finding a new normal series

Life with kids – 1, 2, 3 or more – makes it difficult to find a lot of room for extras. I dream of amazing art projects, lovely lapbooks, uber-interesting unit studies, huge historical timelines, excellence in home economics class and daily nature walks.

But my reality is much more like half-finished paintings, partially completed lapbooks on Egyptian life and rainbows, forgotten piano practice, cabin fever from too-cold weather, and mommy doing most of the baking. I’ve learned though to not expect too much of myself or them, especially when we are all constantly adjusting to new things in our life, and to instead enjoy the moments that we have together, no matter what we’re doing.

See, whether you have a new baby or not, lives, hearts, attitudes, sleep, character and hormones are always changing. Somebody’s teething, someone has growing pains, someone’s gotten sick, mommy’s baby hormones are raging, someone’s having a difficult day… it could go on and on. The reality is, life is never normal. Or at least, just when you think things are starting to settle down, they get all crazy up in your face again :0)

Fitting in the Extras

I have struggled with fitting in the extras since day 1 of homeschooling. I have wanted so badly to add them to our schedule, but I knew that if I wasn’t able to get to them I’d feel stressed and disappointed with myself. Instead, I’ve learned to seize the moments as they arise, to put aside our “book work” for moments where we need to go further in a creative area, and to not compare myself with what others are doing. THAT in and of itself is the biggest challenge! Everyone else always seems to be doing SOMETHING better than you are. Friend, LET IT GO! You never know everything that is going on with a family, and every situation, student and teaching ability is different.

1. Notebooking

Though I loved the idea and really wanted it to work, we are just NOT a lapbooking-kind of family! Notebooking is much more our cup of tea. (Jimmie Lanley has a fantastic ebook called Notebooking Success that has helped me to understand how to make it work for us!)

2. Reading Aloud

Read aloud

Because I want to spend hours and hours reading aloud to my kids, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do that, I’ve made some adjustments. Almost every lunch I’m reading to the kids, either our science or historical read aloud. Then in the afternoons I’ll try to get another chapter in from a Burgess book or other fiction. The days we’re running behind, audio books from the library are a life-saver! And if we’re going ANYWHERE in the van, we keep a CD set in there for the kids to listen to (Bonus to getting more read-aloud time in – they’re quiet as soon as those CDs go on in the van! :D).

A friend also told us about this amazing online library to which people have contributed readings of books. has a HUGE selection of books read aloud to choose from! You can download them to your computer, rip them to an mp3 player and take them with you everywhere. The BEST part is that it’s FREE!

We don’t always sit still for reading either – sometimes the kids are coloring pictures that go with the story, or I’m working on a project with the book propped open, or they’re doing some notebook pages. Combining a couple of things into one (reading-art-notebooking) is one way we can get that extra in!

Some resources for reading we are currently using:

Ambleside online (for rich fiction and interesting history)

Heritage History eBooks (a Living Books approach to history reading)

Answers in Genesis (science and creation)

Jonathan Park (science and creation)

Audio books – library

3. Unit Studies and Delight-Directed Learning

lego boys

Another way to fit in the extras is to use unit studies. I don’t usually plan these into our routine, but have learned to seize the moment when I see the interest peaking. If we’re studying something in science or history that peaks the kids’ interest, I’ll dig around and find a unit study that we can incorporate in. There is so much benefit to delight-directed learning, and I’m learning to be a bit more flexible with dropping some things so we can pursue areas of interest!

Here are some fantastic resources for unit studies:

Homegrown Learners Lego Learning

Amanda Bennett Unit Studies – If you can think of it, there’s probably a unit study for it!

Confessions of a Homeschooler – Inventors, Geography, Artists, Composers, and Literature, OH MY! :0)


Homeschool Share – lots of resources for lap and notebooking

Five in a Row

4. Co-op

We are incredibly blessed to be a part of a co-op group that meets every Friday for classes. Here’s where we get in a lot of the extracurriculars that I would like our kids to have, but honestly just do not have time to tackle daily, or even weekly! Science unit studies, writing classes, art instruction, music and gym are some of the classes we are consistently blessed with. So if you can find a co-op group to attend, I would highly recommend it as it will be invaluable – not only for the teaching, but the friendships and support system you will be building also.

5. Art

art projects

This is an area I’ve always struggled in – I am not a skilled artist AT ALL! However, with the right tools, I am convinced that EVERYONE can enjoy and create great art.

Grapevine Studies has really helped us to get our feet wet with art. Though it is basic stick-figuring, learning to do basic drawings helps to focus on adding more difficult elements later on – and boy do my kids like to embellish!

Grapevine Studies Stick Figuring Through the Bible

The Resurrection Study from Grapevine is on sale still! And check out the free e-lesson for this month!

Tricia from Hodgepodge has some AWESOME art tutorials that her mom has done with her kids. WE LOVE THEM! She really helps you through using tricky mediums like chalk pastels (they’re messy, but fun!) and becoming confident with acrylics. AND you can get her e-book, A Simple Start in Chalk Pastels for $5 off with the code Hodgepodge. (In January she also ran a great series on Fitting in the Homeschool Extras – it’s worth reading!)

Finished painting

Another great resource we have found for art is Creating a Masterpiece. We recently completed their Freedom’s Eagle Silk Dying project, and have a watercolour painting up next. Check out my post for the full review of Creating a Masterpiece and a giveaway of one of their projects!

6. Nature Studies

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Nature studies are something we really got into last summer. I had been researching how exactly to begin as I’m not much of a make-your-own curriculum kind of gal, but I really like the Charlotte Mason style of approaching nature studies. We found some amazing nature studies by season that we have really fallen in love with from Handbook of Nature Study Outdoor Hour Challenge which is based on Anna Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study (Book Depository also has it, but Amazon is cheaper).

Aside from having to spend most of the winter off with Miss E (too cold for her to be out most days!), these studies have been what has kept us interested, intrigued and inspired to study nature all the time. I highly recommend signing up for the Handbook of Nature Study Outdoor Hour Challenge newsletter, it has been an invaluable resource for getting us out into God’s creation! Each month you will receive a new challenge for what to study, going along with the current season. There are notebooking pages available, links to resources online, and really detailed information for different plants and animals. The kids LOVE putting together their nature journals for each challenge!

handook of nature study spring bundle

Barb from Handbook of Nature Study has graciously allowed me to give away one of her copies of the Spring 2012 Spring Splendour nature study. It includes notebooking and coloring pages, ten separate challenges, and alternate ideas for adapting the challenges to your area.

This is giveaway #1 for our Birthday Week Celebration! Use the rafflecopter form below to enter.
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I’d love to hear what you use and how you fit in the extras in your homeschool!

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