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#ParentTeacherMeetUp - Week 3

Tonight as I sit down to write about our past week, I find myself wondering if there will ever come a day when I can start my post with anything other that "Last week was a crazy week!" I hope so. But, for now... last week was a crazy week! Not a bad, week. Just busy. And busy is not something I like to be. The good news is that I am really making progress towards getting things in good working order. The interesting news is that life will change in a big way again in early January and I will likely have to figure things out all over again. I shouldn't borrow tomorrow's trouble though. Let's focus on the past week, shall we?

Drawing math stories about adding and subtracting apples

What was your best teaching moment this week? 
This one is kind of a toss-up. I loved our poetry lesson again this week (I know I already shared that once...) but I am also pretty excited about getting his portfolio going finally and getting the papers I have been keeping to this point all organized in it! 

What was your biggest struggle?
We have been struggling with sleep. Again. Which means we are struggling with Aiden's attitude during school and just about every other hour of the day. I adore my child, but the constant need to discipline him this week was tiring. I know the biggest part of the sleep issues are my fault, as I have been so busy and distracted that I am not giving him the attention he needs at bedtime. And my husband has been helping with some chores he doesn't usually need to do so he is often running behind too. We are just all a bit of a mess. But we are working on it, and I am hopeful for the coming week. 

Were there any milestones met or special accomplishments this week? 
Aiden filled his first bookshelf reading log, which means he has read us 30 books on his own. He got to go pick a treat (he chose whoppers) and was so excited to tell Daddy about his achievement! 

My sister and niece joined us for homeschool gym and a
visit to the Eric Carle art exhibit

What resources did you use this week that were awesome? 
I actually created one that I am pretty excited about. I will share it soon. I don't think I have shared the link to the poetry worksheet we are using yet. I am someone who needs just a general format to follow, and I love the fact that when we started the poem this week Aiden immediately knew to start highlighting words before we had even gotten the worksheet out. The worksheet can be found here

Best kid quote of the week (bc you know they say some funny stuff)
Oh man, I wish I could think of one right now. He is often cracking us up with his large vocabulary and how he uses words that surprise us on a regular basis. I might have to add something here if I remember later! 

Kid's choice: Share their favorite parts of the week from their perspective
Aiden says his favorite part of school this week was "Block City" which was the name of our poem for the week. He said he liked learning new words, and liked building his own block city! 

Online piano lessons continue to go well! He learned a new song this week.

Hopes for the week ahead.Still looking for a good rhythm for our family. I don't really believe in seeking balance, because I am not convinced a balanced life is possible (or even desirable... but that is a totally different post) but I do think we can find a rhythm that keeps life flowing a little better. I also hope to get in a good nature study this week.

Okay... are you read to link up with us?

Before linking up, it would be lovely if you would follow all 3 of us in whatever social media avenues you frequent:


10 things that made me happy this week...

I have been slowly but surely making my way through a kind of an organizational overhaul of my daily life. Sound big and tiring? It is! Ha! So I was happy to find an excuse to just stop and think about what made me happy this week.

1. I was visited last night by the kitchen cleaning fairy! This week... month, really... has been packed and I have been falling behind on stuff at home. My husband has been doing very sweet things to help at unexpected times, but most unexpected was him cleaning the kitchen before work this morning! That was a super "wow" because he has never cleaned before work (not that it is always a mess in the mornings... I really am not a bad housekeeper usually!) so I went to bed knowing I would have to tackle the mess when I woke up and I was a little confused at first! What a guy!

2. Teaching Aiden poetry. I have talked before about how poetry was never my thing in school. So, it still amazes me how much I love this part of our week! We did another Robert Louis Stevenson poem this week, Block City, and it was full of new words for us. I kind of like it when I have to google words to make sure I know what they mean before defining them for Aiden. (on that note, a "kirk" is a Scottish church... in case you ever need to know!)

3. Rainy, foggy, cool mornings. I was SO ready for Autumn, and it seems to have arrived here in Nebraska... at least for now!

