Anyone else out there that secretly or not so secretly wants to live in Stars Hollow?

Cause I do. But just because it's fictional doesn't mean I can't wear the t-shirt!

I was inspired by Chalk Full of Love's adorable "Stars Hollow Fall Festival" sweatshirt and mugs. Click the link - are they not adorable? I wanted something with more of a year round vibe though and in a tee so I endeavoured to be crafty and whipped this cute tee up!

 First off I went in search of a good fitting "drapey" tee (which is a feat in itself, right?). I scored this one at Ardenes for 70% off so yay!

Next up I created a cut file on my silhouette. I used the font Magnolia Sky for the script and Franklin Gothic Book for the "established". For once in my life I didn't over think it and it came together super quickly! I just measured roughly how much space I wanted it to take up on the shirt (8" x 6") and stayed within those parameters. I did google when Stars Hollow was established and it is 1779 so you're welcome ;)

I'm a huge fan of using freezer paper to create stencils for use on fabric. It's cheap and simple. Just place the freezer paper on your cutting mat (shiny side down) and load to print. Set your machine to cut slowly so you don't tear the paper. 

Once you peel the parts you want the paint to go in you're at the tricky part. It's not overly hard but it is annoying to transfer the stencil to the shirt. I tried the transfer paper but it was just too sticky and hard to manage so I just peeled the majority of the stencil and ironed it onto the shirt and then went back and added all the little centres to "o's" and such and ironed those on. It's a little finnicky but still worked fine. 

Once you have it ironed on, place a cardboard piece inside the shirt (to avoid paint seepage) and start painting it in. I used 2 parts folk art white paint mixed with 1 part fabric medium but I have never used fabric medium in the past and it worked fine. This time I just happened to have it on hand. 

I did 3 coats of paint letting it dry in between. Then I let it dry overnight and heat set it in the morning with an iron (after peeling the stencil off). 

I felt like the tee would be best showcased in a white gazebo like they have in the centre of Stars Hollow... so I crashed an elderly care home to use their gazebo lol. Don't worry, I asked if I could!

If you need me I'll just be at Luke's Diner sipping a cup of Joe with my bestie Loreli ;)


Stars Hollow Tee

by on 12:00 PM
Anyone else out there that secretly or not so secretly wants to live in Stars Hollow? Cause I do. But just because it's fictional doe...
As you may or may not know, one of my jobs is that I'm a weekly columnist for our local newspaper. I have the privilege of writing about fun, creative and low cost ideas that you can do with your family. After writing the column for the last 9 years every week it sure stretches me to keep coming up with creative ideas!

I was able to follow through immediately on one of my ideas and take some pictures so I thought I'd share it here! I have to keep my column at 350 words - so here it is, short and sweet!

Lately every where I look I see ads for various subscription boxes popping up. The marketing idea is great. You sign up for the subscription and either pay monthly or for the year and every month a surprise box is delivered to your door. It is filled with an assortment (of often themed) products for you to use. Some times they are samples of products so that you can try them out and decide if you’d like to use them in the future. The idea is catching on and I’ve seen these boxes themed for a wide variety of interests including make-up, hand lettering, seasonal decor, pet treats/toys, educational activities, STEM activities, and art supplies. 

I love the idea of it. I think getting a box full of surprise gifts every month would be so fun. For all you gift givers out there it’s actually a genius way to gift things to yourself because you’d never know what was in the box! Ha. Though I appreciate the not having to shop and fill the box myself the costly aspect of these subscriptions is that you are essentially paying someone else to shop plus paying shipping. 

My idea then is to create my own surprise boxes for my kids that can “show up” at our door. I like to look at the money saved as how I’m paying myself to do the shopping (and I like shopping so that’s all good!) 

Seeing as we’re headed into warmer weather my first box will be a “Spring into Summer” theme.  First up, find a cute box to package your goodies in. Some great themed items to include could be self tying water balloons, a cute beach towel, bubbles, fruity gum, new sunglasses, a rock painting kit, an inflatable beach ball (or pool float), a new water bottle, new flip flops, and side walk chalk. 

A lot of items on the list are things that I would need/want to buy for my kids going into a new season anyways so packaging it all up into a themed box just makes it fun for everyone!

Since this is my blog I can expand... you'll see that I went for a yard game theme.

In the box I included a bocce ball set, a horseshoe game, sidewalk chalk, some apple sauce squeeze things and 2 packs of Hubba Bubba (because my kids both jus recently learned how to blow bubbles ;) ).

