Welcome to House + Love = Home

Welcome!

Darcy has over twenty four years of marriage and motherhood experience. Join her as she writes from the heart about all the things that make her eyes smile and her heart happy. Mom-ing and Wife-ing are Darcy’s expertise and she is somewhere on the spectrum of raising four children with the love of her life, Dan. Two kids are adults and theirs from birth…grown, flown & living lives of their own. Two made their way home as babies, by the blessing of adoption.

Darcy also designs for her shop, here.  You’ll find her designs to be fairly simple and utilitarian. She loves clean lines,  cozy fabrics, and the quality materials that are available her original design work.  Other than her design work, she’s a homeschool mom, work at home mom, and blogger. She also creates curriculum content, consults with and offers inspiration to homeschoolers (and those that are homeschool curious). In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, sightseeing, hiking, swimming, traveling, coffee, wine, and checking out local brew pubs and restaurants in our travels.
Darcy rocks it as a work-at-home, homeschooling mom. She keeps her creative home running smoothly, and talks faster than she can get her words into print. She loves sharing the joy in her journey, offering humor and inspiration, and helping other mamas achieve the same.

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Disclosures:

This website is written and edited by Darcy Walton and all content is owned by Darcy Walton Sole MBR Our Crazy Prairie Life. For questions about this site, sponsorship, advertising, or collaboration information please reach out: darcywalton75@gmail.com

Sponsorships or other forms of compensation are sometimes received through advertising and affiliate programs. This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Sometimes I am compensated to provide opinion on products, services, websites and various other topics. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely my own. If I claim or appear to be an expert on a certain topic or product or service area, I will only endorse products or services that I believe, based on my expertise, are worthy of such endorsement. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.

Parenting Perspective: My Stance on Sleepovers

 

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I don’t remember sleepovers being a big controversy when I was growing up. There were successful sleepovers, with organized and chaperoned activities among classmates and friends that got along. There were sleepovers where we snuck out at 3 AM and also watched every installment of the Nightmare on Elm Street series. I can remember girls ganging up on one or two girls because (insert any reason a preteen girl could be a total bitch to another) and often times the birthday girl was the ringleader. In my experience, kids are more than likely to go against what they know is right, when it’s way past bedtime and they are feeling strength in numbers.

Over the years, I spent the night with friends and they, in turn, spent the night with me. Other than a few awkward moments and a few situations where there could have been potential trouble, I escaped my childhood unscathed. I have great memories of sleepovers with one of my closest friends ever…my very first friend next door. As I got older, another friend a few streets away had awesome sleepovers. We’d watch Dallas on Friday nights and her parents would make us French toast on Saturday morning. In high school, I feel like I practically lived at one friend’s house. We’d listen to music, talk to boys on her Swatch phone, go out ’til later than we should, and sleep away half of Saturday. While I can’t predict WHEN our stance on sleepovers will change, I can comfortably say that it’s a firm *no* for the near future.

Why are we so firm on this decision? I can start with the easiest reason and work my way to the most paranoid and tricky reason so I don’t look entirely crazy and overprotective. First and foremost, my kids need sleep. They need sleep because I need sleep. I’m running off of twenty-four years of motherhood and sometimes Mama gets tired.  They need sleep because without it, their routines and behavior are greatly affected. I like having kids that aren’t a-holes. Without proper sleep…it can get kind of dicey here. I’m ok with admitting that I don’t want to rock the boat. They operate on 10-11 hours of sleep a night and that is a non-negotiable term of our parenting policy.

Our youngest is prescribed a medication for her diagnosed ADHD. She needs to take it during a specific window of time in the morning. Even on mornings I want to sleep in, I have to set an alarm so she can take it between 7:00-8:00 AM. That allows her a full day of support and a proper wind down period in the evening. Her medication, diet, sleep and wake cycle, and routine anchored lifestyle are all crucial elements of her ADHD plan. I don’t want that responsibility resting on someone else. It’s between us and our daughter.

Both of our young kids are still tucked in nightly. Their routine still looks like that of a younger child, I’m sure. We missed out on approximately the first year to year and a half of their lives, since they were adopted as older babies. It is taking a while for them to be ready for that next brave step of independence. As silly as that sounds, they still crave a lot of snuggle opportunities, a bed surrounded by comfort items, a little bit of bedtime drama, and they still need us at night sometimes. We haven’t left them overnight much during their lives. The only times they have been without us, since they were toddlers, their adult siblings stayed with them.

