We had a lovely January with AYOPS.  This is one of the first months that our littlest guy was willing to tackle the large majority of projects and activities listed. These past months, I have increasingly felt his need for a little boost towards independence. We planned with his special needs in mind and picked out a number of things that we felt he could now handle on his own and we set about adjusting his atmosphere to ensure that he could tackle his new goals.


We started with a small waldorf style baby doll.  This new friend engaged in all the activities with me before my son did. After watching for a minute or two, my son would jump in, eager to play and help his baby in case it ran into trouble. These two played in their bear den on bear day for hours! He taught baby how to clean up the toys and how to make the bed. I think this was an important piece in helping motivate our son to join in. It also took some of his focus off of his own experience and helped him learn to care for someone else and work on his empathy skills. If you have a little one that is reluctant to join in certain activities, I encourage you to think outside the box and try different ways of engaging them in play. We tried many, many different ways and experienced a multitude of failures before finally finding success this month!

I bought a wooden closet doubler rod so that the younger children could find and choose their own clothing each day. Everyday shirts are now hanging on the lowest bar. Shorts are in the baskets on the floor. Pajamas and underwear are in the dresser. The drawers are much less crowded now so its a snap for them to find what they need.


I set out a small stool by a mirror near the doorway. The boys can now sit and brush their hair each morning and have a place to sit while they practice getting their little legs into their shorts the correct way.


All this new responsibility gave our youngest the burst of confidence he needed to finally potty train. I’m still a little shocked at how quickly he managed to train. To be honest, I have been dreading this since we left our first evaluation at the special needs center. By the grace of God, potty training took all of two weeks and its stuck ever since!

Suddenly, our guy was on a maturity spree! Clearing dishes, picking up toys and even wanting to help in the kitchen. I’ve always encouraged him to help with chopping, measuring, sorting, etc. in the kitchen. But now there is no invitation needed. When I walk into the kitchen to make dinner, he is usually waiting for me, apron in place and hands washed and ready to work.


I cleared out the lowest shelf in our kitchen and put all of the children’s dishes and cups there. I included several small pitchers for them to fill and set on the table and use for mealtimes. The boys have a designated drawer in the kitchen containing tools they have been trained to use. Crinkle cutters, apple corer slicers, egg slicers, potato peelers, etc.
They can reach everything they need to make their own snacks and to help with meal prep.

I love watching him work with his hands. Zero hesitation these days!


There are still several sensations that he cannot bear to endure or process. But look at the boy in the photo below!


A happy, messy, shaving-cream-out-the-nostril, joy soaked little guy. He radiates confidence now and that encourages me to keep pressing forward.


The whole house continues to demand “preschool time.” I have now placed the eldest children in charge of the AYOPS activities. They love setting up for the activities and then “helping” their little brothers.

Our favorite activity this month was block painting. Everyone was eager to jump in and lend a hand. We were a multicolored mess for a few days (if you use Sargent Art Watercolor Paint, beware of STAINING!) but the boys were thrilled with the end product.


We love our brilliant collection of colorful wood blocks. Every time I pass by that pile I recall the beautiful breezy afternoon we spent together, laughing and painting and telling jokes.


This was the 5th month of our curriculum and it still doesn’t feel like I have spent the last five months marching my children through a curriculum. We’ve been making memories and learning together and having the most glorious time playing at just about anything you can think of.

We finished January with newfound confidence, enhanced skills, hearts bent on helping and a tremendous sense of peace with our special needs homeschool journey.


MFW Adventures: More States & Birds + Evaluations

It’s Fall inside ya’ll!!!

Confession: I love autumn when its actually autumn, but I’ve never been a big fan of decorating for fall when it looks like the the height of summer outside. Yet my boys love decorating, so this is the week when I show them love by hauling out the box of fall decorations from the boiling hot garage and then spend hours of my life tossing fabric leaves on every available surface of my home. Sigh.


Now autumn themed food? I can get on board with that at any time of year. My pumpkin bread will never ever be as good as my Mom’s bread, but that doesn’t stop me from tossing a sub-par loaf in the oven now and then. It smells good enough to draw in one or two kids. Beggars can’t be choosers. Oh the joy of reading “Farmer Boy” around a plate of warm mediocre pumpkin bread! Tea time is 30% better these days.

