Friday, September 13, 2019 Last Chance Sale!

*affiliate links are used in this post*

Ok peeps, it's like this - if you still don't know what to do for your children for school this year, it's time to make a choice. You can get some help, or keep floundering. It's after Labor Day, so it's time to stop thinking about their education and time to do something.

May I make a recommendation? 

Try out for three months. It's only $29.95 when you use the code: LASTCHANCE through October 11th. Why SchoolhouseTeachers? Because there are over 400 course to choose from and you don't have to spend a lot of money to get a lot of good from it. 

I know, you could do it all yourself. Just get your library card and spend 40 hours a week planning and organizing and you're there. But you know what? If you use SchoolhouseTeachers as your home base, then those trips to the library can go back to being fun for everyone. You could even pick up a book to read for yourself. ;) You could learn about the history of American holidays or inspire your teens with the photography challenge course on SchoolhouseTeachers. I'm all about having fun while learning!

Why else might you decide to use SchoolhouseTeachers? Because if you're an eclectic type like I was, you'd like at least one or two easy to put on the high school transcript courses. I know your type. 

Do you know what the other end of the spectrum is? The ones who are so tied to using all of the curriculum that they purchased that they need a fun break. So reward those diligent kids with a chance to pick their own elective for next month. Maybe they want to take a brain break and go play sports - look into the fitness and health courses. Are they itching to get out the art supply box? Why not let them try the lessons from Art Achieve?

Still wondering if it is worth it to try out for three months? Go watch one of Dave Stott's Drive Thru History videos and you're learn something interesting while laughing at the same time. These were some of Arlene's favorite courses as a high schooler.

Wherever you are in that journey - is bound to have something fun and educational for you to enjoy - go check it out!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The End of Homeschooling ~ Part 4

Were you beginning to wonder if I would ever get back to the next post in this series? Me too! So after a too-long break - here is the next installment in my thoughts about the end of homeschooling.

What about mom?

Whenever there is a change in the education of your children, there is a change in mom's routine and how she manages her days. Be it the very first time your child colors a picture for school, or the very last day when you hand them their homeschool diploma, there will be changes ahead. (FYI- this is true of public schooling moms too!)

Often I have seen friends who started the transition to mom's new normal before their last one graduated. This works well for many moms who are down to the last one or two high schoolers who are pretty self-sufficient. Maybe mom takes on a part-time job outside the home, or she expands her at-home repertoire of book editing, teaching piano lessons, or what have you.

But, for many moms, they need to wait until the last child has graduated and is safely started on the next leg of their journey before they feel released to move to something new. It might be because you had a child with a learning challenge, or because you've been so busy doing things, planning lessons, and chauffeuring that you just need a few weeks to decompress.

For the last 11 years of our homeschooling adventure I was a 4-H leader. It was freeing, but weird, to go through this past year of not being a 4-H leader. I saw the club flourish under the leadership that stepped up (my previous assistant leader) and I got to be a blessing by volunteering during judging week at our county fair. Seeing the results of their kids' efforts without the stress of being a part of it. :)

This was just one small part of the ongoing changes that have happened in my life (our lives) since we finished homeschooling last December. My work outside the home shifted as well, and I am really happy at my current workplace. And no - I do not miss frozen resets at the grocery store - at all! LOL.

Moms, you are going to run the gamut of emotions when you come to the end of homeschooling. Some of my friends continue to teach co-op classes after their last ones graduate. Others head back to their pre-kid career fields and teach or go back into the business world. The end of homeschooling can feel both like a death and a freedom won on the same day. 

It is okay to not know what comes next! Take your time in finding your new normal. I've done quite a lot of purging of the house, but it still seems like I have just begun. There are still books to give away of sell, and a lot more organizing to be done. I'm learning what it's like to be home by myself once in a while (hooray for days off!) and it's actually pretty nice. :)

Our girls are both taking college classes, so some nights it's everyone on their laptops working one various assignments. Other nights it's let's watch a movie - just because we can.

