The Great Bedroom Swap… and Unschooling

It’s been an eventful couple of weeks in our home. It took us about 3 weeks of doggedly following our set Oak Meadow curriculum before we admitted that it’s really not us and started investigating the ideals behind unschooling. Now that’s a concept I can get behind… and we’ve learned a lot more since we’ve let go of the idea that we have to sit down and “do school” every day at the same time, and just let the days take us where it will. I know I’ve learned a lot about myself, and have done a lot of soul-searching about what our goals are, and the best way to meet those goals. I’ve had to let go of control… and I do like to be in control. I am finding that we’re all doing quite well without me calling every shot (shocker, I know), and I’m feeling calmer and more relaxed as I learn to trust the girls’ instincts and decisions.

The big girls each received a Kindle, as a kind of “now that we’re homeschooling” gift, and they’ve been reading even more than before. Our local library has a lot of e-books available to borrow, and we’ve gotten a ton of use from our free trial of Kindle Unlimited. I’m pretty sure we’ll keep that subscription – with something like 800,000 titles to borrow, it seems well worth $9.99/month.

We’ve been attending homeschool park days each week, and we’re all enjoying meeting new people and having somewhere to be outside of our usual errands and appointments.

Homeschool Unschool Park Days

Another big change we’ve made is our environment… the Great Bedroom Swap! There’s a bit of a back story here…

When we lived in our little basement apartment a few years ago, David and I slept in our living room so that the girls could share the single small bedroom. From there we moved in with friends in Texas, where we slept on separate sofas, then a hotel room, where we slept 3 feet from the girls. By the time we moved into our current apartment, we were thrilled to be able to take the larger of the two bedrooms. We set up our bed, admired all of the space we had, and finally felt like real grown-ups.

The thing is, the girls keep getting bigger, and older, as kids tend do… and they’ve outgrown their bedroom. They both have big, beautiful personalities, which don’t fit so well squeezed into a 10 x 12-foot space. Meanwhile, David and I hardly spend any time in our bedroom, preferring to hang out in the living room most of the time. I guess we just never got used to having that much space of our own, so it wasn’t that hard to give it up.

Well, emotionally and mentally, it wasn’t that hard to give up. Physically… man, it took forever. We had boxes in our closet that hadn’t been unpacked since we’d moved into this apartment almost three years ago. The girls had a huge collection of stuff in their closets — things that were probably very important when they were brought into the closet, but have since lost their sparkle and been pushed to a pile on the floor. It was a lot to go through and sort into piles of Trash, Donate, and Keep. 

There was a lot of stuff in the Donate pile. We’ve stocked at least a few entire shelves at our local Goodwill in the past three weeks.

In the end, both rooms look great and suit all of us better than they did before. David has been spending way too many nights on the couch in the past few months, as Katie has gotten bigger and taken up more of our bed. Katie’s crib is now pushed up against my side of the bed, so we’re still co-sleeping, but now I have a little more space to call my own at night, and David has happily rejoined me in our bed.

Addah wanted a loft bed for her side of their room, so she’s sleeping up high now, with her desk and bookshelves below. She’s created a cozy little nook for herself, complete with a divider curtain made from last year’s Halloween costume tutu, which allows her to stay up later than Lakin, who prefers an earlier bedtime.

Lakin chose a regular twin bed, which we built for her — our first hand-built project, and definitely worthy of its own blog post. Her bed will be painted a deep midnight blue and decorated with silver stars. She has a desk for her laptop, as well as a cozy nook of her own in the walk-in closet: a comfy pink chair and her trunk of her most special books and journals. 

Great Bedroom Swap

We’re all pretty happy with the changes we’ve made. Our little bedroom feels like more like “us” somehow, where the big bedroom always felt just a little too big. The girls are bickering less and laughing more, which does my heart so much good and makes me wish we’d done this from Day 1 in this apartment.

So, lots of changes… but good changes, important changes… changes that make us a stronger and happier family.

The Importance of Reading

Reading - Usborne Books

I love to read. I love to be ensnared by a great book that begs me to read it all night, staying up way too late with a wholly inappropriate amount of respect for how quickly morning will come. We have an absolute ton of books in our house, bookcases in every room with books spilling out, waiting for us to buy and fill another bookcase.

I’ve been reading to my kids since before they could comprehend what they were hearing. Lakin’s first book was The Hobbit, read aloud when she was 4 months old, and followed immediately by Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Of course we owned dozens of board books and borrowed even more from our local library, and these were read throughout each day and at bed time every night. It seems to have worked, as my girls learned to read at a very young age, and have become eager aficionados of the written word.

I kept our very favorite books from the older girls’ baby and toddler years. I was pretty sure I was done having kids, but I just couldn’t part with my favorites — Sandra Boynton books, Is Your Mama a Llama?, and That’s Not My Kitten. I still have The Going to Bed Book memorized, 13 years later. These books are a little bedraggled-looking now, from being well-loved and then carted around in boxes and on shelves for a decade or so, but when I pulled them out for Katie, they were instant hits.

