A Homeschoolers Guide to Doing NYC on a Budget

Have you ever taken one of those quizzes that tell you what state you should move to? Which one fits your personality, has the weather you desire, and the activities you want to do? I have and I’ve taken them quite a bit because I’m waiting for the results to change. Every single one of them tells me that the city I need to be in is NYC. The quizzes aren’t telling me anything new. I already know this. New York City has been in my very soul since I was a child. My parents used to tell me I would hate it. “It’s dirty. Filthy! Too crowded. You’ll hate it.” But somehow I just knew I would love it, and I did! The first time I visited I fell in love and I just knew I wanted to be there. However, our finances tell me no. I can visit all I please, but sadly, living there is not in the cards right now. Even though I can’t live there, I’ve dreamed of sharing New York City with Johanna since she was a baby!

In September one of the many local homeschool facebook groups I’m in announced a group buy for tickets to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in NY. I was all over it! Not only did I love the book, but I loved the movie too. But to get to see it on BROADWAY? I’m in. So Johanna and I read the book, watched the movie, then packed our bags and headed to the big apple dragging the Mister and the baby with us!

Planning was a bit tricky because we were on a very strict budget and very little time. NYC overnight, but under 24hrs, for less than $300? Challenge accepted, and here’s how we did it:

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1) See a broadway play, but in the middle of the week and get the group rate – We were able to get tickets in the back of the orchestra for less than half the original cost by going in with a group. They needed there to be at least 20 of us in order for us to get the group rate, and that was rather easy. We ended spending under $100 for two tickets!

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2) Share a treat – I knew I wanted to take Johanna to the Sugar Factory when we went to NYC because it’s a chic place full of treats, just her style. But I also knew I didn’t want to spend a grip, so we shared a treat under $5 and enjoyed the cute little shop. It was actually super good!

3)Visit kid friendly stores, but look for really good sales – I know as a mom sometimes we really want to treat our kids even if our wallet protests, so when you go to the majorly cute stores in Times Square like M&M and Disney, plan ahead, go with a plan. I knew Johanna would want something out of the M&M store, so we made a cute bag of colorful M&M’s for half a pound, and put them in her M&M souvenir I bought her years ago when we got home. I also scoped out the Disney store before we came and happen to know that they were having a pretty decent sale. Turns out she didn’t want anything in there anyway, but I felt good going in knowing that I was prepared.

4)Enjoy the beauty of Times Square, it’s free! – Grab some lunch and take a seat in the middle of Times Square. I’ve never had a boring time in Times Square. There are always some characters (literally and figuratively) around there. While I grabbed a kabob from a street vendor, Johanna chose to get something from McDonald’s. We sat on a wall in the middle of TS and enjoyed watching about 8 Minnie Mouses, 2 Cookie Monsters, a Spiderman, Batman, Minion, 2 statue of liberties, and many more. Just a normal day in the city.

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5)AirBNB, enough said – Our airbnb cost us $100 less than a hotel in the city would have. I chose for us to stay in Queens simply because I had never been there before. I always stay in the middle of TS or in Chelsea, and I wanted to do some place different. The organizer of the show tickets found an equally inexpensive airbnb in hell’s kitchen! As always, check the ratings and make sure to read all the details. Our airbnb was very nice and in a very chill neighborhood, just one block from the bus we took. It worked out incredibly well.

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6)Choose one landmark to visit, and find a cheap way to do it – Johanna really wanted to see the statue of liberty. I knew that cruises to do so could be rather expensive so we were all set to take the ferry from lower Manhattan to Staten Island for just $5 each! While we wouldn’t be able to actually visit the Statue of Liberty, she would be able to see her fairly up close. However, as I was scouring the internet reading about parks and such in NYC, I found one about Liberty State Park and I thought that would be perfect instead, especially having the baby with us. The kids could play AND see the Statue of Liberty! So Thursday morning we found ourselves at the park with a pretty great view of her, and Johanna had a ball with her father in the park before we headed home.

I feel like we were able to pack a lot into our trip. I knew that this was not the trip to try to show her everything I love about New York, but it was enough to just get her feet wet. Enough to have her say “Mommy, when I become an adult, I’m moving to NY!”. You just don’t have any idea how sweet those words were to my ears.

Have you done New York on a very tight budget? What tips do you have to share?

To see our trip in action and for more tips, checkout our video on our Youtube channel!

