Old into New: My Latest Refinishing Project

About a month ago I decided to take on a “little” project (I use that term loosely) of refinishing my kitchen table and chairs. What better time to do that than when you’re 8 months pregnant and about to start another school year as a homeschool mom? I had honestly been meaning to do it all summer but couldn’t seem to get around to it until the end of August. It definitely stunk that it was our first week of school and we didn’t have use of our kitchen table, but it was the first week in a long time that no rain was in the forecast, so you do what you have to do! Here are some notes from my journey and some things I learned along the way…

IMG_20170826_114449495My collection of DIY finishing or refinishing projects include a bookshelf, a toy box, kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets, and a couple dressers. This table and chair set was definitely the most difficult and I don’t know if was all the spindles in the chairs, or the fact that I was 8 months pregnant. But it was probably a combination of both. πŸ˜‰

THE PLAN: I wanted to create a “farmhouse” looking table–something leaning on the white and distressed side, but since we bought this house 3 years ago and I wanted to refinish our table all along, I couldn’t quite picture it perfectly in my mind. Then, as if out of the blue (or thanks to pregnancy brain or hormones or something) it came to me: I wanted a light gray table with white legs. And I wanted it distressed. And I also didn’t want to spend too much money on paint or supplies. So that was the plan.

IMG_20170830_145932487THE “HOW”: Did I really want to take the time and effort to try to fully strip the table and chairs? Nope! Never mind the fact that being pregnant meant being careful of chemicals and fumes, but chalk paint is the new trend in the paint world and I’m a sucker for trying new trends! (Check out one of my summertime posts about trying a new coffee trend!) Chalk paint is used on pieces to create a “chalky” appearance, can be distressed pretty easily, and best of all can go right over any finish without needing to strip the piece down first! And here’s an even more fun product: chalk paint powder! (Something a friend pointed out to me!) This is a powder mix that you can add to any paint to turn it into chalk paint. Bingo. Found my winner and my “how.” Now I could use the light gray and white paint I had in the basement and save a little $! The popular brand of chalk paint powder can be found on Amazon (hello, 2 day shipping!), but I also found a slightly cheaper brand (do I sound like a cheap-skate yet? I do love a bargain!), so I went with that instead. Did it make a difference? I guess I won’t know until or if I try the popular brand someday!

IMG_1686HOW IT WENT: I started with white and painted the table legs and the chair legs and spindles first. Right away, I could tell that the coverage was pretty good and I’d only need two coats. πŸ™‚

The light gray I chose was the same that I have on my kitchen and bathroom walls. It IS pretty light, but it looked WHITE on the table outside. I was hoping that it was just the bright sunshine making it appear that way. Even though the color wasn’t as dark as I wanted, I kept going, hoping it would look better inside, like my walls and trim contrast that you can actually see in my house.

Time to distress! After a little research, I discovered that the best and easiest way to distress chalk paint would simply be with water and some elbow grease! I used a microfiber cloth and some wet sandpaper sponges (the cloth didn’t give me quite the drastic look I was going for). It was a little tough going, but I ended up being pretty happy with the results. If I had more energy at the time, I might have kept going and distressed the table more than I did, but at that point, I was ready to get the project done!

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I like the distressed look along the edges of the table leaves!

FINISHING: The problem I had when thinking about using chalk paint was that it would have a matte finish, which I figured would be difficult to keep clean. Three kids (almost four) and a white/gray table equals messiness and fingerprints! So I wanted to polyurethane the table so I would have a shiny finish that I could wipe clean and would also “seal” in the distress marks and prevent any more paint from chipping down the line. This was the disappointing part of the project. Not only was it difficult to get an even coverage that wasn’t too thick and didn’t drip, but I found that the “clear” polyurethane turned out to not be as “clear” as I thought. It dried with a yellowish tint, which made the gray of the table and chairs lose any look of actual gray, it just looked white and the actual white, ended up looking off-white. This bummed me out, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. It was probably my own fault for being a little careless with the polyurethane, but oh well.