That’s Not My Kitten is the book that started me on my current path, actually. I have such amazing memories of reading it to Lakin and Addah, with such inflection in the words to create excitement — “That’s not MY kitten! That kitten is toooo fluffy!” and finally, on the last page, we would all say “THAT’S my kitten!” and then take turns feeling it’s fuzzy ears. I didn’t realize there were more books in that series… or I’d have bought them all!

I was in the bookstore not long ago with Katie, perusing the baby/toddler board books, when I saw That’s Not My Monster. I bought it immediately, and it was just as much fun to read as its’ kitty cat counterpart. Imagine my surprise when a Google search turned up more than 30 books in this series now, all available through Usborne books. I clicked through to a consultant’s Usborne shop, and proceeded to spend a whole lot of time window shopping, just amazed at how many great books there are. More than 80% of the books for sale through Usborne are under $10, which is definitely good news for our book loving family.

Seeing just how many new books there are on the Usborne book’s site made my wheels start turning… and I felt inspired! Maybe I could sell Usborne books? I certainly feel passionately about books and literacy, and the importance of reading to children as often as possible. The more I thought about it, I realized that it’s really the perfect marriage of my love for books and my desire to stay at home with my kids and still bring in an income.

I kicked around the idea for a week or two, and finally decided that yes, I can sell Usborne books! (And you can too… and if you’re interested in talking about the benefits of doing so, please feel free to send me an email!)

Book Party Invitation - Usborne Books

So there it is… and I’m excited to offer you all an invitation to my very first e-show (and a giveaway)! If you place an order through my show link between now and March 31, you will automatically be entered to win a free book! The winner will be randomly selected using a random number generator, and if you don’t have the funds to shop now, don’t worry, because I’m planning to make this a monthly event and giveaway!

This new business venture couldn’t come at a better time for little Katie, who is just starting to develop a love for books that I know will follow her throughout her life. Earlier today, she was sitting on the floor at my feet, turning the pages of one of her First Words board books, having a lovely baby-babble conversation with the kitties and puppies on the pages. I think she actually plays with her books more than she plays with her multitude of Little People… and that’s just fine with me.

Follow my Usborne Books and More page on Facebook for updates on shows, sales, and giveaways!

Baby Steps and Rainbows

Baby Steps and Rainbows | The Destiny Manifest

Thinking about: It’s been a full week since I wrote for the blog or myself, and it’s been a long time since I’ve gone that long without writing. I apologize if it is tiresome to keep reading that “it’s been a hard week” — it is equally as tiresome to keep living hard weeks. In the past seven days of not-blogging, I have done my best to remain fairly productive, in spite of my deep down desire to just huddle under the fuzzy blanket on my bed and alternate sleeping and crying.

There are a lot of changes I’d like to make… for myself, within myself. I’m struggling with writing and blogging, and I’m not sure why. It’s taken me days to figure out what to write here, and that’s not something I typically have trouble with. Everything I started felt forced, or too emotional, or not emotional enough. So I did everything but write.

Worried about: I want to lose weight. I’m not at all happy with my weight or health. I feel defeated before I begin, because the mountain is such a ridiculously high one, but I can’t allow myself to use that as an excuse not to begin either. I want my family to exercise more. I want to be able to walk to the mailbox and back (1/4 mile) without feeling like I’m going to either have a heart attack or blow out my bad knee. A quarter mile is difficult for me. How ridiculous is that?! Of course my knees and ankles hurt! They were not intended to carry this much weight.

So… I’m trying to change. The four of us walked to the front of the apartment complex and back this evening – 0.8 miles. 14 minutes. I was beat when we got back, but I’m going to do it again in the morning and evening. They are baby steps, but they are steps.

Baby Steps in Rainbow Shoes | The Destiny Manifest

Listening to: I absolutely love to listen to music… it feeds my senses and soothes the heartache. When David got home from work last night, he brought his iPod and speakers into the bedroom, wrapped his arms around me, and we kissed and sang and listened to music until the kids came in from playing outside. It was beautiful… the kind of connection that makes it all feel better.

Darius Rucker’s cover of “Wagon Wheel” has been in my head for days. It makes me smile every time I hear it.

 

Watching: My sister told us about “Orange is the New Black”, a new Netflix series that focuses on life (and the women) within a women’s prison. My preference would have been to binge watch all 13 episodes in 1-2 days, but that’s just not possible when David has to be at work so early. We’ve watched 1-2 episodes a day and finished the series tonight. It’s excellent… really excellent, and I am glad to know that a second season is coming. It’s been a while since I felt so invested in characters from a television show, but it’s not all that surprising; I loved producer Jenji Kohan’s “Weeds” just as much.