I slipped the package onto the doorstep and waited until they found it at recess. They were so excited to find a package for them and tore into it immediately. The package was a hit and we got to play a game of Bocce Ball right away. 

 What would you put in your surprise "subscription" box?

DIY Subscription Box

by on 11:36 AM
As you may or may not know, one of my jobs is that I'm a weekly columnist for our local newspaper . I have the privilege of writing abou...

Personally I've been "formally" homeschooling for 4 years now. My kids have been homeschooled their entire education so technically I've been schooling at home for 9 years. 9 years of spending all day, er'y with my kids. There's never been a season where they've gone to school, preschool or day care. That means we've put in some serious hours with each other!

In my adult life I have been consistently keenly aware of self care and my mental health. I don't want to just survive my life - I want to thrive. Very early on in having kids I realized that as a social introvert being with people all day drains me (even people I love so very much) and that alone time recharges me. When you homeschool - alone time has to be an intentional thing.

If I had to boil down the most crucial ingredient in our family's plan to make sure I get alone time I'd say it is my husband's dedication to fathering our kids and partnering with me in our children's education.

When we decided to homeschool it was a decision that both of us made with a lot of thought. There was never an assumption that it would only affect my life as the homeschool teacher. We were both going to have to invest in this.

Thankfully we started some of the routines early on and they have just become a rhythm in our life. From day one, my husband has be primarily responsible for the kids bedtimes. If I was nursing, I'd nurse and pass them off. It's been great as this has always been guaranteed time he has with them for bonding. This is especially crucial for us in seasons of life where he works until 5:30 pm and the kids were going to bed at 7:00 pm. Bedtime is their time. For me it means that I have a good hour where I am not answering questions, making snacks or directing my kids. It is a much needed break after doing that for the previous 8-10 hours. Sometimes I am just SO tired of talking!

I don't know about you but even with their dad 3 feet from them my kids will out of habit still seek me out. My answer in these times is typically "You have a dad. Use him." lol. It can be VERY easy for us moms to just continue with the flow of the day and without thinking just keep doing all. the. things. for our kids. I have to be intentional to redirect them to my husband so that it reinforces that we are a team and sometimes you just need to ask dad.

For me this is also the hour that I often leave the house. Not sure about your kids but even though they are 9 and 7 they still act like every bedtime is the first one we've ever done. Brush your teeth! Get your PJ's on! Wash your face! Get into bed! Stop coming out of bed! That's our nightly soundtrack. It gets old. So, I excuse myself and either hop in the hot tub during bedtime routine, head out for a walk or grab a decaf coffee and peruse the aisles of Walmart just cause I can. It's amazing what that hour does for my mental health!

On the topic of bedtime - that has been another sanity saver for us. We have enforced an early bedtime for our kids. For most of their lives up until last summer they were in bed by 7 - 7:30 every night and asleep shortly after. My husband and I are both night owls so that meant that we typically had from then until at least midnight of just us time. We can hang out, play games, work in the yard, work out, write, or just chill and watch T.V.  It also meant that for us we couldn't go out often in the evening as a family (as pushing them past their bedtime was not a good idea for us) but the long term benefits far outweighed the times we chose not to go out. Individually we can easily go out for a couple of hours and do so weekly. I play tennis weekly and attend a ladies connection night and my husband plays basketball weekly. We've even been known to hit up movies at the theatre on our own cause who talks to anyone during a movie anyways?

For those of you that are morning people I'm guessing that you can get up before your kids to have some alone time. I seriously wonder what that is like - my kids can sense I'm awake so I've never gotten more than 5 minutes on my own in the morning!

As soon as I felt my kids could manage I spent the summer teaching them how to make breakfasts. I wanted them to have a range of healthy food they could make independently and once they learned I left that responsibility on them. For me this means that I can take my time to have a cup of coffee and maybe read a bit while they make their own breakfasts and eat. I like it!

I'm pretty lucky in that my husband only works 2 blocks from home. This means he's able to come home every day for lunch. Since I don't love working out at night and I'm really not a morning person I've been working out over the noon hour for the past couple of years. I love it because my husband is there for them to field questions from the kids (read less interruptions for me) and it flows well with our homeschool day for them to have a break.

As fortunate as I am that my husband has a 9-5 ish job with lunch hours at home and all weekends off, this didn't happen by accident. We live in an industrial town where the majority of jobs are shift jobs. Because of the "yes's" that we have said to things like making daily family time a priority and having weekends to spend together it made it easier to be intentional and say "no" to job offers that didn't line up with our goals. My husband has turned down many jobs over the years (many that offered a lot more pay) that would have required him to work 12 hour shifts and thus greatly affect our schedule. We both decided that those jobs wouldn't work for our family and our personalities. On the flip side, I have friends whose husbands work shift and then have regular 4-5 day stretches off that work fantastically for their families. My point is not that one is better than another but that it pays to be intentional with your choices.