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A Little Bit of Patience, and a Whole Lot of Grace

3 years ago I was in a job that caused me great turmoil. My coworkers were amazing. The mission of the job was incredible. My boss was a nightmare! The company perpetrated itself to be something other than what it was. It was becoming increasingly hard to get up in the morning. When I left from that very weird environment in June, I did so with the intentions of finding another job in my field by the end of summer. However, summer was gone before I could even really feel the heat, and then I blinked and it was Turkey eating time. Johanna and I found ourselves at odds. School for her ended in June and by mid-July I was teaching her. I figured she had to do something during the day. I couldn’t have her just sitting there watching that God awful Caillou all day. That’s when I came across  easy peasy online homeschool and unbeknownst to me at the time, our homeschool life was born. By February I had long stopped actively trying to find a position, and my husband had given me the green light to homeschool seriously. For 2 years I homeschooled like a boss! And then…I had another baby.

Isabella changed everything.

I came home from the hospital when coop had already been in full swing. My MIL was taking Johanna for me every Friday since obviously I couldn’t. I didn’t even return to coop until sometime in October. My teaching was sketchy at best. Some days we got through our full curriculum. Other days I was just happy we were able to do math and reading. Isabella shifted our entire world.

Isabella is a light sleeper. She also has constantly been ailed. We’ve been to the emergency room far more times than I would like to recount. She’s had more issues than most babies I personally know. Is it because of her being a preemie or IUGR? We don’t know. Maybe. But it has been rough. It has been rough mentally, emotionally, and physically. There are many days when I am completely drained and just want to throw up my hands. It’s only by God’s grace that we finished out this school year. Unfortunately, it has left Johanna inbetween grades because mommy just could not parent or teach some days. One of the kids was sick every month, including a time between february and march when Johanna had the worse fever of her life and I was scared crapless.

I spent a lot of this school year scared crapless. It caused me to be paralyzed and unable to fulfill my duties as a homeschool mom this year.

This summer I have an almost 1 year old and a 6 year old. Johanna will still be between 2 grades by the end of august.  Currently she is kindergartner/1st grader in reading and a 1st grader in math. She will probably be in 2nd grade math by the time September rolls around, as well as art and health, and 1st grade reading.

We have somewhat found a rhythm again. Isabella has 2 scheduled naps, so we work around those for the day. Sometimes she still requires me to hold her, so it’s not all smooth just yet, but I’m prayerful that in the coming months the kinks will be worked out. Johanna has calmed down a bit. Having a sibling has brought her great joy, but it has also been a hurdle for her to jump. For awhile she started acting like a bratty 4 year old again, and that made my husband and I lose it! I tried to be understanding, but honestly, I just wanted everyone to shut up and get over whatever was ailing them. Did I mention that I was mentally, spiritually, and emotionally exhausted?

Being a homeschooler of one child was already a little bit of a challenge. I was constantly praising those that homeschooled 3+ kids. Miracle workers you are. Homeschooling means that you have to figure when to switch mommy off and switch teacher on. We are still working out those kinks. It also means dealing with your childs rainbow of moods while trying to help teach them important stuff. It’s making the executive decision to homeschool via netflix for the day because both of you have sucky attitudes and nothing good could possibly come of it. It takes a level of patience and grace that I didn’t know existed until I stepped into this world.

But I still love it. I’m still so glad I chose it even though it means that when it comes to my wants, money is tight. That I have to be selfless 24/7. That in some ways even my very identity has changed. I still love it. Today I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but ask me again when Isabella enters the terrible 2’s. My tune may just change.

Whether you’re stepping into homeschooling for the first time, or doing it with a new baby, know that yes, it is hard! But it is also very rewarding and it does indeed get better. Take some time and remember that you are not on this journey alone.

Let Jesus guide you. He’s there, willing and waiting.

Find your community, whether in real life, through a coop, or in a facebook group. A tribe is waiting to welcome you, embrace you, and help guide you. You just have to look for them.

Remember why you homeschool. On days when you just want to give up and throw in the towel (I had at least 8 of those this year) remember why you do it and remember that God’s grace is sufficient.

Yeah, this was a super rocky year, but I still feel very blessed to be able to live the homeschool life.

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Free Magic School Bus Lesson Plans

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Johanna loves science. I mean LOVES science. She even loves watching science shows, particularly ones that involve surgery. I don’t exactly adore science. I don’t hate it, but meh. I was always more of a literature and math kind of girl. So when it came to finding a science curriculum that we both could enjoy I struggled. That is until I came across this free Magic School Bus curriculum.

This curriculum allows us to watch the show, then do simple, easy, yet fun experiments that don’t cost a ton of money in supplies. We just finished the Air episode and did the experiment that accompanies it. The best part is that if you are having a rough or busy day and don’t have time for an experiment that is going to take an hour, there are experiments that literally take 5 minutes tops. This is perfect for us considering we have a new addition to our family that takes up a lot of our time. The fact that I can broadcast the episodes onto the tv with my chromecast is awesome!