Reading: I’ve finished one book and started another. I read “Orange is the New Black”, thinking that since I was enjoying the show so much on Netflix, the book would be even better. Eh, not so much. This is one of those rare instances where I think the path the show is taking is much more interesting than that of the original memoir. Once I wrapped that one up, I started reading “The Dark Side of Innocence: Growing Up Bipolar”. I’m only a couple of chapters in, but so far it’s very good.

Knitting: I’ve finished a new pair of socks for my mom and I’m almost done with her second pair. I should have that one finished this evening. I’ll knit one more pair for her, and then a pair for Lizzi… and then David wants more. He’s slightly addicted to his hand-knit socks, which makes me feel very good.

Hand-Knit Socks | The Destiny Manifest

Loving: David’s been grilling for us lately, in the moments between rain storms. Last night we had grilled hot dogs, and two nights before, he grilled chicken breasts marinated in Italian dressing. Delicious! Also, we saw a rainbow after the last storm, and it made me think of our sweet Clara, who would have been 13 months old tomorrow.

Baby Steps and Rainbows | The Destiny Manifest

So how about you? How is your week going?

I’m connecting with others via Wordless/Wordful Wednesday today! Check out my blog hop directory to see who else is participating, as well as the other blog hops that I join each week!

Top 10 Books for Kids Ages 9 to 12

Best Books for Older Kids Ages 9 10 11 12

I’ve compiled a list of the Top 10 Books for Kids Ages 9 to 12, based on an informal poll of my library-loving tween daughters, their friends, our family, and my own youthful reading habits. If you haven’t read any (all!) of these great books, I encourage you to pick them up and enjoy! You’re never too old for a great kid’s book!

Anything by Rick Riordan:  My girls enjoyed the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, but they really loved the Kane Chronicles series, particularly the first book. Our copy of The Red Pyramid is held together with several layers of clear packing tape and has been read countless times by both girls. The books are cleverly written adventures that explore ancient Egyptian mythology and the world of magic. Every time Lakin or Addah read Riordan books, they become utterly immersed in the world inside the pages, emerging only to laughingly read a particularly witty section out loud to me.

The Chronicles of Narnia: A classic series, and for good reasons. Talking animals, adventures with mythical beasts, magic and mystery and fantasy combined with the fight between good and evil… what’s not to love?

Guardians of Ga’Hoole: My oldest adores this book series, which follows a young barn owl and teaches a message of leadership and friendship.

Island of the Blue Dolphins: What an amazing novel this is! I must have read this a thousand times as a child… couldn’t get enough of this tale of Karana, who survives alone for 18 years on an island in the Pacific Ocean. She is a tenacious heroine who overcomes incredible obstacles, from the constant need to forage for food and water, how to clothe herself and dealing with the death of her little brother. I highly recommend this for kids and adults. If you haven’t read it yet, you should.

The Hobbit: Excellent for reading out loud to younger kids, and perfect afternoon reading for tweens, this prequel to the Lord of the Rings books follows Bilbo Baggins on his adventures across the Misty Mountains and Mirkwood forests of Middle Earth. Definitely worth reading (even for adults!) before you see it at the movie theater!

Little House on the Prairie: Oh, how I loved the Little House books when I was a girl! I read the first two books to my girls at a young age, and I was thrilled when they became old enough to read the entire series themselves. I still read these once a year or so, just to get lost in the world of Ma and Pa, Mary, Carrie and Grace, Laura and Almanzo.

Dragon Rider: The Dragon Rider books are long, but an easy read for the 9 to 12 year old crowd. This tale of a young dragon who sets out in search of the legendary ancestral home of the dragons enchants kids and makes for a great read-aloud book for younger kids too.

The Last Dragon Chronicles (series): These are Addah’s absolute favorite books and she’s been working her way through the series for the last couple months. Each book in the series highlights a different clay dragon with unusual powers and the adventures that ensue telepathically. She highly recommends them… in fact, she’s insisting that I need to read them now.

A Wrinkle in Time (series): This trilogy is a great read for kids who struggle with fitting in, feeling lonely, or who have dealt with loss. Both of my girls checked these books one out of the library enough times that we bought our own copies.

Harry Potter (series): Of course! Lakin has read up through Prisoner of Azkaban and Addah is halfway through the first book. I’ve read all of them many times (my favorite is the last one, and I cry every time). I will encourage the girls to read them all, for the amazing characters and story and the lessons learned within.

The books that stand out the most from when I was this age are books that my kids haven’t yet read, but they’re on our list to be checked out from the library. I loved Bridge to Terabithia, Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret,  Misty of Chincoteague, Tuck Everlasting (oh how I loved this one!), The Secret Garden, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, The Girl Who Owned a City, and Roald Dahl’s Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, and so many more. I was one of those kids who spent my free time devouring books like my life depended on it!

What were your favorite books when you were 9-12 years old? Leave a comment and add your top picks!