To the dads and kids out there - mom should not be rushed to decide what comes next. Whether it's been a year, a decade, or more since you began homeschooling, when it ends there are adjustments to be made. Rushing through the changes might leave her temperamental and unsure. Let her go at her own pace. Go make your own dinner once in a while - she's probably SO OVER menu planning by now. Better yet, go make dinner for everyone tonight - event it's just grilled cheese sandwiches.

Hang in there mamas - your life is not over when you reach the end of homeschooling - it is the beginning of a new season. Enjoy the changing season, and be willing to try something new. Who knows - it might just be your new favorite thing!

Remember this- the same God who led you while homeschooling is still leading you today. You are loved!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

What if?

What if
your life
was just a smudged up blackboard?

What if there was
no way
to begin 

But wait...

What if you remembered
that there are
second chances
that there is forgiveness?

Would you live differently
the second time around?


Would you make the same mistakes
all over again?

Our lives are built
one decision
at a time

Will you decide to
accept the forgiveness
that Jesus offers?

Will you decide to
begin again?


Are you comfortable
being stuck
with no hope?

Choose hope
choose life
choose Jesus.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Back to School Time

cattle barn, Indiana State Fair, newspaper writing, summer fun

As the world around us settles in for Back-to-School time, Arlene and I are still squeezing in as many summers as possible. She starts college next week, so we've got a few days left and we are filling them all with fun, sunshine, and friends.

You might be thinking, where have they been?

I warned you it was going to be a crazy month. I hope you've been following along on Instagram.

We spent a lot of time at a the Indiana State Fair. We've also been working (at Conner Prairie.) Arlene bought a car to drive back and forth for her college classes. Last week we spent time at Lake Michigan, climbing the sand dunes, watching butterflies, and enjoying the beach.

In case you're wondering what I write when I'm not here...
I'll include links to some of my newspaper feature articles from the state fair below.

Soon, very soon I'll get back in the writing for the blog groove.

Until then, enjoy these last few precious days of summer!

Carol :)

Anderson native plays key role at state fair

Family theme resonates for local participants in state fair beef show

Smith Family Farms gets state fair recognition

Thursday, August 1, 2019 Back-to-homeschool sale

*affiliate links are used in this post*

Do your children like sharks? Mine do. They also like goldfish, arapaima, and manta rays. Fish, seahorses, jelly fish and other sea creatures also fill their list whenever we visit an aquarium. It is a u-pick of favorite sea-worthy and river-dwelling animals. is a U-pick of favorites too. With one annual price covering the entire family, and over 400 courses to choose from, it can be a homeschooling family's best friend.

If one child wants to study knights and castles while the other one wants to learn about Ancient Egypt for history, SchoolhouseTeachers has you covered.

Does your daughter want to get right into creating art with lessons from Art Achieve, but your son wants to learn more of the history of art and study the Italian Renaissance? Both of those options can be found on SchoolhouseTeachers!

As the mom and dad are you looking for some encouragement or help with record keeping? Then check out the Just for Parents section. You can find Bible studies for parents, schedule building help, record keeping forms, encouragement and help for planning dinners, cleaning your home, or organizing your small farm. There is also a private members-only forum where parents can chat, ask questions, ask for help, and be reminded that they are not alone in their home education journey.

We used SchoolhouseTeachers for a lot of electives when our girls were homeschooling high school. We also used it for a few core classes. During the month of August, you can pay for one year and get the second year free. That's $169 for two years of fantastic resources for your family. Use the code SHARK when you visit and save!

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Indiana State Fair begins Friday!

In just two more days, Governor Eric Holcomb will kick off the 2019 Indiana State Fair. It will be 17 days of the best of the best of the state, with animals, plants, midway rides, fair food, tractor contests, bands, a daily parade and more adventures and exhibits than you can shake a stick at! LOL!

Once again I'll be spending extra time at the fair covering stories about local 4-H members and their families at the fair.  I've enjoyed going to the fair each and every year, but this chance to see the fair from a new perspective of two has given me a better appreciation for the vast diversity of adventures waiting to happen.

