The Accidental Homeschooler

The Accidental Homeschooler

“Mom, you can just homeschool me!”  My 8-year-old daughter begged. Her excitement and hope confused me.

What?!

Why?!

She did great in school, had so many friends, and wasn’t struggling academically at all.  It was at home the meltdowns occurred.  Her frustration would reach a boiling point that would bubble over and leave tears streaming down her beautiful cheeks.  Her wide blue eyes would spill over with tears, and the sparkle was becoming rarer.  It was at home, not at school, that the temper tantrums would occur.

I laughed.  There is no way I could homeschool her.  We fought with each other all the time.  Our frustration would reach points where I am not sure we liked each other at all.  Oh sure, we loved each other…but we really didn’t enjoy spending time together.  Homeschool her?  Why would I?  We would kill each other.  I DID NOT HAVE THE PATIENCE TO HOMESCHOOL THIS CHILD.

God Had Other Plans

I prayed, “God if you want me to homeschool my children, I need you to change my heart.”  I was sure the answer would be to leave them in the amazing school they were in!  They were doing so well.  All three of my girls had great friends. They had teachers I loved!  GREAT teachers.  A community that involved parents and families.

Also, I Do Not Own Any Denim Jumpers!

Bright Pink sneakers at a starting line.And then I had an epiphany. I realized I missed my children.  I could tell my youngest was a struggling learner, and my oldest was growing up so fast.  That middle child, the one that just wanted her mommy to see her, she just needed to not be overwhelmed by the end of the day.  Our days consisted of getting up early, loading up to drive to school, being at school all day, activities at night, go home, fast supper, clean-up, do homework, get ready for the next day, and repeat.  This is what everyone does!  I was a substitute teacher in my children’s school, and I got to see them every day…but they could never be my focus.

I will never forget trying to work through a math lesson while teaching my daughter’s class.  She was so frustrated, but I couldn’t help her.  I knew I could help her at home, and my job was to work with the other students.  I then figured out she was copying her neighbors’ work in order to just get it done.  I sat her down that night to talk with her and realized that she was hurting by the end of each day.  She was exhausted.  She needed more.  More time to work at her own pace, more time outside, more sleep, more mom, and more family.  How on earth could we handle more?

I Guess I am Homeschooling

I decided that I would pull her out for a year.  I wasn’t committing to more than that.  My original plan was to take her out for a year and leave her sisters in school.  This wasn’t just any school.  This school required parent involvement.  4 hours per week, per child.  It was small, and there was a waiting list!

Wading In With One

OK God.  I can do this. One foot in, one foot out.  Let’s compromise?  I will homeschool this one, for now.

My youngest child just wasn’t getting it though.  She never had.  Reading was really tough for her, number sense just wasn’t there.  She was sweet, sensitive, and an amazing friend to everyone.  Everyone told me, “Don’t worry.  Developmentally she’s on track!”   But I knew.  Something wasn’t clicking for her.  Once she found out I was going to be home with her sister, it became a non-issue.  She had always wanted to just stay with me.  At the end of her first day of kindergarten, she said to me, “I don’t know how to read, naptime is too short, I don’t think I need to do that anymore.”

I Can Homeschool Two

Ok God.  These 2.  I can homeschool these two.  They are both young enough.  I can teach them at home.  My oldest however, I can’t teach her.  She is so smart!  I could never challenge her enough!

My oldest came to me shortly before the school year was up.  “Mom, I don’t know, but I think I want to be at home too.”  Ok. Don’t panic.  I can talk her out of this.

And here I am finishing my fourth year of homeschooling, and I am probably doing it wrong.  I am definitely not doing what I envisioned.  I don’t have more patience, I still fight with my middle daughter about her math lessons.

God Will Fill in the Gaps

We don’t have only great days, and I never feel like I am doing enough.  So many nights I lay in bed.  “God, I did my best but we both know it wasn’t enough.  I need you to fill in the gaps.”  I have faith He will.

What we do have?  Laughter when we trip up.  Together we learn, we play, we explore,  we grow.

The truth is we are involved in each other’s lives.  WE LIKE EACH OTHER!  Love has always been a given, but now, most days, we want to spend time together.

We want to make our home a culture of learning.  Do I ever see that school bus go by and think, “Hmmm…I would have so much time if….”?