4. Getting back to exercising finally.

5. A couple of great meetings at church. I have taken on the role of Small Group Coordinator for our congregation, and it has been a bumpy road but I am moving forward and learning a lot about myself as I learn how best to serve. This role is seriously like the culmination of a couple of years of my personal growth journey. Crazy to see how things have progressed.

6. Our first quarterly Godparent Leader meeting. I also stepped into the role of coordinator for this program recently (See a pattern? Thus the need for my life overhaul.) and it felt good to complete this last big project for the quarter. Now I am in maintenance mode in this role for a couple of months, so I can catch my breath. But honestly that is not the source of my happiness from this one. It was just SO good to gather with people who were in the same mindset as me and have an afternoon of fellowship. And pizza. And free childcare for my 5-year-old that involved him having so much fun he didn't want to leave. It was a good day.

7. My friend Stephanie. She has done a great job making me laugh this week, while also bringing big smiles with a little snail mail!

8. My best friend Erin, and talk of pickle chips and listening to her and Aiden chat on the phone.

9. A surprise visit from my sister. She joined us for Aiden's homeschool gym class (also a source of happiness) and checked out the Eric Carle exhibit at the University here. And there was ice cream. That definitely made Aiden happy.

10. A new pretty binder. I have been very frugal for so long now that I don't often pick up pretty things anymore. Trust me, that isn't as sad as it sounds upon reading it back, ha! I just find my beauty in other things! But I needed a new binder, and decided to go girly and fun.

What made YOU happy this week? Link up here

100 Days til 2016?

Okay so first of all - yeah, that was actually true yesterday. So I guess I should probably title this 99 Days til 2016 instead... but anyhow...

Yesterday I saw an update in a group I belong to about how there were 100 days left until the new year. Now, the part of me that LOVES numbers and challenges immediately started dreaming about how I could challenge myself to a specific 100-day goal. Luckily, I have learned enough about myself by now that I immediately reconsidered. 100 day? That is a LOT of days! I haven't even had one solid week of hitting my step goals for a while now. Deciding that I would do anything for 100 straight days is a recipe for failure... at least if you are me. I know lots of people can do it. I am not one of them. At least not during this season of life.

And yet... I appreciate the attempt at motivation. I have been getting kind of desperate for change, and also feeling pretty defeated by my constant failure. I have been trying to buckle down and get things organized with the multiple projects I have taken on, and if I really stop and look at things I AM making progress. However, this progress has been made while sitting at a computer. A LOT of sitting. As a result, my health and fitness goals have slipped into a very low spot in my priorities. Again. *sigh*

I do like challenges. I do like measurable goals. So, I have decided to start with 10 days. 10 days of exercise... nothing more specific than that (although I suppose I should include a 30 minute-per-day minimum). Yesterday was day 1. I did 2 dvd miles. (Actually, I had done a dvd the day before as well, but if I am going to stick with the whole 100 day things I guess it doesn't count, ha!) At the end of this 10 days, I will choose a new 10 day challenge. And then... just maybe... I will actually hit 100 days of staying focused on my health in general (through 10 different goals) by the new year.

So that is where my head is at today. I know that in the past sharing things here has helped keep me focused, at least for a while. So here I go again... again.

Do you have any big goals you are working on? 
Feel free to share with me and I will try to cheer you on! 

Merrill Homeschool - #ParentTeacherMeetUp Week 2

So... I am just going to lay it all on the line. School this week? Not so good. I got bogged down with life in general and then I was also considering a significant change in our curriculum (which I eventually decided against) and so we just didn't get a lot done. BUT... flexibility is one of the benefits of homeschool, right? And there was another bonus that I will get to in the questions. Remember, you do not have to answer the questions to link up with us. Any home education post is welcome!

What was your best teaching moment this week? 
I am going to say that getting us out of the house to homeschool gym class when my week was already not going real well by then was a victory I want to celebrate. How I would do with the social side of things when my social anxiety was in full swing was a big concern for me when we chose to homeschool. I have found that if it is for Aiden I can make myself do a whole lot of things I wouldn't otherwise do though. Oh, and hearing Aiden answer the questions meant for our teens at Godparents and how he boldly shared the truths he has learned through our Bible studies was a pretty cool moment as well!

