Thursday, November 21, 2019

Tips for Hitting the Road with Kids

 Photo by Pixabay

Family trips are a memory-making extravaganza filled with fun, excitement, and exhausted kids ready to go to bed early at the end of each day. 
However, as a parent, you know how stressful and costly a trip can be when children are in the mix. Rather than put off your family vacation, 
here are some tips to keep stress levels and costs down and the fun high.


Skip the Gas Station Snacks

If you’re purchasing snacks and drinks each time you stop to fill up or use the bathroom, the bill will quickly add up. 
Instead, pack convenient and healthy snacks such as trail mix, dried fruit, fresh fruit/veggies, granola bars, and pretzels. 
Prepare them ahead of time in baggies, and keep drinks on hand too (preferably in a leak-proof cup to avoid spilling). 
Speaking of spills, be sure to pack wipes for messes and sticky hands, and bring along a trash bag for garbage.

Are We There Yet?

It never fails; 15 minutes into the trip and your kids are already asking how much longer. 
If your child is like most, technology is a great way to keep them distracted and 
maybe sneak in some learning too with educational games and movies. 
If you decide to purchase electronic devices such as portable game systems or headphones, 
make sure you seek out those savings by looking for deals on electronics through a site
like Rakuten - you’ll find savings plus earn cash back on any purchases. 
Your child needs options, so keep several car activities up your sleeve. 
For example, a cookie sheet can double as an activity table and a 
three-ring binder filled with blank paper is an instant coloring book.

Find Free Fun

When on vacation, it’s tempting to pack your schedule with expensive excursions and activities instead of indulging in some free fun
Plan a picnic in the park, go on a walking tour, 
collect free souvenirs such as shells or rocks, or bring your own bikes to pair fun with exploration 
and exercise. Finding budget-friendly fun is really as simple as searching for “free events” in the area you’re visiting. 
You can use Groupon as well to find family-friendly fun at a discount. 
It’s okay to plan some fun activities without the kids too for some extra relaxation. 
It’s easy to book a local babysitter online — just be sure to do your research and meet with them in person to ensure they are safe, reliable, and trustworthy.


Save Money on Food

Meals are one of the priciest parts of a vacation. To save on food, try to find a hotel that offers complimentary breakfast, 
and take some fruit or yogurt back to the room for a snack later in the day. If your accommodations include a kitchen, 
use this to make some of your own meals rather than eating out every night. Going to dinner is a vacation staple though, 
so make sure the restaurants you choose are unique as opposed to a chain restaurant you find at home. If you have a picky eater on your hands, 
pack a lunch or dinner to bring with you to the restaurant.

Loosen the Reins a Little
Taking a vacation isn’t cheap, so it makes sense that you’d want to plan out every activity to the second. 
However, over-planning your vacation is a sure-fire way to add unnecessary stress. 
It’s okay to pick a few activities or destinations ahead of time, but be open to last-minute and spontaneous fun too. 
Let the kids choose an activity, or let the day plan itself. 
If your kids want to spend the entire day at the pool or beach, use this time to read a good book, listen to music, 
or let your spouse take over while you get a massage.
Vacationing with children is often synonymous with being stressful and expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. 
The key is to implement small hacks to keep costs and stress down. 
The ideas above will get you headed in the right direction, leaving you to enjoy your vacay.

Tips for Hitting the Road With Kids Without Your Wallet 

(and Mental Health) Taking a Hit was written by guest blogger 

Leslie Campos at

Monday, September 24, 2018 - a Mommy Must Check Out!

While doing some late, night planning, I came across an excellent resource!  This website has everything from Phonemic Awareness games to Addition Worksheets. has it ALL!  

Now that I am officially homeschooling all 3 of my little learners, this website is my one-stop-shop for printables and online learning games.  You can sort through just by clicking a grade level or a subject area.  This website is soooo easy to navigate!  

