What camera and lenses do you use?
I use a Canon EOS Rebel T1i. (There are newer versions of this camera- Canon T2i and Canon T3i.) The lens I always keep on my camera and use for my blog is my Canon EF 50mm f/1.4. It is a prime lens meaning it is a non-zoom lens. This is my favorite lens because it takes images with a shallow depth of field creating a more artsy feel. Since it is a prime, I do a lot of moving forward and back to get everything I want to fit through the view finder.
Another lens I use is a Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6. This is a nice standard zoom lens. Last, but not least, my Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L. This is a professional zoom lens that is incredible for outdoors, especially weddings.
How do you do it all?
No one does it all, including me. I do what I’m most excited about in the moment and like any other person, other things fall by the wayside for a bit. When I’m on a sewing kick, my basement (where I sew and my children play) becomes a disaster. Folding laundry is about the last priority on my list most days. And so on and so forth. What is seen on my blog are usually photographs of life taken with my 50mm prime lens, a lens that only shows tight snippets of its’ subject. For me, that would be close-ups of the process of our days, completed projects, kid smiles, creating, and all the things that make my life colorful and meaningful. Although I do blog about the struggles, clutter, and frustrations in my life at times, I’d rather focus on the uplifting snippets in my life, the things that are working. So what you see on my blog is only a chapter of the whole story of my life.
How do you get so much done with little kids around all day?
I have to be creative. My children join me on many projects during the day (baking, cooking, making things, housework) and those things that I’d rather do on my own I save for nighttime or early morning. Sometimes I have to plan ahead what the young twins will be doing and what the big girls will be doing if they are joining me for a particularly difficult or messy project. The only way we are able to do all that we do is by being organized. When things stop working for us, I have to find a new creative solution for our day’s rhythm and that usually means more organization somewhere. We plan ahead to make sure our days are in line with our goals. Sunday night is my night to plan out the week and plug in all of the activities, projects, learning, and house projects we want to do. My older girls often contribute from their lists of what is important for them to add to our schedule. And then we take it a day at a time following “our plan” and being open for meltdowns and other things that inevitably come up.
I love setting goals for myself and my family. It constantly pushes me to be more and make the most of my 24 hours in a day. Sometimes I reach my goals, other times I don’t and start over the next day. Rising early before the children grants me time without the hustle to do what is most important for me in the moment: exercise, study scripture, review goals, review the day’s schedule, check emails, write on my blog, or sneak downstairs to sew. I’m not always perfect at it, but it is the best approach to having an exciting day with my children and a purposeful and productive day for me.
Why did you choose to homeschool?
I wanted my children to keep their intense curiosity and innate love of learning that they were born with. I wanted them to have the world as their classroom to explore and see life firsthand, not only from textbooks. I wanted them to have the flexibility in their day to be involved in their community volunteering, developing their talents, explore the things that really interested them, and learn other important life skills from our own home. The more my husband and I read about homeschooling we knew it was the best thing we could offer our children. It meant allowing our children to grow at their own pace and watching them blossom. It meant not missing those incredible moments but encouraging them further. And so we began our journey of homeschooling.
No, I don’t follow any particular curriculum. We follow our children’s lead with their interests and those are the things we explore through books, trips, hands-on experiences and such. We read, write, and explore a lot. And when there is something important to teach our children, we introduce it to them. Sometimes we go crazy over something we’re totally excited about, like learning about “colonial times” recently. We read every book about colonialism, made pieces of eight, tried our hand at quill and ink on homemade marbled paper, visited the oldest colonial house in our area, made colonial dresses, and concluded by visiting Colonial Williamsburg. Can I just tell you what a blast that was for everyone?! My girls still remember so much what we learned because they experienced it firsthand. The world is so thrilling for them and I’m so grateful to journey alongside them.
Here are a few projects we’ve done to keep learning alive everyday:
- a journal jar (Caroline writes in hers almost daily)
- a wormery
- an art/writing caddy
- montessori-style baskets
- discover nature by color (perfect for young ones)
What books would you recommend to someone curious about homeschooling?
There are a variety of books on different methods of homeschooling, parenting, childhood, and overall inspiring books that really shaped our vision of a learning, growing, well-round family we wanted.
Here they are in no particular order:
The Well-Adjusted Child: The Social Benefits of Homeschooling Guerrilla Learning: How to Give Your Kids a Real Education With or Without School by Grace Llewellyn [/amazon_image] [amazon_image id="0201484048" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]How Children Learn by John Holt The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Bauer How children fail The Underground History of American Education: A School Teacher’s Intimate Investigation into the Problem of Modern Schooling by John Taylor Gatto Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto Beyond the Rainbow Bridge: Nurturing our Children from Birth to Seven by Barbara Patterson [amazon_image id="0984124608" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]Steady Days: A Journey Towards Intentional, Professional Motherhood by Jamie Martin [/amazon_image]The Unschooling Unmanual by Nanda Van Gestel, Jan Hunt, Daniel Quinn and Rue Kream The Busy Family’s Guide to Volunteering: Doing Good Together
I’m new to sewing. Where should I start?
My mother taught me how to sew when I was around the age of twelve. I first sewed an apron, then a skirt, and then moved onto following patterns. If you’re new to sewing I would follow a similar progression. First, get your hands on a sewing machine. You can buy a basic machine for around $100 or find a working used one. Find a grandma, neighbor, or friend to show you the ropes of the machine like threading your machine, threading your bobbin, back stitching, adjusting the tension, etc. Knowing your machine is half the battle. Once you know the basics of your machine start playing around with it. Start piecing fabric together and have fun!
I grew up following tangible paper patterns in nice little white envelopes but the trend now is to buy e-patterns online or use sewing books that include paper patterns.
Here are a few beginner sewing books (that include the patterns) simple projects that I love:
Lotta Jansdotter’s Simple Sewing for Baby: 24 Easy Projects for Newborns to Toddlers Bend-the-Rules Sewing: The Essential Guide to a Whole New Way to Sew Sewing School: 21 Sewing Projects Kids Will Love to Make
Where do you buy your essential oils? How do you use them in your home?
I buy all of my essential oils from Young Living. The company is very well-known for their exceptional quality of therapeutic grade oils. Therapeutic grade oils are judged by the highest standards of quality in essential oils. (Here is an excellent article about essential oils and how to determine if an oil is pure and therapeutic grade.)
You can simply order oils here. Or you can sign up as a distributor for a pretty nice lifetime discount. Once I fell in love with Young Living’s oils, I decided to sign up as a distributor for the wholesale discount–24% off discount forever! All it takes is buying any of their start-up kits. I purchased the one I wanted anyway– Everyday Oils Essential Oils Collection. It contains 9 of the most widely used oils: Frankincense, Lemon, Lavender, Peppermint, Purification, Panaway, Peace & Calming blend, Thieves blend, and Valor blend. This set of essential oils started me off with everything I needed for our family’s health – cuts, bruises, sickness, stress, fevers, tummy aches, and so on – and for our household – mold, cleaning, disinfecting, removing stains, and deodorizing.
Signing up as a distributor really is the smartest way to go. You can sign up here and make an order. If you need a sponsor ID to sign up, mine is 1206085.
There are truly endless uses of essential oils. We ingest, rub, massage, diffuse, and add to many recipes for our family’s optimal health.
Here are some of the ways we use them:
- all purpose cleaner
- scented dryer balls
- lavender laundry detergent
- air fresheners
- sun spray
- bug-off spray
- aromatherapy play dough
- lemon body scrub