Week 15 arrived and I realized that we were almost halfway done with Adventures. We are having fun and time is flying fast! Not as fast as the birds outside when they hear us coming, but close enough.  I wanted to spend some time evaluating our homeschool life now that we are nearing the halfway mark. Here’s what happened this week…
On Monday morning my son quipped, “Guess we are in for another round of birds and states!” and so we were. You can read all about how we study the states and birds here.

We added a few great elements this week that my boys enjoyed. Beginning with inspiration from this lovely graphic….
bird-tracks-animals-infographics-600x600-1The boys and I started to look around for bird tracks and scat along with feathers and nests. We have found some pretty great stuff so far along with some not so legitimate made up stuff too. (My four year is the King of “Look at this oviraptor egg that I found!”)  We are gearing up for a deeper study of animal tracking next week with Daniel Boone, so this was a great introduction. Premeditated Leftovers has a handy dandy article on Bird Unit Study Resources and we used several of those ideas this week.

We are anxiously awaiting our new Birdscapes clear view bird feeder from Amazon. Hopefully feeding the birds straight from our window will provide us with plenty of bird watching opportunities. We decided to wait one more week before decorating our tree for the birds. A low key schedule next week will provide ample time for bird viewing so we can reap the rewards of our hard work! The boys are eagerly planning out bird treats, designing shelters and building additional feeders.  We’ve picked a tree close to the house but far from walkways. (No sunflower seed enhanced poo poo on my sidewalk, thank you!) The tree is situated near a large thicket of thorny flowering plants which already house many birds. We’ll be posting updates of our Bird Tree along with our upcoming Bird Watching post!


I’ve been training Team A to take more initiative and responsibility with their school work. Teaching time management is a taxing but worthy effort. Some days the boys decide to forgo our block schedule rhythm and finish all their work quickly in order to spend the remainder of the day outside. My boys are starting to recognize how and when they work best. I don’t think I really learned that about myself until halfway through college!  I’m thankful they have the opportunity to evaluate those things now.


This week they flew through their work in the early morning hours and then rushed outside to play the day away. They played with mud, sticks, puddles, grass, stringy moss, leaves and pine needles. I assumed they were just making an enormous mess and having fun.  After a few hours my son invited me over and explained what they were working on.

“We are watching the water flow from the top of the crest down into this lower area and figuring out all the ways to break up the stream and make it flow the way we want to. We built the things to stop the water from flowing and doing that created all these little lakes. Then we tested out what things would sink and what things would float. Then we played with the water hose to figure out how much water had to come out at which speed in order to knock down the dams we built. Like a flash flood? And we tried making little mud houses to see if they could stand even against certain levels of water flow. Water always flows downhill, don’t forget. If you stand down there you might think its flowing up towards you, but its not. Its flowing down. Think of the Nile river flowing North. You are North but your elevation is lower so that means our river flows down towards the North. Which reminds me, that puddle is the Sea of Galilee and that little rivulet is the Jordan river and guess where it flows, Mom? The DEAD Sea! We filled it with dead leaves so it wouldn’t get confused with the Sea of Galilee.”

This blew me away. As he spoke I could connect the dots between the years of My Fathers World. Bible stories, science projects, history work, books, and games. Its strange watching MFW K, MFW 1st and MFW Adventures come together in a single moment and then join hands and merrily skip away.  I tuck these moments away and reflect on them in the moments when the world tries to bring doubt into our classroom. When the devil whispers that what we are doing is not enough, that the kids don’t know enough, that I am not enough; I silence those whispers with the moments of affirmation God gives me. Those precious moments I can look back on, reach out to cup in my hands and then spill out like little pearls before God as I thank Him for His faithfulness. He called me to homeschool. He is equipping me daily. He is even encouraging me while I stand in the heat, swatting mosquitoes and listening to my eldest bubble up knowledge that feels outrageously beautiful to him.


Here is the plain truth of my homeschool life at the close of week 15: My rough and tumble boys are thriving with their gentle education. Its not perfect. It doesn’t have to be perfect in order for them to thrive. In fact, I think they are thriving because our homeschool is not perfect.

Because the preschooler threw tantrums in the classroom this morning, we ran away to the park and had a beautiful morning.