ABSOLUTELY.

Would I change the decision to follow the calling God put on me to homeschool my children?

NEVER!

Rebecca Lundgren

Rebecca Lundgren lives in South Dakota with her husband Jeremy, three daughters, and their zoo of adopted animals.  While her family never intended to homeschool, she has learned a lot along the way.  Her background includes a B.S. degree in Early Childhood Education and Special Education from South Dakota State University.  Before she began her homeschool journey, she taught in Public Schools k-12, English as a Second Language (ESL) k-6, and directed an Early Childhood program.  In addition to homeschooling, she is a well-loved teacher at True North Homeschool Academy where she teaches Jr High Classes.  She loves camping and hiking with her family, reading, crafting, and children’s ministries.

For more of this type of you-can-do-it encouragement read Managing My Home and Time, Using teamwork in Your Homeschool, or Homeschool While I Work? You’ve Got to Be Kidding!

 

Generation to Generation: Passing on a Legacy of Faith to our Children

Generation to Generation: Passing on a Legacy of Faith to our Children

Generation to Generation

We have been involved in Biblical Feasts and Festivals for many years, having practiced them with both Christian and Jewish Believers at our home and at theirs.

We have studied them utilizing great resources, such as Robin Sampson’s, A Family’s Guide to Biblical Feasts and Festivals, and Celebrating Biblical Feasts by Martha Zimmerman, along with the Bible and good Jewish friends. I have shared some of what we have learned in my unit study, The Celebration of Sukkot.

Our family life has been nourished by ancient traditions that have fed our souls as we practice the Old Testament Feasts and Festivals and recite what have now become familiar prayers and sing traditional songs, such as Dayenu.

There is great learning to be had about one’s faith and tying together Old and New Testament relevance when you study the Biblical Feasts and Festivals. This is one of the reasons we are offering Biblical Feasts and Festivals as a one-semester class, taught by Rabbi Arthur Fischer.

If we want our children to never give up and never give in when it comes to their values and beliefs, we must teach them hope. Hope is what led the bruised and battered nation of Israel back to our homeland, and it is hope that will lead our world to the Messianic Era.

~ Yael Eckstein from Generation to Generation

When I had a chance to review Yael Eckstein’s, (of International Fellowship of Christians and Jews), latest book, Generation to Generation: Passing on a Legacy of Faith to our Children, I jumped at the chance.

Ms. Eckstein takes a unique approach to the importance of Biblical Feasts and Festivals, by focusing on the theme of each one.

The main focus of the book is l’dor v’dor- from generation to generation.

She begins, naturally, with Shabbat, and covers eight holidays – showing us ways in which we can pass on important lessons through each one.

 

The Lessons

  • Shabbat – Teaching our Children Priorities
  • Passover – Teaching our Children to Seek Knowledge
  • Shavuot – Teaching our Children Gratitude
  • Tisha B’Av – Teaching our Children Hope
  • High Holy Days – Teaching our Children Forgiveness
  • Sukkot – Teaching our Children Faith
  • Purim -Teaching our Children Courage
  • Tzedaka – Teaching our Children Generosity

Each chapter begins with a Scripture verse, then a quote from a Rabbi or Jewish teaching, and an explanation of the holiday, including how Yael and her family celebrate each holiday.

At the end of the chapter, there is a page-long explanation of how the feast or festival is celebrated in the New Testament; ways to teach our children the theme of each chapter, a special note for parents and then Scripture Memory verses from both the Old and New Testaments. Sprinkled throughout is Jewish vocabulary that illuminates the Scripture.

This is a jam-packed little book, easy to read and very accessible; and a lovely way to learn about and incorporate the deep meaning of Scripture into your family culture.

Perfect for families who are just beginning their exploration of Biblical Feasts and Festivals as well as those who have already jumped into understanding the rich correlation between Old and New Testament. Yael Eckstein, as expected, does a beautiful job of integrating the importance of Jewish meaning and themes with New Testament faith.

An important and accessible book for families who long to see their children raised and living in the living faith of The Book.

Enter to win a FREE Copy! 

For more information on the book, visit the website at www.generationbook.org.