I'll be real honest here, you probably won't find much here on the blog during the next two or three weeks, but you can see some of the sights of The Great Indiana State Fair by following along on Instagram. Check out the state fair's webpage for details about discount days and the schedule of events. I hope to see many of you at the fair.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

On Nature - also known as: What I do in my free time

You know that sometimes awkward minute when someone new is introduced to you and they ask you what you do? How do you respond? Do you tell them about your job, or your hobbies? Do you keep it brief, or are you one of those people who kind of wander around until you get to the point?

For me, it has been a challenge sometimes to know how to answer.

I'm a writer.

But I'm also a mom, a wife, and I work at Conner Prairie.

So my answer often depends on who is introducing me to them. If we are in a casual group, I usually say that I work at Conner Prairie. Then, if they live in the state, they probably have a memory of the last time they visited, or they ask me more about it because they've been thinking about visiting.

When I'm introduced in a business setting, I often respond that I am a writer. If they ask what I write, which people frequently do, I tell them the I am a monthly columnist for our local newspaper. If I am out of state I usually respond that I am a travel writer. I tend to keep it short, and then inquire about what they enjoy doing.

Even if no one read it, I would keep on writing. It has become a core part of who I am, this process of putting words and thoughts down on paper. Even if you don't see much going on here on the blog, know that I am still writing something, somewhere, for someone to read.

Do I have free time? Yes, and no. There is rarely a time when I am not thinking about what I might or will write next. When I take a walk through nature, either in the forest or during my lunch break at Conner Prairie, I am often ruminating on ideas for new writing pieces.

I prefer pen and paper when I write, much prefer it to typing my first draft. It feeds the creative bent inside of me to see words flow across a clean piece of paper.

So in my free time, such as it is, I write. Today I typed my next newspaper column right after lunch and submitted it just before I began a phone interview for another article I am working on. A day off from my job at Conner Prairie is often spent working on my own writing. This time by myself fuels my passion for words.

I realized that many of you are not local and might never have read one of my newspaper columns, so I am including links below to the most recent two so you can see how I spend part of my writing time. 

Please leave a comment and tell me how you spend your free time. 

It's good to have hobbies, sometimes they become passions, and then you pick up a new drop spindling. :)

Sunday, July 7, 2019


We recently took a trip, my husband and I, to celebrate our anniversary. Besides being a great time to get away from the everyday pressures of life and spend time together, it was a sort of sabbatical for me. I've been writing for several years, and I've never really taken a long break of time to just stop, rest, and reflect on where to go next. My writing well had grown dangerously close to dry. It was so refreshing to step away and experience life without having to decide ahead of time what part of it to write about.

While we were away, my friend Kate, who runs the Five Minute Friday community released a writing prompt journal. To honor its release, I decided to start with prompt number one as my first writing after my vacation. You might get to read quite a few of these in coming weeks, as there are 52 writing prompts in The Five-Minute Writing Prompt Journal.

So today, if you too need a fresh start, why not take a few minutes and think about how to begin...

day one, starting over, sabbatical, fresh start

What could you accomplish if you just decided to begin? How often are we crippled by fear of failure? How often do we miss out on a blessing that God has in store for us because we are afraid? Don't let fear stop you - I'm talking to myself here too!

I want to begin, to take a chance on success, and to be content even if the results aren't as amazing as I had hoped. I want to have the faith that can move mountains, but first I must find faith the size of a mustard seed. As it grows and is strengthened, that faith will help me do amazing things, because it is faith in an amazing God!

So today, I begin. I walk by faith, knowing that God will protect me, and assured that He will direct my path, and my words.

I'm not looking to make one right choice, I'm looking forward to a lifetime of correct choices. Following Jesus, encouraging others, and sharing my gifts.

It's day one.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Genius Summer ~ a book review

book reviews, YA fiction, Pamela Woods-Jackson

Millie Olson is smart, driven, and insecure. Being a soon to graduate 16 year old high school senior is only fueling Millie’s insecurities. It seems everyone she meets wants to know which of the many colleges she has been accepted to is her choice for this fall. Going to class, studying, and taking tests are the things Millie excels at. Choosing a college, dating, and being away from her family are the unknowns that she fears.