We are really dead-set on limiting technology and screen time. They have absolutely no access to online gaming. Even with gaming offline, their access is very limited and it usually entails lower quality graphics and calmer games. Both of our kids have a low tolerance for sensory overload. We are very choosy as a family as to what they are exposed to in regards to violence, sexual content, and bad language in movies and television shows. We base our decisions off of our own family values and extensive research done over several years, in regards to the effects of violence on children. I could go on for days about TV shows available, even the ones “rated” for their age group. Nope. We simply don’t have time for crap TV and our parental controls are set fairly strict.  I can’t scour every potential friend’s home for appropriate-for-us content. It’s not their job to cater to our family’s wishes but it is my job.

Other than bedtimes, sleep schedules, TV, video games, and screen time in general (as if I need more reasons to skip sleepovers) I want my child to feel safe and protected at night. That might mean safe from inappropriate behaviors and actions displayed by another child or adult. While I trust our friends and their children, I don’t personally know every single child and family that my kids wants to form a friendship with. It’s easier to have a blanket statement of “No thanks! We don’t do sleepovers.” I don’t have the time or talent to thoroughly weed through a checklist of someone’s home like I’m a foster care social worker, looking for unsecured firearms and fingerprinting pervy uncles who sometimes sleep on the couch.

My last reason is my most selfish. At this point in the parenting game, I don’t even feel sorry about it. I won’t send my kiddo to a sleepover because I seriously do not want to reciprocate. I don’t want a house full of other people’s kids. I don’t want to entertain. I don’t want to be up late making sure kids are feeling happy and safe. I like my sleepy time and I love my family being so routine oriented. I’m not willing to give that up or to sacrifice a weekend night to facilitate that. We work hard and weekends are precious. I’m barely cool with play dates, but that’s another post entirely.

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Decluttering: Our Physical Spaces

bed bedroom blanket clean

Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

When the New Year started, I was already in my fourth or fifth purge since we bought our current home in the Summer of 2017. I felt like we had already shed ourselves of anything that was extra. We had been on a simplicity journey for quite a few years, or so we thought. Then we made a 730 mile move into the biggest house we’ve owned. Then our adult children and their spouses moved with a few block radius of us. One couple moved at the same time we did and one couple followed about fourteen months later. We are home central, or “the sanctuary” as we have dubbed it. We have stored people, objects, furniture, pets, mementos, and extras of every kind as each of our “bigs” have settled into their own home. We need organized spaces, the ability to accommodate a large family and visitors, and we need to be able to store food for a pantry we can shop from

We are down to “just the four of us” and the aftermath meant a lot of clutter. I will never be able to proclaim minimalist status, but I’m becoming pretty good at simplicity. I think I have shown that in the way we manage our grocery shopping, our schedules and calendars, our homeschool, and how we live our day to day lives. We are constantly at work, trying to streamline the way we do things. It’s important for us to make time for each other, our children, and our extended family and friends. We never wanted to be stuck working more hours than not. Right now, that’s extremely hard, because my husband’s schedule means long hours at work. In times like these, it’s even more important for us to have decluttered physical spaces. It makes life easier, when we can concentrate on the important stuff. Cleaning and organizing shouldn’t be life consuming. We thrive in a clutter-free, clean home.

These are the areas in our home that I have successfully decluttered in January and February:

Under the kitchen sink

The upper and lower kitchen cabinets

The “junk basket” which is kept in an upper kitchen cabinet

The pantry

The backdoor shoe and coat closet (also holds “the box” where we dump our donations to haul away weekly)

The upstairs hall closet (holds bedroom linens and “the box” where we dump our donations to haul away weekly)

The downstairs front coat closet

Our bedroom, excluding my husband’s over stuffed closet and dresser drawers (I am happy to help, but that’s his responsibility)

For each of these spaces, I needed to decide if an item was a keep, donate, or trash/recycle. Most of our items were definitely worthy of donation status. I don’t like to just throw stuff away. I also don’t like to donate complete junk. I also cleaned and sanitized each space as I worked. If you noticed, we have two main boxes where we dump our donations to haul away weekly. I like things out of sight but I also like to remember to donate weekly. Our favorite local donation sight drive-through is close to the Aldi where I do most of my grocery shopping. So, it works for us to run two errands in one trip. Another helpful tip: I store all of my Aldi bags and a container of quarters in the shoe and coat closet downstairs. Then I’m always ready for an Aldi haul. You should check out this trunk organizer for grocery bags. It’s another great way to make your shopping easier.