About the Author

The author, Yael Eckstein, is President and CEO of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, the largest provider of humanitarian aid in Israel. The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews was founded in 1983 by Orthodox Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, whose vision for building bridges of understanding and cooperation between Christians and Jews has been translated into the largest Christian-supported humanitarian agency helping Jews in Israel and around the world.

You can learn more about the organization and Rabbi Eckstein at the website International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.

For more than 2,000 years, the Jewish people have preserved and maintained their faith from generation to generation, despite being exiled from their land and suffering persecutions, pogroms, and even the Holocaust, where six million Jewish women, men, and children were killed at the hands of the Nazis. In her book, Generation to Generation, Fellowship President, and CEO Yael Eckstein unlocks the keys to how the Jewish people have successfully passed on the legacy of faith through the family and offers insights into how Christians can incorporate these principles within their own families to pass on a strong and living faith.

Find IFCJ on FB 

If you are interested in learning more about Biblical Feast & Festivals, check out the semester-long class from True North Homeschool Academy which is taught weekly live online from Israel. We offer Biblical Hebrew and Modern Hebrew which both include some study of traditions and culture also taught by Rabbi Arthur Fischer.

True North Teachers Share Back to Homeschool Traditions

True North Teachers Share Back to Homeschool Traditions

It’s that time of year again – back to homeschool!

Homeschoolers use their educational freedom to teach their kids in a style and on a schedule that suits their family. That means that some homeschool all year ‘round, others started weeks ago, and some have not yet begun.

It’s the same here at True North Homeschool Academy -some of our online classes have started while others, including our homeschool clubs, will begin later on in September.

We have found that even though we are not returning to a “school building,” home educators have their own back to school traditions.  There is excitement in the air as many of us are beginning a new homeschool year, meeting new students and friends, sharpening those Ticonderogas, and cracking open our shiny, new curriculum.

Some families have simple traditions such as purchasing new p.j.’s, kicking off the year with a field trip, or participating in the online National Homeschool Spirit Week, which is the 4th week of September every year.

We asked some of the Academy teachers to share their favorite “Back to Homeschool” traditions and words of advice as we roll into a fresh (and maybe a little challenging) homeschool year.

Traditions We Love

Dana Hanley is our German teacher and her first day of school tradition involves making Schultueten and filling them with candies and small school supplies. It is a German thing, but over there, the class party is on the first day of class, not the last day of class. Dana says: “ I really like that general attitude. Last year, we did a brand new outfit for each kid, too, because I randomly thought how much I loved getting new school clothes when I was a kid. All of my kids are asking to repeat that one!”

Homeschool Student Theo Pool learns with a hamster in his pocket

Pets are welcome too in the Pool homeschool room!

Tamara Warner Pool shared with us some words of wisdom and a peaceful way to begin the homeschool year. “My children needed a consistent rhythm and flow to their days, so we would gently enter our new school year and gently exit it for our break times. We don’t have “First Day” photos, and we didn’t have “Last Day” parties, but we did celebrate small accomplishments and goals achieved when any of them crossed a “finish line.” If we were involved in a coop or activity, we would build up to that so everyone was prepared for whatever disruption that would bring to our routines.”

Dr. Kristin Moon reminisced about when her kids were younger. One fun tradition they had was that they got the day off on their birthdays (hers too!). As the kids got older and co-ops and college classes mandated, they come to class even on their birthday that changed, but they all still remember those days fondly. She advises us to prioritize relationships over the curriculum. “We get so caught up on finishing books or getting through a lesson plan that it can be easy to overlook when a kid just wants some mom time. As homeschoolers, we can put the books and lesson plans aside when our kids need us to. Don’t ALWAYS be in teacher mode. Yes, as homeschoolers, we are always learning, but don’t turn everything into a forced lesson. It’s ok to go to the beach and enjoy each other’s company; you don’t have to quiz them on how tides are formed. My third piece of advice: don’t get so wrapped up in your role as a homeschool mom that you forget the person who you were created to be. Continue to make time for friendships, your health, your marriage, and your hobbies.”

Sonya Goodwin Hemmings encourages us to: “Be careful as you tailor your students’ education not to eliminate all of the obstacles that threaten to stand in their way. Struggle always precedes growth. It is quite essential. And when parents and their children pray and persevere together through a difficult subject or even a difficult year, the rewards that lie on the other side —shared knowledge, special bonding, and confidence to dig into the next challenge — are incredibly sweet.”