What was your biggest struggle?
Ummm... everything else? Ha! I was definitely thankful for the homeschool gym, tae kwon do, library story time, Sunday school, Godparent Group Meeting, and standing playdates to make the week at least somewhat educational. 

Were there any milestones met or special accomplishments this week? 
I continue to be astounded by Aiden's reading. I guess I can't say I did nothing this week, because we read a LOT as always. He is very insistent that he always read me a book before bed, and at least once a night I can't help but laugh a little at the big words he reads that I am sure I will have to help him with. We have had a VERY relaxed approach to reading, and I think he was just born to be a reader. I take very little credit for it, but I do enjoy it!

What resources did you use this week that were awesome? 
Okay, now I remember one reason why I wanted to do these recaps. Because I felt all horrible like I hadn't taught him at all this week but as I think back I realize we did more than I thought. Well... he did anyhow. He rocked the Reading Eggs and Math Seeds again this week. I am not getting anything at all to say this, I promise: We LOVE these websites! And right now there is a 4 week free trial (ends 9/22) if you visit and use the promo code FBSHARE.

Best kid quote of the week (because you know they say some funny stuff):
I mentioned there was one more bonus to having a rough week on the teacher side of things... by midweek Aiden was asking when we would do school again, ha! Oh and here is a vocabulary lesson we had this week. He asked me at lunch time one day if the yogurt he had pulled out of the fridge was "furry" to which I replied "Goodness, I hope not!" We eventually established he was actually looking for FLUFFY yogurt (he likes the whipped stuff) and so we talked about how kittens can be both fluffy and furry but if you ever find furry yogurt you should throw it away! 

Kid's choice: Share their favorite parts of the week from their perspective
I thought about making a video of asking this question, but he is in the bathtub right now and I am running out of time! Ha! He said that making art at the library was his favorite part of school. 

Hopes for the week ahead.
Pretty much anything will be better than last week, so I just hope we find a rhythm someday. I keep praying for it, and I am faithful that by the time he graduates high school someday soon it will happen!

Okay... are you read to link up with us?

Before linking up, it would be lovely if you would follow all 3 of us in whatever social media avenues you frequent:


Pumpkin Apple Cake with Caramel {Mason Jar Recipe}

I admit it... I am one of those people who goes pumpkin crazy when the season starts to change. So, even though my german apple cake was already a pretty fall friendly recipe, I just had to try it with pumpkin in place of some of the oil. More flavor, less fat... win-win! 

This cake is dangerously delicious! So, I decided that I would try baking it in little mason jars at one point, and I have done it that way ever since! For a sweet, rich dessert like this sometimes less is more. For perfect little single serving cakes use half pint, wide mouth mason jars! Just remember to handle with care as they get HOT. They also store really well with the lids on in the fridge, and you can pop one in the microwave for 45 seconds or so to warm it back up. Serve with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.


2 cups all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/4 cup coconut oil 
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
2 eggs 
1 3/4 cups brown sugar 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract  
4 cups apples - peeled, cored and diced small


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 12 half pint mason jars with cooking spray. Beat together oil, pumpkin and eggs until creamy. Add brown sugar and vanilla and beat well.
Add flour, baking soda and pumpkin pie spice. Mix until combined. The batter will be very thick. Stir in the apples by hand. Measure 1/3 cup batter into each mason jar.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes or until cake tests done. 

Caramel Sauce

1/2 cup butter 
1/2 c. brown sugar 
1/4 c. cream
1/2 tsp vanilla

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar and cream. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Spoon over warm cakes. 

Find more great Fall inspired recipes at Behind the Camera and Dreaming!