Back on topic! When decluttering our physical spaces, I also keep this in mind: don’t create so many spaces to declutter. We keep all of our “command center” stuff in one location. It holds our weekly menu chalk board, our write on/wipe off monthly calendar, our paper calendar, and our incoming and save bins for mail and other paperwork. It’s one area and one quick weed through every month when I clear the calendar.

When cleaning our physical spaces, I have daily, weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly jobs. It makes things much easier as we go through the week, knowing we are on task and nothing gets away from us. Also, the kids and husband have a large part in our cleaning and household responsibilities. As a work-at-home, stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, I need all the help I can get. Thankfully, I have a husband who also thinks that household responsibilities are equal between he and I. He also helps “promote” the team mentality that I teach our children. We work hard together and we play hard together!

 

Homeschooling: Flexibility For Our Family

I listed six general topics in a previous post about homeschooling, and I made it my job to elaborate on each in the month of February. I want you all to know how our homeschool has worked for us, since we started the current school year. I don’t want anyone to get the idea that we just lay around in our pajamas, dabbling in our studies. We are serious homeschoolers. We have routines, a plan, and a lot of wiggle room. This decision and lifestyle has been providing us a huge dose of sanity and calm in a crazy world.

You may be newer to homeschooling, or just considering it as a “maybe” for the future. If you are like many parents I have encountered, you don’t think you have time. You and/or your spouse may work outside of your home full-time and have several other commitments. That makes it a trickier priority, but it is so very possible. I follow a homeschool website and global Facebook community, Rock Your Homeschool where so many moms juggle homeschooling, work inside and outside of the home, and some are even higher degree seeking students themselves. I encourage you to check them out! I have found advice and encouragement from this safe and active community, from curricula recommendations to weekly share and support posts, where homeschool mamas can promote their own blogs and websites.

When we decided to bring our kids home from public school last Spring, we had no idea how homeschooling would quickly snowball into the best parenting decision we have made. On the specific topic of flexibility, this lifestyle change has been blessing after blessing! As soon as the public school year ended in May of last year, I was at work in my mind and in my heart, to think of what a homeschool schedule would look like. While there has been a lot of tweaks to our routine and schedule, we are definitely in a place where our homeschool is working for us. Several times over the last few months, I have proclaimed “we seem to be finding our groove.” I have learned to start my sentences with “Right now _____ works for our family.” It sure does take the pressure off of me. Mostly pressure I put on myself, but pressure nonetheless.

I should elaborate on that a bit. At the beginning of the school year, I set alarms, started school at the same time every day, and tried to shove too many things into each day. That did not work for me! I had an immediate resentment to our schedule. Then I reminded myself that I started this and I certainly had the freedom to stop it. I had the opportunity to exercise our family’s flexibility and ability to adapt to anything, and I was setting alarms and panicking when our times overlapped for certain subjects. Since then, I have thrown caution to the wind. We work entirely on daily anchors and flexibility. I run this show, fueled by Jesus, coffee, and good intentions. Our children are thriving!

I am sharing daily glimpses into our morning right now over on Instagram. I started today, with a “pre-kiddo” snapshot into my day. Don’t get me wrong, they are up and at it, but I still take my time. I wake with my kids. We ease into our morning. My first AM goals (other than the basics of being a hygienic human) are greeting my kiddos with their first dose of love and hugs, my first big glass of water, time with Jesus, good coffee, listening to the news, and prepping breakfast for the kiddos. I also shared on Instagram and on my Facebook page, House + Love = Home, a devotional challenge I am doing for the next seven days. Join, if you’d like. During my time, my kids have their own AM hygiene routine, pet care routine, and they get a few minutes of time on their Fire HD 8 Kid’s Edition Kindle Tablets

When school starts, the kids are my primary focus. I leave my phone and laptop in my office and we get to work. We usually meet at our big dining room table. I have created our curriculum for this, our first year of homeschooling. We are eclectic in our style, heavy into read-alouds, read-alongs, math, and science. We outsource some of what we “count” as our school, by participating in activities in our community. If you stick around here, you’ll learn more about how we do that. We live in a state with minimal homeschool law, which is also very freeing. I’ll be writing more about Freedom In Curricula Choices later this month. That’s also where I’ll also be revealing our curriculum choice for next year.