Emily Harkey counsels homeschool parents to “Pray…a lot!” and offers practical tips and reminders. “Think about dinner when you wake up and use a crockpot or Instapot as much as tolerated by your people. Make eating cereal for dinner a special treat when needed. Give lots of hugs and smiles and affirmations throughout the day, especially to your older kids who can work on their own while you work with your littles. During the younger years, remember that if you’ve been able to touch the three R’s every day: reading, writing, and arithmetic- that is an EXCELLENT school day…even if you are unable to replicate it again in another week’s time. Give yourself some slack and grace. Take a teacher’s “in-service day” when you need it and have your kids clean while you take a day away to work on you, and go to the dentist or get your hair cut. Organization and routine is your friend. Pray for your kids and all those who influence them.”

BJ Prammon, our Art teacher, points out that “back to school” can be casual and doesn’t have to be routine. “Our most prominent tradition for back to homeschool is really our lack of formal tradition. I never remember to take a “ first day of school” picture. Back to school shopping really doesn’t happen until October. I don’t like making school charts, and my kids don’t like following them. Even as I write this, I haven’t gotten around to ordering a social studies curriculum for my oldest. I’ll get around to it. We start on a different week every year, with different curriculum and different learning strategies, different goals, and, frequently, different opinions. If any of that could be rolled up into some sort of formal stab at useful information, I suppose it would be this: Don’t let what other people are doing dictate your own groove. Don’t let what last year looked like keep you from exploring this year to its fullest potential, even if last year was a really good year, but especially if last year was a ‘bad’ one.”

Whether you are already back in the swing of things or still in the planning phase, what we can all take away from this collective wisdom is that the key to a great start is concentrating on keeping a school/life balance and focusing on what works for our family.

A huge thank you to these True North Academy Teachers for taking time out of their busy schedules to share with us!

 

Getting Started with Homeschooling

Getting Started with Homeschooling

Getting Started with Homeschooling

How to start homeschool guideHomeschooling is not Rocket Science, but as the world discovered this past spring, it is also not sitting around all day eating bonbons. The big question this spring has been, HOW DO I GET STARTED? Well, here is a quick guide to getting started.

First Things First

Check your State Laws and make sure you have everything in order. Need to sign a letter of intent or register your kids? Get it done.

You can find Homeschool Laws by State at HSLDA.

Create Your Action Plan for Schooling

This consists of your Vision, Mission, and Goals. The more detailed you are now the less confusion will ensue later. Like every big project, the more time that you devote to planning, the more effective the implementation will be, even when it’s not going as planned.

 

Spending time on “set-up” can save a lot of time (money) and irritation down the road.

Creating a Vision, Mission, and Goals:

  1. Determine your WHY. What’s driving you to Homeschool? Write it all down. Write down your frustrations, hopes, dreams, and expectations. Then distill it all into one simple sentence. Post it somewhere you’ll see it, so you don’t forget. Habbakuk 2:2 This is your Vision- your BIG picture; the long view vision for educating your kids.
  2. Determine your Mission for the Year. What will you get done? Write this down by child in the following areas: Physical, Mental, Social, Spiritual.
  3. Determine Your Goals. These should be SMART– Specific, Measureless, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Smart goals are the small, incremental steps necessary to complete the mission.

Create Your Action Plan for Managing Your Home

Successful Homeschooling consists of:

  1. Time Management
  2. Household Management
  3. Homeschooling

Time Management

Set a simple schedule to guide you. Here are some ideas for things to include in your program and ways to organize your week.

  • Weekly Family Meetings – gather together weekly as a family to coordinate schedules, online classes, meals, and extra-curricular. Divvy up driving, pick-ups, and deliveries.
  • Weekly Individual Student Meeting -Set aside time each week to meet with each homeschool student. Go over schedule, responsibilities, due dates, etc.
  • Collective Daily Gathering –You can organize this time as a simple Morning Basket, a family devotional, or memory work. We used our Morning Gathering time as a combination of the above and included Memory Work, Bible Study, and Poetry. We schedule an hour a day and love meeting and learning together!
  • Work on skills in the morning/concepts in the afternoon. This is a great way to organize your day. Take advantage of fresh minds and attitudes for the more complicated skill-based subjects like Latin or Math in the morning and then more concept-based learning like Literature, Bible, History in the afternoon.