Introduction time! {#ParentTeacherMeetUp}

For the first week of our Parent Teacher Meet-Up we wanted to introduce ourselves and share a little bit about what home education looks like in our families. I love seeing the diverse ways people choose to make education a part of their lives. Some parents appear to have it all figured out. Then there are others... like me. If you are new to my blog, I will warn you right now that I am a rambler. Seriously. So for those who aren't into reading long, rambling posts I will start with just the facts:

Name: Branson
Kiddo: Aiden, age 5
Homeschool Year: Kindergarten
Curriculum/Style: I started the year with a pieced together curriculum (read about it here) intending to ease into things Charlotte Mason style. If I had to define my style right now, I would say there is also a dash of unschooling.
Typical Week: We "do school" pretty much any time. I try to get most of the organized learning done in the morning, but some days are better than others. We also to tae kwon do 3 nights a week, story time at our library, homeschool gym, Sunday School and lead a teen small group in our home with kids who love Aiden (even if he is a bit distracting!). I would say we go about two weeks at a time and then end up "unschooling" for a week or so. We plan to be year-round schoolers.
Favorite Parts of Homeschooling So Far: Nature studies, listening to him read, being able to take days off when we need them, getting to see him hit milestones and get excited about what he learns.
Biggest Struggle So Far: Finding a rhythm for our family.

I bet you thought that was rambling enough... but if you really still want to read...

Homeschooling was not something I planned on when Aiden was a baby. I actually dreamed of his school days when I would be an involved room mom at the school I once attended as a child. I honestly don't remember entirely when the change in plans started to become reality. I remember timidly suggesting the idea to my husband when God started tugging on my heart about the issue. I also remember being really surprised when his answer was "Let's go for it!" We started out saying we would just try preschool at home. Before we knew it, we had decided that it felt absolutely right for our family to continue educating Aiden at home. The start of the school year came, and we watched his cousin and best buddy start the school he would have attended. Now, here we are... "unofficial" homeschoolers (in Nebraska you are not recognized as a homeschooler until your child is 6 years old) working on our kindergarten year.

Before we started this year, I did a LOT of planning. Now that we are about 6 weeks in, I am doing a LOT of rethinking things. I imagine that is pretty common for the first year (please, tell me it is?) but that doesn't make it any easier. I have those moments of panic when I wonder if I can really do this. I have days when I think this is the best thing ever. Most days fall somewhere in between. When I have those tough days, I try to remind myself to look at how far we have come. I have Aiden read me a book, or I dig out an old paper and marvel at how his handwriting has changed. That is why blogging about homeschool is such a priority for me. I need to be able to see things for what they are... a work in progress that really is making progress!

Because we don't really have a "typical day" yet, I have a hard time documenting a day in our homeschool life. But I take pictures... a lot of pictures... and tag them on Insta with #merrillhomeschool so that definitely provides a glimpse! I also did make a point to get out my camera this week to snap a couple of photos:

Also linking up with: My Week in Review

Okay... are you read to link up with us?

Before linking up, it would be lovely if you would follow all 3 of us in whatever social media avenues you frequent:


Children in Worship: Blessing or Burden?

No matter what service you attend at my home congregation, you will most certainly find children present for the full worship service. Tonight, mine was the child bouncing around, dropping cracker crumbs (somebody has to feed the church mice, right?) and then using those grubby little hands to share God's peace with those around him. He was also the one who was so anxious to pray the Lord's Prayer that he could often be heard asking (a little too loudly) if it was the Lord's Prayer yet several times. Mine was the little boy who spent a good part of the service drawing stories in a notebook about watering the grass, and informing me during a particularly quiet moment that the green drops were stinky sewer water. (Where does he get this stuff? Ha!) He was also the boy who, after the service was over and I questioned internally (yet again) if he could possibly have gotten anything out of it, started asking great questions the minute we got in the van.

"Did PR say the devil makes us sick?"
"If we keep fighting the devil how come he keeps coming back to life?"
"What does it mean that we don't belong in this world?"
"Why do the angels rejoice when I pray?"
"Can Jesus build buildings if He wants to?" (Okay so that one is not such a big question, but it is just so Aiden. He is obsessed with building and is always telling us what he will build when he grows up. Like hot dog restaurants and a house right next door to his mama.) 