Recently I discovered that you can also buy The Magic School Bus experiments. They are available on amazon individually for a great price. You can also buy the complete set  on Educents! We have not gotten the set yet, but we are seriously considering it. I’m all about doing what’s easy, and is easier than having all the materials right at your fingertips?

Does your little one love science? What do you do to fulfill their science requirement that is mentally stimulating yet easy for mom?

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The Homeschool Life: Why I chose to homeschool my daughter

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I never meant to be a homeschooling mom. In fact, I balked at the idea. I was a career woman. I liked going to work and bringing home money. I enjoyed my complete financial independence. Even more than that, I loved getting away and being able to be something other than be mom and wife for 8 hours a day. However, in June of 2014 that all came to an end and I was left wondering what to do next.

For the first few months I feverishly looked for a job. I was constantly on the web trying to see who was hiring in my field of choice. I had a few interviews, but no one wanted to pay me what I was asking for. I constantly found myself saying “I’m not trying to get rich, I’m just trying to pay for child care”. Many understood, but could not meet my demands. So, for a while, I stopped trying, and focused on making sure that Johanna’s education didn’t slip through the cracks just because mommy couldn’t find work.

That first year was hard, there’s no other way of saying it. I hated it and Johanna did too. She missed school and friends, and I missed adult conversation and having professional goals. We had more bad days than good, and I was absolutely over it! I wanted to throw in the towel so many times, but I love my child and realized that she couldn’t watch Sprout all day. So I prayed. I needed the Lord on a whole ‘nother level because this was a mess! Then about 8 months into the process, I noticed that Johanna wasn’t pushing against my teaching as much and I had started to find my rhythm. It wasn’t awesome yet, but it was good, and good was a whole heck of a lot better than things had been.

A few months later I was offered a position that I couldn’t step into just yet, but the offer was made and I felt confused. The position was my dream position at a really good place with really decent money, but a huge part of me felt like I had finally found my life’s calling – being a homeschooling mom. I saw that I was able to give Johanna the things I had been looking for in the schools around us. I had gone to a private school fair in hopes of finding our dream school, but none of them lived up to my expectations. They were all missing some element that I wanted Johanna to have, but in homeschooling I could give her those things. I could give her the biblical foundation I wanted her to have. I was able to take her on many field trips throughout the week. I also was able to teach her in her learning style, something that most schools can’t do for every student.

WerenottryingtodoWhen Johanna is having a bad day, I don’t have to school her in the traditional sense. I can turn on the chromecast and school her through Netflix. When the day is ending quicker than I would like, I can bring her in the kitchen with me to help me cook, all while going over measurements with her. Being able to teach her in everything we do is such a mind blowing blessing. If it’s sunny and 70 degrees out I am able to take her outside to homeschool instead of staying in the house. We frequently visit a café in the city to people watch and do school work. The flexibility of homeschooling is a beautiful thing! And if you live in a city like mine, there are plenty of free and discounted opportunities. Many museums and theatres have homeschool days where kids are able to participate at a discounted or free price! The opportunities made available to them are fantastic!

If you’re considering homeschooling, the biggest thing I can tell you is to erase what you believe homeschooling looks like because I promise you that it is different for every family. From curriculum (are you homeschooling online? Did you buy your curriculum? Did you make up your own?) to unschooling, schooling on the road, joining a coop – it is more different than you could ever imagine. The opportunities and styles are quite varied. There are also great resources out there; Plenty of websites and groups to guide you (if they don’t overwhelm you first!). I’m apart of some great communities on facebook where I learn a lot from other seasoned homeschoolers, and newcomers like myself. The homeschool community can be a very supportive and nurturing one.

I have no idea how long I will homeschool Johanna for. A few more months? Years? Through high school? I really don’t know. Will I accept that job offer when the time comes? Only God knows. I’m ok either way. What I do know is that I count myself incredibly blessed to have this opportunity to homeschool. I get to spend a ton of time with my child, watching her develop and blossom into this really incredible human being. I get to learn about her interest and open her up to new possibilities. I enjoy not having to hear about it from a teacher these days. I like not feeling guilty like I used to. Our time was so rushed when I worked because we had to do homework, then dinner and a bath, and then it was time for bed. I felt like I was missing her grow up. Not anymore! I also have an incredibly supportive husband who appreciates the work I do with our child. If I didn’t have 100% of his support I could not do this.