Household Management

Create a simple plan for meals and laundry.

Housework is a job, homeschooling is a job, and if you are working vocationally, you have that job as well. Make a simple, do-able plan for getting laundry, food, and kitchen responsibilities taken care of. It will keep everyone sane, sanitary, and satisfied.

Life is seasonal and if you are just starting out, plan simply. Start simple and plan to get it done. You can grow into complexity once you’ve got a system and level of comfort with the new normal of adding homeschooling to your day.

Batching is a simple and effective solution to tasks.

Develop routines for laundry. When we had seven people at home we would switch around laundry from washer to dryer daily and then fold and put away all on one day. Put away laundry when it’s folded. Just do it.

Bulk shop once a month and then mini-bulk shop weekly.

The less often you go to the store, the more money you’ll save. Shop with a list and batch cook, or at least batch prep. I usually sauté soup veggies en masse and then have soup ingredients ready to add together to make a delicious pot of homemade goodness that feeds many and can be easily stretched. Have “fast food” meals, like soup, fajitas, tacos prepped, and ready to heat and serve on your busy days. Eat the same basic meals. Bagels and eggs for breakfast, left-overs/ salads for lunch, meat, veggies, potato, or rice for dinner.

Choosing Curriculum

Getting started with homeschooling - let them learn about their interests. Homeschool boy holds a butterfly he discovered.Before you even look at a curriculum, determine what your mission is for each student, what goals you want to accomplish, and then what subjects those goals fall into. From there choose curriculum.

There are thousands of curriculum choices and everyone has their favorites. The best curriculum is the one that gets done, so don’t feel like you need to chase every shiny object. I choose curriculum based on solid educational pedagogy, like Cross Seven, that is easy to use but allows for further exploration.

Outsource for the Win

Just because you homeschool doesn’t mean you have to do everything. Outsource any classes that you don’t feel equipped to teach, such as Foreign Languages, plus those you don’t have the time and energy to handle or those in your student’s area of interest for exploration to maximize opportunities. Homeschooling can look like whatever you want it to look like!

Curriculum Planning

Keep it simple (always!) and start with the core four:

For younger students, focus specifically on number fluency and literacy. Choose simple but effective programs that are non-consumables like Alpha-Phonics with Explode the Code along with Poetry, which is a great way to get your kids learning to play with beautiful language and imagery. We also love Right Start Math, which includes Math games. Perfect to add to your Morning Basket or to use with multiple ages.

For older kids, you should begin to focus on growing in reading fluency and understanding. Choose curricula or online classes that teach simple literature analysis and various forms of writing. If you are considering outsourcing some of these, take a look at True North Homeschool Academy’s courses on Essay Writing, Research Papers, and Creative Writing.

For Science, choose a curriculum or class that has a focus on discovery and wonder in the early years. Older students can move into more formal studies which should start with a basic and thorough understanding of the Scientific Method and then delve into foundational sciences like Earth and Space, Biology, and Chemistry.

History is the importance of what happened before, what’s happening now, and our place in it. For those coming from a Judeo-Christian point of view, it includes the important concept that all people, places, and time lead to the Cross, and our part to play in a lost world, awaiting heavenly redemption. Students should have a broad sweeping overview of history, which is why we love studying timelines, along with specific areas, including state, U.S., and World History, Geography, and Economics.

If you have questions or need help choosing age/ stage appropriate resources, we’d love to help! Join us over at True North homeschool Tribe Facebook group or ask about our academic advising.

Focusing on open and go, non-consumable programs, especially for content-based curriculum will save you time and money. A Classical Spine, like Cross Seven in the early years, will give your kids a solid foundation for whatever future studies they pursue.

It is wise to spend time and money on helping our kids explore their interests. Literature-rich resources as well as in real-life experiences like field trips, campaigns, clubs, and camps can be inexpensive ways to teach at home. Add these enriching experiences to your homeschool program as your time and resources allow.