I have a lot of other passions and interests that are outside of homeschooling. I've found that making sure I have time for those things promotes thriving in my life. Alone time is great but being alone with nothing to do would be more annoying to me than not having the time at all.

I love photography and thus run a photography business. At my max I take 2 clients a week in the evening. It gets me out and using my creativity while also providing extra income. Sometimes I just need to build something. If my husband isn't around or we want to work on a project together, we'll hire a babysitter to hang out with the kids so we can work without being disrupted. Some of my friends have had great success in working out a childcare swap. They make an agreement with another family with similarly aged children and pick two nights a month where they swap childcare. They put parameters in place that work for them like set hours, and feeding your kids before dropping them off and it allows them to have a "free" date night once a month.

One practice that I'm terrible at keeping consistent is having a set quiet time each day. We've done it periodically and though it takes some effort to define the boundaries of it and get my kids accustomed to spending that time alone each day it was worth it when we did it. Even half an hour in the middle of the day where every one goes to their own corner can be a great "reset" for everyone.

Though I'm not great at staying consistent with quiet time I've found that now that my children are old enough for independent reading time that I really make use of that.

There's obviously no set way to make sure you're getting what you need. We're all wired so differently! My hope is that in some way this post can give you a few ideas on how to make time for yourself and at the very least emphasize the importance of taking care of yourself as a homeschooling parent. If one thing is clear to me, it's that getting "me" time is more about recognizing the value of it as family and being intentional to make it happen than it is about actually finding the time.

 I'd love to hear how you incorporate self care and "me time" into your homeschool routines! Please comment with them - then we can all learn from each other!

~ Monique

* All images in this post done by Crystal Lee Photography *

Thanks so much for your wonderful feedback on Part I! In case you missed it you can find Part I here. If you want the Coles Notes it can best be summarized in my sentiment "Homeschooling is the hardest and best thing I've done."

Most things in life that are worth doing are not easy. Homeschooling for us is very worth doing. I find that a lot of times when families are facing the choice of whether to homeschool or not, looking ahead can appear to be a series of hurdles. Many well wishers including myself might say things like "Oh, it'll all be O.K. You'll be fine! You can do this! You just figure it out." And, they're right! But I also get that it can seem daunting and sometimes it's just nice to have an honest look at the hard things and how other families have worked through them. It might not be how you would work through them, but at least you'll know that it can be done.

Onwards to the hard things!

Going Against the Flow

When you choose to homeschool you make a major family lifestyle choice that is opposite of probably 99% of the population. It can feel as though you are literally swimming against the stream. The reality for us however is that I feel more like we jumped out of the stream and are adventuring all over the place. Up hills, down some valleys, through forests, in the ocean and through the fields! Like I said in my previous post, I refuse to adopt an "us vs them" mentality. Our decision to school our children is not a rebellious act or some type of "rage against the machine". It is a lifestyle we chose because we felt it was the best use of our time and energy for these years that our kids are in our care.

That said, I run into a lot of families that feel very misunderstood and don't have a lot of support from people in their circle. Some homeschooling parents find themselves in a mode of constantly defending their right and ability to guide their child's education. I am subject to these types of interrogation occasionally and can see how it would be exhausting. Well meaning bystanders often feel it is their responsibility to keep homeschoolers accountable by grilling them on how they socialize their children, whether or not they have them in outside activities, on who tests them to make sure they actually know what they're supposed to know, and whether they put in the standard 6 hour school days because if you homeschool you better be keeping up with what the schools do.

Because I have an education degree I find that I get a pass from a lot of those conversations. However, I understand that they occur and that they are not valid. I love when people dialogue in an effort to understand, I don't love it when people use these conversations to push an agenda or to attempt to undermine a homeschooling parents ability.

When I do come up against a conversation that is more of an interrogation and I can see that the person isn't in it for understanding but rather to push their ideas on what I should do I have a few options.
a) I steer the conversation elsewhere. I don't actually OWE anyone an explanation for our choice or a daily itinerary.

b) If it's someone who I am in relationship with and this is a recurring thing I will lovingly create a boundary. It might look something like this, "I appreciate that you are concerned about our family and our children's education. We have given this a lot of thought and we are committed to doing this and doing our best at it. I won't continue to have this conversation over and over again though. So, if you feel you need to discuss homeschooling with me it'll have to be about ways you can support and encourage us."
Tough to actually say to someone you love? Absolutely ... but WE CAN DO HARD THINGS.

c) I can still choose to answer their question out a place of sharing freely and to promote understanding all the while understanding that I do not need their approval.