Every day is not easy, but we do have more good days now than bad days. But let me be very honest, the bad days still exist, and I believe they always will. We all have a bad day every once in a while. However, God is molding me and showing me how to deal with those days. I’m learning right along with Johanna and I love that.

If you have any specific questions about my homeschooling experience, I would love to answer them. I’ve even thought about doing a periscope about my homeschool life. If you would be interested in that, let me know!

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5 Ways to Celebrate Back to School as a Homeschool Family

btsOne of the things that I love about being a homeschooling mom is the flexibility I have in teaching Johanna. I am able to make things magical and very creative. If she decides tomorrow that she wants to learn more about flowers, I can drop EVERYTHING and we can head down to the national arboretum. It really is just that simple. However, the one thing that I have noticed a lot of families have not yet mastered is how to make “back to homeschooling” exciting.

I know that quite a few homeschooling families don’t do Back to Homeschooling like parents who have kids that go to regular school do. A lot of that is because many homeschool parents, like myself, school year round. Also, a lot of homeschool parents simply do not have the time. They are busy putting together their schedules and binders for the school year, and that can be very hectic. Some don’t know quite how to celebrate starting school up again. I have decided to take a two week break this month before starting back up with our activities. I want Johanna to feel special when we start back up again. Because of this I created this list of 5 ways that parents can celebrate Back to Homeschool with their kids:

1. Go school supply shopping with your kids.
Don’t you remember being a kid and being super excited about what color folders and what cool pens you were getting for the new school year? I remember being absolutely crazy about trapper keepers and these super awesome pencil cases:

Taking your child shopping with you can create that very same excitement. It also makes them feel like they have a hand in their education, giving them a sense of pride.

2. Create an inviting space
I think it is important to change up your homeschooling room every year to make it more exciting. Put up a new theme, maybe change some of the furniture in the room. While you’re setting things up your student could decorate their notebook, or decide on a piece to add to their homeschool area that makes it feel more like their own. A change of decor tends to add to the excitement of starting a new journey of learning.

3. Back to Homeschool photos
As parents we tend to love documenting each new journey that our children take, and the first day of school should be no different! It helps to create buzz, and it’s a great way to capture how much they grow from year to year. Checkout my pinterest board here for photo props and ideas.

4. Back to school breakfast
They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Why not make it super special by heading out to get a stack of pancakes and discuss all of the excitement over a new school year? Honestly, this will also help me to not stress as Johanna is a picky eater, but one thing is for sure – she LOVES pancakes!

5. Take a field trip
I love taking field trips with Johanna because it reminds me of why I homeschool. The fact that we go on field trips weekly and she is able to see what we study in action means a lot to me. Field trips are also very exciting for her. They get her out of the house and into an interesting new world. Why not kick the school year off with a fun, yet educational, field trip? It’ll help keep things light for the first day and ease everyone into a new school year.

Something else I like to do at the beginning of the school year is a scavenger hunt for school supplies. This is pretty age specific as I’m sure that once Johanna is 12 she will tell me that she’s too old for that sort of thing, but last year she loved it. I simply had her search for specific letters around the house and told her if she was hot or cold. wherever there was a letter, there was a school supply and treat for her to add to her book bag. This year the search will be a little more creative and complex. I also adore this back to school interview! The options really are limitless when creating excitement and buzz about a new school year, even if you homeschool! Your child is starting a new chapter of learning and that should be celebrated.

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Breathing in the Good Stuff

Today is a big day for me. It is a day that determines so much in not only my future, but in my family’s future as well. With that said, I started to come here and write about my fears, like my fear of me having to stop homeschooling Johanna and her having to go to public school and not have Jesus infused into her education like her father and I did. I think you know by now that we are big Jesus lovers and we want his influence in Johanna’s life in every area possible. But I’m not going to go on a rant about that, not today anyway. I am going to name the things that I am thankful for instead because it’s so much more powerful, encouraging, and light.

img_0712I’m thankful for my family. I’m thankful that my husband tries to give me a few moments to myself in the evenings to do whatever it is I want to do. I’m thankful that Johanna is a daddy’s girl and she knows what it is to have her father’s love. She knows how it feels to be accepted by her father, loved by him, and cared for by him. I’m thankful that he is not just here for her physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. I’m thankful for his relationship with Christ and his growth in Christ. He stepped up in his spiritual maturity at a critical time for us and God has been blessing us ever since.