Some curriculum is better than others but the main thing that you want to keep in mind is that if you love it, you’ll use it. If you don’t like or understand the layout or content, you likely won’t! – Lisa Nehring, True North Homeschool Academy Director

Over the years we have used unit studies, note-booking, textbooks, online courses, clubs, camps, websites, certifications, field trips, books, movies, CD’s co-ops, class-days, and more.

Learning can take place almost anywhere, at any time. As you get started, remember, start simple.

It is so easy to add in resources as you discover areas of interest, skills that need to be honed, and the world that needs exploring. Above all, have fun. Education is the transmission of culture and it allows you this beautiful space and time to impart to your children the things most important to you; the real things. Enjoy the journey, it is time well spent.

Not sure what your focus should be?

Our team of Academic Advisors has years of experience in homeschooling, choosing curriculum, and the ages and stages of child development. We have advisors with experience planning for students with Special Needs and supporting those families. Our advisors are ready to encourage you and help you create an amazing, doable plan.

Need a like-minded tribe to journey with? Our Parent Equipping Membership is a great place to start and our Getting Started Homeschool Printable Planning packet was created to help you create a plan, write out your goals, and your vision while keeping your home and students on track. Download it free.

Get started with homeschooling free planner images.

Red Fish Blue Fish-Restaurant Review

Red Fish Blue Fish-Restaurant Review


Red Fish, Blue Fish

Even though we are in a time of social distancing, we are planning for our next grand adventures. As you dream and plan, I hope you would consider this amazing restaurant chain in Florida. Even its name is compelling!

We recently returned from a trip to the Emerald Coast in Florida, via a conference in Atlanta. When asking my on-line travel buddies about what to see and do in Pensacola, the restaurant Red Fish, Blue Fish was a “must-see” recommendation. How good could it be?

How good? My daughter said it was the best restaurant we’ve ever gone to. To put this in perspective, we’ve done a lot of traveling across the country and in the past several months and have visited SC, MT, TX, GA, TN, ND, and MO.

We’ve eaten the best hash-brown casserole ever in Red Lodge and amazing cheese grits and shrimp at a shack in Texas, serenaded by pouring rain. We’re not foodies, per se but we love sampling native fare and we love fresh, wholesome food.

What makes #RFBF so amazing? So many things.

  1. It’s in Pensacola, on the Bay. You walk into the restaurant and then right back outside to some amazing seating and beautiful views. I mean, you are sitting outside. But you probably aren’t sitting.
  2. Because there are games: Yard sized Connect 4, Corn Hole, and big wooden blocks. Throw in a couple of campfire rings, a hammock, a telescope, green grass, along with puppies and it is fantastic fun! The group next to us -picnic tables, y’all- brought puppies, and between the puppies and the games, our grands were in heaven!
  3. Food. I am not kidding. We’d been at the beach all afternoon and were slightly windblown and thirsty so we ordered what we knew would be yummy and filling: Fish and Chips, Yum Bowls and Greek Salads. Ok. The fish and chips- I ordered it grilled and tried to change to fried. Too late, and I am so glad. BEST fish EVER. Complete with 2 grilled corn on the cobs, coleslaw and fries. I love coleslaw but I hate sweet coleslaw. This was perfect. Crunchy, not bitter, not sweet, just right. My two daughters both ordered Yum Bowls: one blackened fish and one chicken. Oh, my word. Complete with fresh grilled asparagus and fragrant jasmine rice. Dr. Dh ordered a Greek Salad to round out his meal and it was delightful with charred tomatoes, pickled onions, fresh cheese and green olives. He shared. I smiled.
  4. The Food. We came hungry. Dr Dh and I, our 17-year-old and our adult daughter, her 6’4” husband and our 2 adorable grands. We’d been at the beach all afternoon, shelling, walking, playing, jumping in the water. We shared, the kids played, we ate. We were stuffed and still, we took food home.
  5. The Bay. We ate, the kids played, we took turns following them around, eating, laughing, talking to the puppy owners, playing corn hole, watching the pod of dolphins in the bay. Yep. Ended our fine meal with a dolphin pod display. I doubt #RFBF can guarantee that for every visitor, but it was a magical end to a wonderful evening and practically perfect day.

Besides all that, why would I recommend you add Red Fish Blue Fish to your must-eat places?

The wait-staff. Attentive and fun. Great service.