Here are some of our favorite worksheet types to choose from:
  • Maze
  • Matching list of words with images
  • Word search
  • Crossword puzzle
  • Word Scramble
  • Subtraction
  • Division
  • Multiplication
And have a variety of themes to choose from, including crawlies, a school-themed template, and seasonal themes.

And be sure to check out more reading games and activities at! 

Happy Learning with!

Saturday, September 1, 2018

How to Host a Homeschool Workshop

I remember going to my first homeschool conference in Ft. Worth, Texas.  I walked up to a GIANT convention center and opened the doors into an overwhelming experience of information and curriculum.

I left wondering if I could host an event that would be more intimate.  I wanted to create an event where Moms felt comfortable with asking questions in a smaller group.  I wanted an event that DIDN'T have a vendor hall PACKED full of curriculum options that added to the confusion of homeschooling.

In my heart, I knew that someday, somehow, I would host one of these workshops.  I just had to be bold enough to make it all happen.


Back in June of 2015, I invited one of my favorites to Austin, Texas.  Kathy Lee Eggers of The Homegrown Preschooler SAVED my homeschool.  A Year of Playing Skillfully was a curriculum that I had been longing for.  But if you've met Kathy, you know how wonderful she is!  Her stories will make you laugh and cry because this momma has done everything from adoption to homeschooling.  I just knew that she needed to come to ATX to share her wealth of knowledge and inspiration.

In September of 2017, I hosted a much bigger conference in Austin.  My children were growing into young writers and that's when I discovered Brave Writer.  I, myself, was growing into a homeschool mom that needed a cheerleader along the way.  
That's when I discovered Julie Bogart (founder of Brave Writer) and I wanted to share her with my Texas friends.  Little did I know that parents from ALL over the United States would make their way to hear Julie speak...via Skype.  (it's a LONG story) 

A new country brought me a new opportunity to host Andrew Pudewa, founder of IEW.  I was a bit hesitant about this idea because of the newness of everything.  But I prayed about it and moved forward with the idea.  Why not?  I had done this twice before.  

August 2018 - Taupo, New Zealand   

After 3 successful workshops/conferences, I have had many asking..."How did you do it?"  
So, I thought you might want a blog post about how to get going.

Email - Just Ask

With my first two workshops back in Texas, I simply emailed Kathy and Julie.  My motto is "all they can say is no thank you."  And to my surprise, both of these wonderful ladies said YES!  

So if your heart keeps coming back to this idea of becoming a conference host, just email them.  Be sure to include why their expert advice is needed in your homeschooling area.  

Once you've heard back from them, set up a time to video conference.  This face-to-face interaction is important.  The speaker needs to know you, as a host and a homeschooler.  Be honest with them!  And have your questions and ideas ready and planned.  

During this conversation, make sure you discuss your ideas for venues, ticket prices/transactions, dates, expected attendance, the speaker's travel expenses and so on.  Write down and record all that was said in this conversation.  

Once you have had your video conference, email the speaker with a summary of your video discussion.  It's so important to have everything in documented writing!

Form a committee 

My first workshop, with Kathy H Lee, I didn't have a committee.  I did it all by myself (bc I am a bit of a control freak!)

With the Brave Writer conference, I did 90% of the planning but had a wonderful tribe of women help with setting up at the venue the day of.

I knew in a new country that I needed help.  I had just been in New Zealand for a few months and I had NO clue about venues or sponsors.  How did I find my committee?  Just a simple facebook post on our homeschool group page.  I had 2 women offer and I was so thankful for their help.

Find a venue and sponsors

If you are planning to host a small conference, find a small, cheap venue!  I was very blessed to find 2 FREE venues, one for Kathy's workshops and one for Andrew Pudewas visit. 