I’m thankful for Jesus. I’m thankful that he is an amazing father. I am so thankful that he has not only loved me, but disciplined me as well. It did not feel good just as it doesn’t feel good to our children when we discipline them. However, just as we discipline them out of love, concern, and to see them grow/mature/prosper, so does God. I appreciate him for that. I’ve cried. I’ve screamed out just like my 4 year old has, but I’m better for it! Abba God wanted better for me so he put me in a situation where I cried uncle and fell on my face at his feet. Then he did the most beautiful thing. He let me face the consequences of my actions, but carried me the whole way. If people knew what I was really going through they would probably be shocked. But God has steadied my spirit, and seriously gave me peace beyond understanding. Like, I’m literally walking in the grace of God! And it is Ah-may-zing! I’m so thankful for him. His love for me is so overwhelming that it makes me want to burst. It’s too much.

img_0687I’m thankful for the opportunity to home-school my child. It gets so hard sometimes, but when she gets it, it’s beautiful. It’s worth the difficult times. I’m thankful that Johanna wants to do well because that pushes me to do better by her when teaching her. I’m thankful that I can teach her whatever she wants to learn because I’m homeschooling her. I love that our curriculum includes bible study, dance parties, washing dishes, and baking. I’m glad that I know her on a better level than anyone else simply because I spend all day just focusing on her. She can rock my nerves when she’s being completely 4, but majority of the time she is brilliant. She’s cute, and sweet, and too loud, too caring, too sassy, too soft-hearted, so much goodness. I thank God that I have been able to experience this.

I’m thankful for trash tv. Not all of it, I watch very little tv these days, but for the couple of shows that I do still watch I’m thankful. My life is not quite as exciting as the ladies of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, so I love the hour I have to just zone out and watch them. It gives me a whole ‘nother appreciation for my simple life.

I’m thankful for Pepper, our cat. He’s so incredibly sweet, and he takes all of the tough love Johanna gives him, and she does give him a lot.

I’m thankful for my church. Thankful that it feels like home. Thankful to be able to go to a place where I can hear the true word of the living God preached each week.

I’m thankful for toe nail polish.

I’m thankful for 60 degree weather because seriously? If I never see winter again it will STILL be too soon.

I’m thankful for the friends that still call me when something major in their life happens. Motherhood has almost swallowed me whole, but I still love my friends and want to be here for them as much as I possibly can.

I’m thankful for my dad. He is kind, he is pure, and he has rarely told me no. Every girl needs a father like that.

I’m thankful for my Keurig, although I won’t be using it much anymore. I didn’t know how unhealthy those pods were for the environment. Yikes! I still look at my machine fondly though.

I’m thankful for facebook. It drives me batty, but it has helped me stay in touch with family and friends, and the groups have taught me so much! From how to supplement Johanna’s education through Netflix/amazon/hulu, to free homeschool lessons and kid outings in DC. There’s a million groups for all of my interests, and why yes, I am on information overload, but I love it!

I could go on and on, but I’ll end this list with this. I’m thankful for everything God has blessed me with. And I’m even more thankful that I am finally, FINALLY learning how to handle it all with wisdom and grace.

What are you thankful for today?

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Taking a Virtual Field Trip Around the World

About a month or so ago an internet friend (don’t you love those?!) told me that she was doing geography lessons with her little one, and I immediately said idea STOLEN! While I am not exactly that girl that remembers state capitals and such, I am that girl that adores learning about new places and discovering new things. I would love for Johanna to be that person as well, so I thought this was perfect!

We started last month with China. It was great! We had dim sum (she hated it), we participated in Chinese New Year, we read children’s books and non-fiction books about China, as well as watched language videos. It was great, worked out perfectly! For March we are doing Japan since the Cherry Blossom festivities will begin right as we are ending, perfect timing! Well another internet friend (yes, my internet friends are way better than yours!) sent me her pinterest board because she is an elementary school teacher and wanted to help me out with homeschooling Johanna. I was totally overwhelmed at first, but soon I stumbled upon something that caught my eye.

Have you ever heard of the Google Art Project? Well it was new to me (I know! I must live in a cave…or I’m just busy being the Black Martha Stewart) and to say I was excited is kinda sorta putting it lightly. How timely for me to find this! Google Art Project allows you to view over 100 museum collections from 40 countries. You can either explore the museum (a dream come true!), or view the artwork. Seriously. You get to take a walk through the museum as if you are actually there! This is me in the Tokyo National Museum:

UntitledHow amazing is that??? This has turned my teaching on it’s head. It’s made things just a little bit brighter and exciting! Of course, I couldn’t discover this and not tell you, you know, in case you too are extremely busy saving the world being an awesome parent and somehow missed out on this little nugget of information.

Have you incorporated world studies into your little one’s curriculum? How do you teach your children about the places far away from their home?

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