I can’t remember a recent day when we weren’t finished school by lunch time. Our school time usually occurs about an hour after we wake. Sometimes we are ready earlier. There are days where the kids wake and automatically grab a “learning game” from our stash. That is a signal to start our day. There are other days where I have to tell them that “tablet time” is over and it’s time to get into our day. Neither are right or wrong ways to start the day. I think the kids have relaxed a lot more knowing that they have some control over how their day starts. We don’t touch on every single subject daily, but we always do written math, spelling, and language arts work. Also daily, we do hands on math and we have read-aloud, read-along, and silent reading time. A few times a week we touch on other subjects…science, social studies, art, music, etc. I’ll share what all of that looks like when I finish the article I mentioned above.

Flexibility in homeschooling also lives outside of the walls of our home. Recently, snowstorms followed by subzero temperatures had our district’s public and private schools shut down for days. We homeschooled through the goofy weather. We would rather snuggle up and carry on with our school day now, and enjoy those gorgeous Spring days later. Also, we take school on the road with us. So far, we have traveled to Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Maryland since we started homeschooling  late last Summer. We have also enjoyed exploring more of our state, from hiking and learning more about our town to a day trip to Chicago and the Shedd Aquarium. We can visit family and friends and we are more available when unexpected things pop up. A few weeks into our homeschool, we had a surprise visit from our adult daughter and her fiancé, recent college graduates. It actually led to them changing their plan, moving from his hometown outside of Pittsburgh, PA to our town in Illinois. We had already been joined here by our son and his wife. It was a big family reunion. As you can imagine those first few weeks of having big sister home were more like a vacation than school. Later nights, pool days, crafts, outings…but we managed to learn through it all.

Now things have settled and everyone has their own place to live and their own job. School is a little more indoors these days, because of the weather. As seasons change, so do our routines and anchors. We are flexible but dependable. As a family that has grown through adoption, some things need to happen daily. Dependable and flexible need to exist together. We can’t thrive in chaos or disorder. My kids are programmed deep in the recesses of their mind, to shut down in chaos. So, we take our flexibility with a dose of reassurance and calm. They need to know they will always have certain things: love, meals, some structure, safety, a proper amount of sleep, play time, etc. In our home and homeschool, we have double the opportunity to provide that.

How does your family thrive in your flexible homeschool? I’d love to hear from you!

Meal Plan: Week Two

As I’m releasing weeks of our rotating weekly meal plan, we are getting ready to start back at week one. We made it through week four, and 99% of the time, we stuck to it! So, if you didn’t read my first post in this series, our goal is to “stick to” a rotation of four weeks of meal plans. This specific rotation should last through March, with modifications. Our second week of meal in this plan would have debuted earlier in the month of January.

Breakfast options for this plan:

Fruit smoothie, English muffin with peanut butter and honey

Oatmeal, toast, banana, hot tea

Pancakes with syrup, milk

Lunch options for this plan:

Pb&j sandwich, veggie straws, fruit

Canned minestrone soup & crackers

Egg salad sandwich, veggie straws, fruit

Our dinners were a perfect combination for the cold weather we have been having.

Sunday: Cabbage rolls, mashed potatoes, corn

Monday: pizza bobs*, zucchini planks

Tuesday: leftovers

Wednesday: Kids activities & fend for yourself at home

Thursday: Italian marinade chicken breasts, roasted red potatoes, steamed broccoli

Friday: Bacon, egg, and cheese muffins with tots

Saturday: bbq chicken wraps (add shredded cheese, lettuce, veggies of choice), sweet potato chips

We kept our snacks simple:

Pretzels and peanut butter

Cheese stick and apple

homemade protein balls (you may have seen that picture on Facebook last week!)

As you can see, I didn’t post recipes. I rarely use a recipe. I have 25+ years under my belt, as a full fledged adult making family dinners. I credit my mom for working with me through my childhood and teen years. She taught me everything from how to cut and package a whole chicken to how to use white sauce as a base for several recipes. I eyeball everything (except when baking-baking is a science). I store my recipes in my head. I’m a great cook and it has come from practice. You can find a ton of recipes on Pinterest! You can also take the old fashioned route like I do, by collecting old recipe books from thrift shops, etc. I love to peruse recipe books while I eat my breakfast. It’s always been a calming activity for me. Let me know if you explore any of these suggestions for your menu. Happy planning!