We knew that the Brave Writer's conference would be bigger...we just weren't sure HOW big!  We had thought 75 would be interested.  Little did we know that we sold over 100 tickets in only 8 minutes of opening the registration online!  So when that happened and the ticket purchases kept coming in, we canceled our smaller venue and booked a bigger one.  BE FLEXIBLE and ready to adjust to any situations that come up.  (even if the situation is when your speaker breaks her ankle and is unable to travel so you Skype her in on a big screen)

Once you have your venue, it's time to find sponsors and/or vendors.  Sponsors would be businesses that would donate food or materials in exchange for advertising.  And vendors would be local businesses that actually come to the event to sell their products.  Vendors are a great way to earn some extra money because you can charge per vendor table.  This money can go to paying yourself for your hard work or help pay for decorations.


Social Media makes this sooooo much easier!  I actually printed off flyers for my first workshop with Kathy Lee Eggers.  And looking back, that was a waste of time and my own money.  All of the Brave Writer advertising was done via social media pages and LIVE broadcasts.  We did make a few flyers for Andrew Pudewa only because my committee had made that suggestion.  New Zealand Kiwis are a bit "old school" (and I like that) so we posted paper flyers around town to get attention.  

Create a facebook event page and post to that page often.  I included quotes from the speakers and even YouTube videos.  I would ask their opinions by creating polls.  The closer to the event, the more often I would post.  This helps build the excitement and helps remind everyone about your event.

Be the Hostess with the Mostess

I honestly found so much joy in planning and preparing for these events.  I see it as a way that I can use all my giftings in one spot.  

Be Organized: Make checklists and timelines for yourself and committee.  Making these in Google Docs makes it easy for everyone to edit their comments into the documents.  

Be Hospitable - Food and door prizes always add to the awesomeness of events.  Getting food donated or hand making door prizes is a great way to add that hospitable touch.

I painted these tin cans that ended up costing about $1 per can.
Every attendee was able to take one home after the event.  Who doesn't love a little gift?

Be YOU  - Adding your special touches to the event is what will make it one of a kind.  If you enjoy crafting (as I do), find ways to incorporate that gifting.  If you are great with words, then allow yourself the spotlight as the MC during the event to inspire others.  Or maybe your the quiet introvert that just gets pure joy out of seeing it all come together.  Just sit back and watch it all unfold.

Asking friends to help can be huge!  Invite over other homeschooling families to help with decorations and include your own homeschooled children to help out.

Just be YOU and create an event inspired and designed by YOU!

Feel free to email me with any further questions that you might have about hosting an event.  It's alot of work, but it is so worth it!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Our Unschooled Week in Welly

We had been pushing hard at home for a good 4 weeks.
We finished up our BraveWriter Arrow book, Sarah, Plain, and Tall.
We completed our IXL online math lessons.

Not to mention, New Zealand holidays (for schools) were about to happen.  And when the Kiwis go on holiday, homeschoolers get the itch to go too!

And with things naturally coming to an end, we decided to travel with Daddy to Wellington for the week.  But this week, I decided to claim as our "unschooling" week.

According to Wikipedia
"Unschooling is an educational method and philosophy that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning. Unschooling students learn through their natural life experiences including playhousehold responsibilities, personal interests and curiosity, internships and work experience, travel, books, elective classes, family, mentors, and social interaction. Unschooling encourages exploration of activities initiated by the children themselves, believing that the more personal learning is, the more meaningful, well-understood and therefore useful it is to the child."

And THIS is how we spent our UNSCHOOLED week:

Mini Golf at Carlucci Land

Mini golf has always been my go-to activity for teaching Math.  Count your strokes, write them on the scorecard and add them up after 18 holes of mini golf.  The simple addition to invitation to use a calculator!  Just having fun and mimicking the good ole game of golf. 

But after finding THIS unique course that's tucked away in Wellington, NZ, I looked at ALL the possible learning that happened on this course.  

My boys began to study how the golf balls moved through the steel structures.  They came up with strategies based on their basic knowledge of mini golf engineering and science.  We all stepped back to appreciate the artwork that went into creating each of these unique golf holes. 

STEAM - Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math...these were ALL covered in this one, sweet homeschooling experience!  

Bet this made you rethink your next mini golf experience! 