One Income

When you choose to homeschool you are taking on a lifestyle that likely results in living off of one income or at least necessitates that one parent is home during the days (or some block of schooling time). We live in a culture where that is definitely not the norm. There can often be a pressure for bigger houses, newer vehicles, more stuff and constant entertainment and extracurricular spending. Homeschooling requires sacrifice. Sacrifice can be hard. I also believe though that sacrifice is good for us.

In my opinion, it is a very first world thing to believe that we can and should "have it all." Whether we are being intentional about it or not, we are all constantly making choices. I have found one of the most helpful principles for us that we live by daily is "I know the things I have said a big YES to and therefore it makes it easy to say NO to anything that does not line up with or competes with that YES."

So, for example, we have said yes to homeschooling. That means that I don't work full time outside of the home. It also means that we aren't in the market for a newer, bigger home because the added financial burden would require me to work full time and sabotage our plan to homeschool. It means we remodel this home.

It sounds so simple but it seriously brings so much clarity to our thinking and to our financial plan.

I'd love to share a few more strategies that have really helped us.

The first is that any time we have transitioned to less income (like when I went on mat leave), we gave ourselves at least 6 months of practice time before the transition date. So, for 6 months prior to leaving work we started to put my ENTIRE paycheque into savings immediately. Then, we would practice living off of my husbands income. The first month we inevitably WAY overspent. But that was O.K. We expected it. We would just draw from savings what we needed and tried again next month. By the end of that term we had learned to live off of one income and also ended up with a pretty large savings account!

Another piece of advice - get a financial planner. We preferred one that was not affiliated with any particular bank and thus we felt unbiased in regards to the investments and such that they would offer. We love the financial team we work with. They help us manage everything from our investments, our mortgage, our cash flow, our tax planning, our life insurance, etc. They understand our goals and do everything they can to help us meet them. (Message me if you want a recommendation for a great team.)

Because you homeschool also doesn't mean that you can not work outside the home. I myself am a photographer and it works great with a homeschooling schedule. It allows me to plan sessions for evenings and I can use my time at home during the day to deal with all the admin and editing. I have other friends who homeschool during the day and have an evening job. If you want to make it work - you can make it work.

Interestingly enough this post didn't really have anything to do with the obstacles involved in our actual day to day schooling of children but I think they are two hurdles that often seem really daunting to families.

I had wanted to go even further and tackle "getting time on your own" and what we do with that need to get out of the house as a homeschool parent but I think it'll require it's own post!

Again, if you have any more hard stuff you want addressed don't hesitate to comment!

One of the statements I hear the most frequently when people learn that we homeschool is "Oh, I could never homeschool..." followed by

  • it would be too hard for us to all get along all day. 
  • we would butt heads too much. 
  • my kids wouldn't listen to me. 
  • I need to get out of the house.
  • teaching is too hard. 
These are all perfectly relatable statements. I know that because they were all true for me as well. 

Homeschooling is HARD. 

I hope I didn't lure you in with that title question and you thought I was going to write a post about how easy homeschooling is. I wish I could but it just wouldn't be truth. I can't really think of much about homeschooling that is easier than sending my kids to school. Except that whole getting every body dressed, fed and out the door by 8:15 am EVERY SINGLE DAY. I don't know how y'all do it. What kind of sorcery is that?

The truth for me is that homeschooling is hard. But if there is one thing I've learned in life, it's that most things worth doing aren't easy. And for our family, homeschooling is very worth doing. 

I feel like this is a good time for a disclaimer ;). I don't think homeschooling is the best fit for every single family. I am a former public school middle years teacher - I love schools. I am a BIG fan of teachers! You should say "thank you" to your child's teacher tomorrow - seriously - just do it. I don't agree with every facet of how the education system is run, but I in no way ever adopt an "us vs them" mentality. I didn't agree with those same things when I was a teacher in the system and I know the majority of teacher's are doing their best for the kids in their care. 

That said... when people ask me how homeschooling is going, rather than launch into a 30 minute speech about the highs and lows of my week I typically answer with "Homeschooling is the hardest and best thing I've ever done."

Let's talk about some of those hard things shall we?