The table itself is very old and was passed to my grandparents from their parents and from my grandparents to us. It wasn’t perfect to begin with in our house, and it’s certainly not perfect now. But Randy and I agree that any imperfections that came out of this project have added to its character. One “happy accident” was that the sun crackled some of the white paint on the chairs as they were drying and gave them a unique look that we LOVE! This probably won’t be our “forever” table, but it definitely brightens up our kitchen, looks more like it “belongs” in there now, and is serving us well for meals and homeschooling! Another fun and learning project behind me!

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Starting Up the Homeschool Year

Starting up the school year as a homeschool mom can be exciting and stressful, just like for any other teacher. This year for me, it’s definitely been an even mix of both! Generally, I find the stress to be in the choosing of curricula and setting up the “plan” for the day-to-day scheduling. But once that’s settled, excitement sets in and I can’t wait to start! But sometimes, plans don’t go according to, ahem, “plan.” Here are some things I have to keep in mind when starting the school year, and they might be helpful to you, too!

  • Your schooling doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s! (Nor should it!) It’s so easy to play the compare game on social media these days and sometimes we get discouraged if our school room (or kitchen table) doesn’t look as nice as those in other people’s pictures, or our kids don’t seem as excited to start as someone else’s. But not only is it unhealthy to constantly compare ourselves to other people, it’s sinful. If you are heeding God’s call on your family to homeschool, your only focus needs to be on how HE wants YOU to raise and educate YOUR kids. I have to remind myself of this almost daily. Getting ideas from others is one thing, but thinking we need to do everything just like someone else is different.
I’m not the best with doing science experiments. I usually like to wait until Daddy is home and then we do a whole bunch at once! Here we are experimenting with water. It was actually fun! (For me, I mean, I knew it would be for them already.) πŸ˜‰
  • Let go of the “ideal.” Here’s my confession: today was the first day I did school with BOTH my 1st grader and preschooler. (We started 1st grade last week.) And the day itself was THE WORST. The school portion of the day wasn’t bad, but other factors led to the day being a “write-off.” The 20-month old has still taken 2 naps a day up until this point and picked today of all days to refuse the morning nap. I knew it was coming, I just didn’t know when. Time to hash out a plan to keep her entertained during school (which I have plenty of resources for and I’ll be sharing in another post), I just wasn’t prepared for this today. During the off-school hours, kids were generally off the wall, a little disobedient, I was 36-week-pregnant-with-number-four-all-time-exhausted, I broke a dish filled with dip while pulling something out of the fridge, and even quiet time didn’t go smoothly. So the epic “first day of school” certainly wasn’t ideal, but when that happens, you absolutely cannot let it get you down! Life is messy. (But, you’d never know it if I just posted the pictures from our school time and never mentioned anything about the rest of the day. So, see, that’s another reason not to compare–you’re probably not even comparing your life to the true account of another’s!)
For Noah’s preschool year, we’re doing 1-week “units” that I’m pulling together from a bunch of different sources. Our first unit is on colors. He already knows them, but I like to start with something that’s reinforcing and not brand new. And we got to have this yummy snack of “rainbow” fruit with homemade whipped cream! We mixed our primary colors to make the secondary ones. It was fun AND delicious!
  • Curriculum is not “one size fits all.” If you have found an all-inclusive curriculum that meets all the needs of your family and you LOVE it, yay you!!! Honestly, our curriculum comes pretty close! Next year we’ll have to start supplementing in a few subjects but My Father’s World gives great suggestions for all supplements. (Click on the link to check our curriculum out!) This is our 3rd year using this curriculum and we absolutely love it! I realize not everyone has that experience, and that’s okay, too! And even if you’ve settled on a great curriculum, you don’t have to use it as is. I have to be flexible with our scheduling since I work part-time so I don’t always follow the curriculum’s outline exactly. Plus, my experience as a public school teacher gave me great supplemental ideas that I use all the time! I consider myself lucky that my oldest is mature and “advanced” enough that I could do kindergarten with her at age 4, no problem, and she loved it! That meant that I started first grade with her last year when she was 5, and could spread it over 2 years. So this year is technically our second year of 1st grade, but age-wise, she’s “officially” first grade! Taking first grade at a slower pace has meant being able to supplement with more fun activities, field trips, and make time for the toddler and baby on the way!
We ALL got into our colorful snack! So yummy!
  • Don’t be afraid to try something different! Homeschool parents can feel a lot of pressure to do things perfectly because the world’s eyes are on us for not doing things “conventionally” or not “leaving our child’s education to the ‘experts’.” This kind of pressure sometimes leads me to overthink my choices for fear of messing up and looking like I failed my kids. But I can tell you, even public school teachers have plans that fail! Lessons, and even whole units, don’t always go according to plan, so we have to adjust. Don’t be afraid to look into new curricula, supplemental materials, or to just reach out to other homeschool moms for support and ideas. I thought I was “set” this year for our curriculum, but I now find myself researching another curriculum to supplement what we’re already doing. It never ends! But I’m learning to follow my instincts and try new things when necessary.