Because I forgot to print out our language arts cards, we stayed even longer since we didn’t have a reason to rush home.


Because I lost my temper in a flood of sinful anger, I had the opportunity to apologize to my boys under the shade of this beautiful tree. We got to talk about grace again and it reminded us of this week’s Bible verse and before I knew it, we were talking about the Tabernacle and the Temple and the mighty curtain torn asunder and we were all breathing in gratitude together.

Because MFW is gentle with my children, it reminds me to be gentle with myself. Gentle with my expectations and the demands I put upon myself as a wife, mother and teacher. I recite Isaiah 40:11 to myself quite often, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”

He is gentle with us!

I never expected that one of the defining words of their childhood would be “gentle.” And yet there it is, coexisting with other defining words/phrases like: “muddy, messy, adventure, accident-prone, projectile vomit, projectile everything else, stories, farming,therapy, insects, confidence, legos, bravery.”

“Gentle” is the umbrella that covers all the other words.

I am so thankful for that.


MFW Adventures: The New Nation & The New Routine


We are gearing up for growing season! All around the country people are getting their harvest on, but we are prepping for planting season. The avocados, bananas and pineapples are just about done and the kitchen garden is in the works!

We have lots of little hands eager to help around here. Hubby graciously agreed to build a potting table for our science lab. The boys are so excited to plant seeds and watch them sprout.


But first: rocks, weeds and grubs! Turns out our new pup, Trusty Banjo, loves to pull weeds. We are well matched and well pleased.


We wove in as much MFW to our farm routine as possible this week. As we pulled weeds and readied garden beds, we looked for bugs that birds might eat, saving grubs for our chickens while we turned over rocks and caught tiny green katydids. We walked the property, searching for abandoned birds nest, knocked down by squirrels. We found four lovely little nests and enjoyed studying them in all their intricate, thrifty glory. We read five or six books on Audubon and the boys drew a zillion pictures of the birds in our yard. We do have a bald eagle that makes the rounds here on the farm. We love catching sight of her in the early morning. What a powerful bird! She has been featured repeatedly in our sketches this week.  We searched for our local Audubon chapter and found tons of field trip opportunities and information on local birds. Last but not least, a rainy afternoon snack of “dirt in a cup” (chocolate pudding, crumbled Oreos on top with a gummy worm or two tucked inside) helped round out our first bird week.


The boys are eager to start marking out our kitchen garden plot. They are not eager to take more pictures with the sun shining in their faces. Soon, we will have time in the garden each morning as part of our Fall-Spring schedule. There is talk of a Darth Vader scarecrow. I can not wait!


The nature journals are ready to come back out now that the heat is finally becoming bearable again. The boys were quite taken with all the new mold patterns on our towering slash pines. In fact, all new growth immediately caught their attention. We drowned in our doggy grief for so many weeks, we failed to notice all the new life outside our windows. The changes took us all by surprise. I love that even in a place with only two seasons, we can see change in the nature around us.  The boys have their special trees that they visit regularly. We may not ever see them change color or drop leaves, but they are still living, growing wonders, with plenty of subtle changes for attentive eyes to discover.


Along with a new farming season, we have now officially incorporated all the components of our year. We began Adventures in June and added in new things each month. This month was the final add in, our preschool curriculum, “A Year of Playing Skillfully” by The Homegrown Preschooler. Before the week was out, I noticed something strange…


Team B, the two youngest in our crew, were behaving like angels in the schoolroom. Playing quietly with their resources. Listening well to directions.

It was weird.

It was a miracle.

It was a wee bit disconcerting.


Why is this happening? Are they plotting something? Will there be an ambush later?
I’ve previously shared about our rhythm. I teach in block schedule format. If we begin arithmetic at 8AM, we do not begin our next subject until 9AM. If the boys only take 15 minutes to complete arithmetic, then they have 45 minutes of free play until they return for their 9AM subject. It they finish arithmetic in  58 minutes, then they have two minutes before the next subject starts.


Well, the boys were certainly focused this week! Team A finished each subject with at least half an hour to spare for free play. Team B played quietly on the sidelines, waiting for the all clear signal.


Why was everything suddenly working so well?  They were behaving with exceptional dedication and focus because they knew what was waiting for them on the other side of responsibility….