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Decluttering Our Spaces: Calendars, Schedules, and Time Management

 

One homeschooling question that I have gotten a lot lately is, “how do you manage your time?” As I’m writing to you about time management, I’m cuddled under a blanket. Our region is experiencing the worst cold weather in decades. Public schools are cancelled, and have been, off and on for what seems like an eternity. If our family was still enrolled in public school, we’d be looking at 5-8 make up days by now. Some are built into our district’s calendar. Others will be made up in June, I’m assuming. Aside from that, the district would have to declare “an act of God.” We can and do homeschool through any weather event. It’s one way homeschooling allows us to manage our time. We can keep a regular routine with similar anchors in our day. It works well for our kids, who thrive on routine. It especially works with kids and families who manage ADHD.

Our daily routine can vary slightly, depending on what we have going on. We have a window of time for our kids to wake-up, ranging from 7:15-8:30 AM and a window for bedtime, from 8:00-9:00. Those time frames are something we absolutely honor, because of a window of time for a medication for one of our children. It does help us to keep a few of the same anchors in our day, but we don’t have a defined start and stop time. Our anchors are the order of operations, so to speak. No matter what, every morning, we have time for hugs, breakfast, some wake up free time, hygiene and chore duties, and we show up at our homeschool ready to learn. No matter what, our evenings consist of a shower/bath hygiene routine, pajamas, and tuck ins. We may not read every single night, but the kids go to bed with full bellies, clean bodies, hugs, kisses, and full tanks, emotionally. Today we eased into our morning. It’s hard to feel productive with -50° wind chills. Some mornings we jump right into school. School rarely lasts past lunchtime and it’s one of our favorite times of the day. Our afternoons are for free play. Our evenings are for family and sometimes friends. Our nights are for recapping the day and going to bed knowing we are loved and cherished.

We “outsource” some of what we count as school and we take school with us when we travel. The kids participate in a few dance classes. They are involved in “after school” church sponsored activities. They are both in a local theatrical production. Bi-weekly they attend a group with other homeschooling kids. These outings cover some of our PE, Art, Science, and Bible subjects. We do not over schedule our kids in activities and sports. Activities don’t exceed three of the seven days of the week.

There are days we block off as family days and they are non-negotiable for activities. The days can vary, season to season. My husband and I decided that we aren’t on this Earth to provide a magical childhood 24/7. They are able to pleasantly maintain and enjoy the activities they are involved in without feeling rundown and cranky. We are able to do the same, because we have said “no” to more. It is important for us, that our children understand the time, money, effort on their part, and time commitment from all of us, when they chose an activity. We block off time for ourselves, and I talk about that here. It is important for us, that they see us taking time for our marriage as we spend “Mom & Dad time” together.

A few of you have asked what I do while school is going on. Am I teaching, solidly for x amount of hours? Absolutely not! Is your child’s teacher standing in front of the classroom talking for 7.5 hours? No. He or she has a lot of other tasks to juggle while teaching. There are times I’m giving instruction. There are times when we work as a group and times when the kids are working independently. I can deal with laundry load switches (I try to wash a load first thing in the morning as part of my laundry routine). I can tidy up slightly but I stay within sight of them because I want them to know that their school time matters to me. I do avoid checking emails, taking phone calls, writing, managing social media, and meal prep while they are in school. It’s important that they see my investment in their education. It’s also important to me, to respect boundaries I have set in place for when I am work-at-home Darcy, teach-at-home Teacher Mom, and stay-at-home Mom.

I absolutely love spending this time with my children and being available to them. Plus, there’s a lot of interaction between us during our homeschool time together. We have the best conversations. They are comfortable opening up to me, whether sharing a triumph or frustration. I didn’t bring them home, to just sit them in a corner with some workbooks. We worked hard to deschool them to understand that they can work on their own, in a competition with no one. There’s nothing to hurry through. There’s no rush to make it on time to art class or to the cafeteria line. Also, there’s nothing more important than their education going on during  our school time, and I work to protect that time.

Because my husband and I look at homeschooling our children as a lifestyle change (that we love), we have really embraced all we can do to make the day run smoothly and happily. I am able to teach, parent, keep my home running the way we are most comfortable. I have a partner who shares the load equally with me, while also working 40-60 hours outside of our home. We want to protect our time together, our time with our young children, and our time with our whole family. We say no when we need to, to other commitments or favors. I spent a lot of years worrying about disappointing other people. That’s no longer an issue. The people that can’t hear “no” aren’t your people.

