend more time exploring the Bellingham area! When we go hiking we tend to go straight into the mountains, but for kid-friendly hikes near Seattle, I would definitely check out going north instead of east for a change of pace. Even though you won’t get the mountain experience, there are lakes, waterfalls, and rivers. We’ll definitely be back!

Happy adventuring!

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