Play. Play was waiting. Beautiful, glorious, child-led play. My 7 & 6 year old need time to play. Lots and lots of time. I am giving them the very intentional gift of time. The hours are not packed to the hilt with lists of things to do. They finish their work and then they are released to enjoy their play. What a gift free time is for them.  Time to be a child, time to pause and wonder how to employ new skills and test the world around them during that precious half hour of leisure.


Wonderful things are happening on the farm. Confidence and happiness. Less stress and more mess. They are learning more than ever through these invitations to play and discover. The preschoolers rush outside and engage everything head on. Sorting, measuring, testing, creating, evaluating, gathering, thinking, wondering and learning how things work. They all come back to the schoolroom, refreshed and ready for more work. No complaints.


I used to look over my planner at the end of each day, to judge how successful our day had been. I measured in check marks.


The rubric has changed. I walk up to my boys and flip their precious hands over. I look for marks of happiness and wonder and discovery. I look for dirt under fingernails and paint stains on the soft pads of their fingertips.  These are the marks of a good day.

New Nation Resources!

This week, our reading list did not stray from the book basket recommendations made by MFW. We finished up another book in our Beautiful Feet books study, 1801: Year of the Horseless Carriage by Genevieve Foster.

Coloring Sheets: My four year old is quite keen on joining in the state study. I’ve been printing out free state coloring sheets from and he loves them! They also have smaller state shape cards that he is enjoying as well.
Legos: My older children love building state Legos after completing their state sheets. I flip their sheet over and begin reading about the state. They grab the Legos basket and begin building the state shape while I read. So far, I’ve made it through each sheet and at least one book from our state book basket. 

New Jersery
Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken (DVD) A portion of the film takes place in Atlantic City
Adventure Aquarium: One of our favorite aquariums in the country. My boys love to go on here and read about the different animals in the exhibit. We will be returning for a visit this winter, so it was good to refresh our collective memory and take stock of which exhibits we want to spend the most time at. 
New Jersey History Kids: a fun website to explore!
New Jersey Historical Maps: This website contains historical maps of New Jersey that are interesting to look through.

Mr. Nussbaum’s Learning & Fun!: Another fun website with several resources.
Historical Maps of Pennsylvania:   site of historical maps.
Virtual Liberty Bell

Georgia Peach Festival 
Colonial Georgia Images

The Wonder of Child-led Play.


See the joy? Its catching.

My littles spent three days OBSESSED with parachutes. I could not get them to even glance twice at hot air balloons. How could they not want to learn about hot air balloons? Its the first picture in the curriculum! What is happening? I almost, almost, had a Type A panic attack.

I refrained.

I decided early on to surrender this year. I want the boys to experience child-led play, not mom-led agendas. It will look different from the picture in the book. It will be unspeakably messy. It will absorb their thoughts and mesmerize them as they sink into it. It will be unpredictable. This is more than ok. It is glorious.


I set out one story book about hot air balloons, a little invitation to come and wonder. It sat, undisturbed, for two days. Eventually, the four year old started looking through it. Then he asked, “will you read this to me? The pictures look so so funny!” He loved the book. This newfound love sent us to the library in search of other books. “Lets find more balloons and colors and travel!” We came back with our arms full. “Lets color something…something…amazing!”


So we got to work. He gave me directions. Cut this way. Draw these lines. Then we colored in each block.

“It has to go in my room!” he shouted.

We went to the nursery and took the decorations down off one wall. Decorations that pleased my aesthetic but held no value for him.


We put up his creation and admired it together.


“Can this ballon stay here all year long? And then everything we learn we can put up right next to it?” He was wide-eyed with barely contained glee.

“YES!” I said.

Yes, we gave our preschoolers freedom to decorate their own room with all the things they are discovering.  They are making plans to add coffee filter flowers and a book basket for all the books they will be making this year. By the end of the year it will be a spectacular, beautiful mess. I fully anticipate holes, glue residue and staples to litter this wall.