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August 15 — recipes of summer

The other night we pretended to be southern and indulged in fried chicken, corn on the cob, green beans, potato salad, and buttermilk biscuits for dinner. And we couldn’t finish half of it. It’s still somehow hard for me to learn to not cook so much some nights! I’m sure in about 10 years I’ll have to cook that much since we’ll have four “teens” in the house, but in the meantime, there’s leftovers. And biscuits and gravy for breakfast! I’ve been boldly frying chicken for a few years now and I haven’t strayed from Ree Drummond’s recipe (though I don’t have to look it up anymore). The chicken comes out golden and crispy every time and thoroughly cooked and juicy! There’s something about standing in the kitchen and frying chicken that makes me feel like life’s simpler than it is. And my kids LOVE it, which is always a good thing! We mix honey and butter to smear on the biscuits and we’re instantly transported to another place and time as we sit around the dinner table talking and eating with our hands. Even though this meal heats of the kitchen pretty well, I still feel like it’s a summer meal.

We’ve been eating some good summer food around here, lately, and getting creative with our summer beverages! I’ve been wanting to try a new drink for some time now and finally Randy and I made the latest coffee craze for ourselves–maybe you’ve heard of it. Β Imagine combining iced coffee and lemonade?! Yep. Try that and you’re officially “hip.” πŸ˜‰ Here’s how it worked: I combined our iced coffee (leftover and refrigerated from our morning pot–but you could also use cold brew, and what would probably be better is a cold brew espresso or something nice and strong), the juice of one lemon, some sweetened condensed milk, and topped it off with some club soda. It was actually pretty good! It was a coffee version of the “spritzer” drinks we’ve been having all summer. I served it alongside some lava cakes I’d been dying to make so we could have a “special” evening. Typical Wednesday night around here. πŸ˜‰

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I first read about this new trend in a magazine and ever since, I’ve seen it pop up online here and there. Worth a try!

With summer slipping away (I know, say it isn’t so!), I felt compelled to make a berry pie before the season is completely gone. I feel like it’s the quintessential summer dessert and I couldn’t believe I had let so much time go by before actually making one! Here’s the thing, with three small children and pregnancy fatigue getting to me, it’s not easy to slip into the kitchen and bake something for fun. Whenever I watch one of those cooking shows, I always wonder why I feel jealous of the person I’m watching cook–it can’t be because I don’t know what I’m doing in the kitchen, because I do! And I think I have a pretty good set up and equipment, so what is it that makes me long to be inside that show and not cooking in my own kitchen??? Oh yeah, it’s the fact that I always have kids running around me making it nearly impossible to concentrate! πŸ˜‰ So when my parents offered to take the two older kids out for the afternoon while the one-year-old napped, I knew what I would be doing with my free time–baking a pie! And not-so-amazingly, it took way less time to accomplish than I’m used to! Ah, the magic of kid-free kitchen time! So I concocted this recipe for a Triple Berry Pie and served it with homemade vanilla ice cream. So delicious! So summer!