Affordable. I felt that the dishes were reasonably priced given the freshness, taste, and portions.

They have fun selections: Alligator stew, Fish tacos, gumbo, calamari for the more adventurous souls. The sides were delicious veggies, beautifully prepared. Drinks, cocktails, beer or wine available and served in plastic cups so you can still play corn-hole and build with blocks while quenching your thirst.

It’s a neighborhood block party that you are welcomed into. There’s an indoor-ish eating area, a bar, and the outdoor eating area. Friendly, kid music played, to add to the festive atmosphere, but not so loudly that you couldn’t hear each other. People started sitting at the fire rings as the evening wore on. People talked and chatted, even if they’d just met. The kids played, puppies scampered, the food was delish and a great time was had by all.

Heartily recommended and a place we’ll return to when we next make our way to the sugar sands of Pensacola.

Happy Birthday ‘Rona-Style!

Happy Birthday ‘Rona-Style!

Happy Birthday ‘Rona-Style!

Pandemic, quarantine, birthday, and party.? Should any of those words even be used together in the same sentence? They were in my mind and haunting me from the time our state was shut down. How was I going to survive, let alone celebrate a birthday and create a special memory for not one, but two kids during the Corona Virus outbreak?

Well, just like the rest of the world; I had to go virtual! Here are ideas for how to make a fun and safe birthday happen- online!

I wish this was an original idea on my part, but I stole it from all those people out there having happy-hour parties and splashing them all over social media. I just knew I could make a virtual birthday party work!  Soo, I went straight to planning mode, which for me meant calling our youth pastor for game ideas. (working smarter not harder, I mean why reinvent the wheel?). After our conversation, I got straight to work.

First, I decided on my agenda. Any good virtual meeting party has one, right?

My rule for in-person parties has always been 1.5 hours to 2 hours max….. What would my time frame be for an online party? What games would I play? How would we start? How would we end? What virtual platform would I use?

After much thought, this is what we landed on:

  • 45 minutes
  • Open with introductions and Ice breaker (How do you know the Birthday Kid?)
  • Games: Joel and Levi Trivia (I made-up questions about my boys that would be fun, easy, and sometimes hard) & Scavenger Hunt (This was a big hit!) I picked easy “around the house” items.  Sometimes they had to figure out a clue. Some examples: Matching pair of socks, an item that turns on the T.V.  You get the idea, right?
  • We sang Happy Birthday and all participated in blowing out the candles, virtual style of course.
  • Food: This is where I did work a bit harder and maybe not smarter. The night before the party I drove around to our guest’s house and did porch drop-offs of store-bought and sealed cupcakes for each family, along with goodie bags. What can I say, I am the “go big or go home” type of mom! This took a total of 7 hours, as some of our guests lived over an hour away. Talk about making memories for Dad and me!
  • I wrapped up the party with a Dance-Off Competition. This was super fun! They danced the Cupid Shuffle.

For extra fun, I scored both games with points. For “Joel and Levi Trivia: the first person who raised their hand with correct answer earned 3 points, the second person 2 points and the third person 1 point. Same system for the Scavenger Hunt. The first person to return to the screen with the item earned three points, the 2nd person 2 points and the third person 1 point.  I sent Target and Amazon gift cards to the winners- virtually of course!

 

 

 

And BOOM!

45 minutes later the party was a wrap! I used ZOOM as our platform but I have heard that there are several other great mediums in the virtual world to hold a great party.  I did let any kids that wanted to, hang out for a bit longer in the zoom room to chat and catch up with each other.  By ALL party definitions, this was a HUGE FUN success!

If you are going to take a stab at a “virtual” party I would just read up on how to keep your party safe. There have been lots of “party crashers” out there recently.

From our family to yours, we wish you great joy as you celebrate your loved ones- be that online or in person!!

 

About the Author

Erin Garcia is a frontline, boots on the ground, homeschooling warrior momma of 11 kids.  She has 13 years of Educational experience. Erin has been married to her husband George for 20 years.  They have a beautiful, messy, blended family. George came into the marriage with 3 children and a stepdaughter, and Erin entering their covenant with 3 children, the Lord then blessing them with 4 more children together. Their children range in ages from 35 to 10.  While still enjoying their three youngest at home they are also loving the newest season of grandparenting.