As far as running our household while teaching, writing, and working from home, I keep it all in my head and in my planner. Actually, I have a system of planning materials that really only make sense to me, but I’m happy to share my method. I delegate like the CEO of any organization would. That’s my short answer. I have an extremely helpful spouse and children who are also a big part of the household chores. I did jot down what I think every room needs at certain intervals and I printed it to keep in my master binder. Let me know if you’d like to see something like that to customize for your own home or if you’d like to see what my planning system looks like. I love to share!

I personally don’t do well with printed schedules or routines for cleaning. I will totally sabotage my own work, since I’m so “all or nothing.” Blocks of time do work well though. I have learned to let some things slide. Other things are non negotiable. I thrive in neat, tidy, fresh spaces, so I like to keep my home clean and organized. I like aesthetic and I like using cleaning products that are better for the Earth. I like to go to bed with a clean kitchen sink and countertops. I don’t like dirty toilets and bathroom sinks. I try to keep our laundry caught up. My kids are expected to keep their rooms clean and their beds made.

My husband and I have come up with a great master list and meal plan that we rotate seasonally  it has saved our family so much money and time. I shared our January through March rotation here. That’s one way we take back time for our family. We are not scurrying around for meal solutions after the busyness of our days and we are no longer running out to restaurants or ordering carry out as part of our day. I keep meals simple and hearty in the Winter. Prep time is minimal, and really, we all do enjoy time in the kitchen together.

As far as school related stuff, I work off of monthly plans I have been refining since we started homeschooling. Those plans get broken down into bullet lists divided by subject. We check stuff off as we go/make a pretty basic list of what we are accomplishing. I have four weekly folders/bins that I shove resources in as I come across them. I have loved creating our first year of curriculum. It has allowed our “traditional” second and third grader to do a mix of 2nd, 3rd, and some 4th grade work. Next year we are using a boxed curriculum, geared toward age ranges. They will be working at an 8-11 year age range in a literature based curriculum. I’ll talk about our curriculum choice and teaching similar aged children together in a later post.

To sum it all up…our mornings run so much smoother as homeschoolers (and we had pretty great mornings in public school!) Our bedtime routine is relaxed and stress free, because we aren’t in a state of rushing. The largest portion of our day is spent together, although I do give myself a huge margin of time weekly for personal growth, rest, dedicated work time, and date time with my husband. The kids spend an appropriate amount of time with screens/educational games. They create and play. They leave the house a few times a week for activities with friends and family. Our home remains fairly clean and organized. Everyone is fed three meals a day. We are all able to enjoy the “extras” that used to stress us out and cut into our family time and bedtime. Thanks for joining us as we continue to declutter our spaces.

My favorite planner can be found here!

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Six Reasons Why We Homeschool

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As a homeschool family, I know our “why” will often change. There may be periods of life where we don’t even think about our reasons. I feel like our life experiences are constantly affirming our decisions and I will be sharing some of those with you. Even on less than perfect days, this feels right. To be honest, those less than perfect days have dwindled, too. By investing more time into their day, the benefits are paying off. We actually really enjoy this time together!

I’ve been attempting to finish this post for days now. Other topics pop into my mind as I receive questions and emails and as I have conversations with other parents. I have a long list of of topics to cover on my blog and on Facebook, so thank you! I had to cut it down to my top six, which I’ll be covering in February. Which are you most interested in?

Homeschooling: Flexible For Our Family

Homeschooling: Freedom in Curricula Choices

Homeschooling: Our Kids Natural Sleep & Wake Rhythms

Homeschooling: More Time For Extra Curricular Activities

Homeschooling Makes Big Changes Not So Big

Homeschooling: An ADHD Diagnosis

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Decluttering our Spaces: Brain Breaks and Organization of Media

When I talk about decluttering our media, it’s as much physical work as it is mental. From spending less time “online” and perusing social media, to decluttering our physical stash of DVDs, books, outdated devices, and magazines (yes, we actually still have some floating around) I have had my work cut out for me. Today, I’m writing to you from a place of contentment. I feel like we have a good hold on what we are allowing in and what we are purging. I joyfully go into this practice of physical decluttering knowing that I will come out of it feeling free from the fog of accumulating too much stuff.