For the crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 TB confectioners sugar
  • 3/4 cup cold butter
  • salt (just a pinch)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsps vinegar
  • 1/4 cup cold water

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, and butter in a food processor and pulse. Add the egg, vinegar, and water and continue to pulse until the dough comes together. Divide into 2 disks and wrap both in cling wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

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For the filling:

Combine 1-2 pounds strawberries (de-stemmed and halved), 1 pint raspberries, and 1 pint blackberries. (You can adjust amounts based on your personal berry preference.) πŸ˜‰ Add about a cup of sugar and let sit in the refrigerator for an hour. (This will allow the juices to come out of the fruit and can be drained off for a less soupy pie.)

Drain the juice from the fruit and then add a 1/2 cup of sugar, the zest and juice of 1 lemon, 3 TBs tapioca flour, and sprinkle in some cinnamon. Mix well.

Roll out one of the dough disks and place in a pie pan. Pour in the fruit filling. With the second disk, I like to roll it out and cut strips to weave together a lattice top crust.

Once the pie is assembled, brush it with an egg wash (combine 1 egg and a little water), and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 425* with a foil collar for 30 minutes, and then remove the collar, reduce the heat to 375*, and continue baking for another 20-30 minutes.

IMG_1679Allow to cool before cutting into the pie. Enjoy with some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream (or both)! And enjoy these last few weeks of summer before it’s all just a delicious memory… πŸ™‚

Triple Berry Pie

Almond Cheesecake Brownies

IMG_1538Almond Cheesecake Brownies. Oh. My. Heavens. These ARE Heaven.

There are a million brownie recipes out there. And to think, I used to believe that using the box mix was making them “from scratch” because you weren’t buying them already made at the store–HA! I’ve come a long way. πŸ˜‰

I have a tried a number of brownie recipes over the years and I have my favorites. But when Randy told me he wanted me to make him brownies for Father’s Day, I knew it was time to write my own recipe. The request to incorporate cream cheese into the brownies came as well. Challenge accepted. I came up with a plan that was actually quite delicious! I decided to make a cheesecake batter to spread throughout the brownie batter. But the real kicker would be to incorporate Randy’s favorite dessert flavor–almond. So instead of vanilla extract in the cheesecake, I used almond extract. Win! Almond has a distinct and powerful flavor so generally, you don’t need that much of it. However, I did use 2 whole teaspoons in this recipe because the chocolate of the brownie is so rich that I didn’t want it to hide the almond flavor. But if you want a more subtle almond flavor, only use 1 teaspoon. And if you want to replace the almond extract altogether with vanilla, just use 1 teaspoon of vanilla. πŸ˜‰

IMG_1541My recipe for these brownies comes together from a lot of tasty research. I wanted to put something together that was relatively simple, but also rich and decadent. And the inspiration, of course, comes from my one and only. πŸ™‚

IMG_1540Grab a tall glass of cold milk and enjoy!

Almond Cheesecake Brownies

Brownies:

  • Β½ lb butter
  • 8 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 TB instant coffee
  • 1 TB vanilla
  • 1 ΒΌ cups sugar
  • ΒΎ cup flour
  • 1 Β½ tsp. baking powder
  • Β½ tsp. salt

Β Cheesecake:

  • 16 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • Β½ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350*.

Over a double-boiler, melt the butter, the semisweet chocolate, and the unsweetened chocolate. Stir until smooth and allow to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, stir the eggs, coffee, vanilla, and sugar together.

Combine the chocolate and sugar mixtures and stir well.

Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder and add to the chocolate/sugar mixture.

Pour batter into a greased 9×12 pan.

In a food processor, combine the softened cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and almond extract. Whip until smooth.

Add dollops of the cheese mixture into the pan of batter and spread or swirl together with a knife.

Bake 30-35 minutes.

Allow to cool slightly and then enjoy!

Here’s your handy printable!Β almond cheesecake brownies

 

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10 Essentials to Keep in your Minivan this Summer!

IMG_9829Summer is finally here and most schools are getting out this week if they haven’t already. And even though we’ve been done with school for a few weeks, now, I still feel underprepared when that first full week of real summer weather hits us. (Wait, I’m going to be in a swimsuit this week?! Am I ready for this?? Have I shaved?! Do I even have time to shave?!?!) Not to mention, I still don’t have swim diapers for the 18-month old. Time to stock up on our summer gear and load up the van so we’re always prepared. Last year, I had our tailgate stocked with a bunch of “just in case” items that proved to be super helpful in getting us out of the house quickly and whenever we were staying somewhere longer than expected.