Genius Summer is a work of YA fiction where author Pamela Woods-Jackson takes the reader along on Millie’s journey of self-discovery. This intriguing story of Millie’s summer adventures would be best for ages 14-18. The writing quality is good and I was pleasantly surprised that this story does NOT have the profanity, violence, and sex so often found in fiction marketed to this age group.

Millie, the oldest of three, must balance the demands of her schoolwork, helping with her younger siblings, and her volunteer position at a local history museum. Their parents are both professionals, a writer and a lawyer. Millie was given a car for her 16th birthday with the understanding that she would use it to get herself and her siblings to school, sporting events, and to run errands for her mom, as their part-time housekeeper does not drive.

Throughout the book Millie struggles to fit in with her classmates, not just because of her younger age, but also because she has discovered a universal truth. Being a really smart girl often makes you the opposite of popular. I have seen this truth multiple times in my own life. I’ve worked with our own daughters to encourage them to not hide the brains God has gifted them just because it might make someone uncomfortable. This is one of the lessons Millie is learning during her Genius Summer.

Another lesson Millie learns is that people change. Shortly after graduation Millie and her siblings leave Indianapolis and travel to Oklahoma to spend a few weeks with their grandmother. While there, Millie has to change her perception of her grandmother’s neighbor Zach MacMillan from what she remembers about him from past visits to who he is today. Millie learns the truth that while she was growing up, other people were as well. 

In a trunk in her grandmother’s attic, Millie finds a journal written by a young girl her own age from the 1860’s. The young girls’ story sets Millie on a quest, with some help from Zach, to learn more about her life. 

That’s all I’m going to tell you about the plot because the rest would be spoilers! I will recommend this book as a great summer read. The characters are thoughtfully written and you will walk away believing they truly exist. 

During her Genius Summer, Millie learns a lot about friendship and choosing her own path for the future. These are great lessons for any teen, and the message is well wrapped in this story.

Genius Summer is available on Amazon, either in print or Kindle format.

I received a copy of Genius Summer in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine. No other compensation was received. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Where have you been?

thoughts from mom to mom

I did not mean for more than a week to pass between posts here on the blog...but it happened. 

I've been living life. What have you been up to? 

A few years ago someone asked me what I planned to do when the girls had both graduated and I was finished homeschooling? I jokingly answered "nothing for at least six months." My husband said "maybe six days." 

Finishing one season of your life and moving into the next is sometimes simple, and other times quite complex. I would have to say that this transition period has been rather simple, and I am so very thankful for that! 

A lot of small changes have added up to make some big differences. I've switched day jobs, and that has been so refreshing! The family is starting to realize that we won't all always be home for dinner, and that is okay. Also, it is a good thing that spring is turning into summer soon because we've been having dinner around 7 p.m. lately, so hooray for later sunsets!

I've also taken some time for reflection. That has not happened much along the way for the past few years. With this reflection has come an incurable urge to purge things from our home. That means last week Arlene and I spent all of our days off getting things out of the house. To me, that was much more important than writing a post just to have written one. I hope you'll understand. :)

What happens next? Some home improvement projects, more purging, and a lot of fun adventures! Spring is my favorite time of year, even if the rain occasionally makes you change your plans. 

In June I am blocking out additional time for writing my book. There may not be as many posts here as there were in the past, or there may be just as many because I need a diversion - we will just have to wait and see. 

In the meantime, I wanted to share with you a post that a friend sent me. This mom writer nailed how so many of us feel at this time of the year - spread thin and worn out. To all you other middle season mama's out there - hold on - summer is right around the corner! Find it here

One day soon, probably sooner than you think, those teens and tweens will be grown up. They'll have their own cars, their own jobs, and their own true friends. They will also start buying their own movie tickets and their own groceries. Cherish the long days that you have now with them!

Big Mama hugs to you all!

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Hebrews 11:1-2

Scripture Writing, hand lettering, Bible verses

What do we hope for?