After we made our nesting world, we realized that it really needed an additional circle, “My Room,” this small space that is their domain and holds so much importance for them. The rhetoric around here is changing. Not just in deciding to “say yes” more often. The boys have taken ownership of their surroundings. Learning to say “please” and “thank you” has quickly evolved into learning how to unstack the dishwasher, feeding the dog, making the bed and throwing shreds of paper in the trash. This should not surprise me. After all, play is the hot air balloon that can take you far beyond your wildest dreams. When I first opened the curriculum I wondered why we weren’t given specific tasks for each day. Now I know. This cannot be tethered or outlined. These little-big imaginations run the schedule. How fantastic to see where the sparks fly and what they bring us to next. One question leads to a whole other avenue of exploration. I show them colorful balloons and before I know it we have spent three days with Lois Elhert, planting a rainbow. Then we are off around the around the world, finding ingredients to bake an apple pie. I remind myself everyday, “Hands off those imaginations! Let them be little and let them be!”  We still have our rhythm, but there exists another rhythm within that is entirely of their own making.


Our little sensory seeker is pleased as punch with his herbal playdoh. He was hesitant at first, so I set the playdoh down on a wood slice and walked away. A few minutes later I walked by and he was standing at the table, eye level with the herbal doh. Three minutes later he was sniffing its yummy cinnamon-apple scent. Soon he was poking one finger slowly into the warm center of the freshly made doh. I brought down a basket of items I had asked my elder children to collect. Then my second-born son (who is also my little guy’s BEST BUD!) sat down next to him and started to play. Soon they were both engaged in deep play.


Forty minutes later the little guy wandered off. My six year old kept on playing. The seven year old stopped by and joined him.


The four year old, having had his middle-child “someone is having fun without me” radar sound off, soon joined in as well. The littlest came back with him.

They played for hours. Deep, deep, engaged play.

I washed dishes. I folded laundry. I swept the floor. They played.

They played inside stories. They played new kingdom orders. They made tiny motorcycles for Ralph S. Mouse. They made plates and cups for Violet and the rest of the Boxcar children. They made snozzcumbers and Wonka bars. They made tiny shields for an invisible army on the brink of war with Uther Pendragon. Our youngest sat mesmerized by a ball of doh. Rolling it back and forth. Learning how applied pressure would change its shape. Many, many levels of play and learning occurred without a word or suggestion from me.

Wonder of wonders.


My eldest boys are currently in 2nd grade. They have not shown the least hesitation in joining in their little brothers’ curriculum. Far from it. I often hear the phrase, “Need me to test that out before you give it to Team B?”  They were yearning for this kind of play and I didn’t see it before. They played, but not to this degree. “A Year of Playing Skillfully” is geared for children 3-7. I wondered if Team A would bite. They did. They are soaking it in every chance they get! I love seeing them play. In a world where kids are forced to grow up at a break neck pace, its good to see innocence thriving. This world may be going crazy, but my kids can still be kids.





My husband did a lovely job building our sensory table and plexiglass easel. The boys love playing with it!

We have a lot of eager hands, so I requested three bins for our sensory table. For our pond play, I stirred up a tub of green water and left it in the sun to heat up. I put lots of ice in the blue water. The middle bin held our water beads and our frog life cycle figures. I loved hearing the surprise in their voices as they beheld the table and discovered the varying temperatures.


I also loved how down right dirty and disgusting they got.

Whenever its nearly time to go back inside, I love to ask, “Are you dirty enough yet?” They always say “NO!” even if they are absolutely filthy. “No! We can get dirtier!” Then they go and find the last few specks of dirt they had yet to discover and drag it inside with them. I’m a big fan of hosing them off before they enter. I’m also a big fan of Oxiclean detergent.

We are spending more and more time outside each day as the unbearable heat of summer dwindles. Pretty soon our main outdoor months will arrive and we will be outside the majority of the day. How I am looking forward to it! Exchanging anxiety for joy–what a life giving act. I thought my year would be one of sadness and regret. Instead it is unfurling into joy and peace.

This week, I corresponded with a dear friend about mothering and childhood and the difficulty of battling our insecurities and feelings of failure. I shared that I had stopped looking at my boy’s childhood as the top of an hourglass, sand slowly trickling away. In saying “yes” I have set my gaze on the hourglass as the sand builds, each grain that falls, each day that passes, I am watching my children grow into who they will become. I am not losing, I am gaining.


The ball is rolling. The “YES” answers keep coming. These boys are growing their wonder.