So, what should you have in your minivan or car this summer so you’re always prepared? I load up a big Thirty-One utility tote and keep it in the back. Here’s my list:

  1. A ziplock bag with sunscreen and bug spray.Β I don’t think an explanation is necessary, here. Common sense summer items you never want to be caught without!
  2. A ziplock bag with baby powder. This is a miracle-worker at getting wet sand off sticky little bodies/feet! I keep it in a bag so I don’t get powder all over the van.
  3. A gallon of water. Helpful in cleaning off dirty hands and feet, and in case of other emergencies. πŸ™‚
  4. A bag of swim diapers & regular diapers–obviously only necessary if you have a child in diapers. Keeping an extra bag in the car is helpful to ensure you won’t run out. πŸ˜‰
  5. An extra container of wet wipes. It doesn’t matter if you have kids in diapers or not, I think we all know that wet wipes are great for a number of reasons! Cleaning sticky hands, faces, water bottles, or the inside of the car itself!
  6. A bag of sweatshirts–one for each family member. You know the drill–you go somewhere during the day and it’s hot so everyone is in shorts and a T-shirt. But then you stay into the late evening and it cools down and you’re outside and now you’re chilly. Run to the van and grab a sweatshirt for those cooler summer nights!
  7. Kids’ beach toys & beach towels.Β I just keep these in the car so that when we do go to the lake or beach, it’s one less thing I have to pack that morning. I keep my kids’ beach toys in a large mesh laundry bag. This way I can easily shake all the sand out of everything before it goes back in the van, and the toys dry quickly. And yes, wash the towels between beach visits! πŸ˜‰
  8. Umbrella stroller.Β Again, only if you have a child young enough for one. During spring and fall, I keep our jogging stroller in the van for those long walks and hikes, but during beach season it no longer fits so the umbrella stroller is perfect to always have on hand!
  9. Extra empty plastic bags. They act as extra trash bags for the “carry in/carry out” state parks, and laundry bags for those wet swimsuits that come off before the kids hop in their car seats. You can store a bunch in an old cylinder wet wipe container, too!
  10. Picnic blanket. I pretty much have this in my van all year ’round, but it’s worth mentioning.

Now you’re ready for whatever this summer has in store for you!

 

A Nod to the Ol’ Food Blog…

IMG_1433I haven’t posted about food in a while. Granted, I’ve been nauseous for the past 5 months, but I’ve also had a lot going on. And it takes a lot of effort to photograph food when you have three hungry kids plus a husband waiting to eat. I seriously don’t know how I used to write about food almost daily! And take pictures! I’m glad I don’t feel the weight of that blog journey anymore, but I do miss writing about and photographing food. There have been a few times the past couple of months when I’ve made something special and wanted to blog about it but just didn’t have the energy to try to capture a good picture and put the recipe into print. But I decided it was time. So I’m about to have a food-explosion blog post and hope you’re ready for it! πŸ™‚

We’ve got some hot weather around the corner, and the changing of seasons always gets me excited about what new dishes I’m going to create in the kitchen that will satisfy the seasonal cravings. (Think: fruit pies, tarts, grilled food, pasta and potato salads! Yeah, summer!) I realize that cooking in the summer does not appeal to most people, even if you have air conditioning, so I wanted to share some of my tips to beat the heat and still provide a filling dinner for your family.

During summer, I love making a good pasta or potato salad because I can cook the pasta or potatoes early in the morning and assemble the salad before it gets too hot, and stick it in the fridge. Then, when my husband comes home from work, he can throw some meat on the grill (which he loves to do) and we have a perfectly hearty side to go with it and don’t have to heat up the kitchen! One pasta salad I’ve made quite a few times just in the last month, is my spring asparagus salad. It’s so refreshing and has a light oil/vinegar dressing rather than a creamy one, so it doesn’t weigh you down.