He is the boy who takes our answers and simply believes with a faith that is so pure it astounds me. Right now, there is no question in his heart that what is written in the Word is absolute truth. And God shows me over and over that there is no topic that is "too old" for my five-year-old. Sometimes I panic a little right after I read something, because I am afraid of the questions to follow. Like the time Aiden had brought his plastic pigeon to bed and then on our Bible schedule was a whole section about pigeon sacrifices. No, I am not making that up. I have learned that with the help of the Spirit I can answer tough questions at his level, sharing enough truth to satisfy without having to know everything.

Not long ago, his best buddy lost a grandparent. I don't know if the timing was coincidence, or if he overheard Matt and I talking about the family's loss, but that was when the questions about heaven started. And death. There were a couple very tough nights of tearful worry about death and losing his people. There were a couple of moments when I honestly wasn't sure I could answer one more question or survive one more mama-heart-piercing sob. Yet in time, God continued to provide strength and wisdom for me and Matt as we gently shared what we believe and Aiden was able to find peace. (Although questions about heaven are still a daily occurrence.) God also provided friends to share their wisdom about how to deal with these heart issues. I am so blessed to have people who share my faith to turn to in these times.

I know not everyone sees the benefit of immersing kids in a full "adult" Christian life. Children's Bibles leave out tough stories, churches schedule Sunday School or "children's church" during worship, and even baptism is something that is reserved for those old enough to understand it. I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy the occasional worship service where Aiden is at my mom's (church date night is totally a thing in our house). If I am being honest I also sometimes feel like there is a bright spotlight on our pew with the wiggly kid who looks older than he is and is not exactly focused on worship. Between my dislike of a spotlight (real or imagined) and my sinful pride that wants to have a "well-behaved" child to prove to others that we are doing things "right" there are definitely times when I question the practice of having him in worship as well. Until his sweet little voice is praying the Lord's Prayer and his sweet little hands are reaching out to share the peace of the Lord. In those moments (and the ones that follow services when the questions reveal he really IS listening) I am humbled and overwhelmed with gratitude for this amazing experience of getting to raise a child in the way of the Lord. It is definitely something I could never do alone, but it also is not something I am called to do alone. I have a community of believers to support me and the Holy Spirit to guide me. Thanks be to God for that!

{NEW} Homeschool Link-Up: #ParentTeacherMeetUp

One of the best resources for home educators is other home educators! Sharing ideas and encouraging each other is a priceless benefit of having a strong network of homeschool friends. Not only that, but taking the time to record some of the highlights of each week gives us a way to look back at how far we have come when we hit rough spots in our journeys! So... Nicolette, Maggie and I decided to start a little meet-up each week to keep each other accountable and encouraged! And we want YOU to join us! Here is how it works:
  • Each Monday morning, each of the 3 hosts will be posting their own week-in-review style post, and inviting other home educators to link up with us. 
  • We will be answering a standard set of questions, but using the questions is not required to link up! Any post about home education is welcome!  For the first week (going live 9/14) we will post an introduction to our families and our homeschool... something along the lines of a "day in the life" post. We would LOVE for you to do the same this week! 
  • Parents are teachers, even if they aren't choosing to make home education their primary focus. Even if your kiddos go to school part time or full time, feel free to link up creative ideas for adding to that education at home! 
  • Use the hashtag #ParentTeacherMeetUp when you share home education moments and resources on IG (and twitter, G+, wherever!) so we can continue the conversation throughout the week. 
  • Make sure to visit other posts in the link-up and share away! 
  • We will be pinning posts each week to the link-up board to help promote your posts!
  • Be respectful and keep any linked content family-friendly. (This is kind of a given, but in the online world sometimes you just never know! Questionable content may be removed as hosts see fit.)
  • It would be lovely if you would follow all 3 of us in whatever social media avenues you frequent:



If you have a homeschool blog and plan to join us, feel free to link up your homepage below! (Blogs without obvious homeschool content may be removed at the discretion of the hosts.)