As Christians, our faith should be in Jesus Christ, and not in the things of this world. 

It is easy to get caught up in hoping for temporary things: a bigger paycheck, a better marriage, a sunny day instead of rain on our vacation. But these are just temporary, and we need to guard against focusing on them. The world around us tells us to get all we can from life - and Jesus tells us to give all we can during this life.

Which one will you choose? The getting, or the giving?

For myself, I choose to hope in the certainty of Jesus' return. He said He was coming again, and that is what I will place my faith in. The reminders from His word that He will wipe away every tear, that there is room for us in His Kingdom, and that one day with Him is better than a thousand elsewhere.

What are you hoping for?

Thursday, May 9, 2019

#parentingtruth No. 17 - the danger of Can't

parenting truths, childhood, wise words, speak the truth in love

Oh parents, our words hold so much weight in the minds and hearts of our children. We ought to think more and talk less. One of the most dangerous words we may speak is can't.

First off, I have to say that this is a contraction that I have never liked. It sounds so harsh. The real word is cannot, which implies to me that while some of us cannot do a particular thing, others can. So let us agree to take can't out of our vocabulary, and when necessary, use the word cannot.

One of the biggest dangers  of can't is that we remember it for far too long. It is similar to saying "I love you, but..." 

Certain words stick in a child's heart and mind for much longer than others. For one of our daughters, the word but is understood to mean that everything I previously said has no value, only what comes after the but. For other children they struggle with cannot, or another qualifying word. Let me try to explain...

When I was growing up I was told "You can't do that, that's not how it works." Also, "you can't do that, you have to do this instead." Or one of the most discouraging "You cannot make any money at that, go into another field." Oy vey! How many times as a child, teen, or young adult did I believe the lies of the word can't? Way too many! If only more of the adults in my life had been encouraging with their words, instead of discouraging, I might have made much different choices.

Looking back I can see where God has made something good out of the choices I made, but I often wonder if there might have been a little less pain involved while learning the lessons I needed to learn if more of the adults in my life had pointed me to the God who CAN do all things, instead of focusing on the things I could or could not do on my own. I sincerely hope that I have learned enough of these lessons that I now choose my words carefully when speaking to our own daughters, and focus on what they may, can or should do, instead of what they cannot do on their own.

Can't was is the voices that told me I would never write for a newspaper again after high school Can't was in the message about which career paths to avoid. Can't was in the message that the only things available for me to do were in the activities the local public school offered. Can't told me to never take a picture straight into a mirror or a glass case. Can't told me I could be smart, but not liked. Can't told me that I had to settle for mediocrity or be ridiculed for using the brain God gave me. Can't told me that there was nothing to be done to bring joy to my life.

Can't is a liar.

God tells the truth, because He is truth.

Truth tells me that God has a plan for me to live an extraordinary life. God has blessed me with the opportunity to write a newspaper column every month for more than three years. God has blessed me with two co-mingled careers that allow me to serve and bless others. Truth reminds me to encourage my daughters to be just who God made then to be and to not hide their amazing brains just because it might make someone else feel uncomfortable. Truth shows me that there is a story worth telling in every single photo I take. Oh think of the stories I still have to tell!

Dear parent, there will be days when you need to tell your children they cannot do something, perhaps there is no money left in the budget, or they are too short for an amusement ride, or you have to be at work that day instead of on a field trip. Instead of filling their heads with a heavy burden of Can't's, choose instead to lovingly tell then that while they cannot do that activity today, you are sure that there is something even better that they can do soon. Then be on the lookout for God to reveal what they can, may and should do. Our words go from their ears to their brains and rest in their hearts. Fill then with daily reminders of what our amazing, loving God wants to do in and through them.

Speak the truth in love.

*I will be taking a break from this #parentingtruth series over the summer in order to bring you more fun road trip posts! Look for the #parentingtruths to return after Labor Day. In the meantime - let's get outdoors and explore!

Thursday, May 2, 2019

#parentingtruth No. 16 - the immune system

parenting truths, childhood, healthy immune systems

As a mom or dad, there are a lot of things to think about. Sometimes the sheer number of things you are responsible for can be overwhelming. We started early with choosing to protect our children, both their hearts and minds, and their immune systems.