To make a classic potato salad (which I just made a couple days ago and planned to take a picture, but someone in the house ate the all the leftovers before I was able to stage an appealing photo–then told me to make sure I wrote about how it’s so good that you can’t leave it in the refrigerator unattended or it will be gobbled up…) I start by quartering a whole bag of red potatoes. Then I boil them just until fork-tender (about 15-20 minutes) and then drain and steam them under a towel for an additional 20 minutes. For the dressing, I combine just under a cup of mayonnaise, about a 1/4 cup of buttermilk, plenty of salt and pepper, and 2-3 TBs of freshly chopped dill*. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle but still warm, I cut them up and add them to the dressing. I also add a quarter of a red onion, chopped, and about 2 stalks of celery, chopped. As you can see, I’m not one to do a lot of measuring these days, so I apologize if you prefer exact measurements. The onion and celery can be added “to taste” depending on how much crunch you want in your salad and how much you like the taste of onion or celery. If you want some real specific measurements, Ina Garten has a few potato salad recipes with exact measurements and they’re pretty fool-proof!

IMG_1442*What else can you do with fresh DILL?! You know that pesky ingredient that you only bought to go with that one recipe and now you have leftovers of it in your fridge and you don’t know what to do with it? Unless you’re really into pickling your own cucumbers, dill can be like that. I do make a lot of potato salad in the summer, so I generally grow dill in my garden, but we’ve had such cool weather until now, I haven’t started the garden yet! Ina Garten has a recipe for cheddar-dill scones which is a scrumptious way to use up that dill! The recipe calls for a full cup of chopped dill, but you certainly don’t need that much, you’ll still get some of the flavor with less of the herb.

IMG_1438So I also thought I’d share some of our dinner plans for the week. I try to meal plan in order to save money at the grocery store and stay organized throughout the week. The links to these recipes all take you to my old food blog, which is still active, though I never use it. There are TONS of recipes on there, so you might see more than one thing to try! And if you’re looking for food ideas in the sweltering heat, here are a few options…

I work on Mondays and usually pick up my groceries (LOVE Hannaford To-Go!) on my way home, so dinner needs to be relatively simply. Temps are in the 90s today so we’re sticking with a HEARTY pita-pocket salad and watermelon. NO OVEN! πŸ˜‰ Tomorrow night we’ll be grilling up some pork ribs, I’ll make a potato salad early in the morning to serve at night and we’ll try out some corn on the cob. I know it’s early in the season, but I couldn’t resist! Wednesday the temps should be a little cooler, so the stove is going back on but we’re still keeping it simple: cheese and pepperoni stromboli with a Greek salad. Β Thursday, we’ll have chicken caesar sandwiches, and Friday I’m serving up Western pizza! Simple dishes to get us through the work-week. This weekend is Father’s Day weekend so it’s all about what Randy wants to eat! (But let’s be honest, it almost always is anyway–he’s my true inspiration for cooking.) But specifically for this weekend, he’s requested a veggie garden pizza lunch, steak tips supper, and on Sunday, my famous carbonara with caesar salad (and my homemade dressing) and bruschetta for his after-church dinner. Oh, and I’m also supposed to make homemade brownies with a twist–I’ll fill you in after I decide how good his idea comes out. πŸ˜‰ Whew! A viewer once asked the Food Network’s Pioneer Woman (Ree Drummond) if she had any tips for starting a food blog and she said to buy a treadmill! I can totally relate–haha! I did gain some weight while doing that year-long food blog of mine so now I have to be smarter about how I balance my meals and activity because so far, my love of cooking hasn’t died down. Hopefully you enjoy this weather and have some inspiration for future summer meals and check out my old blog–whenever I randomly stop by, I still get inspired to make something I haven’t made in a while!

 

Keeping some structure to your summer (and your sanity intact!)