The mental stuff is harder. Social Media offers some great ways to stay up to date with our friends, family, community event calendars, and children’s school and team events. Quite frankly, for someone sharing content like this, it’s the only way to get a message to the masses. It’s also really easy to get lost in the sea of information. I personally have wasted hours online with nothing really to show for it in the end. I’ll talk about how I’ve managed my own time online in my next video, which will air on my YouTube Channel later this week. I’ll make sure I update this post with a link, when I release that title.

We have a collection of DVDs for two reasons, really. One, my husband was hospitalized for long periods of time for in-patient chemo several years ago, prior to having much access to subscription movie services. We would buy DVDs for him to play on his laptop while he recovered on the Oncology Wing and later, the Stem Cell Transplant Wing. Two, there have been periods in the last five years of our marriage where we were living temporarily in two different states during relocations with my husband’s employer, juggling mortgages, apartment rentals, and two sets of utility bills. During the same time, he would often travel from state to state, and continent to continent. He would watch DVDs on his laptop when his WiFi connection was spotty. Long story short, we have a bunch of DVDs of so-so movies that we no longer need to hold onto.

Prior to feeling this big urge to purge, I had finally let go of an arm’s length of children’s DVDs. We had everything from The Wiggles to Dora the Explorer cluttering our family room and eventually our upstairs hall closet. I recently delivered the box full of old movies to our local Salvation Army drop-off center. For some reason, we also have quite a collection of horror movies…like the gory, icky, graphic ones that I can’t deal with (says the girl who binges entire seasons of American Horror Story in her down time.) I’ll be donating those, too. Why? Mostly because I don’t want my younger kids to come across that stash and really, I’m trying hard to create home where we don’t have to hide things. Secrecy makes things seem so much more tempting. No movies=no visual temptation or desire to check out gory, graphic horror movies.

You might ask, “well, they could look on your Netflix profile and see scary stuff??’ You’d be correct! The kids have their own profile with parental controls and they know to ask before watching anything on TV, whether it’s on “regular TV”, which is an antenna picking up local stations. Otherwise, we (the adults) have accounts with Netflix, Hulu, Sling, YouTube, and Amazon Prime. That might seem excessive, but we share them with two other households. Our adult kids pay for some services and vice versa. The kids also know that TV is off limits without supervision. The only screens they have access to are out in the open and in our living room and family room. Although my kids aren’t technically “online” we are setting them up for good screen habits. Their screen rules apply to TV, laptop, tablet, and eventually it will apply to phone. We tell them some zones are off limits for technology because they can interrupt our sleep (bedroom) or because it would be unhygienic (bathroom). My nine year old will be the first to tell you “no one wants poop germs on their tablet!”

I recently attended an informative talk given by the Youth Pastor where I attend a bi-weekly Mom 2 Mom Group. He was speaking about internet safety and offered a few really helpful tips for families that want to control what/when their kids are able to access online. I want to take a minute to focus on an example of the technology that can help keep our family members safe. Remember, none of these are a substitute for common sense parenting and guidance. Circle with Disney is a product you can use to manage every connected device (wired and wireless) on your home network. You can set up and manage Circle using a device with iOS 9+ or Android 4.2 +. Please check the Circle Support Site for router compatibility and home internet connection requirements. You can set online time limits on popular sites and apps AND filter online content by age for each family member. There are customizable filters for websites, too.  You can even “pause” the internet for the entire family, or a single family member. There is also a way to track your child’s online usage by app and by category.

As far as decluttering books and magazines, I have done two things outside of just dropping books off at our local donation site. First, I weeded through magazines, saving only TEN to use in our homeschool and art projects. I recycled those that we had already cut up with our collage projects. We use letters in different fonts and pictures to make collages sometimes. Second, I took all of our books (prior to donation day) and sat them on my dining room table and invited local friends from Facebook to come choose free books from my stash. A teacher friend and a daycare provider friend both took a few books off my hands. Now that my kids are getting a little bit older, the books they receive as gifts are bigger and take longer to read, which equals less clutter. We also use our local library (oddly enough, we really only visit in the Summer) to check out titles of interest. We still have a large variety of books, but they are all of some use. Currently, I’m not stressed out by the number of books we have in our home and the amount still unread. I Think that is a good place to be!

Check out my vlog for the chatty portion of this declutter exercise. Remember, you can find me on Facebook and on Instagram, where I update daily!

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