There are a few key points that we followed that allowed our girls to keep their immune systems stronger. This is not an exhaustive list, but the basic principles that helped me determine if this thing: food, activity, living situation, was a good fit for us.

  1. Less sugar, more food
I was “that mom” long before it was a catch phrase. I was the one who limited their children’s sugar intake. In fact, there ended up being days of the year that we did not even leave home because everywhere we went, some well-meaning person would want to offer them a treat. (Think the day before Halloween and the weekend before Easter.) It is not like our girls never had sweets, they just had them with a lot more moderation than most children. By not filling their bellies with sugar, or refined flour, they were hungry to eat more real food, like organic beef, fruits and vegetables. So if you are wondering if your children are eating too much sugar… the answer is probably yes. Learning to appreciate a treat, instead of expecting one, is a good food lesson for all of us. :)

2. Soap
Just use good old-fashioned soap and water to clean your hands. Use it every time before you eat, and every time you use the bathroom. Seems like a simple concept right? Unfortunately too many people would rather slop some hand sanitizer on their children than take the time to teach proper hand washing. You don’t need antibacterial soap either, you just need to use soap - consistently! Soap kills germs, and removes dirt. Overuse of hand sanitizer can kill off even the good bacteria that live in your gut and help you digest food. It should be a last resort, not a first option. So go get some soap. It can be bars of soap from a local artisan, it can be a bar of ivory from the grocery store, or it can be foamy soap in a silly dispenser… just get back to teaching your children how and when to wash their hands. Their immune systems will thank you for it!

3. Immunizations
Ah, here it is… the one thing that divides more parents than politics - the topic of immunizations. Here is my take on it: you can choose to immunize your child or not, it is 100% your choice, not anyone else’s. I have friends whose children have had ever vaccine ever recommended, and others whose children have not had a single vaccine in their lives. Our girls fall somewhere in the middle. Now that they are both legal adults, if their are any immunizations that they did not have as children that they want to receive now, it would be a simple process for them to go get those. If they don’t want to ever have another vaccination, that is their choice as well. As the parent, you have to go with your own convictions.

I have two small things to say about this debate:
A- whatever you choose, do NOT ever shame another parent because of their vaccine choices. Their family their choice.
B- I’ve seen some studies on immune response. If you choose to get your child a vaccination, of any kind, it would be wise to give them at least two or three days at home, without anyone else’s germs to be fighting off, as their body work on its response to the vaccine. The same goes for adults who choose to get the flu shot: get it on a Thursday afternoon, take Friday off and don’t go out in public until Monday. Better safe, than sick. Your immune system can only handle so much at a time.

4. Vitamins and supplements
We have always tried to feed our girls real food. Even so, even when the majority of their diet is organic or at least non-gmo food, there comes a time when it is wise to use vitamins and supplements for better health. Personally, I am anemic. It is almost impossible for me to eat enough iron-rich foods in a week to keep up with my body’s demands. So every morning, I take a multivitamin with iron. I’ll probably still be taking it when I’m 70, although most women stop taking iron by their late 40’s. That’s just how my body works ( or doesn’t.) When our girls hit puberty, it was a war, so we decided that they needed to take a B Complex each and every day. Oh my, what relief… for all of us. Use what works for your children in their specific situation. Consider visiting a nurse-practitioner or a naturopath for advise on what to supplement with and in what amounts.

5. Stay home when you are sick
Again, this seems like a no-brainer, but I am sure you can think of someone just in the past week or two who you saw at (work, sporting event, church, grocery store, tc) who was obviously sick and would have been better at home. Yes, I know money is often the issue that sends adults back to work when they are still sick, but at least let your children stay home when they are sick. Let their bodies rest and heal. Call Grandma, your neighbor, a friend from church… there has to be someone that can watch your child.

One last thought

Bring the outdoors in, and take yourself and your family outside on a regular basis. Fresh air and sunshine fix a lot of immune issues. :)