Summer vacation is here!!! Well for this homeschool crew, anyway. To the rest of you who might have a couple weeks to go–hang in there! Or maybe I should say, savor the last couple weeks that your kids aren’t “BOOORRRREEEEDDDDD!!!” πŸ˜‰

No joke, I didn’t have the “summer system” I’m about to describe ready for our first week of summer vacation, and boy, oh boy, do I wish I had! While you’re in the midst of the craziness of a school schedule, starting each day in a relaxed mode and enjoying some morning cartoons on “Boomerang” (Hello, Looney Tunes and Tom & Jerry–you bring back so many memories!) may sound like paradise, but let me tell you–after just 2 days of so-called “relaxation”, I was pulling my hair out. No schedule or structure=no sanity around here. And starting each day off with “screen time” is a recipe for disaster (or at least a pastime best kept for Saturday mornings only). The bickering, the whining, the boredom… I just couldn’t take it. It didn’t help that the weather hasn’t been great (today, Thursday, is the first sunny and warm day all week). Time to whip our summer into shape and help me remember that I do actually love my children. πŸ˜‰

I used to be a public school teacher and now as a homeschool mom, I was very surprised that on our last day of school, I was just as elated to be done as I used to be on the last day of public school. Homeschooling, when done well, is no joke. It’s a lot of work and it’s a lot of heart work, because you’re teaching your own children. It’s exhausting. But the reward is great. And summer vacation often can’t come soon enough! But summer is more than just hanging out, going to the playground, park, or beach. While summer vacation is a great time to enjoy time with our families and children (especially if your kids go to public or private school) it is also a crucial time to continue training them. During the school year, we’re so focused on academics and distracted by our busy extra curricular schedules, that it’s hard to establish a good chore routine or spend the time it takes to work on our character building. These things are so important and take dedication, especially at the start, so summer is a great time to work on them.

We are using We Choose Virtues, a Christian character-training guide (not just for homeschool families!) for our character work. You can read more about how we’re implementing that in my last post. But it’s also important to get the kids into the habit of helping out around the house and doing chores. It can be so easy, especially when busy, to just do it yourself–let’s face it, the cleaning goes faster and comes out better that way–but it’s important to start teaching our kids the value of taking care of themselves and our home early. This takes a lot of work from the parent at first, which is why it can be hard to dive into it during the school year. And let’s not forget the importance of keeping up with our academic skills during the summer so we don’t lose our reading knowledge or math facts while on break. And if at all possible, I would like to avoid hearing “I’m BORED” on a regular basis this summer. (Okay, maybe it’s not possible, but I have hope.)

So I set out creating activity bins and charts. Oh, the internet can be such a useful resource for ideas! πŸ˜‰ We have an outdoor bin of “boredom buster” that’s filled with some traditional outdoor toys and some not-so-traditional outdoor toys. (Letting kids play with play dough outside gives them a thrill and helps gets rid of the indoor mess!) Our outdoor bin is filled with bug nets, Play-Doh, multiple kinds of chalk, bean bags, chalk paint, jump ropes, paddle balls, tether balls, and bubbles–all of which can be purchased at the dollar store and are easy and cheap to replenish as the summer goes on.

Then we have our indoor activity bins–one for Abby and one for Noah. These focus a little more on academics, but are still unstructured. Abby (going into first grade) has a folder with math worksheets and some journal-prompting sheets, dry-erase math games (from her centers this past year), flash cards for sight words, flash cards for math facts, Β learning sign language cards, leveled readers, dry-erase activity cards (from Usborne books–also great for long car rides!), a dry-erase board and marker, and silly putty. Noah’s activity bin also has silly putty, a dry-erase board and marker, dry-erase activity cards, his salt tray for forming letters, alphabet and number cards, and Ninja turtle memory game cards.

Based on some helpful ideas from the internet, I set up a summer schedule which has the kids doing their chores, playing outside, practicing their memory verse (from We Choose Virtues), choosing an activity from their bin, and many other things, daily. Check it out! You can download it and adjust it to fit your family’s needs, too! I’ll post the link to our chore chart, as well, so you can see what kinds of chores we’ve included. Our kids are 5 and 4, so we have nothing major, and these aren’t chores we will pay them an allowance to do. We also don’t count basic things like making the bed as “chores”–those are just part of taking care of ourselves and our things. Our chores are helping with the kitchen and dishes, etc, and we do them because we’re a part of the family.

2017 Summer Schedule

2017 Chore Chart

I hope these ideas help you bust through summer boredom or at least establish a working family routine this summer if you’re in need of one! Happy vacation!