Celebrating the Fourth of July...with fellow American Homeschoolers

Planning and preparing a celebration always ends up being fun!   But when you connect with another family that JUST moved over and they join you for the celebration...that just adds to the fun, right?  And that's just what Wild + Free Mamas do.  We find a way to connect even if it's for the first time in a new country! 

We grilled hamburgers.  Drank raspberry lemonade.  Popped the most basic fireworks we could find.  The kids suited up in their swimsuits to soak in the hot tub!
BC swimsuits in July seem to make sense to all of us!  (even in the middle of a NZ winter)
And even made strawberry & blueberry cheesecake parfaits for dessert.  

The Wellington Zoo

The weather was unbelievable and so was this zoo.
I could go on and on.  So to help with all the details...just check out our favorite pics.

Jax hanging out with the Emu!  Free ranged and so friendly
Sweet Life!

This place had a grassy area where the Wallabies just freely hang out.  They were so friendly and chill.  At to top off the experience, they had a giant trampoline for the kids to jump on. #pretendplay 

Nix having a standoff with a Kea.  These are very smart NZ birds.  Google it!

Homeschoolers at their finest!  Being Wild and Free!

People Watching while Whale Watching 

Thursday, while we were at the zoo.  Someone spotted a Northern Right Whale in the Wellington harbor. So Friday, we made our way downtown to go whale watching.  Our favorite park (Frank Kitt Park) happens to be right there!

Later, we walked to our favorite downtown bookstore.  
We found some good reads, then grab a treat at the cafe.   

 We had fun!  We learned but in a non-traditionally learned.  And we learned so many great things!

From learning about being honest and leaving cash in the box at the mini golf place, to using an EFFPOS (NZ debit card) machine to buy parking tickets. 

All great weeks must come to an end. 

We were all ready to leave the city and head back home.

Desert Highway - Mt. Ruapehu 

Happy Learning with your loved ones!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Happy Arbor Day

We woke up this morning to drizzly, rain and cloudy skies.  But there is one thing that I have learned about Kiwis...the weather doesn't stop them.  

So we finished up some Math, loaded up our spades, gardening gloves and put on our gum boots (aka rain boats).  

We drove to Spa Thermal Park to help plant native trees for Arbor Day 2018.

Today will go down as a great homeschool memory! 

After walking down a beautiful trail, we came up to this hill where we'd be planting...and the sun was shining!  The perfect way to spend our Arbor day!

Kids Greening Taupo invited our homeschool group to join other local schools and citizens to help plant trees. 

Small shovels were provided!  Aren't they so cute and green?! 

So many great questions about plants and our environment were asked.  I love moments like these! 

 Once all of our hard work was finished, we enjoyed "Milo" (New Zealand hot chocolate) and some grilled "bangers" (sausages)!

Happy Arbor Day!  We hope that you got out and about to enjoy this beautiful world we live in.  Every day should be Arbor Day - said the 7-year-old!
I agree, kiddo!

Monday, May 21, 2018

"We made it Home"- Part 2 - The Hoorays!

Every life experience has its "Blahs" and its "Hoorays!".

And when we decided to move our family over to New Zealand, we knew we would experience both.  Now that time has past and we are settled into our lovely home, I've had time to reflect on the first 4 months of our time in this new country.

It didn't go exactly how we had planned it to go...but that's what made this chapter in our book of life pretty epic!

If you missed my "blahs", be sure and read it here...

The Blahs

Now for the FUN part of the experience... the memorable moments...

The "Hoorays!"  

1) We truly embraced the unschooling lifestyle.  I never really understood the unschooling approach to homeschooling until I was forced to do it!

And I liked it!!! And so did the kids!

When ALL of your homeschooling supplies are locked up for over 100+ days, you just teach with what you've got!  You let your children learn through experience and play.  We read brochures and magazines instead of having a "reading curriculum".  We gather nature specimens from our hikes and then looked them up on the internet to understand them better.  We cooked and baked ALOT more than normal.  We embraced living in others homes and used their board games for a #gameschooling- type learning.

We were given the chance to explore this new country!  And so we did just that.