The Head Butting

I think some people assumed that I chose to homeschool because my children and I all were perfectly amenable and had perfectly complimentary personalities that made me think "We can absolutely be with each other 24-7 for years on end." Um - no. I am an assertive person who is strict (yet fun) and who is also a social introvert. My son is quick, efficient, doesn't like to waste time ever, likes to push boundaries and isn't a fan of anyone teaching him anything ever. My daughter believes that "more is more", loves to dawdle, loves to draw 17 pictures on her paper before doing any work and loves to talk non-stop and then freak out if you ask her to stop. There is plenty of butting of heads that goes on in our day. 

I get that it can be a bit much for my kids to have me giving them direction on all the things - every day! Brush your teeth, go get dressed, make some breakfast, get your math book out, let me teach you how to divide and so on and so forth. 

How we work through that is by spending time usually each day (and usually not planned) on character development. For all of us. As much as they need to learn to be kind, manage their behaviour and try to do their work without complaining, I need to learn patience, to talk less and to encourage more. Being with each other as much as we are necessitates that we rub off each other's rough edges a bit. Part of our homeschooling days are making ourselves the kind of people that we can spend all day every day with!

Blurred Lines

Mom ----> Teacher ----> Coach ----> Principal 
Child ----> Student ----> Athlete

Now, we don't assign official titles or anything in our home but each of us operate in many different roles during the day. When you're in public school those roles are a bit more separate and don't run into each other that much. When you're homeschooling you get blurred lines. It has definitely been a learning curve for us to deal with me being both mom and teacher and them being both my child and student as well as student and siblings. 

At public school you can't stomp off to your room crying if you don't feel like writing six sentences at that moment. In homeschool you can't slack off and hide in a corner shuffling your papers and hoping the teacher is too preoccupied with the 27 other students she's teaching to worry about whether you've even started your math. Your teacher is 2 feet from you and knows exactly what you're doing at all times. Your sibling being your classmate cane result in some epic meltdowns.

Kids will push back more with their parents. We've all seen it. It's a compliment really, we're their safe place. But I'd be lying if I didn't admit that on more than one occasion I have slapped my teaching certificate on the table and stated "People used to pay me to do this. People used to send their kids to me to do this. Now, sit down and let me teach you this!" lol. 
Not my proudest moments. 

Though there are blurred lines, you settle into it. You realize that you get to be some sort of hybrid teacher/mom and student/child and you make it work for you. My kids can't slack off. They can't slip through the cracks. If they have a meltdown about having to revise their descriptive paragraph I can just grab a cup of coffee and say, "Let me know when you're ready to get back to work. I've got no where else to be." Or, if they're willing to talk we can get to the heart of the issue. I can speak life to the frustration that they're feeling and can reinforce our daily mantra, "You can do hard things." Being classmates with their sibling creates an environment where they learn to work through issues, build family relationships and develop strong bonds. My kids deep, joy filled friendship with each other is one of our greatest homeschooling rewards. 

And being teacher/mom is the best when you get to see understanding light their faces, creative ideas flow from their pen, when science is floating on the river sneaking up on turtles and getting to snuggle together on the couch while you read your historical narrative. 

What do I teach?

I get that taking on sole responsibility of your child's education is a daunting task. I may have been a teacher but I had never been an elementary teacher. Kids for the most part knew how to read by the time they got to me. 
I really had no clue where to start with my own kids in their first years of school. But like any new job you take on, there is going to be a learning curve. You figure it out. And you don't need to have it all figured out before you start. You will learn and grow with your child. It's actually one of the things I love about homeschooling. 

We have the freedom to pursue interest based learning. That means that in grade 2 my son spent 3 months learning about the Solar System (which was not in the SK curriculum for that year). We got so in depth and learned so much! I was just as fascinated as he was! 

I can't count the number of people who have said to me, "But surely you won't attempt high school right? Like, that stuff is hard. You can't do that." 

a) I don't do well with people telling me what I "can't" do. Ha! #Icandohardthings
b) If I wasn't teaching my kids those things I'd be teaching your kids those things. (My cop out answer).
c) If I can successfully understand things like Physics and high school maths as a 15-17 year old I can DEFINITELY understand and teach it as an invested 40 year old who has spent the last 14 years homeschooling their child. And so can you! Even if you didn't do well in public school, people change and grow and if you WANT to learn something, you can. 

There are more "hard things" that I'd love to weigh in on and give encouragement on. This post is getting a little lengthy (even for me) so I'll do a Part 2! I'd love to hear your comments (here or on Facebook) about what you'd like to hear about!

So whether you're a homeschooler, a public schooler or a mom of toddlers say this over yourself today - I CAN DO HARD THINGS. 

~ Monique