2) R-E-S-P-E-C-T (sing it!).  This was another "hooray" that we took away from this LONG, homeless vaca. We used this opportunity to teach our children to respect other's property during our many stays at many, different homes.

When you book-a-bach/Airbnb, you are a guest in that person's home.  We made sure that our children understood that.  These weren't our things and our home, but we need to treat them as if they were...with lots of respect!

And to maintain that respectful attitude, we STILL had daily chores.  UGH!  We made our beds (most mornings), we picked up our toys before vacuum time, and we even cleaned the toilets on Tuesdays!  I wanted the boys to understand that guests that show respect are always invited back.

3) No matter what house we were "living" in...we always "made it home".  Yep...the saying "Home is where your heart is" is so true!  Home, at this moment in our lives, was all about where WE were together.  We made LOTS memories.  We watch our favorite movies and had dance parties.  We baked our favorite cookies and even celebrated 2 birthdays during this time.  We still had epic hide-and-go-seek games with NEW places to hide!  We became a family that depended on each other and the love that we share!

We made each house, our home!

And on February 20th...we finally "made it home".
My first cup of coffee on our front deck

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A Peek Inside our Homeschool Week

I love looking back at our week.  Just when I start to think..."we didn't get ANYTHING done this week", I look back at the pictures that I took.  I smile, pat myself on the back, give my kids a high-five and think again...

Our Monday

A family tradition, we had back in Texas, was to go out and eat Vietnamese food every Saturday.  Well....New Zealand doesn't have the best Vietnamese food, so we ventured out and introduced the boys to Indian.  Guess what...THEY LOVE IT!

So we decided to check out this book to read and learn more about this fabulous country and its culture.

In honor of Easter, we gathered up some materials to make our "Empty Tomb".  Our hope is that our grass seed will sprout and look beautiful on our Easter table on Sunday! 
I am so thankful for the ladies over at The Homegrown Preschooler for providing such a great curriculum for us to use!

This week, we also began our "Morning Meeting".  After listening to a The Homeschool Sister's Podcast, with guest speaker Pam Barnhill, I decided that I wanted to incorporate this fabulous idea.  Snacks, candles and special music is how I draw the boys into the kitchen for our Easter Bible Study.  

Tech Tuesday

It was time to hack into our old electronics and see what was inside.  The boys LOVE doing this!  

I think next week, we might head over to the "Op Shop" aka Thrift Store and grab up some different electronics to take apart and learn with.

Wizard? Wednesday 

We are REALLY into Harry Pottery these days!  So I pulled a printable from Big Life Journal so that the 9-year-old could read all about his favorite author and her failures that made her famous.  

The boys were using an old video camera to film their version of Harry Potter starting the cutest Harry Potter that I have EVER seen! 


We LOVE making cookies for ourselves but we REALLY love making them for our neighbors!  The 7-year-old made a "copy work card" while the other 2 whipped up some cookies for our new neighbors.  This picture makes me about you?

A Rainy Friday

Wanna know the coolest way to calm down your kiddos on a rainy day?

Open up a coffee shop for Poetry Tea Time!  

Here's what you need:
*CoffeeHouse music playing
*Candles lite
*Newspapers, books and magazines on the table - picture Starbucks!
*cash register
*tip jar
*tea or hot chocolate

Optional but adds so much FUN!
*Canned Whip Cream

What do you do?  
The Mom pretends to be a barista at Starbucks.  (remain "in character" it's SO FUN!) The kids come to the bar, place their order, pay with play money, leave a tip, then take a seat and start reading.

The Mom serves the kiddos their drinks.  They all sit down, read poetry and enjoy the sweet ambiance of this homeschool!  I think Julie Bogart would approve this one!

What do you think you might try in your homeschool after taking a Peek Inside our Homeschool Week?

Happy Learning with your Little (and big) ONES!

Tips for Hitting the Road with Kids

 Photo by Pixabay Family trips are a memory-making extravaganza filled with fun, excitement, and exhausted kids ready to ...